a factor in his popularity with the American lay public
"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select–doctor, lawyer, artist–regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors"
Watson admitted that 100% environmental impact was an exaggeration, but claimed that those believing in hereditary control exaggerated their side.
seemingly instinctive behavior is actually a socially conditioned response
psychology can only be applied if behavior can be modified, which is not consistent with hereditary control.
Watson defined as bodily responses to specific stimuli, no different than salivating to food.
denied conscious perception of emotion or sensations from internal stimuli
each emotion = specific configuration of physiological changes, a form of implicit behavior: internal responses are evident in overt physical signs such as blushing
critical of James ’ more complex position involving initial conscious perception , bodily response and later a feeling state
Watson: emotions completely described by three things
objective stimulus situation
overt bodily response
internal physiological changes
fear, love, and rage are not learned emotional response patterns to stimuli. Inborn emotions shown by infants:
loud noises or sudden lack of support lead to fear
restriction of bodily movements leads to rage
caressing, rocking, patting lead to love
Albert, Peter, and the rabbits
Little Albert (8 months old) study demonstrated conditioned (learned) emotional responses
Watson: adult fears are learned, do not arise from Freud’s unconscious conflicts.
Little Albert Study: Watson & Rayner
Unconditioned stimulus (UCS): Loud bang of hammer against metal bar.
Unconditioned response (UCR): Natural fear response.
Neutral/Conditioned Stimulus (CS): Rat
After 7 pairings, previously neutral rat stimulates fear response.
Little Albert Experiment
Generalization: Fear response to stimuli similar to rat= rabbit, cotton balls.
Harris, B. What ever happened to Little Albert?, Amer Psych, 1979, 34(2), 151-160.
Many texts have incorrect info or omit info:
Not all hairy objects induced fear, some nonwhite objects did induce fear.
Watson knew he would not get to treat Albert’s induced fears.
Some difficulties in replication.
Mary Cover Jones worked with 3-year Peter who came to her with a rabbit phobia
Mary Cover Jones (1896-1987)
worked with 3-year Peter who came to her with a rabbit phobia (1924) (little Albert study published 1920)
involve Peter in eating
bring in rabbit at a distance that does not produce crying
each day, decrease the distance
after a few months, Peter could touch the rabbit without exhibiting fear
this approach is a forerunner of behavior therapy. (a type of exposure therapy, foreshadowing systematic desensitization)
generalized fear responses also eliminated
1968: Jones given G. Stanley Hall award for her outstanding work in developmental psychology
Watson: Thought processes
thinking occurs in the absence of muscle movements
not accessible to observation and experimentation
thinking is implicit sensorimotor behavior
involves implicit speech reactions or movements
reduced it to potentially measurable subvocal talking
same muscular habits as used for overt speech
others warn us not to talk aloud to ourselves, so we become unaware of the muscular habits used while thinking
thinking = silent talking to oneself
Farthing 1992: college students- 73% of thinking was talking to themselves.
Behaviorism’s Popular Appeal
Watson called for a society based on scientifically shaped and controlled behavior
free of myths, customs, and convention
The Religion Called Behaviorism (Berman, 1927): read by & influenced Skinner
Watson & Behaviorists
Emphasis on childhood environment and minimization of heredity
Conditioned reflex experiments
implied emotional disturbances in adulthood due to conditioned responses during earlier years
Product of a public already attentive to and receptive of psychology and Watson’s considerable charm and vision of hope for behavioral change and the betterment of society
psychological advice columns
Joseph Jastrow’s popularization of psychology through magazine articles, newspaper column “Keeping Mentally Fit,” radio program, and pop psychology book, Piloting Your life: the Psychologist as Helmsman
Albert Wiggam’s column “Exploring Your Mind”
Criticisms of Watson’s Behaviorism
Edwin B. Holt (1873-1946)
Received Ph.D. under William James at Harvard
After Harvard works at Princeton
Consciousness should not be rejected
Learning can occur in response to internal needs and drives (precursor to motivation theories)
Focused on larger behaviors that had some purpose for the organism (precursor to Tolman)
Karl Lashley (1890-1958)
student of Watson at Johns Hopkins
a physiological psychologist
1929: Brain Mechanisms and Intelligence. Performed extirpation of brain areas in rats.
law of mass action: “The efficiency of learning is a function of the total mass of cortical tissue.” Larger areas of brain used in learning than localizationists would suggest.
principle of equipotentiality: “The idea that one part of the cerebral cortex is essentially equal to another in its contribution to learning.” (“searching for the engram”)
Expected his work to support Watson, but instead challenged Watson’s notion of a point-to-point connection in reflexes
brain more active in learning than Watson accepted, not a simple/passive switching station between sensory input & behavioral output.
disputed the notion that behavior is a mechanical compounding of conditioned reflexes
But confirmed the value of objective methods in psychology research
William McDougall (1871-1938)
McDougall: An Opponent of Watson & Behaviorism
English psychologist, affiliated with Harvard and Duke
noted for his instinct theory of behavior
human behavior results from innate tendencies to thought and action
noteworthy book on social psychology spurred that field
supported free will, Nordic superiority, psychic research
1924: debate with Watson (McDougall judged as winner by most)
agreed data of behavior are a proper focus for psychology
argued data of consciousness also necessary
questioned Watson’s tenet that human behavior is fully determined, no free will
critical of Watson’s use of the verbal report method= speech behavior, without questioning meaning or accuracy of such speech.