Psychology- Themes and Variations
Chapter 1- The Evolution of Society
Watson Alters Psychology Course as Behaviourism Makes Its Debut
- Founded by John B. Watson (1878-1958), behaviourism is a theoretical orientation based on the
premise that scientific psychology should study only observable behaviour.
- Behaviour refers to any overt (observable) response or activity by an organism.
- The behaviourists eventually came to view psychologys mission as an attempt to relate overt
behaviours (responses) to observable events in the environment (stimuli). A stimulus is any
detectable input from the environment.
- Stimuli can range from light and sound waves to such complex inputs as the words on this page,
advertisements on TV, or sarcastic remarks by a friend.
- Because the behaviourists investigated stimulus-response relationships, the behavioural approach is
often referred to as stimulus-response (S-R) psychology.
- Emphasizing the importance of the environment over heredity, the behaviourists began to explore
stimulus-response relationships, often using laboratory animals as subjects.
Freud Brings the Unconscious into the Picture
- Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian physician who early in his career dreamed of achieving
fame by making important discoveries. Freuds approach to psychology (1900/1953) grew out of his
efforts to treat mental disorders. In his medical practice, Freud treated people troubled by
psychological problems such as irrational fears, obsessions, and anxieties with an innovative
procedure he called psychoanalysis.
- His work with patients and his own self-exploration persuaded Freud of the existence of what he
called the unconscious. According to Freud, the unconscious contains thoughts, memories, and
desires that are well below the surface of conscious awareness but that nonetheless exert great
influence on behaviour. Freud based his concept of the unconscious on a variety of observations. For
instance, he noticed that seemingly meaningless slips of the tongue (such as I decided to take a
summer school curse) often appeared to reveal a persons true feelings.
- The psychoanalytic theory attempts to explain personality, motivation, and mental disorders by
focusing on unconscious determinants of behaviour.
- Freuds ideas were controversial, and they met with resistance in academic psychology. However, as
more psychologists developed interest in personality, motivation, and abnormal behaviour,
psychoanalytic concepts were incorporated into mainstream psychology.
Skinner Questions Free Will as Behaviourism Flourishes
- B.F. Skinner (1904-1990), was emerging as a central figure in behaviourism and the history of
- B.F. Skinner developed a system based on his own philosophy of radical behaviourism that
represented a departure from earlier forms of behaviourism and neo-behaviourism.
- The fundamental principle of behaviour documented by Skinner is deceptively simple: Organisms
tend to repeat responses that lead to positive outcomes, and they tend not to repeat responses that
lead to neutral or negative outcomes.
- Skinner asserted that all behaviour is fully governed by external stimuli. In other words, your
behaviour is determined in predictable ways by lawful principles, just as the flight of an arrow is
governed by the law of physics. According to Skinner, people are controlled by their environment,
not by themselves. Skinner arrived at the conclusion that free will is an illusion.
The Humanist Revolt
- Beginning in the 1950s, the diverse opposition to behaviourism and psychoanalytic theory blended
to a loose alliance that eventually became a new school called humanism.
- Humanism is a theoretical orientation that emphasizes the unique qualities of humans, especially
their freedom and their potential for personal growth.
- Humanists take an optimistic view of human nature. Carl Rogers argued that human behaviour is
governed primarily by each individuals sense of self, or self-conceptwhich animals presumablyPsychology- Themes and Variations
lack. Both Roger and Abraham Maslow maintained that to fully understand peoples behaviour,
psychologists must take into account the fundamental human drive toward personal growth.
- To date, the humanists greatest contribution to psychology that probably been their innovative
treatments for psychological problems and disorders.
Psychology in Canada
- The first experimental laboratory in Canada was established at the University of Toronto in 1891 by
James Mark Baldwin. Rapid growth in Canadian psychology has been evident over the last century.
Psychology Comes of Age as a Profession
- Many psychologists provide a variety of professional services to the public. Their work falls within
the domain of applied psychology, the branch of psychology concerned with everyday, practical
problems. This branch of psychology, so prominent today, was actually slow to develop.
- The first applied arm of psychology to emerge was clinical psychology. Clinical psychology is the
branch of psychology concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of psychological problems and
disorders. Clinicians were a small minority in a field devoted primarily to research.
- Stimulated by the demands of World War II, clinical psychology grew rapidly in the 1950s. Thus,
psychology became a profession as well as a science. This movement toward professionalization
eventually spread to other areas in psychology.
Psychology Returns to Its Roots: Renewed Interest in Cognition and Physiology
- Today, psychologists are showing renewed interest in consciousness (now called ignition) and the
physiological bases of behaviour. Cognition refers to the mental processes involved in acquiring
knowledge. In other words, cognition involves thinking of conscious experience.
- During the 1950s and 1960s, however, research on cognition slowly began to change. The research
of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget focused increased attention on the study of childrens cognitive
development, while the work of Noam Chomsky elicited new interest in the psychological
underpinnings of language. Around the same time, Herbert Simon