What is Behaviorism?

In the United States, there are two conflicting psychology schools of thought. The first is the introspective psychology which has also been considered as speculative psychology and the other being behaviorism psychology, which is also considered as objective psychology. Although introspective psychology has long been accepted in the field of psychology, behaviorism has not only begun to gain more ground among psychologists but it has also begun to contest and question the premise of introspective psychology and their method of analysis and research.

It was only during the 19th century that development of the field of psychology began to become evident through the efforts of Wundt who is considered to be the father of experimental psychology. Wanting to find a solution on the mind-body problem, Wundt decided in 1879 to develop psychology as a science rather than a field of study associated with philosophy. He substituted the term “soul” with the concept of the “consciousness” and eventually developed the introspective approach in the study of psychology.

According to this approach to the study of psychology, the consciousness of the individual is the primary subject matter of psychology which led to psychologists such as William James to define psychology as the study aimed to describe and explain the various states of an individual’s consciousness. In order to do this, psychologists observe the consciousness through catching it as it occurs. This school of thought had become highly accepted that it had reached the United States from Germany and became the dominant form of psychological analysis in American universities.
Among the most noted introspective psychologists in the United States were E. B. Thchener of Cornell University and William James of Harvard University. In 1912, a new group of psychologist emerged. These were the behaviorists or behavioral psychologists. They began to see the shortcomings of introspective psychology. As a result, behavioral psychologists decided that the information being discovered and disseminated are no longer sufficient and they began to create their own methods for the study of psychology.
The first thing done by behavioral psychologists was to change the subject matter of the field of psychology. Because the consciousness is deemed to be unobservable, they began to search for some characteristic or trait of individuals that could be observed. It was then that they began to observe the behavior of individuals which has been defined as what an individual says or does. Hence, this approach of the study of psychology as the behaviorism school of psychology. Behaviorism has also been considered as the objective approach to the study of psychology.
This is because behavioral psychologists gather facts about an individual’s behavior and analyze the data through the use of logic and mathematics. This is why behaviorism has been defined as a natural science that is interested in the adjustments done by individuals through the study of changes in the physiological conditions of the individual which they termed as the stimuli and the response the individual would have as a result of the stimulus presented. Based on the studies done by behavioral psychologists, there are four kinds of responses exhibited by individuals.
The first kind of response is classified as overt or external responses. These responses are those responses that the individual in consciously aware of such as the act of sitting, standing or walking. The second kind of response is termed as internal or implicit responses. These responses are more difficult to observe since they involve responses that occur within the body of the individual such as digestion in the stomach of the individual after the individual takes in food. The third type of response is the unlearned response which refers to instinctive responses to stimuli such as breathing.
The last form is classified as learned response which includes the habits done by the individual such as observed when an individual sits, facial reactions and hand gestures while communicating. Analysis Up to the 1900s, the study of the human psyche was hindered by the teachings of religion. Even today, people remain to be apprehensive if the new information that is presented is contrary to the generally accepted belief. Back then, it was the teachings of the Church that provided answers and explanations to life and the universe.
This is why despite the desire of Wundt to establish psychology as a branch of science, the influence dualism had on him while he was growing up provided him a subject matter that cannot be observed. As a result, all the observations done and the theories conceptualized based on these observations were viewed as speculative and were frequently contested by fellow psychologists. Behaviorism psychology developed as a result of a group of psychologists who realized that the only their theories would not be susceptible to much speculation from their peers is by substantiating these theories with verifiable data and results.
This could only be done if their subject matter could be observed. Seeing that they would be able to observe the behavior of individuals, these psychologists broke away from the accepted notion that the consciousness of the individual is the basis of the study of psychology and instead viewed that it is the behavior, and not the consciousness, of the individual that is the prime subject of study of psychology.
Today, it is clear to see that behaviorism has superseded introspective psychology as the practiced school of psychology with the association of the field of psychology as the field of science that is associated with the study of an individual’s behavioral patterns and the causes for such behavioral patterns to arise. This does not mean to say that introspective psychologists failed to contribute to the current accepted school of psychology. On the contrary, introspective psychologists paved the way for psychology to develop as it is known today.
Through the introduction of the introspective school of psychology, men in the field of neurology and the other sciences were presented a field of study that would allow them to understand the human psyche and the human mind more comprehensively. Being men of science, they would eventually find loopholes to a theory or finding made by one of their peers. This would result to them further studying the human mind. It was through this process that behavioral psychologists were able to determine the shortcoming of this field of science.
As a result, behaviorism through the scientific method used to validate assumptions may be able to determine just how close the speculations stipulated by the introspective psychologists were in their assumptions about the human mind and psyche. Finally, the development of behaviorism shows that psychology is continuously evolving. This is because the subject matter being studied is the human mind, which is considered as the most complex body part of one of the most complex, if not the most complex, organisms on this planet.

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