Describe and evaluate the historical and cultural conditions that gave rise to the Learning Perspective.

Authors Avatar

Psychology SL

Anandita Puri

Sheugnet Carter

Essay Question:

Describe and evaluate the historical and cultural conditions that gave rise to the Learning Perspective.


Describe and evaluate the historical and cultural conditions that gave rise to the Learning Perspective.

        Learning perspective is a hypothetical construct, and describes a process that cannot be directly observed, but merely inferred based on observable behavior (Carter, 2008). Behaviorism is dominated by two primary types of conditioning: classical and operant (instrumental). Classical conditioning, which was first developed by Ivan Pavlov, describes the repetition of using a stimulus in order to elicit a desired response. Operant conditioning on the other hand, is based on consequences of actions. For example, if an action is positively reinforced, gradually it becomes learned, and vice versa. In order to examine the birth and development of the learning perspective, it is essential to look at the various theorists, their ideas and contribution to the world of Psychology. Present amongst these behaviorists are conflicts between ideas, development of each others’ ideas as well as production of entirely novel ideas.

        One of the first influential psychologists, René Descartes (1596-1650), much like Plato and Aristotle believed in the concept of nativism. Opposing most behaviorists following his work, he believed that knowledge is inbuilt in our biological structure, and therefore learning and experience play relatively small roles in the psychological make-up of a human being (Carter, 2008). Famous for his quote, “I think, therefore I am” (We Didn’t Start the Fire, 2008), Descartes’ ideas were opposing those of the majority of other renowned psychologists.

        Next in the chronological timeline, John Locke (1632-1704) reinforced the subject of empiricism. This theory suggests that very few qualities, such as reflexes like breathing or sucking (as a baby) are inbuilt. All our knowledge is based on education from experiences. Further emphasizing this point, he claimed that a baby is born with tabula rasa, meaning blank slate, which over time is transformed into knowledge and understanding (Carter 2008). In addition, Locke had a great influence on the age of enlightenment (Age of Enlightenment, Microsoft Encarta, 2008). This period defined the questioning of ideas that had previously been taken for granted and opening one’s mind to the possibilities of new explanations and answers. The rise of the learning perspective links directly with this, as the concept of searching for explanations in the area of psychology was just commencing as well.

Join now!

        The father of experimental psychology (We Didn’t Start the Fire), Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) played a crucial role in the development of the learning perspective, as well the concept of psychology itself. Firstly, he introduced the idea of introspection or the analysis of inner ideas and experiences in order to study psychological phenomenon. Moreover, the idea of running controlled experiments to test hypotheses or research questions was founded primarily by Wundt. Much like Locke, he also supported the concept of empiricism, or the acquisition of knowledge through experience (Carter, 2008). He was also able to distinguish psychology as an individual ...

This is a preview of the whole essay