John B. Watson

By- Sritej Veeramachaneni

What Theory (Theories) did he develop?

In The Ways of Behaviorism, Watson states that behaviorism is the scientific study of human behavior. It is simply the study of what people do. Behaviorism is intended to take psychology up to the same level as other sciences. The first task is to observe behavior and make predictions, then to take determine causal relationships. Behavior can be reduced to relationships between stimuli and responses, the S --- R Model. A stimulus can be shown to cause a response or a response can be traced back to a stimulus. All behavior can be reduced to this basic component. According to Watson, "life's most complicated acts are but combinations of these simple stimulus- response patterns of behavior."

Conditioning is the process of learning to react to the environment. Many behaviors have been previously conditioned in the human species by the environment. To gain control of a subject of study the behaviorist must know difference between what behaviors have been preconditioned and what was inherited from past generations. Gardner Murphy wrote in his book, An Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology, that some "believe that all learning is simply conditioning, and that the conditioned response is the true unit of learned behavior."

1. Human psychology has failed to make good its claim as a natural science. Due to a mistaken notion that its fields of facts are conscious phenomena and that introspection is the only direct method of ascertaining these facts, it has enmeshed itself in a series of speculative questions which, while fundamental to its present tenets, are not open to experimental treatment. In the pursuit of answers to these questions, it has become further and further divorced from contact with problems which vitally concern human interest.

2. 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. Heretofore the viewpoint has been that such data have value only in so far as they can be interpreted by analogy in terms of 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. The separate observation of 'states of consciousness’ is, on this assumption, no more a part of the task of the psychologist than of the physicist. We might call this the return to a non-reflective and have use of consciousness. In this sense consciousness may be said to be the instrument or tool with which all scientists work. Whether or not the tool is properly used at present by scientists is a concern for philosophy and not for psychology.

3. The study of the behavior of amoebae has value in and for themselves without reference to the behavior of man. Biological studies of race differentiation and inheritance form a separate division of study which must be evaluated in terms of the laws found there. The conclusions so reached may not hold in any other form. Regardless of the possible lack of generality, such studies must be made if evolution as a whole is ever to be understood. Similarly the laws of behavior of a particular species, the range of responses, and the determination of effective stimuli, of habit formation, persistency of habits, interference and reinforcement of habits, must be determined and evaluated in and of themselves, regardless of their generality, or of their bearing upon such laws in other forms, if the phenomena of behavior are ever to be brought within the sphere of scientific control.

4. By eliminating states of consciousness as proper objects of investigation, Watson sought to remove the barrier of subjectivity from psychology which exists between it and the other sciences. The findings of psychology become the functional correlates of structure and lend themselves to explanations in physic-chemical terms.

5. Psychology will have to neglect but few of the really essential problems with which psychology as an introspective science now concerns itself. In all probability even this residue of problems may be phrased in such a way that refined methods in behavior eventually will lead to their solution.

What type of psychologist were they?

John Broadus Watson (January 9, 1878 – September 25, 1958) was an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism.

What influenced him or lead him to his theory?

Despite his poor academic performance and having been arrested twice during high school (first for fighting with blacks, then for discharging firearms within city limits), Watson was able to use his mother's connections to gain admission to Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Watson considered himself to be a poor student. Others called him a quiet kid, lazy and insubordinate. He struggled to make that transition from a rural to urban area, expressed through his weak social skills. A precocious student, he entered college at the age of 16 and left with a master's degree aged 21. Watson made his way through college with significant effort, succeeding in classes that other students simply failed. He held a few jobs on campus to pay for his college expenses. He continued to see himself as “unsocial” and made few friends. After graduating, he spent a year at "Batesburg Institute", the name he gave to a one-room school in Greenville. He was principal, janitor, and handyman for the entire school.

After petitioning the President of the University of Chicago, Watson entered the university. His successful petition to the president of the University of Chicago was imperative to his ascendancy in the psychology world. He began studying philosophy under John Dewey on the recommendation of Furman professor, Gordon Moore. The combined influence of Dewey, James Rowland Angell, Henry Herbert Donaldson and Jacques Loeb led Watson to develop a highly descriptive, objective approach to the analysis of behavior that he would later call "behaviorism."

In Watson’s college experience, he met professors and colleagues that would assist him on his journey to becoming a well-known psychologist. These peers played an important role in his success in developing psychology into a credible field of study and his understanding of behaviorism. To Watson, behaviorism was a declaration of faith. It was based on the idea that a methodology could transform psychology into a science. He wanted to make psychology more scientifically acceptable. Later, Watson became interested in the work of Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936), and eventually included a highly simplified version of Pavlov's principles in his popular works.

What I think of Watson's Theory

While behaviorism is not as dominant today as it was during the middle of the 20th-century, it still remains an influential force in psychology. Outside of psychology, animal trainers, parents, teachers, and many others make use of basic behavioral principles to help teach new behaviors and discourage unwanted ones.

What kinds of experiments did he conduct?

The "Little Albert" experiment was a famous psychology experiment conducted by behaviorist John B. Watson and graduate student Rosalie Raynor. Previously, Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov had conducted experiments demonstrating the conditioning process in dogs. Watson was interested in taking Pavlov's research further to show that emotional reactions could be classically conditioned in people.

The participant in the experiment was a child that Watson and Rayner called "Albert B.", but is known popularly today as Little Albert. Around the age of nine months, Watson and Rayner exposed the child to a series of stimuli including a white rat, a rabbit, a monkey, masks and burning newspapers and observed the boy's reactions. The boy initially showed no fear of any of the objects he was shown.

The next time Albert was exposed the rat, Watson made a loud noise by hitting a metal pipe with a hammer. Naturally, the child began to cry after hearing the loud noise. After repeatedly pairing the white rat with the loud noise, Albert began to cry simply after seeing the rat.

Watson and Rayner wrote:

"The instant the rat was shown, the baby began to cry. Almost instantly he turned sharply to the left, fell over on [his] left side, raised himself on all fours and began to crawl away so rapidly that he was caught with difficulty before reaching the edge of the table."