Behaviorism

Topics: Psychology, Behaviorism, Classical conditioning Pages: 5 (1432 words) Published: April 3, 2010
Behaviorism was the first study of psychology that looked at human behavior and how humans essentially learned (Ormrod, 1995). When describing behaviorism and it’s main ideas, it can be characterized as a type of psychology that examines the overt, observable actions and reactions of an individual. Behaviorists view the mind as a “black box” ignoring the possibility of thought and consciousness. Instead of studying the mind, behaviorists examine the unbiased, environmental conditions that influence a person’s behavior. John B. Watson, to many, is the founder of Behaviorism as a school of experimental psychology. Psychologists that most impacted the development of the behaviorist theory were Ivan Pavlov, who research on classical conditioning, Edward Lee Thorndike, John B. Watson, who rejected introspective methods and sought to reduce psychology to experimental methods, and B.F. Skinner who studied operant conditioning. Influences on behaviorism

In the beginning of the twentieth century behaviorism became the main movement in psychology. It was a utilitarian study of psychology, focusing on predicting and controlling behavior. Behaviorism was developed first in the United States with the English school of thought being most influential. Behaviorists were trying to take psychology away from studying the consciousness, and transform it into a science similar to that of biology of physics (Ormrod, 1995). Behaviorism began within the field of animal psychology, but quickly spread to all aspects of human psychology. Both structuralism and functionalism were popular views in psychology when behaviorism became a school of thought. However, the views on the development of behaviorism between the two previous schools of psychology differed. Functionalism, which believes psychology should study the function of thought and the mind, saw behaviorism as a way for their movement to advance (Schultz, 2008). Behaviorism was first seen in psychology when Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist introduced the methods while studying animal behavior. He was greatly influenced by Darwin’s work and was most interested in laboratory research (Shultz, 2008). Pavlov is most widely known for his demonstration of classical conditioning in which he trained a dog to salivate every time it heard a bell. In classical conditioning a stimulus becomes associated with a reflex (response). This study with dogs also led Pavlov to an unexpected discovery of conditioned reflexes. Conditioned reflexes are spontaneous reactions that depend on the connection between stimulus and response. Ivan Pavlov’s work with conditioning inspired many of Watson’s ideas. Building on Pavlov’s work, Watson applied the concept of stimulus response theory to laboratory experiments. He believed the goal of psychology was the prediction and control of behavior and should be purely objective (Watson, 1994). Watson studied how learning can be achieved through a repeated stimulus and specific responses. Watson was a driving force for behaviorism his approach is seen in a popular quote: "Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select--doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant- chief, and yes, even beggar man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors"(Ormrod, 1995).

This quote presents the radical environmental position of behaviorists. This view stresses the importance of learning and environmental influences in human development. Behaviorists consider manipulation of the environment to be the crucial mechanism for learning (Hall, 2009). John B. Watson grew up with the introspectionist psychology of the early twentieth century, although he also had the ‘functionalist’ influence of his mentor J.R. Angell (Hall, 2009). Watson gave many lectures during the...


References: Graham, George (2007). Behaviorism. Retrieved March 29, 2010, from Standford University, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Web site: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/behaviorism/#8.
Hall, Geoffrey. (2009). Watson: The Thinking Man 's Behaviourist. British Journal of Psychology, 100 (Suppl), 185 -187. doi:10.1348/000712609X413656
Ormrod, Jeanne, E. (1995). Human Learning. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Schultz, D.P., & Schultz, S.E. (2008). A History of modern psychology. Belmont CA: Thomson Learning Inc.
Watson, J. B. (1994). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 101(2), 248-253. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.101.2.248
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