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Behaviorism Definition Term Paper


Behaviorism may be defined as a theoretic foundation which is rooted in psychology and which has a deliberate emphasis on observable, as well as determinable behavior as its major unit of study (Luthans, Youssef, & Luthans, 2005).

It should be noted that behaviorism analytically explores the relationships that exists between the behaviors of an individual as well as environmental contingencies. It should also be noted that the study as well as behaviorism practice lays much emphasis on the prediction and management of behavior and therefore is especially applicable to organization research (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell, 2006).

The behaviorism model is different from the common theories of cognitive psychology because behaviorism isn’t concentrated on internal affective or cognitive processes as well as incidental measures of attitudes, feelings or beliefs.

While approaches that are cognitive based try to not only understand but also to explain the complicated causes and also the complexity of the behavior of human beings, behaviorism has its basis on the foundation that human behavior is a generally the function of both the environmental contingencies and consequences (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell, 2006).

The historical building blocks of Behaviorism

Behaviorism has four major historical building blocks. These main introductory contributions include the experiments of classical conditioning that were done by Pavlov (1849-1936), the law of effect which were done by Thorndike (1874-1949), Watson’s experiment on human conditioning (1878-1958), as well as conceptualization and work of operant conditioning which were done by Skinner (1904-1990).

It should be noted that in organizational studies, the behavioral application that is widely applied is that which is contained in the book of Luthans and Kreitner’s (1985) called the Organizational Behavior Modification and Beyond (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell, 2006).

So as to critically observe behavior, a number of behaviorists are suggesting that the possibility of determining the stimulus as well as the response have to be very high. Stimulus identification as well as response usually acts as the determinant for behavior observation.

It is believed that if the identification as well as the response of stimulus is possible, it will also be possible to study, understand and also to modify behavior. Due to this, behaviorism is sometimes called stimulus-response psychology since it majorly emphasizes on the study of external environmental conditions of individuals which make the individuals’ behavior to be in certain ways.

Behaviorists have the belief that the behavior of human may best be understood through the study of particular behaviors. Similarly, behaviorists have the thought that the traits of human beings like character, integrity as well as personality are usually not determined internally by the individuals, but these traits results as a result of the individuals behaving in some ways.

The traits are also established via behavior patterns that are usually developed via environmental conditioning. They also have the belief that a careful study of the development of behavior is capable of providing a clear understanding the creation, control and prediction of desirable conditions as well as behaviors.

The concepts of behaviorist are connected to the numerous beliefs of many philosophical systems. It should be noted that behaviorism and realism are similar because both of them have faith in the significance of factual as well as observable aspects. Realists and behaviorists also have the belief that factual, as well as observable aspects are capable of providing a foundation on which guidelines as well as laws of universal importance may be established. The theory of materialism is also connected to behaviorism.

The belief of materialist that the explanation of everything as far as motion and matter are concerned is possible is comparable to the approach of behaviorists which sees humans in physiological or biological perspective. Though both materialists and behaviorists have the belief that the behavior of man in a specific ways is based on physical makeup, the behaviorists lays much emphasis on the outcomes that the environment has on the behavior of man (Standridge, 2002).

Ivan Pavlov’s view on Behaviorism

Ivan Pavlov, who was one of the early behaviorists who first attained scientific recognition due to the research he did concerning digestive glands. Nevertheless, he has been remembered because of the research he conducted concerning reflex action among animals and humans.

He has also been remembered because of devising several experiments on conditioning. Pavlov who is also said to be the father of the famous conditioning theory, highly influenced behaviorist movement through his researches concerning conditioned reflexes, both in animals and in humans (Standridge, 2002).

In his research concerning conditioned reflexes, he organized a dog so as to measure the “psychic secretion” quantity or the quantity of saliva which it secreted. Pavlov used the term “Psychic secretion” to refer to gastric juices which were secreted when food stimulated the mouth. He started by determining the physic secretion’s quantity in reaction to food. He made an observation that upon giving the dog food, the quantity of psychic secretion increased.

As this experiment moved on, a stimulus that was neutral, which at first was not having any influence on psychic secretion’s amount, was repeatedly added as the dog was feeding. After a regular presentation of the stimulus food, the food substance was eliminated and the stimulus alone was presented. Later, Pavlov established that when the stimulus only was presented; psychic secretion’s level increased. With food, stimulus, that was at first ineffective, later produced very robust psychic secretion.

This is what Pavlov called conditional reflex or conditional response. The experiments that were conducted by Pavlov were known as “classical conditioning or the “laws of conditioning”. It should be noted that Classical conditioning is basically the behaviors that are learnt due to experience (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell, 2006).

John Watson’s view on Behaviorism

John Watson is also a highly powerful early behaviorist who is also referred to as one of behaviorism founders. He was in disagreement with the movements of functionalism as well as structuralism. Watson was influenced by the theories of Pavlov. He viewed psychology as a division of natural science which ought not to have studied mental consciousness and processes.

Watson wrote a number of books which advocated for behaviorism and which were also in contradiction to introspective philosophy. This philosophy stated that psychologists were capable of gathering data and information from the consciousness or minds of individuals. Watson was of the idea that psychologists ought to study behaviors which are directly observable, and not the mental consciousness and processes (Staddon, 2001).

The radical views of Watson concerning behaviorism became his weakness as well as his strength. He had the clarity, energy, as well as force which were needed for success in the promotion of his ideas. Conversely, he deviated from the conviction which he had that the amalgamation of environment and heredity formed the foundation of the behavior of human beings to the fundamental opinion that every behavior was due to the environment of the individuals.

He moved so far and suggested that emotions, thought, as well as instinct were merely inner bodily adjustments patterns. He also made a proposal that every emotion progressed via the conditioning of some innate emotions— anger, love as well as fear, and also that nothing shouldn’t have been called natural instinct (Powell, Symbaluk, & Macdonald, 2005).

It should also be noted that Watson also had the belief that the major stimulus which determined behavior was the environment. Again, he had the belief that if he was capable of controlling the environment or surrounding of kids, he was capable of molding the child to become the type of person that he needed.

The infants at Johns Hopkins Hospital were studied by Watson and he made a remark that if given any child having a very healthy body, molding the child to become any type of expert that he chose could have been very easy. It should be noted that behaviorists are in agreement with the statement of Watson that it is capable to alter, modify and also to control behavior by using reinforcement (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell, 2006).

Burrhus Frederic Skinner’s view on behaviorism

Skinner, like Watson had the belief that it is possible to control behavior through reinforcement. In a book written by him (Beyond Freedom and Dignity), he generates a lot of controversy through his statement that the freedom of human beings is merely a myth. Burrhus was of the argument that any human cannot be free; but rather, they are the products of the environment to which they are subject. He also stated that they are subject to the environmental forces that are in existence and which shape and mold them.


Newby, T. J., Stepich, D. A., Lehman, J. D., & Russell, J. D. (2006). Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning (3rd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Luthans, F., Youssef, C., & Luthans, B. (2005). Behaviorism. In Nicholson, N., Audia, P., & Pillutla, M. (Eds.). The Blackwell encyclopedia dictionary of organizational behavior. London: Blackwell.

Powell, R. A., Symbaluk, D. G., & Macdonald, S. E. (2005). Introduction to learning and behavior. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Staddon, J. (2001). The New Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism, and Society. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

Standridge, M. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Web.

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