Psychology Notes Madhya Pradesh PSC Exam Schools of Thought Part 2

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The Rise of Behaviorism

The Psychology of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner

  • Psychology changed dramatically during the early 20th -century as another school of thought

known as behaviorism rose to dominance.

  • Behaviorism was a major change from previous theoretical perspectives, rejecting the

emphasis on both the conscious and unconscious forces and conflicts.

  • Instead, behaviorism strove to make psychology a more scientific discipline by focusing

purely on observable behavior.

Behaviorism had its earliest start with the work of a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov.

  • Pavlov՚s research on the digestive systems of dogs led to his discovery of the classical

conditioning process:

  • This demonstrated that behaviors could be learned via conditioned associations.
  • Pavlov demonstrated that this learning process could be used to make an association between, environmental stimulus, and a naturally occurring stimulus.

An American psychologist named Watson soon became one of the strongest advocates of behaviorism. Initially outlining the basics principles of this new school of thought in his 1913 paper

Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It, Watson later went on to offer a definition in his classic book Behaviorism (1924) , writing:

“Behaviorism … holds that the subject matter of human psychology is the behavior of the human being. Behaviorism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept. The behaviorist, who has been trained always as an experimentalist, holds, further, that belief in the existence of consciousness goes back to the ancient days of superstition and magic.”

The impact of behaviorism was enormous, and this school of thought continued to dominate for the next 50 years.

  • Psychologist B. F. Skinner furthered the behaviorist perspective with his concept of operant

conditioning, which demonstrated the effect of punishment and reinforcement on behavior.

  • While behaviorism eventually lost its hold on psychology, the basic principles of behavioral

psychology are still widely in use today.

  • Therapeutic techniques such as behavior analysis, behavioral modification and token

economies are often utilized to help children learn new skills and overcome maladaptive

behaviors, while conditioning is used in many situations ranging from parenting to education.

Humanistic Psychology

Psychology՚s “Third Force”

While the first half of the twentieth-century was dominated by psychoanalysis and behaviorism, a

new school of thought known as:

  • Humanistic psychology emerged during the second half of the century.
  • Often referred to as the “third force” in psychology, this theoretical perspective emphasized

conscious experiences.

  • American psychologist Carl Rogers is often considered one of the founders of this school of


  • While psychoanalysts looked at unconscious impulses and behaviorists focused purely on

environmental causes,

  • Rogers believed strongly in the power of free will and self-determination.
  • Psychologist Abraham Maslow also contributed to humanistic psychology with his

famous hierarchy of needs theory of human motivation.

Contemporary Psychology

As you have seen in this brief overview of psychology՚s history, this discipline has seen dramatic growth and change since its official beginnings in Wundt՚s lab.

  • The story certainly does not end here. Psychology has continued to evolve since 1960 and

new ideas and perspectives have been introduced.

  • Recent research in psychology looks at many aspects of the human experience, from the

biological influences on behavior to the impact of social and cultural factors.

  • Today, the majority of psychologists do not identify themselves with a single school of thought. Instead, they often focus on a particular specialty area or perspective, often drawing on ideas from a range of theoretical backgrounds. This eclectic approach has contributed new ideas and theories that will continue to shape psychology for years to come.

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