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The Perspectives of John B. Watson and B.f. Skinner: Comparison and Contrast Essay

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Updated: Dec 26th, 2021

Introduction

Edward C. Tolman, B.F. Skinner and John B. Watson were psychological behaviorists who were interested in the science of conduct of human beings and animals (Goodwin, 2005). Watson who lived between the years 1878 and passed on in 1958 said that psychology is a science and that data which can be easily seen by anyone is the only evidence to that fact. He argued that the foundation of science is data and which can be verified through observation of behavior. He said that there are many ways that such behavior can be observed.

Comparison

Watson noted that as civilizations advanced, towns were becoming cities, and the more the number of people in the cities the greater the need for studying psychology. This is because people need to understand how to relate with each other in the new settings of life. Watson studied behavior in the cultural and social setting. He altered the way 21st-century American psychologists thought about conduct. This is because he introduced the words “response” and “stimulus” into the general context of behavior. Watson stood out from Skinner and Tolman because he studied both animal and human psychology.

Watson believed that stimuli can be used to condition a person’s mind such that they can be able to produce a certain specified reaction. For instance, if a person fears heights, a psychologist should counsel the person, show the person heights, and finally introduce the person to a high place. This is done as a way of helping people to overcome certain fears in life.

On the other hand, Tolman who was born in 1886 and died in 1959 based their behavior on his personal experience. Tolman forwarded the argument that every being whether animal or man thought and made choices as exhibited by their subsequent actions.

Tolman pointed out that both beast and man had to look for their respective ways since they relied on maps and reliance on cognitive approaches. This shows that Tolman required variables so that he could be able to comprehend both man and beast’s behavior. Tolman differed from Watson and Skinner in that he willingly included other people’s thoughts into his system unlike the rest of the pack that ignored other person’s insights. He believed that experiments are meant to be a show that gives examples of what he wanted to express. He did not see that demonstrations should be taken as proof of thinking or expression.

Tolman argued that learning can occur without rewards being doled out to the learner. In his words, he called rewards a “reinforcer” that can be used to develop Classic and Operant Conditioning of the mind. He said that whatever that an individual learned could be applied to all surroundings. This is irrespective of the fact that a reward is being given to the learner. This implies that behavior is not an automated reaction to stimuli. Tolman became very popular for his Cognitive Learning Theory. He said that learning took place even without the use of rewards. Learning took place even without the learner being aware. People get to know that they learned something when they are applying the information that they had previously learned.

Tolman said that human conduct is driven by a motive. Whenever the motive changes, the resulting behavior is also affected. Tolman discovered mental theories citing that cognitive plans are ways that are employed when people want to accumulate spatial knowledge and help one to remember the information learned in the past. This enables learners to lessen cognitive load to the mind because one visualizes illustrations.

Skinner was the most practical of the three behaviorists. He said that rewards that were seen in the social context of America were related to the cultural changes during the initial decades of the 20th century. Using the “Skinner box” he revealed that rewards or returns were allocated in accordance to the surroundings an individual adjusted the box so that the beast responded. Skinner’s main problem was that he never concluded his findings (Kowalski & Westen, 2005). He based his arguments on logical and illogical deductions and heavily relied on assumptions that were formulated before engaging in any study.

According to Skinner, the way human beings conduct themselves is greatly influenced by the environment. The way someone conducts himself results in positive or negative effects. These effects are the basis of the behavior which is the result. This theory also takes into consideration the reinforcement program. The reinforcement program points out that when a certain behavior in a person is awarded there is a high probability that the behavior can be repeated continually. On the same point, behavior that is not rewarded can not be exhibited again. This sort of conditioning is called operant conditioning.

Tolman, Skinner, and Watson greatly differed on their working methods and how they did it. Watson had a preference to work with a beast. During his early years in studying behavioral psychology, Skinner used animals and later human beings. Tolman used rats that were selectively bred. Although Skinner and Watson held the same thought on conduct, they differed greatly when it came to the use of references to mental conditions.

Watson was not in favor of the use of references to mental conditions. He said that psychology is a science that should straightforwardly study behavior and avoid looking at private issues like insights. Skinner disagreed with this thought and said that there was a great significance of looking at the feelings, thoughts, and the “internal behavior” of animals and beings when doing any analysis on behavioral psychology. Skinner argued that all things like emotions should also be taken into consideration when doing an analysis (Plomin & Spinath, 2004).

How the theories of Watson, Tolman, and Skinner apply to Modern-day psychology

Watson’s theory is widely being used by counselors to help people get rid of their phobias. His classical form of the condition is widely applied in the field of professional counseling. In modern-day living, Skinner’s theory is very applicable since the way we live makes us behave in a particular way. The environment dictates or acts as stimuli and demands a reaction. For example, due to the dwindling of resources in the natural environment, modern man has been forced to adjust his behavior to cope with that. One form of adjustment is minimizing so that they can cope with the reduced resources. The other way that Skinner’s perspective is applied to modern-day life is that “Teaching Machines” can be made that help teachers teach. These machines should be able to elicit stimuli then record the responses from all the students and send them to the teacher. This technology can be very effective and enable teaching to occur at a more personalized level more than the computers. Tolman’s theory applies in the area of animal training. Animals can be trained without being given rewards for example dolphins.

Conclusion

In conclusion Tolman, Skinner and Watson studied behavioral psychology. They all argued that the way individuals conduct themselves is the basis of how people functioned.

References

  1. Goodwin, C. J. (2005). A history of modern psychology . 2 nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  2. Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2005). Psychology. 4 th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  3. Plomin, R., & Spinath, F. M. (2004). Intelligence: Genetics, Genes, and Genomics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(1), 112-129. Retrieved July 30, 2010, from EBSCOHost Database.
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