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After Watson's Discoveries

Behaviorism Foundations
John Broadus Watson
Behaviorism Rivalries
After Watson's Discoveries
Related Links

B. F. Skinner, Clark Hull, Edward Tolman, Albert Bandura, Julian Rotter


Among many other neobehaviroists (Tolman, Guthrie, Hull) Skinner became the driving force in the second phase of the school of Behaviorism with his theory of Operant conditioning. The neobehaviorist drive began at about 1930 and ended at about 1960, when the next evolution of Behaviorism would take place. During this first evolution of Behaviorism a new characteristic was introduced, Operationism. Operationism allowed for language and terminology in psychology to be more scientific. Operationism also holds that the validity of any scientific finding or theoretical construct depends on the validity of the operations  used in arriving at that finding.

B. F. Skinner’s entire system is based on Operant Conditioning.  The organism is in the process of “operating” on the environment. During this “operating,” the organism encounters a special kind of stimulus, called a reinforcing stimulus, or simply a reinforcer.  This special stimulus has the effect of increasing the "Operant," this means the behavior is occurring just before the reinforcer. This is operant conditioning:  “the behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organisms tendency to repeat the behavior in the future.”

Tolman, Hull, and Bandura fed off of Skinner's theory and reproduced it with minor modifications. Tolman had the Stimulus-Organism-Response theory, Hull believed that we have drives that control us, and bandura produced the Modeling theory. Tolman's theory introduced the organisms role into the stimulus-response theory, Hull's theory was that we all have an innate drive to maintain a normal state of being and an imperfect balance would lead us to seek the necessary element to restore balance. Bandura's theory of modeling stated that we learn from watching the consequences of others instead of the consequences happening to us. Bandura and Julian Rotter were of the second evolution of behaviorism known as sociobehaviorism which began after the 1960s and still exist today. The core principles of sociobehaviorism were to incorporate the cognitive processes into behavior and to not be as radical as Skinner with his beliefs that mental/cognitive processes do not play a role in behavior. Rotter's contributions to behaviorism were his social learning theory and his locus of control.
To learn more about sociobehaviorism visit this site:

B. F. Skinner

The Decline of Behaviorism

Since the development of cognitive psychology, which appears also to offer an 'objective' approach to the study of the human psyche, behaviorism has generally dropped out of favour. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to say that behaviourism does appear to have revealed in its investigations of conditioning some universal mechanisms by which we detect and store information about our environment. It is also the case that the more recent developments of 'connectionism' have tended to lend support to some of behaviourism's principles, demonstrating as they do that connections in more or less randomly wired networks become strengthened as a result of their experience of reinforcement.

One problem with behaviorism is that its mechanistic explanations of human behavior. Another problem is that the claims made to explain the phenomena of behaviorism were often simply too ambitious (for Skinner mostly). Skinner questioned 'not whether machines think, but whether men do'. I guess one might admire a researcher who insists on starting with a clean slate in such a manner and taking nothing for granted, but to most of us, questioning whether we think, whether we have beliefs, values and emotions is just plain unnecessary.

Skinner's Box