Behaviorism. The problem of research objectivity
Simultaneously with gestaltism in 1912, in the United States, the emergence of behaviorism - a trend in psychology, immediately made famous by the shocking statements of its representatives who denied consciousness as the subject of psychology research.
The mouthpiece of the new direction was John Watson (1878-1958).
Stimulus Reaction - so it was the motto of behaviorism, the basic ideas of which Watson stated in the article "Psychology as seen by a behaviourist" (hereinafter it was called the "behaviorist manifesto").
The behavioral program boiled down to a few clearly stated points:
• The subject of psychology is behavior
• The behavior depends on secretory and muscular responses, completely determined by external stimuli,
• Behavior analysis should be strictly objective in nature and be limited, as in all other natural sciences, to external phenomena.
Watson called for rejecting the notion of consciousness as a disembodied, whimsical acting domestic agent, which is known only from indications of introspection. All the traditional concepts of internal, mental processes, in his opinion, had to be translated into a new, behaviourist language, and this means - reducing to objectively observed stimulus-reactive relationships. The first attempt to present psychology from this point of view was Watson's book, "Behavior. Introduction to Comparative Psychology .
The resonance of Watson's ideas in American psychology was very great. In 1915, at the age of 37, he was elected president of the American Psychological Association.
Antiphysiologism and denial of the role of the image in the regulation of behavior remained the defining features of Watson's program. After serving in the Air Force during the First World War, Watson once again started experimental psychological research after demobilization, but not in white rats, but in public, realizing his idea that the behavior of all living things is subject to the same laws , which is why a person can also be treated as a stimulus-reactive machine.
Watson began to study emotions. He strongly rejected James's hypothesis of the primacy of bodily changes and the secondary nature of emotional states on the grounds that the very notion of the subjective, experienced is to be removed from scientific psychology. In emotion, according to Watson, there is nothing but intraspecific (visceral) changes and external expressions. But the main thing he saw in another - in the ability to manage a given program of emotional behavior. By combining a neutral stimulus (for example, a kind of rabbit) with one of the child's basic emotions (for example, fear), Watson experimentally demonstrated that this stimulus, as well as any other similar to it, in itself starts to cause a state of affect. Experiments were put on infants (fear was caused by a loud sound or a sudden loss of support). The supplement to this experimental program was another series of experiments - the task was to retrain the subjects and again turn the stimulus into emotionally neutral.
This method was used: a negative feeling was eliminated by means of a positive one. The child provoking a conditional stimulus (for example, a rabbit) the child perceived at a considerable distance at a time when this child was given tasty food. Then the distance was gradually reduced, and finally the child could take in hands an animal, one kind of which gave rise to a violent negative affect.
From these experiments, Watson concluded that fear, disgust and other emotions of adults arise in childhood on the basis of conditioned reflex connections between external stimuli and several basal affects.
The principle of conditioning (conditional reflex determination), Watson extended also to thinking, suggesting a "peripheral theory", according to which thinking is identical with the subvocal (inaudible) pronunciation of loud speech sounds, and these sounds themselves are conditional signals of the objects they designate. Speaking in Watson, thinking is a "laryngeal skill", and its organ is not the brain but the larynx.
Watson was inspired by the idea of the possibility of turning psychology into a science capable of controlling and predicting behavior. Developing this idea, he put forward a plan for the reorganization of society on the basis of a behavioral program. In his opinion, by manipulating external stimuli, we can manufacture man of any warehouse, with any constants of behavior. Denied the importance not only of the inherent properties, but also of one's own beliefs of the individual, of her attitudes and relations, of the whole versatility of her inner life. Give me, Watson promised, a dozen normal children and a specific environment for their upbringing, and I guarantee that by taking any of them in random order, I can turn it into a specialist of any type - doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant or beggar and a thief - without regard to his talent, inclinations, tendencies, abilities, vocation, and also the race of his ancestors.
The special merit of Watson is the study of behavior and the acute formulation of the problem of an objective approach in psychology. Also important is his task of managing human behavior, the focus of scientific research on the connection with practical problems. However, due to the mechanistic approach to a person as a reacting organism, the implementation of this task in behaviorism has received a direction dehumanizing a person: management began to be identified with manipulation personality.
Table 2. Comparison of the merits and demerits of behaviorism
Advantages of behaviorism
Disadvantages of behaviorism
Behaviorism marked the historical need to expand the understanding of the subject of study in psychology and introduced human behavior into the range of phenomena studied by psychology, making it the subject of their studies and thereby opposing consciousness
The need to expand the subject of psychological research was reflected in one-sided behavior and inadequately in behaviorism, since consciousness was ignored as an objective entity. Consciousness in behaviorism was completely excluded from the field of study, as it had no objective observable methods.
Behaviorism investigated behavior and sharply resolved the problem of an objective approach in psychology
Understanding of behavior was reduced only to external manifestations; unobservable physiological and mental processes were ignored
It was put forward the most important for psychology as a practical science task of managing human behavior, the focus of scientific research on the connection with practical problems
Because of the mechanistic interpretation of behavior, man was deprived of his active activity and acted only as a reactive being
Behaviorism strengthened the method of laboratory experiment as the main one in psychological research, and introduced the practice of carrying out experiments on animals, which allowed solving many practical problems of psychology
The results obtained empirically on animals were transferred without any reservations and restrictions on humans, without taking into account the qualitative difference in human and animal behavior
Within the framework of behaviorism, many patterns of skill development have been established
Ignored the most important components of the action - the motivation and the mental image of the action as an indicative basis for its implementation. Psychology completely excluded the social factor. The brain was treated as a "black box"
Development of practical teaching methods based on the control of external influences, the reaction of the organism to them, as well as on obtaining various reinforcements that determine the subsequent formation of a particular reaction. Such techniques have been called the method of programmed instruction. It allows you to quickly implement the necessary skills and training, as well as correct unwanted behavior
These methods were built on the principle of excluding the awareness of reinforcement of correct acts of behavior leading to the formation of the necessary skill, which could not develop the inner cognitive activity of the individual, i.e. to form in him the skill of curtailing activity in the internal plan. Thus, one of its main components was excluded from the specifics of instruction: awareness and internalization of the action
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