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Behaviorism is an approach within psychology integrating elements of philosophy, theory, and methodology that is based on the proposition that human and animal can be scientifically researched and understood without recourse to inner mental states. The movement emerged in the early twentieth to fill gaps that existed due to the difficulty in making a prediction that could be tested using rigorous experimental methods. John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, and B.F. Skinner were the three major figures that contributed to the development of the approach. (Leary, 2004) The research conducted by these major figures produced the theories of learning. Their contributions marked a significant turning point in psychology as a scientific discipline and prompted extensive research in experimental psychology and comparative psychology providing critical data on how both humans and animals appropriately respond to their external environment. (Virues & Pear, 2015) While these original theories are no longer give an adequate explanation for all forms of behavior and learning, even so, methodologies developed through these studies are made use of in various research programs that have significantly increased the understanding of human nature.
John B. Watson
Watson was a major figure in the early in the twentieth century. In his book, he argued for a psychology that focused solely on the objective observation of behavior. His argument marked a substantial break from the predominant structuralist psychology. He studied the adjustment of organisms to their environment unlike many of his colleagues. He was more specifically, determined in the exact stimuli that influenced organisms to make their responses. His approach was much influenced by Ivan Pavlov. Accordingly, he adopted Pavlov's model, stressed the role of stimuli in producing conditioned responses and physiological responses. For his contribution, he can be described as a "stimulus-response" psychologist. His theory influenced most academic researchers. His approach was used on by researchers including Edward L. Thorndike. (Leary, 2004)
B.F. Skinner has remained behaviorism's influential theorist and exponent. He significantly contributed to the field of comparative psychology with his focus on experimental work in the 1930s to the 1950s. He developed a different form of behaviorist philosophy currently known as "radical behaviorism." He is credited with the establishment of behavioral analysis in psychological science. While his approach differs on many theoretical and methodological points, it departs from methodological behaviorism remarkably in its acceptance of scientifically treatable, states of mind, the treatment of feelings and introspection as existent. His position gained strength from his earlier successful early experimental work with pigeons and rats that is summarized in two of his books. Of particular value was the discovery of the operant response that contrasted with reflex responses. His empirical work expanded on Thorndike and Guthrie earlier researches regarding trial-and-error learning. Skinner’s findings provided a level of credibility to his radical conceptual analysis. (Leary, 2004)
Ivan Pavlov contributed to this field through his successful experimental discovery on the laws of classical conditioning. He provided inspiration for Watson's Behaviorist Manifesto. In his experiments he used he presented unconditioned stimulus in the form of foods. After some various such presentations, the unconditional response became conditioned to the bell. In accordance to his theory, behavior can be predicted to occur or not to occur and be controlled given an animal’s conditioning history. Pavlov was able to experimentally examine and formulate laws on delay effects, temporal sequencing, stimulus generalization and stimulus intensity effects. (Virues & Pear, 2015)
Wundt conceived the subject matter of psychology to be experimental which led him to be referred to as the father of experimental psychology. He is recognized for recognizing psychology as a science. He founded a formal laboratory for conducting psychological researches hence marking psychology as an independent field of study. In the laboratory, he identified mental disorders, explored religious beliefs, abnormal behaviors and established psychology as a separate science. He concentrated on feelings, thoughts and images today studied in cognitive psychology. His systems were developed later by psychologist such as Titchener, who described them as structuralism. The approach focused on analyzing the basic elements that constitute human consciousness. (Moore, 2013)
Edward Tolman and Clark Hull
Tolman and Hull are viewed as intermediaries as most important figures of the movement's middle years. Both accepted the S-R framework as basic. However, they intended to hypothesize intervening variables that mediated the S-R connection. Their work, therefore, may be considered precursory to cognitivism, each touching on significant philosophical issues as well. Tolman came up with purposive behaviorism that attempted to clarify purposive or goal-directed behavior focusing on intact, large, meaningful behavior patterns rather than simple muscle movements. He regarded the simple muscle movement as too far removed from the explanatory purposes and perceptual capacities to give appropriate units for valuable behavioral analysis. According to Tolman, stimuli have a cognitive role as signals to the organism, resulting in the creation of cognitive maps and to latent learning when reinforcement lacks.
Clark Hull contributed to the movement through his role in the formulation of an exhaustive theory of mechanisms intervening between responses and stimuli. The theory took the form postulates facilitating the prediction of behavioral responses. (Virues & Pear, 2015)
Leary, D. E. (2004). On the conceptual activity of psychologists: behaviorism from the 1890s to the 1990s. Behavior & Philosophy, 32(1), 13-35.
Moore, J. (2013). Three views of behaviorism. Psychological Record, 63(3), 681-691.
Virues-Ortega, J., & Pear, J. (2015). A History of 'Behavior' and 'Mind': Use of Behavioral and Cognitive Terms in the 20th Century. Psychological Record, 65(1), 23-30.
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