Article 404: Behaviorism between F.B. Skinner and John Watson

Hasan Yahya, Ph.Ds, Professor of Sociology

To begin with a conclusion made by Gary DeMar, more thaan twenty years ago, reads: “the ethical consequences of behaviorism (as a theory covered socibiology) are great. Man is stripped of his responsibility, freedom, and dignity, and is reduced to a purely biological being, to be “shaped” by those who are able to use the tools of behaviorism effectively.”(1989) To know these consequences we have to know where this conclusion came from.

Behaviorism as a theory originated in the field of psychology, but it has had a much wider influence. Its concepts and methods are used in education, and many education courses at college are based on the same assumptions about man as behaviorism. Behaviorism has infiltrated sociology, in the form of sociobiology, the belief that moral values are rooted in biology.

In short summary of Behaviorism theory, it was originated with the work of John B. Watson, an American psychologist. Watson claimed that psychology was not concerned with the mind or with human consciousness. Instead, psychology would be concerned only with behavior. In this way, men could be studied objectively, like rats and apes.

Today, behaviorism is associated with the name of B.F. Skinner, who made his reputation by testing Watson’s theories in the laboratory. Skinner’s studies led him to reject Watson’s almost exclusive emphasis on reflexes and conditioning. In his discovery, people respond to their environment, he argued, but they also operate on the environment to produce certain consequences.

Watson’s work depends on the experiments of Ivan Pavlov, who had studied animals’ responses to conditioning. To describe Pavlov’s famous experiment, he rang a bell as he fed some dogs several meals. Each time the dogs heard the bell they knew that a meal was coming, and they would begin to salivate. Pavlov then rang the bell without bringing food, but the dogs still salivated. They had been “conditioned” to salivate at the sound…

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