Behaviorism is a movement in psychology that completely denied the human consciousness as an independent phenomenon and have identified him with the behavioural reactions of individuals to various external stimuli. Simply put, all the feelings and thoughts of man was limited to the motor reflexes produced by his experiences during life. This theory in its time a revolution in psychology. About its main provisions, the strengths and weaknesses we will discuss in this article.

Behaviorism - what is it? Behaviorism in psychology, his representatives


Behaviorism is a field in psychology that studies the behavioral characteristics of humans and animals. The name of this course was not accidental – the English word "behaviour" means "behaviour". Behaviorism for many decades defined the look of American psychology. This revolutionary trend has radically transformed all the scientific view of the psyche. In its basis was laid for the idea that the object of study of psychology is not consciousness, and behavior. Since the early 20th century it was decided to put an equality sign between these two concepts, there was a version that eliminating consciousness, behaviorism eliminates and psyche. The founder of this movement in psychology was the American John Watson.

The essence of behaviorism

Behaviorism is the science of behavioural responses of humans and animals in response to environmental influences. The most important category of this movement is the incentive. It refers to any side effect on person. This includes cash, this situation, reinforcement and response, which can be emotional or verbal responses of other people. While subjective feelings are not denied, but put in a dependent position against these impacts.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the tenets of behaviorism was partially refuted in a different direction – a cognitive psychologist. However, many of the ideas of this movement, and in our days widely used in certain areas of psychotherapy.

The motivations behind behaviorism

Behaviorism is a progressive direction in psychology that emerged amid criticism the primary method of studying the human psyche in the late nineteenth century – introspection. Reason to doubt the veracity of this theory was the lack of objective measurements and fragmentation of information you receive. Behaviorism called to study human behavior as an objective phenomenon of the psyche. The philosophical basis of this movement was the concept of John Locke on the birth of an individual with a clean sheet and denying the existence of a certain thinking substance of Hobbes, Thomas.

In contrast to the traditional theory, psychologist John Watson proposed a scheme for explaining the behavior of all living creatures on earth: a stimulus causes a reaction. These concepts could be subjected to measurement, therefore, this vision quickly found a loyal following. Watson was of the opinion that with the right approach it will be possible to completely predict the behavior, to shape and control by changing the environment the behaviour of people of different professions. The mechanism of this effect was announced learning by classical conditioning, which have studied in detail the animal academician Pavlov.

Pavlov's Theory

Behaviorism in psychology based on studies by our fellow – academician Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. He found that on the basis of unconditioned reflexes in the animals develops the appropriate reactive behavior. However, with external influences they have and can develop acquired, conditioned reflexes and to form thereby new patterns of behavior.

In turn, Watson, John began to carry out experiments on babies and revealed they have three fundamental instinctive reaction – fear, anger, and love. The psychologist concluded that all of the other behavioural responses layered on the primary. As it formed a complex behaviors, scientists were not disclosed. The experiments of Watson was highly controversial from the point of view of morality, which caused a negative reaction from others.

The Study Of Thorndike

Based on numerous studies originated behaviorism. Representatives of various directions of psychology have made a considerable contribution to the development of this trend. For example, Edward Thorndike introduced to psychology the concept of operant behavior that is formed on the basis of trial and error. This scientist described himself not behaviorists and connectionists (from the English "connection" – connection). The experiments he conducted on white rats and pigeons.

What nature of intelligence is based on associative reactions, argued Hobbes. The fact that the corresponding mental development allows the animal to adapt to environmental conditions, noticed Spencer. However, only with the experiments of Thorndike came to an understanding that the essence of intelligence can be revealed without appeal to consciousness. The Association assumed that the communication is not between certain ideas in the mind of the subject, not between movements and ideas, and between the situations and movements.

For the original motion, Thorndike, in contrast to Watson, it is not taking the external impulse that causes a body of experimental to move, and a problematic situation, forcing the body to adapt to the environment and to build a new formula behavioral response. According to the scientist, in contrast to the reflex, the relationship of the concepts of "situation – reaction" could be characterized with such signs:

  • the starting point is the problematic situation
  • in response, the body tries to resist it as a whole
  • he is actively seeking the appropriate line behavior
  • and learns new techniques method of exercise.

Behaviorism in psychology owes its emergence of the theory of Thorndike. However, in his research, he used the concepts which this current is subsequently completely excluded from the understanding of psychology. If Thorndike argued that the behavior of the organism is formed on the feeling of pleasure pleasure of discomfort and put forward the theory of "law of readiness" as a way to change the impulse response, the behaviorists were forbidden to contact the researcher and to the inner feelings of the subject and its physiological factors.

The provisions of behaviorism

The founder of this direction was the American researcher John Watson. He put forward several provisions that are the basis of psychological behaviorism:

  1. The subject matter of psychology is behavior and behavioral responses of living beings, as it is these manifestations can be investigated by observation.
  2. The behavior defines all the physiological and psychical aspects of human existence.
  3. The behavior of animals and people must be considered as a set of motor responses to external stimuli – stimuli.
  4. Knowing the nature of the stimulus, it is possible to predict the subsequent reaction. To truly learn to predict the actions of the individual – the main task in the field of "behaviorism". Human behavior can shape and control.
  5. All reactions of the individual have or acquired nature (reflexes), or inherited (unconditional reflexes).
  6. Human behavior is the result of learning, when successful reaction by repetition avtomatiziruete, fixed in the memory and can later be reproduced. Thus, the formation of skills is done by the formation of a conditioned reflex.
  7. Speech and thoughts should also be considered skills.
  8. Memory is the retention of the acquired skills.
  9. The development of mental reactions occurs throughout life and depends on the environment – living conditions, social environment and so on.
  10. The periodization of the age of the missing. No General regularities in the formation of the child's mind at different stages no.
  11. Under the emotions need to understand the body's reaction to positive and negative environmental stimuli.

The pros and cons of behaviorism

In each direction of scientific activity has its own strengths and weaknesses. Direction “behaviorism” is also has its pros and cons. For its time it was progressive direction, but now his postulates do not stand up to scrutiny. So, consider the advantages and disadvantages of this theory:

  1. The subject of behaviorism is the study of behavioral reactions. For its time it was a very progressive approach, as earlier psychologists studied only the consciousness of the individual in isolation from the objective reality. However, expanding the understanding of the subject matter of psychology, behaviorists have done it inadequately and one-sidedly, completely ignoring the human consciousness as a phenomenon.
  2. Followers of behaviorism sharply raised the question about the objective study of the psychology of the individual. However, the behavior of humans and other living creatures seen only in the external manifestations. Unobserved mental and the physiological processes they were completely ignored.
  3. The theory of behaviorism implied that human behavior can be controlled depending on the practical needs of the researcher, however, due to the mechanical approach to the study of the behavior of the individual was to aggregate elementary reactions. All the active essence of man was ignored.
  4. Behavioral economists have done laboratory method of experiment is the basis of psychological studies, introduced the practice of animal experimentation. However, scientists did not see much qualitative difference between the behavior of a person, animal or bird.
  5. When establishing a mechanism for the development of skills was discarded the most important components – motivation and mental actions as a basis for its implementation. The social factor behaviorists excluded completely.

Representatives of behaviorism

John Watson was the leader of the behaviorist direction. However, one researcher is not able alone to create a movement. Still a few bright researchers advocated behaviorism. The representatives of this trend were outstanding, respectively. One of them, hunter William, was created in 1914 scheme for the study of behavioral reactions, which is called delayed. He showed the monkey a banana in one of two boxes, and then shut it from her sight by a screen, which a few seconds were removed. The monkey then successfully found a banana that has proven that animals are inherently capable of not only the direct but delayed response to the impulse.

Another scientist Karl Lashley – went even further. With the help of experiments were developed from some animal skill, and then removed him from different parts of the brain to find out depends on them produced a reflex or not. Psychologist came to the conclusion that all the parts of the brain are equivalent and can replace each other.

Other currents of behaviorism

Still, the attempt to reduce consciousness to the totality of standard behavioral reactions were not successful. The behaviorists were required to broaden the understanding of psychology and to incorporate the concepts of motive and reduction of the image. In this regard, in the 1960-ies there are several new trends. One of them is cognitive behaviourism was founded by E. Tolman. It is based on the fact that the mental processes during learning are not limited to communications "stimulus – response". The psychologist found the intermediate phase between these two events – a cognitive view. Thus, he proposed his scheme, explaining the essence of human behavior: stimulus – cognitive activities (sign-Gestalt) reaction. Signs-gestalte he saw consisting of "cognitive maps" (mental image of the studied area), expectations and other variables. Their views Tolman proved by various experiments. He forced the animals to search for food in a maze, and they found food in different ways regardless of which way was accustomed. It is obvious that for them the goal was more important than behavior. Therefore, Tolman called his belief system "target behaviorism".

There is a field of "social behaviorism", which also brings about changes in the standard scheme of "stimulus-response". Its proponents consider that in determining the incentives that will properly affect human behavior, it is necessary to consider the individual characteristics of the individual, its social experience.

Behaviorism and psychoanalysis

Completely denied the human consciousness is behaviorism. Psychoanalysis, in turn, was aimed at the study of the deep features of the human psyche. The founder of the theory of Sigmund Freud brought two key concepts in psychology, "consciousness" and "unconscious" – and proved that a man's actions cannot be explained by rational methods. On the basis of some behavioral reactions is a thin intellectual work occurring outside the sphere of consciousness. The unconscious may be remorse, guilt, acute self-criticism. Initially, Freud's theory was met in the scientific world is cool, but over time it has conquered the whole world. Through this movement the psychology has started to examine a living person, to penetrate the essence of his soul and behavior.

Over time, behaviorism became obsolete, as his ideas about the human psyche turned out to be too one-sided.