An Evaluation of Psychoanalysis and Behaviourism: Arguing in Favour of Behaviourism

Topics: Psychology, Behaviorism, Scientific method Pages: 10 (2891 words) Published: December 13, 2012
An Evaluation of Psychoanalysis and Behaviourism: Arguing in favour of Behaviourism The objective of this paper is to the discuss the two approaches to psychology, that is, psychoanalysis and behaviourism. The discussion will entail comparing, contrasting and evaluating the two approaches in order to show how and why behaviourism is superior to psychoanalysis. Behaviourism also referred to as the learning perspective is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do including acting, thinking, and feeling can be described as behaviours and psychological disorders are best treated by changing behaviour patterns or modifying the environment (Skinner 1984). According to behaviourists individual’s response to different stimuli shapes our behaviours and behaviour can be studied in methodological manner without consideration of mental states. (Skinner 1984). The behaviourist school of thought holds that behaviours can be described scientifically without recourse to internal physiological events or to hypothetical constructs such as the mind (William 1994). However, a definition by Skinner is more radical and much broader as it departs from methodological behaviourism in accepting feelings, states of mind and introspection as existent and scientifically treatable (Perez-Alvarez et al 2006; Skinner 1984). Psychoanalysis is a psychological and psychotherapeutic theory conceived in late 19th century and early 20th century by Sigmund Freud (Charles 1954). Freudian psychoanalysis refers to a specific type of treatment in which the analytic patient ’analysand’ verbalises thoughts, including free associations, fantasies, and dreams from which the analysist induces the unconscious conflicts causing the patient’s symptoms and character problems and interprets them for the patient to create insight for resolution of the problems (Fromm 1992). The major tenets of pyschoanalysis are: human behaviour, experience and cognition are largely determined by irrational drives; those drives are largely unconscious; attempts to bring those drives into awareness meet pyschological resistance in the form of defence mechanisms; ones’ development is determined by events in early childhood; conflicts between conscious view of reality and unconscious (repressed) material can result in mental disturbances such as neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety, depressions etc and finally, emancipation from the effects of the unconscious material is achieved by bringing this material into the consciousness (Fromm 1992). In contrast to pyschoanalysis, behavourism’s (methodological ) major focus is on the the objective study of behaviour; it ignores mental life, internal states and thought is covert speech. However, radical behaviourism goes a step further and expands behavioural principles to processes within the organism; in contrast to methodological behaviourism; not mechanistic or reductionistic; hypothetical (mentalistic) internal states are not considered causes of behaviour, phenomena must be observable at least to the individual experiencing them.  Comparing the two approaches represents a methodological problem as pyschonalysis is said to have 22 theoretical orientations regarding human mental development while behaviourism lacks consensus about classification of the different versions of psychonalysis although, O’Donohue et al., 1999, mentions 14 varieties including, Watson’s methodological behaviourism, Skinners’ radical behaviourism, teleological behaviorism, theoretical bahaviourism, biological behaviourism and psychological behaviorism (O’Donohue et al 1999). This becomes a problem because what do you compare and contrast? How does one choose those variables ? The author has chosen radical or Skinnerian behaviourism for discussion because it marks a turning point in the history of psychology (Fuentes & Quiroga 2004) by establishing the decisive criterion distinguishing between radical and methodological, the...
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