History of CBT

Cognitive behavioural therapy was discovered in the 1960s and developed from a Behaviourism Psychology school, which focused on how humans and animals behave and respond to stimuli, as well as a Cognitive Psychology school, which focused on thinking and on a person’s internal thought process such as memory and problem-solving.

CBT was further developed by Aaron Beck a USA Psychiatrist who was based at the University of Pennsylvania. Aaron Beck found that patients suffering from depression had automatic negative thoughts about themselves, others and the future. This is when Beck began to help clients with the use of CBT, helping to lift their depression and improve the patients mindset to think more rational. CBT is now used to help people suffering with depression, anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorders.

Famous Behavioural Psychologists were...

- Ivan Pavlov - John Watson - Burrhus Frederic Skinner

Ivan Pavlov made his mark in the late 1800s when he focused on ‘Classical Conditioning’. His experiment involved a dog, bowl of food and a bell. The idea was that the dog would create saliva at the sight of a bowl of food, Pavlov would then ring the bell when giving the dog food. Pavlov’s theory was that through conditioning and over a period of time, the dog would produce saliva at the ring of the bell, regardless of whether food was there or not. In this experiment the bowl of food represents the ‘unconditional stimulus’ which is then paired with the bell ‘neutral stimulus’. The neutral stimulus then becomes a conditional stimulus giving a conditioned response.

John Watson came up with his experiment ‘Little Albert’ in the early 1900s, this was focused on classical conditioning but for humans. Watsons experiment involved objects such as white rats and other furry animal that Little Albert liked. The goal was to use classical conditioning to produce a fear response to an object that would not normally cause fear!

To condition Albert to fear furry animals, Watson used loud banging noises, which normally causes fear in children. Animals alone wouldn’t create fear but when combined with the loud noise, it gave a conditioned response that led to a phobia of animals. Then when animals were alone with Albert, they caused a fear response .

Watson’s theory proved that humans can be conditioned to become fearful through pairing two separate stimuli together.

In 1950, Burrhus Frederic Skinner used his own invention, the Skinner Box, to change the behaviour of rats through continuous reinforcement. This known as Operant Conditioning. Skinner designed a box where the rats would accidentally press a lever and a food pellet would dispense. After a few knocks of the lever the rats realised to get the food they had to press the lever.

Skinner wrote about three operants that follows a behaviour after his results.

He wrote that a ‘neutral’ response had no increase or decrease in behaviour repetition. A ‘reinforcers’ response increased the probability of a behaviour being repeated whilst the ‘punishers’ response decreased the probability of a behaviour being repeated.

According to Skinner, “The behavior of an individual is influenced by the consequences. It is the form of conditioning which explains the relationship between behavior and their consequences or rewards (Reinforcements and Punishments)”.

Examples of positive reinforcement could be where a student tends to complete their homework daily; because they know that they will be rewarded with a chocolate bar (action) or praise (behavior). Or a child may learn to clean their room regularly; because they will be rewarded with extra TV hours every time they clean up.

On the other hand we also have negative reinforcement which could be where a child throws a tantrum because they didn’t get the chocolate bar. So, their father gets them one which then stops the tantrum. This shows that something unpleasant can be avoided, and the father’s behavior of getting chocolate will increase. Another example, is if a student is praised or complimented, they will be encouraged to do well, but if the student is laughed at or criticised in front of everyone, the presentation will affect them negatively in future.

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