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Behaviorism Essay

1286 words - 6 pages

February 1, 2015

The theory of behaviorism is that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning without any preconceived thought, but it can be defined by observable behavior that is researched. Behaviorism projects that individuals are products of their experiences and have become who they are because of conditioning. John Watson, who is credited with Behaviorism, made the comment that he could take “twelve healthy infants and take any one of them and mold them into any given occupation regardless of genetics, race, talents and/or abilities.”(Jenson, 2014) Watson felt that conditioning was a crucial part of behaviorism, as it was an extension of ...view middle of the document...

In earlier forms of psychology, mental life was the appropriate subject matter for psychology, and introspection was an appropriate method to engage that subject matter (Moore, 2011). In 1913, John Watson delivered a lecture on “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It” at a meeting for the American Psychological Association at Columbia University. Upon his presentation, he was considered as brilliant for this body of work. According to Watson, behaviorism offered a
“purely American solution to problems of employee selection, human adjustment, and industrial relations. It allowed businessmen to match employees to jobs; if necessary, it could show how the individual may be molded (forced to put on new habits) to fit the environment (Harris, 2010).”
Behaviorism is also associated with B.F. Skinner, who made his reputation by testing Watson's theories in the laboratory. Skinner ultimately rejected Watson's almost exclusive emphasis on reflexes and conditioning. Skinner believed that people respond to their environment, but they also operate on the environment to produce certain consequences ("Behaviorism Theory Overview").

The Main Components of Behaviorism and the Experiments
Behaviorism has been determined to have two assumptions that define the theory. They are classical conditioning, and operant conditioning. Behaviorism is strongly based on stimulus and response and the learner starts of with a clean slate (also known as tabula rasa). The behavior of the learner can be shaped by positive and negative reinforcement, and positive and negative punishment. Three of the main contributors to behaviorism are: John Watson, Ivan Pavlov, and B.F. Skinner.
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. Watson had conducted the “Baby Albert” experiment where an infant had learned to be afraid of a rat by a loud sound. Watson believed that humans had three emotions of fear, rage, and love and adults were created due to the conditioning of different life stimuli. Ivan Pavlov’s work on classical conditioning was adapted by John Watson after Watson’s experiments with a child named Albert reflected that this personality was conditioned by various reflexes.
Ivan Pavlov is most famous for the classical conditioning in dogs. Pavlov stumbled across one of the two major principles of learning that now characterize behaviorism. His research was designed to uncover the neural mechanisms associated with digestion; while conducting his experiments, however, he noticed that his subjects, the dogs, began salivating not just in response to the food, but also in response to other environmental cues, such as the lab attendants who brought the food (Kretchmar, 2008). As Mazur (1994) writes, "Pavlov recognized the significance of...

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