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Door Veritythompson gepubliceerd op Monday 18 May 17:57

Behaviorism, which defined the attitude of American psychology in the 20th century, radically transformed the whole system of ideas about human psychology. The essence of behaviorism is the statement according to which the subject of psychology is the behavior of the person, not their consciousness. Therefore, this paper will discuss the fundamental problems of behaviorism and its connection with free will, determinism, and reductionism.

Behaviorism claims that human behavior could be controlled through the forming and consolidating reactions to external influences. John Watson was the first scientist who considered himself a behaviorist. In 1913 he published the manifesto entitled ‘Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it’. Watson’s special merit was the exploration of behavior and setting an objective approach in psychology. However, because of the mechanistic approach to the human body, behaviorism was considered as a direction that dehumanizes the human’s identity. This is good idea and one of the most popular topic at the extended essays topics list. 

Behaviorism had a specific approach to human behavior studies. The human consciousness was completely excluded from the study because it had no observable objective methods. The understanding of the behavior was confined to the physical appearances; the unobservable physiological and mental processes were ignored. Due to the mechanistic interpretation of the behavior, the person acted only as a reactive substance, and his/her active nature was not taken into account. Moreover, the results obtained experimentally on animals were implemented without any reservations and restrictions to the person, not taking into account the difference in the quality of human and animal behavior. The motivation, social factor, and the mental image were completely neglected.

Since behaviorism stated that it was possible to control human behavior, it had some conflicts with the conception of free will. Free will is the ability of a person to make a choice, regardless of the specific circumstances. The current approach claims that the human being is able to choose the way of life; therefore, the actions of an individual can not be predicted by any external factors. Such an approach opposes the essential basis of behaviorists. They clearly highlighted that there is no such thing as free will and the ability to choose is a fiction that could not exist as it has no visible features. Moreover, behaviorism states that freedom does not exist; people are absolutely dependent on the learned experience, environment, incentives, and reinforcements. No one has the freedom to choose their own behavior. Therefore, it is obvious that behaviorism denies any type of free will.

Behaviorism has a clear connection with determinism. The first scientific attempts to understand the behavior were based on mechanistic determinism, which was treated by the type of physical factors interaction. Hence, the statements of behaviorism are based on determinism, because every model of behavior is caused by some external or internal factors and there is no place for the uncertainty. Therefore, determinism along with behaviorism excludes free will. Due to such an approach, determinism can be defined as a statement, according to which there is only one given and possible future.

Reductionism also explains the human’s behavior. It claims that behavior is predictable because it consists of small parts. As well as behaviorism, reductionism ignores or denies the existence of the actual right of psychological patterns and mechanisms, depriving the psychology of an independent science status. The psyche is treated as a kind of side effect. In other words, reductionism is a part of behaviorism because it states that the complex behavior of the human should be divided into small variables, which give an opportunity to identify the stimuli and response of the human behavior. Therefore, the exploration of small variables helps to predict the behavior. Additionally, this approach also excludes free will.

To conclude, behaviorism was a completely new approach to studying human behavior. Since it identifies the behavior as the only source of the exploration of human psychology, behaviorism has many fundamental inconsistencies. It denies free will and has a clear connection with determinism and reductionism, which exclude the possibility of choice and claim that behavior is predetermined and could be predictable.


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