Toward an integration of behavioural and cognitive psychologies through instructional technology


  • Wesley C. Becker University of Oregon



The schism between operant behavioural and cognitive psychological views is examined with the aim of showing the potentials for their convergence when an instructional perspective is taken. As Lee (1988) points out, part of the problem lies in operant psychologists' use of stimulus-response language when they are really talking about condition-action sequences or means-to-ends. The inaccurate presentation of the operant position by cognitive psychologists is also part of the problem, and for the most part, neither reads the other's literature. With better communication, these problems could be overcome, although underlying philosophies of science might still differ.

An overtised-operant view of instruction on cognitive processes provides a further basis for closing the schism. Building from the behavioural processes of discrimination learning, chaining, verbal learning, etc., more complex cognitive structures can be described in terms of the more elemental structures from which they are built. Engelmann and Carnine's (1982) theory of instruction provides a key (through overt teaching strategies) in bridging the gap between basic operant principles and higher cognitive structures.

Operant psychology based interpretations of the changes that occur from being a novice to being an expert also are discussed to demonstrate additional commonalities between behavioural and cognitive positions.


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How to Cite

Becker, W. C. (1991). Toward an integration of behavioural and cognitive psychologies through instructional technology. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 7(1).