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Behaviourism

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Submitted By CSBurnes
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1. Introduction – What is Behaviourism
It is well documented that behaviourism has had a significant role to play in scientific psychology since the early part of the 20th century. Before this period, early psychologists such as Freud focused on emphasising the importance of the unconscious mind and its effects on human behaviour. In these early days psychology had developed from philosophical studies, so the approaches used were similar to those adopted by the philosophers at the time. The main approach used the method of introspection, which tried to understand the mind through the analysis of an individual’s thoughts, feelings and experiences (Hayes, 2008). However, this approach was later criticised for its subjectiveness since one person’s introspection can differ from another’s (Gross, 2003) and that although introspection can reveal an individual’s private experiences it cannot be objectively measured or observed by others (Smith et al, 1998).
The concept of behaviourism as a formal school of psychology was introduced by the American psychologist, JB Watson in 1919 (Carlson et al, (2000). Following a series of experiments he conducted on animals which included cats, dogs, monkeys and rats, he came to the conclusion that psychology should not be concerned with the mind or the consciousness. He suggested that psychologists should instead focus on the external observations on the behaviour of animals or humans in order to understand how the environment influences the subject’s behaviour (Smith et al, 1998).
Watson, along with fellow researchers such as Pavlov and Skinner, began to develop a framework which emphasised observable processes such as environmental stimuli and behavioural responses (Gross, 2003). This approach became known as Behaviourism and it soon began to take over the work of the early introspectionist psychologists by arguing that the…...

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