Philosophy of Behaviorism for Centuries, Term Paper

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Within its strict perspective of humanity, there is no room for free will; actions are automatic responses to prompts from one's surroundings. It goes without saying that behaviorists do not allow for mankind's soul; this does not rest well with most, particularly with theologians and religious leaders. Naturally, such perspectives on humanity are not acceptable to many. What's more, behaviorism is harshly reproached for its inability to generalize behavior. True, it may predict specific actions but behaviorism does not even attempt to contemplate general behavioral patterns.

Despite its limitations, behavioral psychology is deeply embedded in mainstream psychology. Most notably, the experimental practices espoused by behaviorism are currently observed throughout the psychology field. In other words, its research procedures were recognized as objective and systematic; accordingly other schools of thought eventually adopted them. This respectable research practice undoubtedly facilitated psychology's standing as a true science.

Furthermore, behaviorist theories and practices are applicable to other disciplines, such as education. Since behavioral scientists endeavor to uncover universal principles of learning, its scope is a suitable complement to the educational realm. Take a simple educational practice: an instructor's use of a syllabus. Students are able to track the progress of learning throughout the course, generating a sense of accomplishment. Instructional technology is another example where behavioral psychology is most effective. Students are instantly reinforced through each stage of learning. This fosters continual effort and motivation as pupils experience recurrent educational success.

Similar to education, behavioral psychology is applicable to marketing. Advertising engages multiple senses, namely vision and hearing. Through television or print advertisements (such as those in magazines or newspapers), humans are taught that particular products and/or services deliver specific effects. By way of modeling, marketing professional anticipate consumers will make an explicit connection between the illustrated result and the targeted product or service. In other words, advertising exploits a primary philosophy of behaviorism: an ability to predict and manipulate conduct. Interestingly, Watson, the pioneer of behaviorism, ended his career as an advertising consultant.

After having outlined the main tenets of behaviorism, its methodology, strengths, weaknesses, and applications, it seems prudent to briefly discuss an experiment within the field. The well-known behaviorist experiment, dubbed 'Little Albert', involved a toddler who was conditioned to dread white rats. Initially, the child exhibited pleasure at the sight of a white rat. However, after Watson paired the appearance of the animal with a loud noise, Albert quickly became frightened of the rat. He soon reacted negatively, showing visible signs of discomfort and distress, even when the rat was offered without the accompanying startling noise.

It was later determined that the
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child generalized his fear; that is Albert associated anything resembling a white rat (i.e., a rabbit) with painful experiences.

The 'Little Albert' experiment highlights the philosophical foundations of behavioral psychology. First, its focal point was public behavior. In other words, the child's reaction to particular stimuli was the object of investigation. Albert's internal state (i.e., thoughts or feelings) was irrelevant to Watson; this is in line with behaviorism's insistence on the importance of overt conduct.

Secondly, the experiment employed a systematic procedure; such has been declared critically significant to behaviorism and its standing as a scientific discipline. The study supported behaviorists' belief that actions are affected by environmental stimuli. Finally, this research indicates the predictability of behavior. After some conditioning, Albert connected the loud noise with the appearance of the white rat; his overt responses (crying and fussing) became predictable. Certainly this classic experiment embodies behavioral psychologists' set of philosophical assumptions.

In conclusion, behaviorism is an influential sub-discipline of psychology. Its emphasis on overt actions and environmental influences makes this branch of psychology unique. It has been commended for its practical perspective towards research. In addition, its adherence to the experimental method has been lauded. On the other hand, behaviorism is harshly criticized as it disregards many aspects of humanity (i.e., consciousness and free will). Despite this, behavioral theories and practices are found in diverse fields, including education and advertising. The philosophical underpinnings of behaviorism are readily visible in a classical experiment, that of 'Little Albert'. In this investigation, one witnesses the theoretical believes underlying this controversial yet influential school of thought as they unfold in a concrete and enlightening experiment. Regardless of behaviorism's future, it is undeniable that it has held significant sway over psychology in the past.


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The following article examines several components of the behavioral approach to psychology. It describes its main characteristics; analyses its philosophical principles; details its methodological practices; explores its chief strengths and weaknesses; acknowledges its application in other fields, particularly in education and advertising; analyses of a significant and well-known experiment, 'Little…

Sources Used in Documents:


DeMar, Gary (1998). Behaviorism. Surviving College Successfully: A Complete

Manual For the Rigors of Academic Combat. New York: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers.

Kunkel, John H. (1996). What Behaviorists Accomplished -- And What More

Can They Do?. The Psychological Record. 46(1), pp. 21-38.

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