INTRODUCING LEARNING THEORY
Learning Theory in Psychology became influential at the start of the 20th century. It produced a school of psychology known as Behaviourism. Behaviourists like John Watson and Edward Thorndike proposed that psychology should study observable behaviour in a scientific way, rather than speculate about thoughts and feelings.
Behaviourism claims that all human behaviour can be explained by learning. It is on the nurture side of the nature/nurture debate. Thorndike sums this up in his “Law of Effect”: any behavior that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and any behavior followed by unpleasant consequences is likely to be stopped.
Most of this research was carried out by scientists like Pavlov, Thorndike and Skinner on animals like dogs, cats and rats. The results were then generalised to humans in their conclusions.
Learning Theorists take the view that humans are born a “blank slate” (tabula rasa) and that everything were go on to do has been learned. All behaviour is a response to a stimulus, so the explanation for all human behaviour is found in a person’s environment, not their mind or their feelings.
The Edexcel Specification expects you to be able to (AO1) know and understand, (AO2) apply, (AO3) analyse and evaluate the following: