Behaviorism As a Separate School of Thought Essay

Total Length: 624 words ( 2 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 1+

Page 1 of 2

Question 1

All the early pioneers of behaviorism including Watson were important to the development of psychology as a social science (Moore, 2011). In fact, Watson deserves the most credit for being the first person to propose behaviorism as a science, using the tools of the scientific method to measure human behavior. However, human behavior is remarkably complex and Watson’s early research failed to capture the nuances of human cognitive-behavioral responses. Pavlov built upon Watson’s foundation, and is probably the most famous of all the pioneering behaviorists. Pavlov’s famous dog experiments have become part of the common vernacular (Clark, 2004). Like Pavlov, B.F. Skinner focused on operant conditioning. However, Skinner took the entire concept of conditioning a step further by showing how stimuli could be manipulated to manipulate responses. Pavlov had yet to break free from the purely mechanistic methods of measuring human behavior. Skinner used behavioral research to show how people develop cognitive patterns and feelings around certain stimuli, too. In this way, Skinner paved the way for the future of behavioral psychology. Skinner’s research showed that positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement were the cornerstones of learning as well as simply behavioral responses to stimuli.

Another reason why B.F. Skinner made the most significant contributions to the field of psychology is that positive and negative reinforcement are still used in a variety of learning and organizational contexts.

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Positive and negative reinforcements are used in the ways parents raise their children, in the ways teachers respond to classroom management issues, and in the ways companies structure their human resources policies and programs. Even the criminal justice system is basically based on behaviorism. Positive reinforcement refers to offering rewards for desirable behaviors, and negative reinforcement refers to punishing undesirable behavior with the goal of eliminating it.

Question 2

There were many influences and trends in research leading to the emergence of behaviorism as a separate school of thought. The most important theorists that contributed to the evolution of behaviorism as a separate school of thought presented their work as fundamentally different from the other life sciences like biology, but also different from psychoanalysis. Watson, Pavlov, and Skinner each sought to apply the scientific method to the study of human behavior. Unlike Freud and the psychoanalysts, Watson, Pavlov, and Skinner did not care much about the unconscious mind. To a degree, Skinner was interested in the ways the subconscious….....

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Clark, R. E. (2004). The classical origins of Pavlov's conditioning. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science, 39(4), 279-294.

Green, C. D. (2009). Darwinian theory, functionalism, and the first American psychological revolution. American Psychologist, 64(2), 75-83. doi: 10.1037/a0013338.

Moore, J. (2011). Behaviorism. The Psychological Record, 61(3), 449-464.

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