Behavioral Theories

Behavioral theories have been relied upon to explain diverse behaviors (Stinson et al., 2008). With regard to sex crimes, they have been relied upon to explain deviant sexual arousal of sex offenders. Behavioral theories rely exclusively on the association between giving a stimulus and eliciting a known and predictable response. That is, it takes into account a stimulus (e.g., give a dog food) and the response (e.g., salivate). It does not consider the cognitive processes that occur from the time a stimulus is given and a response occurs.

The foundations of behavioral theories are rooted in classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning was developed by Ivan Pavlov and involves eliciting a response (e.g., a sexual response) from a neutral stimulus (e.g., women's shoes) after successively pairing the two (perhaps through masturbation). Normally, the neutral stimulus (e.g., women's shoes) does not instantly elicit a response (e.g., a sexual response), but eventually (perhaps after masturbating many times while viewing women's shoes) the neutral stimulus by itself will elicit a (sexual) response (Pavlov, 1927).

Operant conditioning was developed by B. F. Skinner and explains acquisition and maintenance of behaviors through a process of reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement results in an increase in the likelihood of a certain behavior, while punishment decreases the probability of the behavior. Reinforcement refers to anything that is rewarding (e.g., money, sexual arousal, etc.). Punishment refers to anything that is noxious (e.g., a negative feeling, pain) (Skinner, 1932).

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