Comparing John B Watson, B.F. Skinner and Edward C. Tolman

Compare and contrast the perspectives John B Watson, B.F. Skinner, and Edward C. Tolman e.g. assumptions, principles, scope, etc. and describes how each perspective relates to the field of modern-day psychology. Give examples.

Solution Preview
One approach to help you with the paper is to provide a tentative outline and look at information from various sources for each section, which you can draw on for your final paper. This is approach this response takes. Like other academic assignments, this paper will include an introduction, body and conclusion.

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The tentative outline might look something to the effect:

I. Introduction (introduce topic; include purpose statement: The purpose of this paper is to…)
II. John B. Watson (e.g. theory, principles, contributions to modern psychology, scope/application, research and comparisons)
III. B.F. Skinner (e.g. theory, principles, contributions to modern psychology, scope/application, research and comparisons)
IV. Edward C. Tolman (e.g. theory, principles, contributions to modern psychology, scope/application, research and comparisons)
V. Conclusion (tie up main points)

Now, let’s take a closer look at some research and comparisons that you can consider for each section.

1. John B. Watson (1878-1958):

John B. Watson was an American psychologist born in Greenville, S.C. He taught (1903-8) at the Univ. of Chicago and was professor and director (1908-20) of the psychological laboratory at Johns Hopkins. In 1913, Watson published an article outlining his ideas and indeed established a new school of psychology. It was new because Watson disagreed with Freud and found the latter’s views on human behavior philosophical to the point of mysticism (like Skinner). Like Skinnier, Watson also dismissed heredity as a significant factor in shaping human behavior. (1) Watson influenced the work of Skinner, which is implication in behaviorism in its present day form (e.g., behavioral modification discussed in more detail below).


? Like Skinner, Watson emphasized the study of observable behavior, rejecting introspection and theories of the unconscious mind.

? Watson studied the biology, physiology, and behavior of animals, inspired by the recent work of Ivan Pavlov. (1)

? He originated the school of psychology known as behaviorism, in which behavior is described in terms of physiological responses to stimuli. Watson formed ideas that would become a whole branch of psychology: behaviorism. (1) He influenced the later work of Skinner.

? Put out a challenge:In The Ways of Behaviorism, Watson states that behaviorism is the scientific study of human behavior. It is simply the study of what people do.

? Behaviorism, according to Watson, was intended to take psychology up to the same level as other sciences.

? Like Skinner, Watson is interested in control of behavior. The first task is to observe behavior and make predictions, then to take determine causal relationships.

? Behavior can be reduced to relationships between stimuli and responses, the S — R Model. A stimulus can be shown to cause a response or a response can be traced back to a stimulus. All behavior can be reduced to this basic component. According to Watson, “life’s most complicated acts are but combination of these simple stimulus- response patterns of behavior.” (2)

? Classical Conditioning is the process of learning to react to the environment. (2)

? So, like Skinner, he was an environmentalist e.g., environment shaped behavior, and this reductionist (ignore aspects of human existence, such as feelings and cognition)

* since he was a behaviorist, he was also an environmentalist
* argued that children could be made into any type of person desired

? Thus, unlike Skinner and Tolman, Watson also studied human being. He began studying the behavior of children, as well, concluding that humans were simply more complicated than animals but operated on the same principles. According to Watson, all animals were extremely complex machines that responded to situations according to their “wiring,” or nerve pathways that were conditioned by experience. (1)

E.g.”Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own special 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, merchant-chief, and yes, beggarman and thief” (Watson). (1a)

Assumptions and Principles:

1. Human psychology has failed to make good its claim as a natural science. Due to a mistaken notion that its fields of facts are conscious phenomena and that introspection is the only direct method of ascertaining these facts, it has enmeshed itself in a series of speculative questions which, while fundamental to its present tenets, are not open to experimental treatment. In the pursuit of answers to these questions, it has become further and further divorced from contact with problems, which vitally concern human interest.

2. Psychology, as the behaviorist views it, is a purely objective, experimental branch of natural science which needs introspection as little as do the sciences of chemistry and physics. It is granted that the behavior of animals can be investigated without appeal to consciousness. Heretofore the viewpoint has been that such data have value only in so far as they can be interpreted by analogy in terms of consciousness. The position is taken here that the behavior of man and the behavior of animals must be considered on the same plane; as being equally essential to a general understanding of behavior. It can dispense with consciousness in a psychological sense. The separate observation of ‘states of consciousness’ is, on this assumption, no more a part of the task of the psychologist than of the physicist. We might call this the return to a non-reflective and have use of consciousness. In this sense consciousness may be said to be the instrument or tool with which all scientists work. Whether or not scientists properly use the tool at present is a concern for philosophy and not for psychology.

3. The study of the behavior of amoebae has value in and for themselves without reference to the behavior of man. Biological studies of race differentiation and inheritance form a separate …

Solution Summary
This solution provides assistance in comparing and contrasting the perspectives of John B Watson, B.F. Skinner, and Edward C. Tolman e.g. assumptions, principles, scope, etc. and describes how each perspective relates to the field of modern-day psychology. The comparisons provide a comprehensive coverage of each theory, examples and references.

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