Experimental Psychology, Behaviorism - Zoopsychology and Comparative Psychology

Experimental Psychology

At the beginning of the XX century. psychology as a science was in crisis. There were several reasons for this: the separation of psychology from practice, an almost stalemate, connected with the long use of introspection as the main method of scientific research, which turned out to be untenable; impossibility to explain a number of fundamental problems, in particular, the connection of mental phenomena with physiological and human behavior. Simultaneously, in psychology, there was a colossal gap between theoretical constructions and concrete behavior of a person. Crisis contributed to the theory of evolution of Charles Darwin, which anatomically brought human and animals together, showing the commonality of their physical structure. In the biological plane, man has ceased to be a being of a special kind; in his behavior there was much in common with animals. Darwin took the first decisive step in recognizing the unity of the psyche of man and animals. In the light of these data, there was an interest in finding a common between humans and animals in other ways, for example, in intellectual and speech abilities.

By this time, exact and natural knowledge is becoming a model of science. Psychology at the then stage did not meet these requirements. The crisis led to the collapse of the established basic trends in psychology. Attempts to overcome it led to the creation of a number of new, including experimental, directions. Among them, direct relevance to zoopsychology was behaviorism, gestalt psychology and comparative psychology.


Behaviorism (from English, behavior - behavior) refers to the experimental methods that arose during the crisis of psychology in the early years of the 20th century. Its creator is the American scientist John Watson (1878-1958). He openly proclaimed the need to replace the traditional subject of psychology, namely, psychic phenomena (declaring them fundamentally unknowable by means of natural science methods) to behavior, the manifestations of which can be registered and quantified. For this it is quite sufficient to fulfill three conditions: to accurately describe the behavior itself, to find out the physical stimuli on which it depends, and to establish the connections that exist between stimuli and behavior. The scientific search for behaviorists was mainly aimed at elucidating the relevant links, on their basis, to explain behavior as a reaction to stimuli. The basic provisions of behaviorism J. Watson clearly formulated in the program article of 1913. "Psychology through the eyes of behaviorists. He argued:

• The behavior is constructed from the secretory and muscle reactions of the body, which in turn are determined by external stimuli acting on the animal;

• Behavior analysis should be conducted strictly objectively, limited to the registration of externally manifested phenomena;

• The main content of experimental psychology is the recording of reactions in response to strictly dosed and controlled irritation.

These provisions have made a real revolution in experimental psychology. Subsequently, they were supplemented and expanded by other researchers. From the point of view of behaviorists, the behavior of animals and humans is fundamentally the same. Therefore, it is perfectly permissible, when studying the behavior of animals, to directly transfer to humans the results of the relevant studies and, conversely, "humanly" to interpret the types and forms of animal behavior. It was argued that man differs from an animal only by the greater complexity of his behavioral reactions and by the wide variety of stimuli to which he is able to react. The rigid conceptual scheme of behaviorism gave birth to a whole series of new, specific terms for him. It was the behaviorists who were supporters of the above-mentioned tendency to investigate the behavior of only two species of laboratory animals - white rat and pigeon. They actively advocated the thesis that research of the psyche should be reduced to the study of behavior, primarily to the analysis of the links between stimuli and the reactions arising on their basis (the formula stimulus-reaction , SR ).

The principles formulated by D. Watson received a very wide circulation and further diversified development. A great contribution to the development of behaviorism was made by the American researcher B. F. Skinner (1904-1990). He created one of the most famous methods of studying instrumental, or operant, conditioned reflexes in a special experimental chamber, which was named the skinner's camera among researchers.

The desire to objectify the science of behavior in psychology, of course, was a positive moment compared with the science of the soul. However, it was impossible to completely break away from the study of psychic phenomena, given their actual significance in the life and behavior of higher animals and, especially, of man. Even J. Watson could not completely deny the existence and significance of psychic phenomena in human life. He considered them functions that perform some active role in adapting the organism to the conditions of life. In the development of behaviorism, experimental facts appeared, the conclusions of which came into conflict with the basic dogmas of this doctrine. Therefore, rather soon the orthodox views of the founder of behavioral theory were softened by his followers.

This happened already in the 1930s, when E. Tolman formulated a new concept based on the recognition of purposefulness in the behavior of the animal and allowed the existence of physiological processes that mediate manifestation of the response to the stimulus. This concept served as a basis for the subsequent study of cognitive processes and was called neobieveurism.

Currently, there are strong supporters of the clean Behaviorism is almost gone. However, this trend continues to attract attention due to interesting research on the person, primarily due to the work of BF Skinner.

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