Critical Discussion on Watson’s and Skinner’s Versions of Behaviourism

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Critical Discussion on Watson’s and Skinner’s Versions of Behaviourism

Behaviourism concept emerged at a period when the societal disarticulation as a result of speedy industrialization of American society needed novel approaches of social organization. This was to act as a replacement to Victorian mores of minute-town rural lifestyle (Wightman & Kloppenberg 1995, p. 68). At this time, positivists like Walter Lippmann invited psychologists to assist devise approaches, and the lately recognized science of psychology, enthusiastic to signify its position as an autonomous discipline, responded by assertively endorsing itself in terms of societal utility (Wightman & Kloppenberg 1995, p.

68). That said, behaviourism premise emanated from the work of an American psychologist John B. Watson. He did assert that psychology as a discipline was never concerned with human mind or consciousness, but rather concerned with just behaviour. This way, Watson claimed that humans could be examined, studied or evaluated impartially just like apes and rats (Cohen 1987, p. 71). Behaviourism according to Watson’s version was a stab to shun the complexities of trying to study human consciousness by limiting scientific attention to evident, overt or blatant behaviour.

This version was coupled with a pivotal ambition to put in place much more thorough ways or methods to experimental research as well as report writing. Thus, the key task of psychology was none other than recognition of laws governing the link between behavioural responses and environmental stimuli, and psychology was cast as an attachment to physiology (Richards 2009, p. 35). In this way, Watson believed that psychology would provide knowledge that could be utilized to the prediction as well as control of behaviour. Therefore, his version of classical behaviourism did possess several distinct characteristics, such as:

• It was tremendously environmentalist • Its practical vocabulary was mainly limited to not many non-mentalistic terms • Its explanations were exceedingly reductionist, and • The version was majorly concerned with investigational methodology (Richards 2009, p. 35). In the early 1920s, Watson assimilated the concepts of Ivan Pavlov, a Russian psychologist and included Pavlov’s ideas of reinforcement and conditioning as key theoretical notions to his classical behaviourism version. Pavlov had done a number of studies on the animal’s responses to environmental conditioning.

In his best triumphant experiment, he did ring a bell as he took a number of meals to some dogs. In doing so, each and every time dogs did hear the bell ringing they knew pretty well that a meal was ready, and would start salivating (DeMar 1989, p. 1). On one instance, Pavlov did ring the bell devoid of taking food, but the dogs continued salivating since they had been habituated, conditioned or trained to salivate each time they hear a bell ringing. Watson asserted in his behaviourism version that humans responded to environmental stimuli just in the similar way (DeMar 1989, p.

1). However, Watson’s classical behaviourism was regarded too crude, he himself did refrain from academia after a divorce scandal. In his wake, several neo-behaviourists, including B. F. Skinner, Clark L. Hull and Ernest R. Hilgard took over the doctrine in an array of directions. On a different perspective, the well-known architect of a radical or less mechanistic behaviourism version was B. F. Skinner, whose premises of operant conditioning did attest potent enough to be utilized in a number of settings (Wightman & Kloppenberg 1995, p. 68).

At times grounded in stylish mathematical learning theories, but much more frequently established on instinctive rules of thumb, behavioural techniques were used in psychotherapy, medicine, education, advertising, business and management of mental hospitals and prisons. Given its predictable comparing of lower animals to humans, together with its firm permeation into such conventionally humanist territories as the curative education and art, it’s doubtless that Skinner’s version of radical behaviourism has long provoked controversy (Wightman & Kloppenberg 1995, p.

68). What’s more, today’s behaviourism is associated with B. F. Skinner, who attained his reputation as a radical behaviourist by experimenting Watson’s assertions in the laboratory. His laboratory experiments coupled with a number of researches led him to snub Watson’s exclusive allegations on conditioning and reflexes. Skinner avowed that humans not only respond to their surroundings, but operate on their surroundings to give rise to explicit consequences (Skinner, Catania & Harnad 1988, p. 3).

Furthermore, Skinner came up with the ‘operant conditioning’ theory, the notion that human behave the way they do as this sort of behaviour has had explicit effects long-ago. For instance, if a boy kisses a girl when she gives him flowers, then the girl will be expected to come with flowers when she wants a kiss from him. Thus, the girl will be acting in anticipation of specific reward. Contrary to Watson, Skinner rejected the idea that feelings or the human mind play a part in determining behaviour. He instead insisted that an individual experience of reinforcements determines his or her behaviour (Skinner, Catania & Harnad 1988, p.

10). Therefore, according to radical behaviourism version, one of Skinner’s objective was to shape humans’ behaviour in away to respond in a much more socially tolerable way. In his operant conditioning theory he was absolutely clear that his theory ought to be applied to guide human behaviour (Shaffer 2005, p. 45). Moreover, Skinner’s experimental analysis of human or general behaviour has resulted in an effectual, effective and efficient technology, pertinent to psychotherapy, education, as well as the design of cultural practices generally (Shaffer 2005, p.

46). In conclusion, the ethical effects of both Watson’s and Skinner’s versions of behaviourism are immense. An individual is stripped off his or her freedom, dignity, responsibility and reduced to a merely natal being, to be ‘shaped’ by behaviourists who encompass the ability to apply the tools of behaviourism efficiently. Bibliography Cohen, D. (1987). Behaviorism, Oxford Companion to Mind, Richard, L. , ed. NY; Oxford University Press. DeMar, G. (1989). Behaviorism.

[Online] available < http://www. forerunner. com/forerunner/X0497_DeMar_-_Behaviorism. html> Richards, G. (2009). Psychology, key concepts. Milton Park; Routledge. Shaffer, D. (2005). Social & personality development. Belmont; Walworth. Skinner, B. , Catania, C. , & Harnad, S. (1988). Selection of behaviour, operant behaviourism of Burrhus Frederic Skinner. Melbourne; Cambridge Syndicate Press. Wightman, R. , & Kloppenberg, J. (1995). A companion to American thought. Massachusetts; Blackwell.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

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