Watson & Skinner Perspective

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 1 October 2016

Watson & Skinner Perspective

Psychological perspectives will always change as long as psychology continues to move forward. Not one perspective or approach would be considered wrong or incorrect. It just adds to our understanding of human and animal behavior. Most psychologists would agree that not one perspective is correct, although in the past, early days of psychology, the behaviorist would have said their perspective was the only truly scientific one (McLeod, 2007). Two Psychologists who are well known for their theories on behaviorism are John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. In this paper I will discuss their own perspectives on behaviorism.

Behaviorism is an approach to psychology that combines elements of philosophy, methodology, and theory. It emerged in the early twentieth century as a reaction to “mentalistic” psychology, which often had difficulty making predictions that could be tested using rigorous experimental methods. The primary tenet of behaviorism, as expressed in the writings of John B. Watson, B. F. Skinner, and others, is that psychology should concern itself with the observable behavior of people and animals, not with unobservable events that take place in their minds.

The behaviorist school of thought maintains that behaviors as such can be described scientifically without recourse either to internal physiological events or to hypothetical constructs such as thoughts and beliefs. John Boardus Watson(January 9, 1878 – September 25, 1958) was an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism. Watson promoted a change in psychology through his address, Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it, which was given at Columbia University in 1913.

This is sometimes called “The Behaviorist Manifesto”(Watson, 1913). The first paragraph of the article concisely described Watson’s behaviorist position: Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness.

Watsons 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. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years” (Watson, 2012).

The quotation often appears without context and with the last sentence omitted, making Watson’s position appear more radical than it actually was. In Watson’s book Behaviorism, the sentence is provided in the context of an extended argument against eugenics. That Watson did not hold a radical environmentalist position may be seen in his earlier writing in which his “starting point” for a science of behavior was “… the observable fact that organisms, man and animal alike, do adjust themselves to their environment by means of hereditary and habit equipments. ” (Watson, 2012).

Nevertheless, Watson recognized the importance of nurture in the nature versus nurture discussion which was often neglected by his eugenic contemporaries. The behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute. The behavior of man, with all of its refinement and complexity, forms only a part of the behaviorist’s total scheme of investigation. With his “behaviorism”, Watson put the emphasis on external behavior of people and their reactions on given situations, rather than the internal, mental state of those people.

In his opinion, the analysis of behaviors and reactions was the only objective method to get insight in the human actions. This outlook, combined with the complementary ideas of determinism, evolutionary continuism, and empiricism has contributed to what is now called radical behaviorism. It was this new outlook that Watson claimed would lead psychology into a new era. He claimed that before Wundt there was no psychology, and that after Wundt there was only confusion and anarchy. It was Watson’s new behaviorism that would pave the way for further advancements in psychology (Watson, 2012).

Burrhus Frederic “B. F. ” Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) was an American Psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher (Woodward, W. R. 1996). He Innovated his own philosophy of science called radical behaviorism, and founded his Own School of experimental research psychology—the experimental analysis of behavior. His Analysis of human behavior culminated in his work Verbal Behavior, as well as his Philosophical Manifesto Walden Two, both of which have which have recently seen enormous Increase in Interest experimentally and in applied settings.

Contemporary academia considers Skinner a Pioneer of modern behaviorism along with John B. Watson and Ivan Pavlov. Skinner Called his particular brand of behaviorism “Radical” behaviorism (Skinner, 1984). Radical Behaviorism is the Philosophy of the science of behavior. It seeks to understand behavior as a Function of Environmental histories of reinforcing consequences. Such a functional analysis Makes it capable of producing technologies of behavior. This applied behaviorism lies on the Opposite side of the Ideological spectrum as the field of cognitive science.

Unlike less austere Behaviorism, it does not accept private events such as thinking, perceptions, and unobservable Emotions in a causal account of an organism’s behavior. Skinner stood at the opposite position From humanistic Psychology for his whole career and denied humans possessing freedom and Dignity as well as Evidenced in his novel Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Skinner1984). Most of His theories were supposed to be Based on self-observation, which caused him to become a Supporter for behaviorism.

Much of This self-observed theory stemmed from Thorndike’s Puzzle Box, a direct antecedent to Skinner’s Box (Skinner, 1984). The psychologist further Expanded on Thorndike’s earlier work by introducing the concept of Reinforcement to Thorndike’s Law of Effect (Skinner, 1984). Skinner was an Advocate of behavioral engineering And he thought that people should be controlled through the Systematic allocation of external Rewards (Skinner, 1984). Skinner believed that behavior is maintained from one condition to Another through similar or same consequences across these Situations.

In short, behaviors are Causal factors that are influenced by the consequences. His Contribution to the understanding of Behavior influenced many other scientists to explain social Behavior and contingencies (Skinner, 1984). Reinforcement is a central concept in Behaviorism, and was seen as a central Mechanism in the Shaping and control of behavior. A common Misconception is that negative Reinforcement is Synonymous with punishment. This Misconception is rather pervasive, and is Commonly found in even scholarly accounts of Skinner and his contributions.

To be clear, while Positive reinforcement is the strengthening of behavior by the application of some event, Negative reinforcement is the strengthening of behavior by the Removal or avoidance of some Aversive event (e. g. , opening and rising an umbrella over your Head on a rainy day is reinforced By the cessation of rain falling on you). Both types of Reinforcement strengthen Behavior, or Increase the probability of a behavior reoccurring; the Difference is in whether the Reinforcing Event is something applied (positive reinforcement) or something removed or avoided (negative Reinforcement).

Punishment and extinction have the Effect of weakening Behavior or decreasing The future probability of a behavior’s occurrence, by the application of an aversive Stimulus/event (positive punishment or punishment by contingent Stimulation), Removal of a Desirable stimulus (negative punishment or punishment by contingent Withdrawal), or the Absence of a rewarding stimulus, which causes the behavior to Stop (Skinner, 1984).

After researching endless research, what is really boils down to is Watson, a classical behaviorist, believed that there was a connection between response and Environment and Skinner’s theory was a bit different from Watson’s in that behavior was a result of consequence. Watson and Skinner were all “fathers” in the field of psychology.

Their ideas Contributed to the way that behavior is seen. Their theories have helped to create many forms of Behavior modification as well as the processes that occur during thought. Although psychology’s Theories grow and change daily; these two psychologists’ theories will maintain their values in Modern psychology.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 1 October 2016

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