Behaviorism is a school of psychology that studies that only behavior that can be observed or measured. It does not include the study of emotions or motives.
Scholars in the field of behaviorism say that psychology should focus on the actual behaviors of people rather than the behaviors that cannot be observed such as thoughts, moods, and emotions. Two of the main writers and developers of behaviorism were psychologists John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner.
- If a high school student is late to school more than three times in a marking period, he or she will earn a detention and have to stay after school. School officials hope that the possibility of having to serve time in detention will encourage students to come to school on time.
- Sarah is in the habit of speeding on her way to work. One morning, she gets stopped by a police officer and given a $275 speeding ticket. After that, she never speeds again; the negative consequence to her behavior of speeding causes her to obey the speed limit, since she never wants to get a speeding ticket again.
- Student-athletes are required to maintain at least a grade of a C in every class in order to participate in their various sports. If a grade drops below a C, the athlete will not be allowed to compete until he or she improves the grade. The negative reinforcement of not being allowed to compete often motives a student to quickly do what is needed to improve his or her grade.
These examples of positive and negative reinforcement are also examples of behaviorism in action.