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Behaviorist theory is the theory that humans and animals can be trained, or conditioned, to respond to certain stimuli in certain ways. The suggestion is that, of course, by controlling stimuli, one can control human behavior. It is perhaps most associated in its fully-developed form with B.F. Skinner, who thought that people, especially children, would choose behaviors based on what responses they received for them. If a behavior consistently received a negative response, then one was less likely to repeat it. Likewise, a positive response would encourage one to repeat the behavior. One important application of this theory was in trying to explain how individuals gain language. Behaviorists like Skinner argued that children did so through imitating other people, including peers and adults, and by receiving reinforcement for certain behaviors (like referring to an object by its correct name.) Ultimately, Skinner thought, even internal discourse was shaped by this process.
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