The tenet of behaviourism is that behaviour rather than mind or brain is the subject matter of psychology, and that only publicly observed behaviour can be used as psychological datum. Although its roots can be traced to earlier materialistic philosophy and physiology, the formal emergence of behaviourism in psychology is associated with a manifesto entitled 'Psychology as the behaviorist views it' (Watson 1913):
Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behaviour. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness. The behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute.
Several points deserve special attention in Watson's manifesto. First, the rejection of introspection as a valid scientific method, opposing a major trend in psychology at the turn of the twentieth century (Boring 1950; Boakes 1984). Second, the rejection of "consciousness as the subject matter of psychology, again, in contrast to contemporary trends (ibid.). Third, the emphasis on the phylogenetic continuity, drawing from Darwinism and legitimizing animal psychology as an approach to the study of human behaviour (Boakes 1984). And fourth, aiming at control of behaviour. The latter objective is clearly not a necessary element of behaviourism, but did recur in the history of the field, occasionally endowing it with Orwellian connotations. The pragmatic attitude (Watson ended up in commercial advertising) culminated on the one hand in rather outrageous experimentation on "fear conditioning of human babies (Watson and Rayner 1920), and on the other in attempts to convince pigeons to guide missiles across enemy lines (Skinner 1960). In a more practical endeavour, it also set foundations for behavioural psychotherapy (Wolpe 1963).
Despite recurrent premature elegies, behaviourism retained its vigour over many years. Like other influential concepts, the original notions mutated. Several "taxonomies are noteworthy. One of these classifies behaviourism by period or school. 'Classical behaviourism' is Watson's. It is also dubbed 'molecular', because it treats behaviour in terms of individual 'atoms' of "stimuli, responses, and single stage stimulus-response operations. 'Neobehaviourism', itself a mixed bag, is associated mainly with Tolman (1932), Skinner (1938), and Hull (1943). It treats behaviour in molar terms of classes and types, and its variants incorporate not only stimuli, responses, and "reinforcers (i.e. operations performed on the organism), but also mediating variables that are not directly observable but thought to be necessary for explaining behaviour (see "algorithms). The Skinnerian version of behaviourism (Skinner 1938) is called 'radical behaviourism', although the same term was initially used to denote classical behaviourism (Calkins 1921). It intentionally ignores mind and brain processes (in his later writings Skinner said that brain sciences are indeed relevant, but not useful in analysing behaviour; Skinner 1988). Radical behaviourism advocates a world view in which behaviour is explained in terms of responses to stimuli and modification of probability of responses by contingencies with reinforcements. It disposes of mental causes; the unobservable 'mind' is replaced with mechanistic responses of various complexities, selected either in the species' evolution ("a priori), or by the reinforcement history of the individual "subject. The pinnacle of Skinnerian behaviourism was the attempt to explain human language (Skinner 1957), an attempt ardently rebutted by linguists and cognitive psychologists (Chomsky 1959).
Another taxonomy distinguishes 'methodological' from 'philosophical' behaviourism (on either one or both, see Carnap 1933; Ryle 1949; Zuriff 1986; Collins 1987; Todd and Morris 1995). Methodological behaviourism advocates the aforementioned principle that scientific understanding of the mind has to rest entirely on publicly observable facts, yet without necessarily taking a stand on inner mental realities (definition 1 above). In contrast, philosophical behaviourism does make statements about mental realities (definition 2), which comes in at least two versions: 'metaphysical' and 'logical'. Metaphysical behaviourism makes life easy by denying mental phenomena, period. Logical behaviourism considers propositions about mental states identical to propositions about behavioural dispositions. It can therefore be said to "reduce mental into behavioural acts.
Over the years, behaviourism has experienced fierce attacks from biological and cognitive psychology, linguistics, and philosophy (for arguments related to the insufficiency of behaviourism to account for learning, see Dickinson 1980). As noted above, behaviourism excluded itself from the biological arena in which much of the excitement of modern memory research takes place. Nevertheless, even with the recent developments in the neurosciences, behaviourism is still highly relevant to basic concepts addressed in this book. For example, the mere definition of "memory raises the issue of the relevance of observable facts to inferred processes. Behaviouristic definitions of learning and memory cannot guide neurobiological research because they are not expressed in biologish. But similarly, data on "ion channels and "synapses cannot advance memory research unless they are expressed in a behaviourally relevant language. Skinner (1988) pointed out that 'Sherrington never saw the action of the synapse about which he spoke so confidently'.1 We do see it now. An aim of modern neuroscience is to observe neuronal function in the context of circuits and neuronal populations ("cell assembly) that encode "internal representations and guide behaviour. The "level of internal representations, which the classical and radical behaviourist tabooed, is hence expected to bridge the organismic and the molecular approaches to memory. We distanced ourselves long ago from the hegemony of introspection that the fathers of behaviourism so much distrusted, but we are still striving to reach the stage in which brain activity will provide accountable, reliable, and objective measures of behaviour.
Selected associations: Culture, Instrumental conditioning, Paradigm, Performance
'On Sherrington, see under *synapse.
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