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Behavioral Psychology - Essay Example

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Behavioral Psychology

John B. Watson founded the school of behavioral psychology in hopes that it would make psychology as academically respected as other sciences such as chemistry and physiology were. He moved away from the introspective methods of psychology which were popular at the time, and moved towards a more scientific, observable approach. He believed that the behavior of humans and animals were comparable, and therefore, most behavioral experiments used animals such as rats as subjects and then generalized the findings to humans. Watson believed that all behavior could be explained by what was called "classical conditioning" (Watson, 1999). The idea behind classical conditioning is that one could pair a stimulus that causes a response or reflex with an unrelated stimulus. Over time, the unrelated stimulus alone should cause the response or reflex. An example of this would the famous experiment conducted by Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov noticed that when he set food out for his dogs, they would salivate. He then paired the setting out of food with ringing a bell. Over time, the dogs salivated to the ringing bell alone, without the setting out of food. ...
While he agreed that the behaviors of animals and humans are comparable and that psychology should focus of observable behavior, Skinner did believe that there is such thing as the mind. The only reason he chose to study observations over the mind is because observations can be objectively measured in a scientific way whereas the mind cannot (Boeree, 2006). Skinner also differs from Watson in that he believes that changes in behavior can be attributed to reinforcers, whereas Watson attributes change in behavior to associations between events. Skinner referred to this theory of behavior as "operant conditioning" which maintains that "the behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organism's tendency to repeat the behavior in the future" (Boeree, 2006, p. 2). Depending on the type of reinforcer, the likelihood of the behavior can be increased or decreased. For example, if a child is given praise every time he says "please", he will likely continue to say "please". This is an example of positive reinforcement, which increases the likelihood of a behavior. At the same time, punishment decreases the likelihood of a behavior. For example, if a child is put in time out every time he pushes his sister, then he should begin to push his sister less and less. Skinner also believed that once a reinforcer is taken away, then the behavior should occur less and less. This belief led Skinner to believe that there was no such thing as free will. He explained that people behave badly because that behavior is rewarded in some way and that people behave well because that behavior is rewarded in some way.
On the other hand, Edward C. Tolman had a different set of views than Watson and Skinner. While Tolman shied away ...Show more


Behavioral psychology concerns itself with observing changes in behavior. Like any branch of psychology, its followers come up with different theories. Some theories are very similar to those of others, changing only minor details. At the same time, other theories are so different from those of others that the only similarities are the most basic and broad concepts…
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Behavioral Psychology essay example
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