Behaviorism: Ideas and Sub-Theories


In the current paper, results of the pre-test in Chapter 1 will be discussed, and the ambiguity of the sub-theories and frameworks of behaviorism will be addressed. Moreover, an explanation of how association doctrine and connectionism developed the foundations of behaviorism will be presented. Further, the stimulus-response model and the law of effect will be compared and contrasted. Lastly, the historical evolution of behaviorism suggested by its sub-theories will be outlined. It should be said that behaviorism is the theory that consists of numerous frameworks that sometimes create ambiguity. However, these different ideas contribute significantly to the overall understanding of humans’ responses to various events, and they evolve gradually complementing and sometimes even contradicting each other.

Pre-test Results Discussion

For the pre-test in Chapter 1, a total score of 4 out of 6 was achieved, which is 67% of success. Questions were devoted to the foundations of behaviorism, including the laws of learning, the theory of connectionism, positive and negative reinforcements, conditioning, and practical implications of behaviorism. The first mistake I made was on the question of the laws of learning. Thorndike described the process of learning that implies two elements: exercise and frequency (Rosser-Majors, 2017). Another mistake that was made is on the question about positive and negative reinforcements. The central idea (according to behaviorism) is that it increases the desired behavior.

The Ambiguity of Behaviorism

There is an apparent ambiguity that is suggested by the multiple sub-theories and frameworks of behaviorism. Behaviorism theory suggests the following: people learn because of stimuli (rewards or punishments) in their environments. That is the central thought of the theory; however, a number of branches within it create certain complexity for understanding. There are four primary branches of behaviorism that introduce different ideas on the topic. Psychological behaviorism sees human behaviors as learned by positive and negative reinforcements. Radical behaviorism focuses on human behavior and learning without taking into account people’s inner world, looking only at actions themselves. Molar behaviorism argues on the importance of the rate of reinforces. Radical behaviorism and molar behaviorism differ in a way that they explain certain behaviors using different approaches to reasons. Lastly, neo-behaviorism suggests that learning and behavior can be explained through stimulus-response connections (Rosser-Majors, 2017). It clearly demonstrates the ambiguity of the theory, as it may vary depending on its branches.

Association doctrine, connectionism, and foundations of behaviorism

Behaviorism has its roots in the classical associationism or association doctrine, which implies that human behavior results from associative learning. People accumulate stimulus and ideas and receive new knowledge through this process. These ideas formed the basis for Thorndike’s learning theory or connectionism. As a result, the S-R framework of Thorndike served as a foundation for behavioral psychology.

Stimulus-Response (S-R) Model and The Law of Effect

Stimulus-response (S-R) theories are essential for the core principles of conditioning. They argue that human behavior depends on what has been learned previously (Nazir, 2018). Stimulus-response model implies that stimulus or environment in which human beings exist creates specific reactions or responses. Emotional replies can happen consciously and unconsciously as well. Edward Thorndike introduced the law of effect theory. It implies that any kind of human behavior that was followed by a pleasant result is likely to be reproduced. Vice versa, any kind of behavior that was followed by an unpleasant consequence is expected to be not repeated. The two models differ in that the law of effect explains human behavior through a confirming reaction stating that pleasant consequences cause repetition of the behavior. At the same time, the S-R model does not suggest this kind of dependence.

Historical Evolution of Behaviorism

The historical evolution of behaviorism can be clearly seen through the emergence of different sub-theories. There are four primary branches, including molar, radical, phycological, and neo-behaviorism. Psychological behaviorism is the earliest stage of behaviorism that suggests that learning occurs through positive and negative reinforces. Ivan Pavlov and Edward Thorndike are the most important figures in the foundation of psychological behaviorism (Rosser-Majors, 2017). Another important branch is radical or molecular behaviorism. It concentrates on human behavior and learning without taking into account people’s inner world, looking only at actions themselves. Researchers consider behavior as what people do, say, or manifest. Molar behaviorism opposes radical behaviorism and creates certain ambiguity in the behaviorism camp. The rate of reinforcement is the central concept for molar behaviorism. It means that the number of events in a given period causes or not certain human behaviors. Last but not least, neo-behaviorism suggests that learning and behavior can be observed and analyzed through stimulus-response connections (Rosser-Majors, 2017). The above-discussed branches have emerged gradually, complementing and sometimes contradicting each other.


I have learned plenty of new facts on behaviorism during this week. However, the central takeaway is that behaviorism is not a single theory, standing separately. It consists of a number of sub-branches and frameworks that complement each other and sometimes make the approach ambiguous. Besides, I realized that behaviorism’s historical evolution was an in-depth process and the result of numerous scientific works.


In conclusion, in the present paper, I discussed my pre-test results from Chapter 1 and the ambiguity created by numerous sub-theories and ideas of behaviorism. Moreover, it was explained how association doctrine and connectionism, evolved the basic principles of behaviorism. Further, the stimulus-response model and the law of effect were discussed and compared. Lastly, the historical evolution of behaviorism stimulated by its sub-theories were presented, and essential takeaways were discussed.


Nazir, F. B. (2018). Stimulus-Response theory: A case study in the teaching and learning of Malay language among year 1 pupils. The Journal of Social Sciences Research, 4(10), 205–211.

Rosser-Majors, M. L. (2017). Theories of learning: An exploration. Bridgepoint Education.

Video Voice-over

Cite this paper

Select style


PsychologyWriting. (2023, September 22). Behaviorism: Ideas and Sub-Theories. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2023, September 22). Behaviorism: Ideas and Sub-Theories.

Work Cited

"Behaviorism: Ideas and Sub-Theories." PsychologyWriting, 22 Sept. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Behaviorism: Ideas and Sub-Theories'. 22 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Behaviorism: Ideas and Sub-Theories." September 22, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Behaviorism: Ideas and Sub-Theories." September 22, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Behaviorism: Ideas and Sub-Theories." September 22, 2023.