Comparing Behaviorism and Cognitive Psychology

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Up to the beginning of the twentieth century the primary method of collecting data was through self- observation and introspection. Most of this was done in a lab or on an analysts couch. Then along came John B. Watson, who led a new generation of psychologists to a new way of thinking. This new way of thinking was behaviorism. For Watson, psychology was the study of observable, measurable behavior and nothing more. He insisted that you can not see or even define what consciousness is any more than you can observe ones soul. If you cannot locate or measure something then it can not be the object of study. He came to deny the legitimacy of ideas such as consciousness, thinking, feelings or the self. Most of our ways of describing human behavior and experience was deemed unscientific. He tried to show that all psychological phenomenon are the results of conditioning. In 1920 Watson was forced to resign from Johns Hopkins and for years after he still wrote articles and books on psychology, however, he ultimately let others take over refining behaviorism through research. One of these researchers was B.F. Skinner. Skinner believed that the mind was invisible and irrelevant to scientists. He believed that we should only be concerned with what goes in the mind and comes out of the mind but not what happens inside the mind. He believed in “reinforcement”, which meant if you put a rat in a special made cage and allowed it to run around and check out it’s environment in this cage, that eventually it would find the special button that released a treat. Skinner believed that this rat would learn to always push this special button and always get a treat. He thought that the reason the rat did this was because he was rewarded for hitting the button. He called this “instrumental conditioning”. For at least 50 years psychology was dominated by behaviorism and for all of those years cognitive psychology was ignored.

In the 1960s behaviorism wasn’t looking so great anymore....
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