The second major force in psychology, known as behaviorism, is a school of thought that has revolutionized the field and become one of its most influential perspectives. This approach to understanding human behavior focuses on observable phenomena and strives to bring the study of psychology in line with the scientific method. It rejects any consideration of mental states or processes, such as those studied within psychoanalytic theory, which cannot be observed and measured directly. By doing so, it provides an alternative to traditional psychoanalytic approaches and sets the gold standard for empirical research in modern psychology (Watson & Rayner, 1920).
Behaviorism began with John B. Watson’s famous declaration that “the sole object of investigation should be behavior” (Watson & Rayner, 1920). He argued that psychological events could be understood only if they were observable and measurable – no appeals to mental states could be allowed. Subsequent followers of this approach built upon this idea by developing rigorous methods for studying animal and human learning through laboratory experiments (Skinner, 1938). They believed that all behaviors had a cause-and-effect relationship; therefore they sought out environmental stimuli which triggered these responses in order to understand them better.
Discuss behaviorism as the 2nd major force in psychology and why is behaviorism a “better” alternative than the first force of psychology which was the Freudian psychoanalytic theory.
The impact of behaviorism can hardly be overstated; it transformed not only our understanding of how people learn but also our understanding more broadly about how we think and behave (O’Donohue et al., 2008). Moreover, it enabled researchers to draw firm conclusions from experimental data rather than relying on subjective impressions or speculation as was often done before its rise in prominence. This meant that psychologists were now able to conduct objective investigations into human behavior without having to rely on unverifiable claims about unconscious processes or motivations – something sorely needed at the time when Freudian psychoanalysis dominated popular opinion within psychology circles (Ellenberger 1970).
Nevertheless, although behaviorism offers great advances over its predecessor in terms of rigor and objectivity there are still some issues associated with it: for instance its focus on deterministic principles means that it fails to take into account individual differences between subjects which can have a significant effect on their behaviors (O’Donohue et al., 2008). Additionally critics have noted that despite being based on empiricism behavioral theories remain largely atheoretical because they lack explanations beyond what is immediately observed – thus leaving questions unanswered regarding why certain behaviors occur as opposed simply saying when they do occur (Ellenberger 1970). Nevertheless these criticisms notwithstanding many contend that while not perfect behaviourist thinking remains vastly superior when compared against theorizing predicated solely upon untestable assumptions such as those presented by Freud’s psychoanalytical theory(Ellenberger 1970; O’Donohue et al., 2008 ).