Psychology changed dramatically during the early 20th-century as another school of thought known as behaviorism rose to dominance. Behaviorism was a major change from previous theoretical perspectives, rejecting the emphasis on both theconscious and unconscious mind. Instead, behaviorism strove to make psychology a more scientific discipline by focusing purely on observable behavior.
Behaviorism had it's earliest start with the work of a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov.
American psychologist named John B. Watson soon became one of the strongest advocates of behaviorism. Initially outlining the basics principles of this new school of thought in his 1913 paper Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It, Watson later went on to offer a definition in his classic book Behaviorism (1924), writing:
"Behaviorism...holds that the subject matter of human psychology is the behavior of the human being. Behaviorism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept. The behaviorist, who has been trained always as an experimentalist, holds, further, that belief in the existence of consciousness goes back to the ancient days of superstition and magic."
The impact of behaviorism was enormous, and this school of thought continued to dominate for the next 50 years.
Psychologist B.F. Skinner furthered the behaviorist perspective with his concept of operant conditioning, which demonstrated the effect of punishment and reinforcement on behavior.
While behaviorism eventually lost its hold on psychology, the basic principles of behavioral psychology are still widely in use today.
Behaviorism (also called the behaviorist approach) was the primary paradigm in psychology between 1920 to 1950 and is based on a number of underlying assumptions regarding methodology and behavioral analysis:
* Psychology should be seen as a science. Theories need to be supported by empirical data obtained through careful and controlled observation and measurement of behavior. Watson (1913) stated that psychology as a behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is prediction and control (p. 158). * Behaviorism is primarily concerned with observable behavior, as opposed to internal events like thinking and emotion. Observable (i.e. external) behavior can be objectively and scientifically measured. Internal events, such as thinking should be explained through behavioral terms (or eliminated altogether). * People have no free will a persons environment determines their behavior * When born our mind is 'tabula rasa' (a blank slate). * There is little difference between the learning that takes place in humans and that in other animals. Therefore, research can be carried out on animals as well as humans (i.e. comparative psychology. * Behavior is the result of stimulus response (i.e. all behavior, no matter how complex, can be reduced to a simple stimulus response association). Watson described the purpose of psychology as: To predict, given the stimulus, what reaction will take place; or, given the reaction, state what the situation or stimulus is that has caused the reaction (1930, p. 11). * All behavior is learnt from the environment. We learn new behavior through classical or operant conditioning.
The school of behaviorism emerged in the 1910s, led by John B. Watson. Unlike psychodynamic theorists, behaviorists study only observable behavior. Their explanations of personality focus on learning. Skinner, Bandura, and Walter Mischel all proposed important behaviorist theories.