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Sample Essay on Environmental and Evolutionary Psychology Literature Review

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Sample Essay on Environmental and Evolutionary Psychology Literature Review

Developmental psychologists utilize both environmental and evolutionary psychology in offering new insight through changing human behaviors. Environmental psychology as a discipline involves making a relationship between individuals and their environment. Behaviorists postulate that free will amounts to deception, and that environment influences behavior either through connection or through reinforcement. Evolutionary psychology involves social, as well as natural science, that endeavor to explicate useful mental traits, which include memory, language, or awareness, since human brain is capable of undertaking many functions. Psychologists know that human behaviors evolve through adaptation to fit in these functions. This study will elaborate on how developmental psychologists employ the concepts of environmental and evolutionary psychology in teaching new tasks.

Shaping and Chaining

Shaping and chaining are usually utilized in conveying learning where the ideas are dependent on one another for prosperous understanding. Shaping involves adding behaviors to an individual’s repertoire. According to Skinner, a renowned comparative psychologist, all behaviors are learned from environment, and shaping is “establishing a new a new response by reinforcing successive approximations to it” (Kalat, 2014, p. 205). Education is one form of shaping, as children start from counting fingers and advance to complex calculations using calculators. Shaping can be utilized to transform the behavior of an individual through understanding and controlling the reinforcement mechanism that comprises the learning task. Shaping reinforces every step of behavior until it sticks in the mind. The reinforcement is withdrawn once the step is understood.

On the other hand, chaining is formulating a series of related behaviors, such that each behavior offers the cue for the subsequent behavior. All that human beings do incorporate a behavior chain, as each action precedes another. In chaining, the reinforcement is present throughout the sequences, since the main objective is to master how to combine every step and execute the entire response. For instance, when children are taught the English alphabets, they begin by mastering “A” as they proceed to “B” up to “Z”. Children are expected to master letters in a cohesive manner, rather than one letter at a time. Developmental psychologists can utilize chaining concept to produce complex behaviors. 

Reinforcement Schedules

The theory of reinforcement schedules was discovered by Skinner, in his attempt to study the dynamics of behavior-environment relations. In behavioral psychology, a stimulus is required to strengthen individual’s future behavior. This stimulus is what is referred to as reinforcement. Reinforcement schedules allow psychologists to manage the timing, as well as the frequency of reinforcement to create behavior series in a person. Different reinforcement schedules create unique outcomes on operant behavior. A continuous reinforcement involves strengthening a targeted behavior every time the behavior is demonstrated.

Psychologists can exercise continuous reinforcement to teach individuals new behaviors that are not part of the individuals’ repertoire. Ratio reinforcement schedules depend on the number of occurrences of a targeted behavior, and are very useful where continuous reinforcement seems too burdensome. In studying microeconomic behavior, reinforcement schedules represent a constraint on choice, where participants are viewed as consumers while reinforcements are the commodities (Morgan, 2010). The operant laboratory can afford a controlled environment where experimental methods are developed to suit the purpose.

Psychologists have to be careful when choosing the appropriate types of reinforcement schedule because a wrong choice can be affect improvement of behavior negatively. For instance, a student who has already acquired desired behaviors, but does not exhibit them cannot gain from continuous reinforcement. A positive reinforcement, such as food, or money, serves to fortify, or maintain a given response (Chauhan, 2009). A negative reinforcement can occur when a certain behavior is learned after elimination of an unpleasant stimulus. An individual can do something to avoid an unpleasant experience, which can also be a successful learning.

One-Trial Learning Techniques

As the term suggests, one-trial learning involves discovering something after only one trial. This theory purports that learning occurs through a stimulus-response connection. According to Brain and Mukherji (2005), one-trial learning occurs when the association is quite strong in a single occasion that learning happens immediately. A single incident is enough to confirm that learning has already taken place. For instance, when a person takes food that makes him/her sick, he/she will not such food again. This type of learning follows classical conditioning standards that are not under individual’s control. Individuals learn from cues, which emerge first and direct them to behave in a certain way.

One-trial learning theory emerged when Edwin Guthrie rejected the law of frequency and supported the fact that “a stimulus pattern gains its full associative strength on the occasion of its first pairing with a response” (Hergenhahn and Henley, 2014, p. 409). To support the concept that learning can occur in one trial and practice improves performance, Guthrie argued that an act is different from a movement. An act involves several movements whiles a skill incorporates numerous acts. Hence, a skill will involve thousands of movements.


Psychologists utilize several methods in their endeavor to instill new behaviors in their subjects. Shaping involves adding behaviors to an individual’s repertoire while chaining comprises of creating a series of associated behaviors, where each behavior presents the cue for the following behavior. Reinforcement schedules involve understanding dynamics of behavior and developing frequencies at which a behavior can be acquired. One-trial techniques execute a stimulus-response system to create an instant learning. By exercising the above methods, developmental psychologists are capable of instilling new behavior to their subjects and create awareness through individual-environment relations.










Brain, C., & Mukherji, P. (2005). Understanding child psychology. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

Chauhan, S. S. (2009). Advanced educational psychology. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd.

Hergenhahn, B. R., & Henley, T. B. (2014). An introduction to the history of psychology. Belmont, CA, USA : Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Kalat, J. W. (2014). Introduction to psychology. Belmont, CA : Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Morgan, D. L. (2010). Schedules of reinforcement at 50: a retrospective appreciation. Psychological Record, 60(1), 151-172.


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