What is behaviorism?

A theory developed by John B. Watson based on the work of Ivan Pavlov (classical conditioning). Says that man only responds to conditioning. Mental processes and feelings do not control our actions.

Behaviorism in the classroom:

  • Increase desired behavior and decrease undesired behavior.
  • Both positive and negative reinforcement increase behavior.
  • Both positive and negative punishment decrease behavior
  • Positive=application of a stimulus
  • Negative= withholding of a stimulus.
  • The learner is passive and only responds to environmental stimuli.


  • Positive reinforcement- praise for good work
  • Negative reinforcement- we won’t line up for lunch until the class is quiet.
  • Positive punishment- extra homework for acting up in class
  • Negative punishment- no recess for talking during class