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Published: July 15, 2017
Eric Mason

behavioral psychology

Eric K. Mason

  1. Discuss the fundamental concepts of behavioral psychology as exemplified in the works of Pavlov and Watson.

The most important aspect of behavioral psychology is its namesake, behavior. Behavioral psychology seeks to investigate that which it only believes can be empirically explored—observable behavior. Such an idea is in stark contrast to other concepts of psychology, which until behaviorism, dealt primarily with the ideas of consciousness, the mind, feelings, and images. Other psychologists often used introspection as a means of exploring the ideas of consciousness, the mind, feelings, and images.

Watson, who is regarded as the founder of behavior psychology (though he was greatly influenced by the work of Pavlov), believed that observing behavior was a more appropriate way to study that which had previously been studied via introspection. For example, he believed that subvocal speech (i.e., physical changes that occurred in vocal cords when one was thinking, but not speaking) indicated thought process, and that changes in sex organs was the observable behavior of feelings. The behaviorists believed that studying psychological processes by means other than observable behavior was unscientific and, therefore, unreliable. To them, observing behavior was truly the only empirical means by which to study psychological processes.

  1. Take one of the “Idols” of Francis Bacon, describe it and give an example of such an error in one of the “modern” (post Wundt) psychological movements or systems we have encountered (with the exception of William James).

Francis Bacon’s conception of Idols of the Marketplace is an example of an error that can be found in Psychoanalysis. Bacon stated that Idols of the Marketplace occurs as a result of the profound effect that words have on human thought. For example, we often consider something more real when it has been given a name. In contrast, if something has not been named or described in words, it is as if it does not exist or is invisible to us.

Freud’s concept of the id, ego, and superego often seem like tangible aspects of the personality to many psychology students. However, these concepts simply comprise a set of loosely associated parts of the personality as seen and defined by Freud himself. The id, ego, and superego or not real parts of the personality, but rather an invention of Freud’s used to define what he saw as influencing the human experience. Freud gave the id, ego, and superego a name. As a result, many often think of them as real parts, as if they were organs that could be cut away from the body or mind and dissected. In reality, the only thing that we really know exists about the id, ego, and superego is their names. Everything else is just speculation.


  1. In what ways are the systems of Titchener and Watson similar.  In what ways are they different?

The systems of Titchener and Watson share similarities and differences. Both sought to narrow the study of psychology down to a set of principles that could be verified through experimentation. For example, Titchener and Watson believed that psychology’s place was in the laboratory.  In addition, they both broke down human experience into its simplest forms. For example, Titchener would describe the experience of placing his hand in a bucket of water as pressure and coolness. Although most would describe their experience as “their hand being wet” or wetness, to Titchener, “pressure and coolness” were the simplest elements of the experience that comprised wetness. Likewise, Watson broke down human behavior into its simplest forms. According, to Watson human behavior was the result of environmental stimuli and the resulting responses. For behaviorist, the most complex of human behaviors can eventually be broken down into a simple stimulus-response pattern.

However, Titchener and Watson did share some differences. Watson sought to replace the more mentalistic aspects of Titchener system with that which was more suited to behaviorism. For example, Watson did not believe in the use of introspection, as did Titchener. Watson believed that one could only draw conclusion about psychological processes from observing behavior. While Titchener used introspection to study human thought, Watson measured subvocal speech (changes in vocal cords that occur when a person is thinking, but not speaking).


  1. We have encountered three major kinds of mind-body relationships in this course?  Name them, give a brief description of what they are and identify a major school of psychological thought for each of them.

The three kinds of mind-body relationships discussed in this course are as follows: dualism, monism, and parallelism. Dualism is the idea that mind and body are separate. Those who adhere to dualism (dualists) believe that the mind is not a physical thing and, therefore, is not subject to physical laws of nature. Rationalism is often associated with dualism.

Monism is the idea that mind and body are one in the same. Monists believe that the mind and the brain cannot be distinguished from one another. In other words, all mental processes are the result of brain functions. Mechanism is often associated with monism.

Parallelism is the idea that mind and body are separate. Although parallelism holds that the mind and body are separate, it believes that physical and mental events are correlated—running parallel to one another. In other words, the mind and body do not interact, but rather experience the same events simultaneously—albeit separately. Associationism in often associated with parallelism.


  1. What were two examples of ideas expressed by William James in his chapter from your reading, "The Methods and Snares of Psychology" that can be attributed to Francis Bacon's "Idols?"  Briefly state the similarity of the statements.


  1. What are three characteristics that differentiate functional and structural psychologies in the modern period (post 1874).

There are many differences between functional and structural psychologies. Three characteristics that differentiate the two follow.  Functional psychology is concerned primarily with what the mind does. On the other hand, structural psychology seeks to study the mind for no other purpose than for the sake of understanding it. Another difference is how these two psychologies go about understanding the mind. A goal of structural psychology is to break down the mind into its various parts in order to understand each part of the mind separately. In contrast, functional psychology takes a more holistic approach—seeking to understand the mind as it exists in its entirety. Lastly, structural psychology dealt mostly with the study of the normal, adult mind, while functional psychology included much more (such as animal psychology and the psychology of individual differences).


  1. We have read and discussed issues concerning psychophysical dualism, monism and parallelism.  There are other forms of the mind body relationship but discuss the implications of these three views concerning different approaches to psychological thought.

The fundamental mind-body question has great implications in regards to the study of psychology. For example, one’s opinion about various approaches to psychological thought will most certainly be influenced by one’s idea of the mind-body relationship. If one is a dualist, he or she may find it easy to disregard many approaches to psychological thought. Such a person could easily disregard psychology as a whole, and retreat to the notion that the mind is almost like a soul, incapable of being influenced by the laws of nature.

Monist, on the other hand, could easily become too rigid in their view that the mind and body are one. Such a person could come to disregard any psychological process that could not be view via observable behavior. An even more extreme monist may come to view humans as machine or automatons who simply react and respond in a robotic-like fashion to the world around them.

Those who adhere to parallelism are much like those who adhere to dualism, though perhaps not as extreme. Although they believe that functions of the mind coincide with functions of the body, they do not believe they influence or respond to one another. Such an idea accounts for the known physical processes of mental events, while acknowledging that there is still some mystery that surrounds the mind. In my opinion, this view of the mind-body relationship is able to incorporate all that we know about the mind, while acknowledging all that we do not know or may never know.



  1. In what ways was Watson’s Behaviorism different from Chicago Functionalism and in what ways were they similar?

Watson’s Behaviorism and Chicago Functionalism share similarities and differences. They were both concerned with the study human behavior, though Chicago Functionalism allowed for things other than observable behavior (such as the use of introspection to examine mental events). Furthermore, Watson’s Behaviorism and Chicago Functionalism both believed in the utilitarian features of psychology. Both sought to provide proof of their discoveries by providing empirical evidenced through the use of experimentation. Watson’s Behaviorism and Chicago Functionalism are both psychophysical approaches, as well. Lastly, Watson’s Behaviorism was more elemental in nature, as it sought to analyze complex behaviors by reducing them down to their simplest forms. On the other hand, Chicago Functionalism was more holistic in nature.


  1. In what way was Descartes “mechanistic?”

Descartes was mechanistic in some ways. For example, Descartes believed that what separated humans from animals was the mechanistic nature of animals. In addition, Descartes believed that the human body was influenced by mechanistic principles. As a result, he had to expound upon the idea that humans had a mind or soul that did not adhere to mechanistic principles. Because Descartes adhered to mechanistic principles when convenient, some may regard him as mechanistic, as well as a rationalist. Although Descartes would likely not view himself as a mechanistic, and in light of the fact that being both a rationalist and a mechanist is contradictory by nature, Descartes—nevertheless—made use of mechanistic principles.


  1. What approach to psychiatry was Freud’s psychoanalysis a revolt against. What role did Charcot play in this revolution?

Freud’s psychoanalysis was a revolt against the somatic aspects of psychiatry. During Freud’s time, many psychiatrists believed that mental illness was the result of brain dysfunction or brain abnormalities, such as legions on the brain. In contrast, Freud was convinced that many mental disorders were not due to brain abnormalities or dysfunction, but rather resulted from stress, irrational beliefs, or childhood experiences. Charcot, who had a great influence on Freud, was a preeminent neurologist of his time. He observed that symptoms of hysteria change from day to day. Although hysteria often mimicked neurological dysfunction, he was to relieve the symptoms through hypnosis. As a result, he as able to conclude that such symptoms were not due to brain abnormalities.

  1. In the 1930s John B. Watson wrote a letter in which he stated that he was really using only the principles of English Associationism in his experiment on Little Albert.  Looking back at the principles of Locke, Berkeley and Hume, how could you interpret the Little Albert experiment in associationistic terms rather than appealing to classical conditioning?

The Little Albert experiment could just as easily be interpreted using principles of Associationism as principles of conditioning. For example, principles of Associationism are not that much different than principles of conditioning; Associationism just does not define events using the notions of stimulus and stimulus-response. One could argue that Little Albert learned to fear things, which he had previously not feared, by learning to associate something fearful (a loud noise) with another object (such as a mouse or rabbit). Just as Associationists believe that complex ideas, such as touch, are formed via the repeated experiencing of a sensation (hardness or softness) paired with a object, so too can one view the development of Little Albert’s fear as the result of associating a sensation (a loud noise) with an object (mouse or rabbit).



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