Psychology emerged from the
philosophical ideas of relating the mind to the body. The question of how the
intangible mind was able to connect and control the physical body lead to the
emergence of the mind-body problem introduced by Rene Descartes (K. Morgan,
personal communication, October 3, 2017). An underlying question that was
derived surrounding this problem is what dictates behaviour. The scientific
field of psychology is the product of progression through different approaches
on how to solve the mind-body problem or to answer the question of what
dictates behaviour. Of those different approaches, Behaviourism played a vital
role in that progression. There are two main factors which influenced the rapid
growth of Behaviourism including advancements in other sciences and the desire
to move psychology into the scientific realm. The development of Behaviourism
based on these two factors and the fact that some methods and theories were
highly plausible produced a peak in support of the movement. However, that
diminished as some of the main theories were not upheld when questions about
complex behaviour arose and the notion that the mind was not important in
dictating behaviour backfired, especially when there were other approaches that
incorporated the mind in their principle theories and were able to address the
questions of complex behaviour in a unique way. Although there was a quick rise
and fall to the behaviourist movement, it had a massive influence on the
development of modern approaches that psychology is associated with today such
as Cognitive Psychology, not to mention, Behaviourism is still around. The Cognitive
approach was developed in opposition to behaviourist principles, so with this and
the fact that Behaviourism is still around can be said to be the legacy of the
movement.

The
two factors that had a significant role in the rapid growth of behaviourism are
intertwined. The first factor to influence the growth of behaviourism was the
desire to label psychology as a natural science (Roediger, 2004). Before and in
the early 19th century, psychologists were mainly concerned with the
philosophical questions about mind (K. Morgan, personal communication, October
10, 2017). It wasn’t until people like Gustav Fechner
and Wilhelm Wundt, who was heavily influenced by Fechner, that psychology began
to have more of an experimental approach. Wundt established the first
Psychological laboratory in 1879 at Leipzig to continue his work of studying
consciousness with his method of experimental introspection (Richards, 1998, p.
24-25). However, introspection failed as a proper form of experimentation,
which disallowed for psychology to be a credited science. In opposition to introspection,
but continuous with the desire to move into a more scientific realm, Behaviourism
was the movement to finally do that. The founder of this movement, J.B. Watson,
had a belief that practical knowledge came from science and so in his
establishment of Behaviourism he focused on eliminating introspection
completely and only focusing on behaviour (Richards 1998, p. 48).  According to Watson (1913), “psychology as the
behaviourist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural
science” (para.1) and “introspection forms no essential part of its methods,
nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which
they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness” (para. 1). It
wasn’t only the appeal of acquiring the label of science that influenced the
growth of the behaviourist movement.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

 The second factor that influenced the rapid
growth of behaviourism was advancements in other scientific fields, specifically
from biology with Darwin’s Origin of Spices
published in 1859. From Darwin’s proposition of natural selection, many
interests about human nature arose. Curiosities about how much humans have in
common with, as Richards (1998) puts it, ‘lower’ animals lead to interest about
instincts, and thus the interest in behaviour in general. Evolutionary theory introduced
the idea that humans are not as different than animals as we would like to believe.
This lead scientists to study animals to develop theories about human
behaviour. One of the main men responsible for this initial research was Conwy
Lloyd Morgan and from his observation of animals he developed general
principles of behaviour (K. Morgan, personal communication, October 10, 2017). Another
example of the contribution of other sciences to psychology is Ivan Pavlov’s
research of the digestion system of dogs.  He noticed the learned response of dogs to
salivate when presented with a stimulus associated with food when food was not
present. The term that bridged this research to psychology was ‘conditioning’
as a way to control human behaviour (Harré, 2016, p. 12). From this, more
experiments were being done with animals to explain behaviour adding to the
credibility of the movement as a science and contributing to the peak of the
movement before its decline.

Secondary
two these two main factors that influenced the growth of the movement, the
scientific discoveries within the movement are what added more scientific
credibility and therefore a greater following. The peak of behaviourism was the
result of the work by Edward L. Thorndike, J.B. Watson, and B.F. Skinner. For
example, Thorndike was involved with the experimental study of learning which
was central to the behaviourism research at one point (Richards, 1998). His research
involved animal observation during his very controlled experiments. One of his
most famous experiments was his Puzzle Box experiment. From this study he came
up with the learning curve, the more experience we have at a task, the more we
learn, and our proficiency in that task increases (K. Morgan, personal
communication, October 24, 2017). Learning theory that arose from Behaviourism
was a plausible contribution to science. Of course, that is not the only
example, Skinner was responsible for many important ideas about behaviour. He
took this idea of learning and went further with it to develop operant
conditioning. Within this method is the notion that “behaviour is shaped and
maintained by its consequences” (Skinner, 2002, p.18).  Also with this method he provided techniques
that could predict and control behaviour to certain extent (Richards, 1998,
p.51). This was another contribution to the behaviourist movement along with the
impact of Watson’s Little Albert experiment. The purpose of his experiment was
to prove that classical conditioning could work on humans and it did just that
with the example of learning fear (K. Morgan, personal communication, October
24, 2017). This was the first experiment that proved humans and animals behave
in similar ways. The works of Thorndike, Skinner, and Watson contributed
greatly to behaviourist movement and helped it peak before its decline.

One
reason was that behaviourism could not explain more complex behaviours such as
playing the piano or language learning (Richards, 1998, p. 52). Skinner was
among those who believed that mental processes were not and should not be
included in terms of behaviour. In Beyond
Freedom and Dignity (2002) he states “… we do not need to try to discover
what personalities, states of mind, feelings, traits of character, plans,
purposes, intentions, or other perquisites of autonomous man really are in
order to get on with a scientific analysis of behaviour” (p. 15). This
statement proves his view on the subject, that mind is not involved in
dictating behaviour. With this position he tried to explain the complex
behaviour of language learning, which received a lot of criticism. Among those
who criticised his work was Noam Chomsky in A
Review of B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour (1976). In his review, Chomsky
makes the point that children learn their language very rapidly which could
suggest that there is something else affecting their learning than just the
feedback they get from their environment (part Xl). He said, “the fact that all
normal children acquire essential comparable grammars of great complexity with
remarkable rapidity suggests that human beings are somehow specially designed
to do this…” (Chomsky, 1976, part. Xl, para.6).  He suggests that complex behaviours cannot be
explained entirely by behaviourist methods and theories like classical
conditioning or operant conditioning. Chomsky reintroduced the idea that mental
processes do have some influence on behaviour.

From
the reintroduction of the idea that there is the involvement of mind in the way
we behave, emerges another reason as to why the behaviourism movement declined.
Other approaches in psychology which involved the study of mental processes in
relation to behaviour were developed. The first step away from Behaviourism was
Gestalt psychology, but perhaps, the most important approach that evolved from
this concept was Cognitive Psychology. Gestalt psychologists didn’t ignore
consciousness and were opposed to the reductionism that behaviourism conveyed
(Richards, 1998, p.59), The central concept in this approach was field theory
in which they adopted from Einstein, this is the concept of taking in the
environment as a whole rather than break it down into parts (Richards, 1998). In
his experiments, Wolfgang Köhler, focused on the affect of the field structure
of the situation on the learning process of different animals. His experiments
demonstrated how animals used cognition to problem solve (Harré, 2006, p. 138).
From his chimpanzee experiment he observed a learning pattern that he termed
‘insight learning’, in other words no trial and error (L. Houldcroft, personal
communication, November 7, 2017). This was completely different from the
behaviourist learning theory and soon Gestaltists began to study cognition and
problem solving. Gestalt psychology never took off, but instead influenced Cognitive
Psychology (Richards, 1998, p.63). With the emergence of Cognitive Psychology, Behaviourism
began to decline. Although Behaviourism did not take over, the movement had a
great affect on what psychology is today.

 Its legacy can be summarized into a few main
points. The first being it finally gave psychology the title of being a natural
science (Richards, 1998, p. 55). The second, Cognitive Psychology emerged in
opposition to the behaviourist movement. As described previously, Cognitive
Psychology was the result of progression away from reductionism associated with
behaviourism. In his article What
Happened to Psychology (2004), Roediger, states “many problems that were
somewhat outside the purview of behaviouristic analyses – perceiving,
attending, remembering, imagining, thinking – were approached in a radically
new way.” (para.9). Behaviourism proved that mental processes need to be
considered in the study of behaviour by insufficiently answering questions about
complex behaviours. Another main point in illustrating the legacy of
behaviourism, is the fact that it is not completely extinct. Behaviourism is
still alive today. For instance, there are a few journals dedicated to this
approach such as The Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behaviour and Journal
of Applied Behaviour Analysis (Roediger, 2004). Another way Behaviourism lives
on is through the incorporation of behaviourist methods on predicting and
controlling behaviour in self-management programs, parenting guides, and animal
training (Roediger, 2004). Some aspects of behaviourism are even seen in
cognitive contexts. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy is used most
frequently as psychotherapy all over the world (K. Morgan, personal
communication, October 24, 2017).  These
examples illustrate the legacy of Behaviourism and how profoundly it affected psychology.

Behaviourism
continues to have an everlasting effect on the science of psychology. Its rapid
growth was due to contributions of other science fields and the desire to move
psychology into the realm of natural science. With the contribution of
evolutionary thought, psychologists began to think of human behaviour in relation
to that of animals and to move psychology into the realm of science by taking
an experimental approach. From experimentation, methods and theories of
predicting and controlling behaviour were established gaining more followers.
However, since these methods and theories revolved around the central idea that
mind processes were not involved in behaviour, the movement declined especially
with the introduction of Cognitive Psychology. Although behaviourist theories
are not central to what psychology is today, the movement contributed in developing
contemporary psychology. In its failed attempt to describe all behaviour, it reaffirmed
that mind processes are a necessary part of psychology. To be clear,
behaviourism has not been devaluated. The methods are still used today in
therapy and there are still journals dedicated to behaviourism.