History of Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis Term Paper

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history of behaviorism and psychoanalysis. The writer explores the changes the field has undergone since its inception as well as some of the people who were important to those changes. There were six sources used to complete this paper.

Throughout the last fifty years there have been massive changes in the field of therapy. Two of the most common approaches to therapy are behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Each of the approaches has followers who believe that it is the best approach. Each of the approaches has commonalties and differences in their foundations. Each approach was developed to answer need in the clients that the therapists treated and to address the questions of human nature and its reactions to various life events.


While behaviorism has been credited to John B. Watson, it was Edward Thorndike who started the ball rolling at the turn of the century. He worked at several experiments including one that used wooden crates and dogs and cats. The experiment placed the dogs and cats into the wooden crates and the animals devised ways to escape which proved they could reasonable deduce and that they could repeat past behavior to achieve the same responses (Operant Conditioning and Behaviorism (http://www.biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de/genetics/behavior/learning/behaviorism.html).

Thorndike was particularly interested in discovering whether his animals could learn their tasks through imitation or observation. He compared the learning curves of cats who had been given the opportunity of observing others escaping from a box with those who had never seen the box being solved and found no difference in their rate of learning. He obtained the same null result with dogs and, even when he showed the animals the methods of opening a box by placing their paws on the appropriate levers and so on, he found no improvement. He fell back on a much simpler trial and error explanation of learning. Occasionally, quite by chance, an animal performs an action which frees it from the box. When the animal finds itself in the same position again it is more likely to perform the same action again. The reward of being freed from the box somehow strengthens an association between a stimulus, being in a certain position in the box, and an appropriate action. Reward acts to strengthen stimulus-response associations (Operant Conditioning and Behaviorism (http://www.biozentrum.uniwuerzburg.de/genetics/behavior/learning/behaviorism.html)."

This set the stage for Watson to enter the picture and provide the foundation for the later development of behaviorism.

A behaviorism http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner/X0497_DeMar_-_Behaviorism.html)

Just as the father of psychoanalysis is Sigmund Freud there is a father for behaviorism as well. The father of behaviorism has long since been accepted as John B. Watson. It was his work that served as the foundational springboard for an entire approach to therapy that would rival psychoanalysis in many areas while complimenting it in others. As strong as Freud was on the mind being responsible for behavior and actions Watson believed none of that mattered and the field's only concern and focus should remain on the behavior of individuals and groups. He believed that this approach was also important to the development and research of the field because it allowed humans to be studied with the same objectivity and reliability as scientists study rats and apes.

Watson's structured theories are founded in the work of earlier experiments by a scientist called Ivan Pavlov and the famed Pavlov's dog and bell research. In this research Pavlov demonstrated that he could ring a bell as he fed dogs their meals, and each time the dog heard the bell they received food. When they ate they would salivate. It was not long before the bell sound became associated with salivating (Operant Conditioning and Behaviorism (http://www.biozentrum.uniuerzburg.de/genetics/behavior/learning/behaviorism.html)

Eventually he could ring the bell and not show food and the dogs would salivate because of the association they had with the bell to earlier food rewards. This was the experiment that Watson-based much of his behaviorism theories on.

The dogs had been "conditioned" to salivate at the sound of a bell. Pavlov believed, as Watson was later to emphasize, that humans react to stimuli in the same way (Operant Conditioning and Behaviorism (http://www.biozentrum.uniuerzburg.de/genetics/behavior/learning/behaviorism.html)."

Following the work of Watson one must acknowledge the work of a man named B.F. Skinner. Skinner initially made his name known by being one to test Watson's theories in his lab, however the more he tested the more he came to disagree with many aspects of Watson's theories. Watson's theories revolved almost exclusively with reflexes and conditioning as was demonstrated in the bell and dog experiment. Skinner wanted to expand the theory of behaviorism to include environmental habits and factors as well.

People respond to their environment, he argued, but they also operate on the environment to produce certain consequences (Operant Conditioning and Behaviorism http://www.biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de/genetics/behavior/learning/behaviorism.html)."

In his quest to further develop the field of behaviorism Skinner founded the theory of operant conditioning which is the idea that people behave the way they do because the past behavior received some type of reward.

This is where behaviorism developed more deeply. Skinner provided research that showed if one performs certain behaviors and received certain reactions in the past then repeating the same behavior in the future will occur to garner the same response, even if it is not on a conscience level.

For example, if your girlfriend gives you a kiss when you give her flowers, you will be likely to give her flowers when you want a kiss. You will be acting in expectation of a certain reward. Like Watson, however, Skinner denied that the mind or feelings play any part in determining behavior. Instead, our experience of reinforcements determines our behavior (Operant Conditioning and Behaviorism (http://www.biozentrum.uniuerzburg.de/genetics/behavior/learning/behaviorism.html)."

While the field of behaviorism had its birth in the field of psychology its influences became more far reaching than that. There are many courses in universities around the world that use its base theory for the education of students in different classes.

The basic ideas that behaviorism is founded in include:

Behaviorism is naturalistic. This means that the material world is the ultimate reality, and everything can be explained in terms of natural laws. Man has no soul and no mind, only a brain that responds to external stimuli.

Behaviorism teaches that man is nothing more than a machine that responds to conditioning. One writer has summarized behaviorism in this way: "The central tenet of behaviorism is that thoughts, feelings, and intentions, mental processes all, do not determine what we do. Our behavior is the product of our conditioning. We are biological machines and do not consciously act; rather we react to stimuli."1

Consistently, behaviorism teaches that we are not responsible for our actions. If we are mere machines, without minds or souls, reacting to stimuli and operating on our environment to attain certain ends, then anything we do is inevitable. Sociobiology, a type of behaviorism, compares man to a computer: Garbage in, garbage out.

Behaviorism is manipulative. It seeks not merely to understand human behavior, but to predict and control it. From his theories, Skinner developed the idea of "shaping." By controlling rewards and punishments, you can shape the behavior of another person (Operant Conditioning and Behaviorism (http://www.biozentrum.uniuerzburg.de/genetics/behavior/learning/behaviorism.html)."


Psychoanalysis has often been credited to the work of Sigmund Freud but there were others long the way who also contributed to the development of the field. "One of Sigmund Freud's basic psychoanalytic claims was that dreams and symptoms were wish fulfillments. A particularly simple example is that in which a thirsty person dreams of drinking, and thereby temporarily pacifies the underlying desire. Schematically, in the case of real satisfaction, a desire that P (that I get a drink) brings about a real situation that P (I get a drink), and this in turn brings about an experience or belief that P. which pacifies the desire, that is, causes it to cease to operate. In Freudian wish fulfillment, by contrast (History of (http://cognet.mit.edu/MITECS/Entry/hopkins),a desire operates to bring about an experience- or belief-like representation of satisfaction (I dream of drinking) and so pacifies the desire in the absence of the real thing. Freud hypothesized that this process was effected by the activation of neural prototypes of past desire-satisfaction sequences, and he took this to be the mind/brain's earliest and most basic way of coping with desire (History of (http://cognet.mit.edu/MITECS/Entry/hopkins)."

Freud is perhaps the most well-known of the psychoanalysts but there were many who took his work and developed various branches and approaches to the same concept. One of those was Wilhelm Reich (History of (http://cognet.mit.edu/MITECS/Entry/hopkins).

Freudian analyst born in Austria in 1897 Wilhelm Reich was trying to prove the energetic reality of the "Libido" which Sigmund Freud had coined. Reich worked on his own version of biophysics for many years but by 1933 he had to leave Germany as Hitler's Nazi regime and the threat to his own well-being increased. Eventually after moving to Oslo he moved to the United States in 1939(Wilhelm Reich and Orgone Energy (http://search.dogpile.com/texis/search?q=%22Wilhelm+Reich%22&cat=web&top=1)."

Reich worked to link the biological with the emotional through the…

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