Behaviorism

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Two behaviorists have sex. One turns to the other and says, "That was good for you; how was it for me?"

Behaviorism is a doctrine in psychology that holds that all human behavior is a result of environmental conditioning, and can be studied and predicted like any other natural science. As a consequence of this viewpoint, Behaviorists believe that human behavior can, in fact, be molded to the desired ends by appropriate intentional conditioning. Conversely, behaviorists held that much neurotic or psychotic behavior is the result of anti-social or self-destructive behavior resulting from harmful conditioning while growing up in a dysfunctional family (Stefan Molyneux also argues this point).

Part of the philosophical underpinning for behaviorism was that, in order to create a more scientific approach to psychology, it was necessary to dispose of concepts that were not observable or falsifiable. The behaviorists thus dispensed with the concept of the unconscious or subconscious mind and concentrated on quantifiable and observable phenomena.

Behaviorism was originally based on the research of Ivan Pavlov, of the famous salivating dogs. While most people are familiar with his conditioning of dogs to salivate when they were fed after the ring of a bell, few are aware of the fact that he measured very precisely the quantity of saliva excreted by each dog, documenting the fall off in response as the conditioned response was extinguished over time in the absence of the reward of food associated with the sound of the bell.

Other early proponents of behaviorism include Edward Thorndike and James Watson. Watson notably rejected any role for introspection in the study of psychology. Although behaviorists shared some common ground with those of the psychoanalytic school like Sigmund Freud, the heavy emphasis on experimentation in addition to eschewing introspection for the most put the two schools at odds with each other theoretically. B. F. Skinner helped establish behaviorism as a dominant school of thought in the 20th century and formulated his own variant, Radical Behaviorism.

During the 1950s and '60s, behaviorism began to fall out of favor. It was not so much displaced as it was subsumed by the "cognitive revolution," in which psychologists began to incorporate knowledge and methods from linguistics and the growing fields of neuroscience and computer science. Noam Chomsky's critique of Skinner in 1959 is sometimes used as the demarcation line, though the switch-over was not immediate. The experimental techniques developed by behaviorists are employed by today's cognitive psychologists, who reintroduced the use of introspection. Fusing experimental techniques with introspection became easier as modern brain imaging techniques like fMRI and PET scans became available and cognitive modeling and artificial intelligence became more advanced as computers became more efficient. Cognitive models of the conscious and unconscious mind, however, are generally computational in nature and bear little to no resemblance to the ideas that the psychoanalysts developed from the use of introspection. Another movement displacing behaviorism for a time was "third wave" or humanistic psychology, which emphasized innate individual goodness and capacity for change; it was a "touchy-feely" reaction against the excesses of behaviorism but has since fallen out of vogue.

Albert Bandura is widely considered to be one of, if not the, most prominent behaviorist psychologist.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the theories of behaviorism and cognitive psychology.

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