Behaviourism: History, Principles & Contributions

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Behaviourism: History, Principles & Contributions

Abstract

Behaviourism focuses its perspective on the external environment as being the stimuli for behaviour instead of internal events such as consciousness. John B. Watson is often noted as the father of behaviourism, though its theories were being studied years before hand. A talk by Watson on his manifesto in 1913 was said to be the formal founding of behaviourism where he described the principles of behaviourism and dismissed other notions. Though behaviourism did not become a highly accepted view in psychology, it did have its contributions to the overall field.

Behaviourism emerged as a new field of psychology during the early twentieth century. It differentiated its perspective from the others branches of psychology by focusing on the relationship of only the external environment as a stimulus for all behaviour. A man by the name of John B. Watson (1878-1958) is often distinguished as the father of behaviourism; however, we shall see that the theory of behaviourism was studied years before Watson popularized it.

In the continent of Europe, Russian psychologist, Ivan M. Sechenov (1829-1905) held the belief that it was external stimulation and not thought that caused all behaviour (Hergenhahn, 2009). However, it was Ivan P. Pavlov and Vladimir M. Bechterev who influenced Watson. Pavlov was well acclaimed on his work on conditioned reflexes and saw all behaviour whether learned or innate, as reflexes. He focused his work on behaviour by using the stimulus and response mode. Bechterev too, focused entirely on the relationship between the environment and overt behaviour.

Although both Pavlov and Bechterev studied conditioned reflexes, it was Pavlov’s work, which came first into the hands of Watson making Pavlov more popularized.John Watson began his career by being one of the first ethologists in the U.S, by studying and explaining the behaviour of animals in its natural environment....
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