The Behaviorists

The behavioral approach to motivation is centrally concerned with rewards and punishments. People cultivate behaviors for which they are rewarded. They avoid behaviors that experience has shown them will result in pain or punishment. B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) was probably the most influential be-haviorist. Many educators accepted his theories and applied them to social as well as teaching situations.

Clark Hull (1884-1952), working experimentally with rats, determined that animals deprived of such basic requirements as food or punished by painful means such as electric shock, develop intense reactions to these stimuli. John Dollard (1900-1980) and Neal Miller (1909-2002) extended Hull's work to human subjects. They discovered that the response elicited by these means depends on the intensity of the stimulus, not on its origin. The stimuli employed also evoke previously experienced stimulus-response reactions, so that if subjects are hurt or punished following a volitional act, they will in future avoid such an act. In other words, if the negative stimuli are rapidly reduced, the responses that immediately preceded the reduction are reinforced. These researchers concluded that physiological needs such as hunger are innate, whereas secondary drives and the reaction to all drives, through conditioning, are learned.

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) demonstrated the strength of conditioned responses in his renowned experiments with dogs. He arranged for a bell to sound immediately before the dogs in his experiment were fed. The dogs came to associate the sound of a bell with being fed, a pleasurable and satisfying experience. Eventually, when Pavlov rang the bell but failed to follow its ringing with feeding, the dogs salivated merely on hearing the sound, because they anticipated the feeding to which they had become conditioned. Over time, the motivation to satisfy their hunger came to be as much related to hearing the bell as it was to their actually being fed. Pavlovian conditioning is directly related to motivation, in this case the motivation to satisfy hunger.

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