The strengths and weaknesses of Behaviorism Essay
The main scientific psychological arguments on behaviorism as a valid source of psychological data.
Why is behaviorism considered to be a vital part of psychology?
Why do mental processes possess no interest for the behaviorists?
What can human behavior tell about the person?
Mental events in behaviorism are not considered suitable for any scientific study and for getting any data from them. All the assumptions made by behaviorists are to be supported with a practical experiment and as mental processes cannot not, therefore they posses no interest for the behaviorists.
The strengths and weaknesses of Behaviorism Essay
"The objection to inner states is not that they do not exist,
but that they are not relevant in a functional analysis"
Introduction. Behaviorism is a point of view in psychology directed to a scientific study of the behavior of a man and animal behavior. It has always caused a lot of arguments in the scientific world. Behaviorists deny the mind of a human being and consider behavior to be the only vital object of psychological studies. Neglecting the mind in a psychological theory is a huge gap that cannot be filled. Nowadays, when psychologists speak about different states of consciousness that are possible to achieve it is especially important review all the strength and weakness of behaviorism. Mental events in behaviorism are not considered suitable for any scientific study and for getting any data from them. All the assumptions made by behaviorists are to be supported with a practical experiment and as mental processes cannot not, therefore they posses no interest for the behaviorists.
Weaknesses. Behaviorism examines human and nonhuman beings from the point of view of the behavior they demonstrate. The base of behaviorism lies in understanding the behavior of people and animals as a combination of movements, verbal and emotional answers (reaction) to the influences (stimulus) of external ambience corresponding to these movements. In other words it is the simple scheme S > R. The main weakness of behaviorism lies in its attempt to explain all the actions of a person only through visible phenomena, claiming the impossibility to directly observe the phenomenon of consciousness. So the main opposition that behaviorists face from the psychological world is that behavior of a person cannot by any means be interpreted leaving aside the mental activity. So behavior remains a learned association that was once supported or punished. Seems rather hard to explain all of the behavioral acts of a person in terms of his past experienced. At this point behaviorist starts neglecting the innate abilities of every person. Sometimes the reactions people demonstrate have nothing to do with their experience therefore they have another source – mental activity. Enviroment certainly plays a great role in the life of people, but nevertheless it is very hard to interpret the behavior of people only focusing on the environmental factor. Behaviorism in some way neglects the individualism of every person making general behavioral patterns for everybody. Behaviorists assume that people are not responsible for what they do and how they act and are similar to “machines reproducing old records”. Behaviorists need to realize the importance of inner processes and start asking the question: Do we cry because we feel sad, or do we feel sad because we cry? And may be convert the weakness of their theory into its strength. Another very important thing is the impossibility to explain creative activity from the point of view of behaviorism, thought these achievements do not fit the general scheme presented by behaviorism. It is possible to manipulate people through behaviorism and the responses one needs from them which can be viewed as the violation of human rights.
Strengths. Of course all these statements above can be argued but nevertheless it would be unfair not to mention the strength of behaviorism. Behaviorism tends to predict the behavior in certain circumstances. The possibility to predict gives the key to controlling the behavior and therefore to avoid unnecessary reactions. Behaviorism has changed, understanding the impossibility to neglect the cognitive processes. So nowadays the scheme S > R is complemented with an "intermediate variable" between them which represents collection of different cognitive and stimulating factors. This changed makes behaviorism more suitable for the contemporary psychology. Another strength to mention is the orientation on positivism presented so strongly in behaviorism. The idea of rewards and punishment of behaviorism can be sometimes useful in order to “shape” the required behavior, especially with kids in order to make their reactions socially acceptable. Therefore if used professionally right it may help to help a person adjust in the society.
Conclusion. It goes without saying that behaviorism has made a enormous contribution into the development of psychology. And as every psychological theory it has its strengths and weaknesses. Of course, the denial of the importance of mental processes in a person’s conduct is a very serious defect from the point of view of different groups of psychologists. Nevertheless, as behaviorism as its positive and negative aspects it is very important to outline the meaning of a professional using the “tools of behaviorism”, because in the right hands it may bring good results and help people. And through this theory causes a lot of disputes it does have certain aspects that other theories can learn from.
1. Skinner, B. F. 1953. Science and Human Behavior. New York: Macmillan.
2. O'Donnell, J. 1985. The Origins of Behaviorism: American Psychology, 1870-1920. New York: NYU Press.