30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
Old School, New School
Early psychologists investigated thinking by inspecting their own thoughts and the reports of the thoughts of others. The behaviourists rejected this method. Science, they argued, must be based on data that everyone can agree on, something reliable and objectively measurable. This means abandoning talk and reports of thoughts, and concentrating on simple behaviours. Rather than rely on subjective impressions, behaviourists conducted experiments in which the inputs (’stimuli’) were controlled and the outputs (’responses’) were measured. They hoped that from these experiments the relationship between the two could be inferred, with no need to worry about the intervening black box of the mind. For example, a rat in a cage would get a food reward every third time it pressed a lever. By recording the number of times that the rat pressed the lever, over time you could get an objective record of its rate of learning. Like this example, the most famous findings of behaviourism are about fundamental learning mechanisms that describe how associations with stimuli and responses are learned due to repetition or reward. The emphasis on simple behaviours allowed the behaviourists to develop theories that applied to non-human animals as well as humans.
The only reliable evidence is something you can measure directly. For psychology this means we should only talk about behaviour, not about mental states.
Modern psychology rejects the core idea of behaviourism (that it is impossible to scientifically discuss the structure of the mind). Despite this, many aspects of behaviourism remain central to modern psychology. These include the emphasis on recording objective measures in controlled experiments, the common study of psychological phenomena in non-human animals as well as in humans and psychologists’ keen interest in learning.
THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION
CLARK L. HULL
EDWARD C. TOLMAN
JOHN B. WATSON
The behaviourists were uninterested in the ’black box’ of the mind, choosing to focus instead only on what is outwardly observable.