Behaviourism 20th century as it was difficult

Behaviourism was one of the first psychologies to be admittedly ‘experimental’;
maintaining its influence through over four decades of the 20th Century.
 By rejecting primarily early experimentalism
in psychology, behaviourism proposed a new direction of understanding. Within this
essay, the aim is to identify the influencing factors of the rapid growth of behaviourism
in the early 20th Century.

 

Wilhelm Wundt gave psychology the definition of the science of immediate experience. His
approach was later labelled as structuralism as the content was of the
structure of the mind, built from consciousness elements such as sensations
(Carlson, Miller, Heth, Donahoe & Martin, 2010). From making changes to
stimuli, Wundt would be able to infer the nature of mental processes from how
observer’s reports are changed as a result. Structuralism receded in the early
20th century as it was difficult to report on raw data of sensation
along with the paradigm shift beginning from the study of mind to the study of
behaviour. Reacting against structuralism, functionalism centred theory upon processes
of conscious activity. The theory can be associated to the natural selection
processes theorised by Charles Darwin (Green, 2009). This is important to psychology
as it suggests that scientists could explain behaviour in the best way by understanding
the role of behaviour in adaptations to the environment, therefore meaning that
behaviour has a biological context (Carlson et al., 2010). Comparative psychology
is linked in here, with the fascination of studying ‘instinct’ and comparing
the stimulated behaviours of humans and non-human animals. This work was
largely carried by C. Lloyd Morgan by the end of the century (Richards, 1996). Throughout
this time, there was an ongoing debate between structuralism and functionalism
being led by Edward Titchener (Green, 2009). Titchener was a veteran of Leipzig
and continued the works of Wundt in his structuralist approach, being almost the
only American psychologist to do so beyond c. 1900 (Richards, 1996). Different
to structuralism, functionalism had a strong influence on the development of future
psychological explanations and can be put into definition of being a psychological
phenomenon that can be explained by the identification of its value in aiding
the organism towards survival (Richards, 1996). Functionalism remained in the
forefront of US experimental psychology and persisted in this position until
world war two.

Behaviourism peaked in 1913 and carries an impact beyond those
who identified as behaviourists. In this year, John, B. Watson famously
published ‘Psychology as the behaviourist views it.’ Within this, Watson
challenges psychology in terms of its methods, languages and the tasks it sets
itself. He put forth the notion that psychology is an appendage to biology
stating that they ‘become functional
correlates of structure and lend themselves to explanation in physicochemical
terms’ (Watson, 1913). The problem in question was for Watson to tackle
higher-order phenomenon, such as language. By the 1950s, it had become apparent
that complex behaviour involved associatively conditioning each successive
component item to its predecessor.

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