John Watson on Behavior. American Psychologist, Founder of Behaviorism in the United States. Ideas and brief biography of John Watson, American psychologist who championed objective psychology in his behaviorism.
American psychologist John Watson (1878-1958) was the founder of behaviorism in the U.S. His works include Behaviorism (1925) and Psychological Care of the Infant and Child (1928).
In the early 1900s, Watson rejected introspection and advocated a purely objective psychology that would be concerned solely with observable behavior. His point of view continued in the works of B.F. Skinner.
Brief Biography of John Watson
John Broadus Watson was born on January 9, 1878, in Greenville, South Carolina. He had a troubled teenage life. His father left home from extra-marital affairs leaving him and his deeply religious mother to fend for themselves.
He received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago in his mid-20s. Two years later, he married Mary Ickes. The couple have two children and divorced in his early 40s. He re-married a former student, Rosalie Rayner, and they have two sons.
After leaving the academia, he continued his career in the advertising industry along with his ideas and work on behaviorism. He also became a popular author on child-rearing.
John Watson’s Concept of Behaviorism
In his concept of behaviorism, John Watson argued that all animals, including human beings, were complex machines that respond to situations according to the way their brains were “wired” along with the experiences that conditions their minds.
With his concept, Watson believed that this understanding of behavior could lead to ways of treating people suffering from mental disorders.
Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis
At the advent of 20th century, Sigmund Freud was creating his idea of psychoanalysis, the process of introspective questioning in which a person reveals deeply-hidden damaging experiences. Freud’s idea was that a kept issue can be dealt with once identified. Despite Freud ‘s highly acclaimed concept of introspection, John Watson detracted it.
Birth of Watson’s Behaviorism
Five years after getting his Ph.D., Watson was appointed professor of comparative and experimental psychology at John Hopkins University. At this time, he had also developed the foundation of his concept of behaviorism.
In 1913, Watson presented his “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It” in his presidential address to the American Psychological Association. He offered an alternative definition of psychology as the “science of behaviour” in review of the failings or limitations of Freud’s introspective analysis.
A Final Insight on John Watson
In his later years, John Watson started looking at conditioning and controlling people’s emotion. One of the experiments he conducted was known as the “Little Albert” experiment. His test convinced him that human beings had three basic emotional reactions: fear, rage, and love – that such emotions would grab people’s attention forcing them to respond.
Despite criticisms that he made no attempt to explain the physical processes in the brain where his findings of behaviour underlie, he worked towards making psychology into a true science. John Watson also contributed his ideas largely as author and advertising executive.