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History of Behaviorism ...



Behavior Modification
Learned Helplessness
History of Behaviorism

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Figures in the history of Behaviorism

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov 

(1849-1936): Russian physiologist (Nobel prize for work on digestion, 1904). Pioneer of the theory of "classical conditioning".


Burrhus Frederic Skinner 

(1904-90): Best known of all behaviorists, and explorer of operant conditioning: the process whereby the probability of behavior being repeated is increased if it is reinforced. Positive reinforcement (in sloppy language — reward) is more effective in learning than negative reinforcement (punishment). Developed early "teaching machines", and even described a behaviorist utopia in Walden Two (1961). Various attempts were made to create Walden Two in practice. They all failed. 

 Skinner did say some useful things, among them: 

    "Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."
    in New Scientist  

The Skinner site

Edward Lee Thorndike 

(1874-1949) US animal and later educational psychologist, developed the theory of trial and error learning through experiments with animals having to escape from puzzle boxes. His law of effect describes the establishment of learned responses through "trial and success". The law of exercise describes how learning improves with practice. As an educational psychologist he published a paper in 1901 with Woodworth, undermining the idea of the (necessary) transferability of learning. 

More on him

John Broadus Watson 

(1878-1958): Apostle of Behaviorism, building on Pavlov's ideas to maintain that the reflex was the basic unit of behavior. Claimed: 

"Give me a dozen healthy infants ... and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select — doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors." 

He later qualified this view. Nevertheless it is interesting to note the final phrase: at a time when racism was routine, Watson treated it as irrelevant. The extreme environmentalism of the early behaviorists was politically liberal.

And on him

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