27 Nov 2022


Leiby Kletzky Case Study

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Research Paper

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Pages: 5

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The evolution of psychology is largely dependent on classic and contemporary approaches. In looking at psychology on a behavioral stance, there is the placement of more emphasis on observable behaviors rather than mental processes. John B. Watson came up with the behaviorist or behavioral approach to studying psychology in the year 1915. He took into account a famous notion by a British philosopher that the mind was like a blank slate when we an individual is born and that from this moment on, the mind waits to be filled with the experiences of life. On a behavioral stance, it was the sole conviction of Watson that individuals acquire knowledge because of their immediate environment.

In looking at the behavioral approach to human behavior, two conditioning states emerge. First is the classical conditioning, which is a learning process whereby an organism passively learns to display a reflex action that occurs naturally in response to a stimulus that does not necessarily induce the aforementioned action. Secondly is the operant conditioning, which is an active learning process that relies on the voluntary response control of an organism. Here, there is a strengthening of behaviors in which pleasant consequences follow and the weakening of those that follow an unpleasant consequence. On a behavioral stance, Aaron in the case of Leiby Kletzky had a serious behavioral deficit. A strong case in point is the fact his was a classical conditioning on the negative aspect, or he had a very different perspective on consequence. Nonetheless, his was a graduated exposure or systematic desensitization (Mann, 2015) in that he developed an association to an occurring reflex (fear) to the stimulus of being misunderstood. This is why he felt defensive when he found out that people were looking for Leiby Kletzky after hours of him missing. Moreover, this led to the eventual murder of the young boy.

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The behavioral approach believes in the formation of behavior through environmental influences, association or experiences. The kind of behavior exhibited by the parents was one that was wanting. For them, to let a young boy roam around for seven blocks was not only uncalled for but also inhumane and most likely illegal. The parents display a clear operant conditioning whereby, the antecedents or the stimulus conditions in making their decision was largely influenced not based on the welfare of the child but rather on behavior they had previously learned. Antecedents also influenced the behavior of Leiby Kletzky, since his parents had not conditioned him to learn not to seek help from total strangers or trust them in any meaningful way. This stimulus condition of a young, trusting boy in the hands of a predator accorded the perfect ground for the exhibitions of the operants or behaviors by Leiby Kletzky on that fateful day.

The gist of a famous quote by Plato states that reality, does not occur in the tangible objects we, as observers perceive but rather in the abstract and hidden forms that these objects represent. This quote summarizes the cognitive approach when looking at the human behavior. Cognition refers to the thinking process; therefore, cognitive psychologists base their research on the mind. This involves the analysis of the complete mental process such as perception, reasoning, understanding, memory and learning. In studying psychology through the cognitive approach, there are numerous multidisciplinary approaches. Here, the view of the mind is that of a center for information processing. The mental processes are broken down and separately analyzed as theoretical models.

There are three major branches of cognitive psychology. First is the human experimental cognitive psychology. This kind of psychology employs the use of well-defined experimental methods to investigate or analyze the thinking process (Morris, Marzano, Dandy & O’Brien, 2016). There are four key areas to look at while analyzing human experimental cognitive psychology; these are memory, attention, problem solving and language. Leiby Kletzky’s cognition is highly wanting. First, his memory does not serve him well. He easily forgets his way while going back home. In looking at this single aspect alone, one is able to conclude that his behavioral tendency is retrogressive. Since attention goes hand in hand with memory, one can comfortably say his attention was also a deficit, and this led to the way he behaved. In addition, his problem-solving skills were underdeveloped for an eight-year-old boy. All these factors resulted in the behavior he exhibited and ultimately his wrong decisions that resulted in his premature death.

In looking at the parents and the murderer in relation to the human experimental cognitive psychology, there is the same pattern of error, especially on the parent’s side concerning problem-solving. The parents had a problem to solve relating to the independence of their son. Instead of looking for the most mature and safe way, they choose to let their son walk alone for seven blocks. This shows a deficit in human cognition and therefore leading to an erratic decision, which cost them the life of their son. In the case of Aaron, the murderer, it is clear that his was a serious instance of cognitive disorder. The major cause of the disorder was by a dysfunctional thought process that led to aggression and phobia. Aaron looked at life in a way that he constantly questioned himself and his actions, and this created a feeling of worthlessness that made him depressed to the point of taking another life.

The shaping of one’s individual psychology or behavior on the very basic level happens only through cultural values, avenues of thinking and the ideals an individual set (Mann, 2015). On this note, the socio-cultural approach to human behavior becomes apparent. This is essentially the relationship between the psychological and mental processes in relation to cultural influences and social norms, which ultimately define one’s behavior through a set of invisible rules. Ultimately, this approach strives to comprehend behavior with the sole aim of analyzing the psychological processes’ influence of culture. In addition, with this approach, these three interrelated subfields, which are cultural psychology, social psychology, and cross-cultural psychology, are heavily dependent on the findings of this approach. In this case, the socio-cultural approach to human behavior investigates different customs, multiculturalism, beliefs and values of the Hasidic Jewish people. In addition, social psychology looks at the effects of a specific society and its group dynamics. In looking at all these different findings, there emerges the profound impact of social groups on behavior, the influence of exclusive relationships and differences of gender on various types of behavior and conformity (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2006).

In looking at the socio-cultural influences on the behavior of an individual, it becomes clear to some extent that it has the greatest effect on behavioral development. Leiby Kletzky’s parents grew up in a highly restricted community since the Hasidic Jews were highly conservative. This made them have numerous restriction on their son until he felt the need for personal independence from their parents and the world as a whole. Such behavior is what led to their son acting in a rebellious way and made him want his space. Similarly, given a chance to act independently, Leiby Kletzky messed up since his upbringing was that of a restricted environment and he did not know how to act wisely when given the freedom. This shows the extent to which the socio-cultural approach to human behavior influences decisions, behaviors and ultimately fate (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2006).

A series of abnormal behaviors stand out in this case. First is Leiby Kletzky’s need for independence at a very small age. Such tendency shows a serious glitch in the fabric of their society and the policy of the parent regarding freedom and personal space. Another is the parents’ decision to bow under pressure. This is absurd since they allowed their young son to walk for seven blocks without supervision. That was quite a long way for a young boy. The most irrational of them all was the kidnapping and chopping of Leiby Kletzky’s body. This indicated the clear cognitive lapse in Aaron.

The first comment on the need for teaching the children techniques of asking for help shows a cognitive and socio-cultural approach to psychology. This is so since it directs individuals to teach children, that is, to make them understand and have the mental ability to know and implement. In addition, the commenter states that children should seek for help from women. Women are far more compassionate and helpful as viewed in a socio-cultural approach (Morris, Marzano, Dandy & O’Brien, 2016). Therefore, the commentator urges for a woman. Also on the socio-cultural perspective, the second commentator says that most crimes committed against children are by someone they know personally or a close relative. This is also a socio-cultural approach to psychology since it clearly underlines the social and cultural. The third comment clearly acknowledges the killer's cognition as “psycho” meaning he was not in the right state of mind. This commentator uses the cognitive approach to human behavior. He also talks of the neglect the parents took by letting their young son walk alone


Mann, A. (2015). Introduction to Psychology. Presentation, Oxford University.

Morris, J., Marzano, M., Dandy, N., & O’Brien, L. (2016). Theories and models of behavior and behavior change. In Theories: Behavior Change (1st ed.). Forest Research.

Zastrow, C., & Kirst-Ashman, K. (2006). Understanding human behavior and the social environment. Cengage Learning.

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