Sample Paper on The Behaviorist Approach Theory

Key Theories

Assessment questionnaires

Assessment Questionnaire 1 – the Behaviorist


Data Form

Name of Prisoner                                                                            Date

Other Personal Particulars of the Prisoner

  1. Description of the targeted behaviors of the prisoner that show the specific changes in behaviors of the prisoner such as the way they interact with other prisoners, discipline at the institution, and the way they treat other and the prisons property.
  2. Settings or incidences when an identified behavior occurs. This includes time and events that trigger the behavior
  3. Frequency of occurrence of the behavior. Some of the events occur frequently whereas others rarely occur. The prison warden should observe the individual and when the behavior occurs. They should record the frequency of occurrence of the behavior in terms of hours or days.
  4. The intensity of the behavior. This refers to the extent to which the person does the behavior. Some behaviors fully influence a person and they should be done while some are shallow and can be ignored easily (Aos, Miller, and Drake, 2006). The warden should observe the prisoners and record the extent of the behavior. A scale of 1-5 is used to record the intensity where one refers to less intense and five being very intense.
  5. The duration that the behavior takes. Some behaviors once they begin take long to end while some take a very short period. The prison warden can observe the occurrence of an event and record the duration they take in terms of the hours and days they take.

Assessment Questionnaire 2 – Psychoanalytic


  1. What did the prisoner do and what drove them to commit the wrong?
  2. What are the current circumstances surrounding the individual, has prison changed them or worsened their behavior? What is their view of prison?
  3. What are the historical backgrounds of the person? How is the family of the individual and how do they relate with other people as they grow up? How has their behavior been?
  4. How does the individual handle challenges and different situations in the prison? Do different situations affect the person negatively or positively (Burke, 2006)? How does the individual react to the situation?
  5. What are the self-control characteristics of the person? Can they control themselves when they lack or they really desire to do something? Can they avoid a wrong? Can they distinguish right from wrong?
  6. Assessment Questionnaire – Social Learning
  7. How does the individual regard the correctional programs applied to them in prison? Did they like or dislike the programs and why? Do they think they were helpful or not in molding their behaviors (Burke, 2006).
  8. What did they learn from their interaction with others? Did they benefit from them or they made their behaviors worse, and how did they relate to them?
  9. What are the effectiveness and efficiency of the activities and programs used on the prisoners? Are they valuable to them or not?
  10. What are the costs associated with holding people in prison? Are they cost-effective to the society or not? The prison warden should answer this question.
  11. What are the most suitable correctional measures to be used in prison and why? What do you think of educational, employment, and skill development measures used in prison?

Analysis Sheet

Theories and Theorists Used

The Behaviorist Approach

This theory states that people acquire new knowledge through their interaction with the environment. It agrees that even though the behaviors and characteristics of people are intrinsic, these traits require external stimulus in the environment to be triggered (Aos, Miller, and Drake, 2006). The theory focuses on observable character and stimulus of behavior.

The behaviorist approach corrects a prisoner through interaction with others who collectively take up the corrective programs at the prison (Chadee, 2011). Through this theory, the prison wardens and other officials in prison can assess the readiness of a prisoner for parole.

The Social Learning Approach

Developed by Bandura, the social learning theory states that people learn from interacting with others (Chadee, 2011). The more an individual interacts with others, the more the person is likely to acquire more knowledge and gain more skills. According to the theory, people acquire new knowledge through imitation, modeling, and observation.

This theory acts as a bridge between cognitive learning and behavioral sciences of people (Aos, Miller, and Drake, 2006). It is a composition of three key factors that drive people to behave in a certain manner. These are memory, motivation and attention.

Psychoanalytic Approach

Sigmund Freud postulated this theory between 1939 and 1956. He believed that the behavior and character of people is partly a function of the unconscious mind (Aos, Miller, and Drake, 2006). The behavior of a person is affected by past events which are memorized in the unconscious part of the brain and constantly undergo some conflict in the mind. They normally take control of the person if they are not aware. The conflicts between the many ideas in the mind of individuals caused by past events cause a person to act the way they act. They will thus do something positive is the coalition in the mind is positive and vice versa.

The psychoanalytic approach is used in influencing the behavior of prisoners and finding out the reason for the negative behaviors that brought them to prison (Burke, 2006). Past occurrences normally influence the current behavior of the individual and thus is valuable in developing corrective measures for the individual.

Comparison of the Theories

The three theories differ greatly since they have varying ideologies and believes. For instance, while the psychoanalytic theory classifies the mind into different parts containing the conscious, preconscious and the unconscious parts, the social learning and behavioral theories do not do so (Aos, Miller, and Drake, 2006). They also have varied views relating to the behavior of people.

Another difference is that the psychoanalytic theory is quite pessimistic and negative. It concentrates on the unconscious part of the brain and believes that the behavior of people is driven by this part of the mind. It also believes that there are conflicts in the brain as the past ideas collide influencing the behavior of the individual (Burke, 2006). Social learning and the behaviorist take a positive and optimistic view of human behaviors. Unlike in the psychoanalytic view, the behavior of an individual is determined by external positive factors that influence their motivation and drives them to act in a certain manner.

Merits of the Theories and their Alignment to the Stated Questions

The social learning theory is very optimistic and views life in a positive direction. It believes that people can learn new ideas and that would be easy to change the behavior of an individual (Chadee, 2011). According to this theory, it is easy to gain new ideas through adapting the right manner of doing things and interacting with the right people. Further, this theory is simple to apply and analyze the behavior of people such as the prisoners in this case.

The questions stated were aligned to this theory on a prison setting. It sought answers that would enable the wardens to determine the relationship of the prisoner with other people (Burke, 2006). The questions also aim at seeking the view of the prisoner as regards to their stay in prison whether they have gained or learned anything new or not.

The behaviorist and psychoanalytic theories will help the prison wardens and other officials to know more about the prisoners and assess their behaviors. The social learning approach will be of help to the prisoners in coming up with new behaviors and learning new skills and knowledge (Chadee, 2011). This is because as they interact among themselves and with other members of the community, new beneficial ideas are likely to be developed.

The questions asked pertaining to the theories aimed at finding out their reason for committing the crime and if they have noted that their actions were wrong and called for their imprisonment (Aos, Miller, and Drake, 2006). It also sought to examine any external interferences in the actions of the individual. The questions asked captured any new knowledge developed by the prisoner and if they acted negatively or positively from the unconscious part of the brain.




Aos, S., Miller, M., and Drake, E. (2006). Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison Construction, Criminal Justice Costs, and Crime Rates. Olympia: Washington Institute for Public Policy.

Burke, P. J. (2006). Contemporary social psychological theories. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Social Sciences.

Chadee, D. (2011). Theories in Social Psychology. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.