Grown out of studies of animal behavior, this new school took birth in the hands of John B. Watson (1878 - 1958) in 1913. Contrary to both structuralism and functionalism the Behaviorists focused on observable behavior. They argued that subjective reports of conscious experience simply are not science. They maintained that science relies only on data that can be empirically measured. If Psychology, thus, was to be a science it must stop trying to study what goes on in the heads of the people. Instead, it must be limited to the study of oh rvab1e behavior.
The work of Watson and his associates was strongly influenced by the pioneering studies of the great Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849 - 1936) In a famous experiment, Pavlov rang a bell a few seconds before he gave a dog some meat, a stimulus to which the dog responded by salivating profusely. On many repetitions he found that the dog would respond / salivate on hearing the bell alone, even if given no food. The conditioned response concept was born out of learned response to a previously neutral stimulus.
Similarly conditioned stimulus can replace a neutral unconditioned stimulus i.e. CS for US and CR (conditioned Response) can replace UR (unconditioned / Neutral Response) by Pavlovian conditioning. Watson, however, took the extreme position saying that all behavior represents learned responses to particular environmental stimuli. He rejected the notion of innate or inherited differences in ability or temperament.
Watson had to make a departure from academic career unfortunately on personal reasons but he maintained impact on American Psychology. He left behind in career E.L. Thorndike (1874 - 1949) who conducted a series of experiments on cats. On the basis of this work he is credited with the discovery of trial and error learning. This type of learning emphasizes the importance of rewards and punishment.
B.F. Skinner (born - 1904) another behaviorist, known for his pigeon experiments argued, so far beyond his two predecessors, that behaviorist insights can and should be applied to society as a whole. To those who are .appalled by the social control this kind of society would involve Skinner replies that we, who supposedly live in a free society, are already controlled. The major thrust of his work has been in the area of operant conditioning. The most outstanding contribution of Behaviorism was its use of the scientific method to study behavior.
Psychologists at Work-their Functions:
With the changing needs of the time the functions and duties of psychologist have also changed. Just like other disciplines of modern science psychologists have become now specialists in contemporary, different fields. To have a bird eye view of the diversity that exists in psychology today, let us consider some of the topics discussed at a recent meeting of APA (American Psychological Association).
The subjects under discussion, varied from brain functions in gifted children, food additives and hyperactivity, teacher diagnosis of learning disabilities, use of alcohol in children, gender difference in verbal assertiveness, stress and coping in surgical patients, amphetamine effects on brain, psychology of dieting, depression, overeating and family life of pathological gamblers. Obviously, a large number of specialized psychologists is required to deal with such topics of secondary nature. Here, we look at the functions of psychologists in different areas.
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