History of Psychology

Unit 7A: Chapter 13 Notes

Adapted from History of Psychology: The Making of a Science (Edward P. Kardas, 2014)

Susanne Nishino, Ph.D. 2013

 

Chapter 13: Behaviorism

Russia From 1860 – 1917

• By 1905 Russia nearly perpetual state of political & social agitation

• Three physiologists arose in this climate

– Ivan Sechenov

– Ivan Pavlov

– Vladimir Bekhterev

• Took 1st steps toward physiologically-based psychology that would for 1st time provide

convincing mechanism for associationism

• History of associationism traced back to ancient Greek philosophy

• Pavlov’s discovery of conditioned reflex made the scientific study of associationism or

associative learning possible

• Pavlov experimental paradigm set standard for what required for experimental analysis of

associative learning and virtually all advances that have been made since 1965, based on

procedures closely modeled on those Pavlov developed

Demise of Introspective Psychology: Behaviorism

• Multiple sources

• One source Russian physiologists Sechenov, Pavlov, & Bekhterev

• Pavlov’s discovery of classical condition re-energized older associative models of psychology

derived from British empiricists

• American Comparative Psychology early research such as Jacques Loeb & Herbert Spencer

Jennings followed by number of influential psychologists main emphasis study of animal

behavior

• Others began to study animals for own sake, gradually relinquished ideas about study animal

mind, instead began to use only objective methods

 

 

• John B. Watson most prominent, 1913 launched new school of psychology, Behaviorism,

intentionally rejected mentalistic approaches to psychology, emphasized all psychology should

be based on objective methods only, took a decade before psychologists as a whole began to

join new school in great numbers

• William McDougall, English psychologist, debated Watson on radio 1924, had own version of

behaviorism, his approach retained role for introspection, emphasized instinctive behavior with

definition different from earlier psychologists such as Herbert Spencer

• Watson’s brand of Behaviorism eventually evolved into Neobehaviorism

Russian Psychology

• Inspired by discoveries in physiology

• Most important was Sechenov’s realization of importance of physiological inhibition

– Previous physiological accounts of behavior depended solely on reflex activation,

insufficient to explain complexity of animal & human behavior

– Also promoted use of animal models for human behaviors, argued against introspective

methods

• Work inspired next generation of Russian physiologists, especially Pavlov & Bekhterev

• Their research strongly linked physiology to behavior, led to materialist and objective approach

to psychology unlike contemporary models elsewhere in Europe or U.S.

Ivan Sechenov (1829-1905)

• Met Hermann Helmholtz & Emil Du Bois-Reymond, students of Johannes Muller, pioneers in

applying methods of physical science to biology

• Du Bois-Reymond work on electric fishes, created field of electrophysiology

• Outside Russia Sechenev conducted physiological research, discovered reflexes could be

inhibited via direct stimulation of some parts of forebrain (thalamus) but not others (cerebral

cortex), discovery broadened understanding of reflect action, demonstrated that CNS played

role in control of reflexes

• Argued that all behaviors had cause, that cause always external & physical, not psychic or

mental

• Argued for psychology to become science to quit looking for universal theories derived from

introspection, instead concentrate on uncovering facts that could be verified

• Held physiology portal to psychology

 

 

• Argued because human psychology so complex, natural starting place simpler animal models

• Put in place pieces Russian physiologists would need to discover 1st empirical connections

between physiology & psychology

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)

• Read Sechenev as student, interested in physiology of digestion, focused on all physiological

aspect of complex process, met Sergei Botkin, needed someone to supervise graduate students

in animal laboratory, hired Pavlov

• Used dogs to work out details of digestive process, pioneered surgical & insertion of tubes into

glands

• 1904 Nobel Prize for Physiology & Medicine

• Beginning in 1897 direction of laboratory’s research became behavioral, one of students

discovered that all that was required was close pairing in time of neutral stimulus followed by

food stimulus

Pavlov: Classical Conditioning

• Pavlov shifted research direction to study of new “Pavlovian” conditioning process, rejected any

explanations for conditioning that involved introspective elements

• Pavlovian Conditioning = known as classical conditioning = the pairing in time between a neutral

stimulus (any stimulus in any modality that does not naturally cause a consistent physiological

response) and a stimulus that does cause a consistent physiological response (e.g. food &

salivation) so that over time, the neutral stimulus comes to cause the same physiological

response

• “The results were according to our expectations: the observable relations between external

phenomena and variations in the activity of glands could be systematically analyzed; they

appeared to be determined by laws, because they could be reproduced at will” (Pavlov 1904,

quoted p. 292)

• Convinced only way to approach understanding of physiology was through elucidation of

underlying physiological laws

• Soon discovered other conditioning phenomena

– Extinction

– Generalization

– Spontaneous recovery

 

 

• These too seemed to rise to level of scientific laws, could be investigated in lab, without

recourse to consciousness or introspection

• By 1930 Pavlovian conditioning well known to American psychologists, Behaviorists found

conditioning powerful way to explain new responses, emphasized study of learning as new

central focus of psychology in United States

• Pavlov more interested in how conditioning could be suppressed or inhibited

• Pavlov’s research concentrated on conditioning of autonomic responses, surgery almost always

required

Vladimir Bekhterev (1857-1927)

• Emphasized conditioning of voluntary responses

• Realized Pavlov’s discoveries could be generalized to other responses than salivation

• In school specialized in psychiatry & mental illness, later research in neuroanatomy and brain

localization

• 1907 founded Psychoneurological Institute, Objective Psychology published 1910, incorporated

Pavlov’s conditioning model, instead of using autonomic responses, emphasized voluntary

movements in response to external stimulation

• Demonstrated that Pavlovian conditioning applied to voluntary behaviors as well

• He noted that his methodology did not require researchers to perform surgery

• Conflicts with Pavlov, career declined

Nascent Behaviorism

• Bekhterev & Pavlov pioneers of nascent behaviorist movement, no evidence knew of Watson’s

work

• Pavlov’s data combined with Watson’s ideas eventually led to theoretical & practical synergy

• Russian physiologists argued for & sought objective methods to study psychology while rejecting

consciousness & introspection, used animal models of human behavior & provided behavioral

psychology with 1st strong methodologies: classical conditioning

• Edwin B. Twitmyer discovered classical conditioning one year before Pavlov, reported in

dissertation 1902 & at APA meeting 1904, few took notice

Classical Conditioning: New Discoveries Since Pavlov

 

 

• Pavlov explained in terms of contiguity in time, temporal relationship between previously

neutral stimulus (CS) & stimulus that caused physiological reaction (UCS) was key to process,

conditioned stimulus had to precede unconditioned stimulus, limit to how much time could pass

before conditioning failed

• Robert Rescorla (1968) demonstrated simply temporal contiguity not enough, showed that CS

would not cause classical conditioning even when paired with UCS unless CS reliably predicted

occurrence of UCS

• Modern explanations require CS & UCS stimulus close in time and the CS reliably predict the UCS

• Modern does not require appeals to consciousness or introspective accounts

American Psychology: Turn of 20th Century

• William James & G. Stanley Hall living & influential

• E. B. Titchener at Cornell promoted structuralism view of psychology

• Functionalists at Chicago & Columbia opposed to structuralism, alternative little different from it

• Animal research beginning to become prominent, proponents differed over goals, one side

research as way to understand minds of animals, other side believed animal consciousness

unapproachable to scientific methods

• Comparative Psychology = branch of psychology that explores the behavior of all animals

(including humans) and attempts to demonstrate phylogenetic linkages of those behaviors

between species & assess their adaptive value

Comparative Psychology: Turn of 20th Century

• At turn of century, relatively few psychologists specializing in comparative psychology,

• As in Russia, animals consciousness unapproachable came to dominate new subfield of

comparative psychology

• Chicago Jacques Loeb studies in animal tropisms (forced movements), catalogued how reached

to physical stimulus, believed animals passive until faced with specific environmental stimuli,

then would react in stereotypical manner

• Johns Hopkins H. S. Jennings believed behavior of so-called simple organisms was highly variable

& responded differently to same physical stimuli depending on internal state

• Robert Yerkes set out to compare how different animals might learn, used new & original

apparatus, looked at learning in many species, wrote article on importance of classical

conditioning, did not apply Pavlovian to own research

 

 

• Yerkes friend & collaborator eventually adopted classical conditioning methods into his own

research

John B. Watson (1878-1958)

• Recognized early that same methods used to study animals could be used to study humans

• At 1st Watson only person bold enough to consider quitting focus on human consciousness &

use of introspective methods, radical reorientation of psychology

• Behaviorism arrived on stage

• Chicago’s 1st PhD in psychology, thesis learning ability of albino rats

• Ran Chicago’s animal laboratory, research concentrated on elucidating sensory capacities of

animals, especially vision, also conducted naturalistic observation & field experiments

• Editor of most prestigious journal in psychology, Psychological Review, influence in field largely

from publication of articles & books, editors of scholarly journals gatekeepers of new ideas,

1915 President of American Psychological Association

• Famous speech at Columbia 1913 and subsequent publication journal pitted Behaviorism

against two original schools of thought in psychology: Structuralism & Functionalism

Behaviorism

• Behaviorism = the approach to psychology spearheaded by Watson that sought to eliminate

consciousness and introspection and substituted objective methods that focused on animal &

human behaviors only

• Behaviorism not original with Watson, earlier trends in animal psychology, testing, applied

psychology & clinical psychology demonstrated utility of focusing on behavior while minimizing

or ignoring consciousness & introspective reports

• Animal researchers laid foundation by emphasizing relationship between environmental events

& behavior, and behavioral complexity of all creatures

• Pavlov’s research on conditioning instrumental, provided mechanism to explain how

associationism worked

• Thorndike’s pioneering experiments with puzzle boxes influential

• Galtonian style testing under way

• Applied Psychology making headway education & classroom practice

• James’s clinical psychology led effort to include psychopathology & treatment as part of

psychology

 

 

Watson & Behaviorism

• Watson’s contribution to meld disparate streams into one, proposed radical new approach to

psychology, served to nearly separate psychology from its past

• Argued for a completely new psychology that dispensed with introspection & consciousness in

single stroke, called his approach “Behaviorism”

• Claimed Structuralism & Functionalism made little progress in advancing psychology because

both wedded to consciousness in different way, neither could provide coherent scientific

account of discipline

• He wished to “never use the terms consciousness, mental states, mind, content, introspectively

verifiable, imagery” (Watson 1913, quoted p. 300)

• In their place proposed the study of behaviors only

• “Psychology, as the behaviorist views it, is a purely objective, experimental branch of natural

science which needs introspection as little as do the sciences of chemistry and physics. It is

granted that the behavior of animals can be investigated without appeal to consciousness . . .

The position is taken here that the behavior of man and the behavior of animals must be

considered on the same plane; as being equally essential to a general understanding of

behavior. It can dispense with consciousness in a psychological sense” (Watson, 1913, quoted p.

300)

• “Should human psychologists fail to look with favor upon our overtures and refuse to modify

their position, the behaviorists will be driven to using human beings as subjects and to employ

methods of investigation which are exactly comparable to those now employed in animal work”

(Watson, 1913) quoted p. 300).

• Cited examples where behavioral approach already success: educational psychology,

psychopharmacology, advertising, forensics, & testing

• Favored adoption of uniform experimental procedures

• Later began to research human psychology, wanted to study psychopathology, began to study

newborn babies, created Watson’s infant laboratory, one of babies Little Albert, research with

Little Albert high point of Watson’s research career, also the beginning of the end of it

• After World War I, became interested in studying emotional behavior in humans

• At first could only identify three instinctive emotions, unlearned behaviors: fear, rage, love

• Began to realize repertoire of unlearned behaviors, reflexes, in babies, discovered baby strong

grasp reflex, also found some babies were afraid of stimuli (rats, dogs, masks) while others not

Watson & Behaviorism: “Little Albert”

 

 

• Observations of baby fear of stimuli led to hypothesis that babies exhibiting such fears must

have learned conditioned emotional responses

• Conditioned Emotional Responses = terminology 1st introduced by Watson & Rosalie Rayner to

describe the acquisition of emotional responses in children through classical conditioning

• To test hypothesis selected Alfred B. (Little Albert)

• “Healthy from birth and one of the best developed youngsters . . . He was on the whole stolid

and unemotional. His stability was one of the principal reasons for using him as a subject in this

test” (Watson & Rayner, 1920, quoted p. 302)

• Stated goals to determine whether could condition Little Albert to be afraid of white rate,

whether fear would transfer to other objects, and if emotional responses could be removed

following acquisition

Little Albert

• Watson & Rayner used loud noises, after only two trials Albert showed fear responses, showed

fear of white rat that had not scared him previously, five days later again showed fear & burst

into tears, also showed fear transferred to cotton & seal fur coat

• Fear did not disappear over time, did not decondition or extinguish Albert’s fears, left hospital to

go home

• Watson’s student Mary Cover Jones (1924) later 1st to demonstrate possible to extinguish

conditional emotional responses

• Later critics Albert’s observed fear responses stimulated by removal of thumb from his mouth,

how unusual in psychology for study using only one subject to have achieved prominence &

notoriety

• Today accepted that people & animals can acquire fear responses through conditioning,

extinction of fears possible through behavioral theory techniques (counterconditioning &

flooding)

Watson: Applied Behaviorism

• Watson & Rayner, collaborators, eventually married, Watson already married

• Watson’s total commitment to behaviorist tenets, argued that children should be treated like

little adults and should never be kissed or hugged

• Scandal with Rayner, immediate resignation, career after Hopkins at J. Walter Thompson

advertising agency

 

 

• Used behaviorist methods bringing scientific approach to manipulation of consumer behavior

through advertising, brought earlier ideas about biological primacy of love, rage, & fear to

advertising, saw job as attempt to stimulate one of those basic impulses through advertising

• Likely Watson’s vision of Behaviorism spread more quickly though pop writings than if remained

at university

Watson’s Legacy

• After founding Behaviorism, contributed much to establishing applied psychology

• Helped move psychology away from philosophy toward biology, later in life opened conduit

between psychology & business

• Behaviorism slowly became the leading school of thought in American psychology

• Behaviorism’s appeal to nearly emerging mass markets and Watson’s late career expertise in

advertising helped him sell Behaviorism to the public

William McDougall (1871-1938): Behaviorism

• Outspoken early critic of Watson

• McDougall also called his brand of psychology, Behaviorism

• Watson Behaviorism & McDougall Behaviorism far apart in theory & practice

• Instincts major focus of McDougall

• Defined instincts “an inherited or innate psycho-physical disposition which determines its

possessor to perceive, or pay attention to, objects of a certain class, to experience an emotional

excitement of a particular quality upon perceiving such an object, and to act in regard to it in a

particular manner, or, at least, to experience an impulse to such action” (McDougall, 1926,

quoted p. 305).

McDougall: Instincts

• Not 1st to study instincts, believed previous definitions inadequate because only focused on

inborn patterns & tendencies

• Added emotion & goal directedness to earlier definitions

• Instinct always included three components

– Behavior

– Emotion

 

 

– Goal

• Both animals & humans possessed instincts, only human instincts could be modified or inhibited

by culture or habit

• Proposed seven basic instincts & associated emotions, later added mating & associated lust

emotion to list

• List p. 305

McDougal: Hereditarianism

• British, after World War I accepted chair of psychology at Harvard, never fully comfortable in

U.S.

• His hereditarianism ran counter to prevailing environmentalism 1st promoted by functional

psychology, later radicalized by Watson & Skinner

– Hereditarianism = the view that individual differences in behavior are mostly due to

innate & inherited factors

– Environmentalism = the view that individual differences in behavior are mostly due to

experience & other environmental factors

• Also a Lamarckian, conducted research attempting to demonstrate successive generations of

white rats could inherit increased abilities in discrimination tasks

• Became interested in parapsychological topics,

The Battle of Behaviorism

• Over time psychologists appreciation of views of McDougall & Watson, each grains of truth

• Before reconciliation possible, newer form of Behaviorism = Neobehaviorism took stage for four

decades

• 1924 Watson-McDougall radio debate over nature & definition of Behaviorism

– Watson wanted to rid psychology of all mentalist terms & use only objective methods,

did not deny existence of consciousness, but denied can be studied objectively

– McDougall studied behavior of animals & humans, but not willing to part with analysis

of consciousness through introspection, dualistic position

– End of debate Watson judged winner by narrow margin

Border with Philosophy

 

 

• Behaviorism sealed border long existed between psychology & philosophy

• Eventually led to another solidifying distinction between disciplines = experimentation

• Behaviorists promoted design & conduct of experiments that did not require introspective

methods, took psychology into newly founded laboratories

Behaviorism to Neobehaviorism

• McDougall “in America the tide of Behaviorism seems to flow increasingly” . . . “Dr. Watson

knows that if you wish to sell your wards, you must assert very loudly, plainly, and frequently

that they are the best on the market” (Watson & McDougall, 1929, quoted p. 307).

• Watson’s ideas narrowly won debate, quickly won hearts and minds of nearly all American

psychologists

• Neobehaviorism followed, not monolithic, practitioners agreed studying behavior objectively

was key, disagreed over other issues

• Three most prominent neobehaviorists = Edward Tolman, Clark Hull, & B. F. Skinner

• In Europe Gestalt Psychology school emerging, followers dissatisfied with structuralism & its

emphasis on mental elements, proposed radical solution disregarding elements, looking at

relationships instead

Ideas

• Behaviorism synergized classical conditioning, physiological psychology, comparative

psychology, testing, applied psychology & clinical psychology, all interested in behavior not

mental states, saw little difference in methods necessary to study human or animal behavior

• Combining classical condition with psychophysics allowed investigation of sensory capacities of

animals

• Behaviorism moved into applied areas, Little Albert demonstrated fears could be learned &

extinguished, blossomed into modern day behavioral medicine & wellness therapies

• Business took advantage of behavioral approach, research in marketing & power of advertising

• Hereditarian theories competed with environmental, debated existence, extent, & nature of

instincts

• 1st inklings of widespread technological change date from rise of radio & subsequent forms of

media created since

Summary

 

 

• By turn of 20th century, Russian psychologist’s advances in physiological psychology, Pavlov work

on conditioned reflex most important, filtered to the U.S.

• American psychology in flux as Structuralism, Functionalism, applied psychology, & animal

research vied for attention

• Behaviorism began with 1913 Watson speech, worked for advertising agencies, lectured, wrote,

& promoted applied psychology using Behaviorism

• William McDougall British behaviorist, Lamarckian, hereditarianism, emphasized role of instincts

in behavior

• Watson & McDougall debate on raid in “The Battle of Behaviorism”

• Watson’s position gradually strengthened, taken over by Neobehaviorism

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