What is Behaviorism?

What is Behaviorism?

July 1, 2021 Off By Felso

Behaviorism is the name given to the field of psychology that studies human and animal behavior. The American psychologist John Watson (1878-1958), applying positivism and pragmatism to psychology, argued that psychology is a science of behavior.

According to him, neither the sense that perceives the matter nor the spirit that realizes thought can be observed, but the behaviors performed by the muscles and glands can be observed. Objectivity is neither hearing nor thinking, but acting. If we want to achieve an objective psychology in accordance with the positivist and pragmatist view (in which case psychology no longer has spirit and becomes behaviourisme), we must study behavior as external values, not feelings and thoughts, which are internal values.

In other words, it doesn’t matter what people hear or think, it matters what they do. Our investigations on this subject will show us that there is no separation of stages between human behavior and animal behavior. For example, a person flees from a danger, and so does an animal.

Both behaviors are the same and human intelligence plays no role in this behavior. So what matters is neither material perception nor conscious soul, but behavior. Behavior is an action to conform to the environment.

According to Watson, a positivist and pragmatist, science can only deal with observable phenomena. For example, the conscious feature of an experienced excitement is not important, its reactive feature in the organism is important. We can tell when an animal is angry by its behavior, we cannot examine its consciousness. In this respect, man is no different from the animal. We do not know what is going on in his personal consciousness, we can know his behavior. Behaviorism thus denies reason, consciousness, sense, and heredity, and only makes observations in a positivist field.


Behavioral approach in psychology emerged in the early 1900s as a movement against the structuralist and functionalist approaches of some psychologists. This movement criticized the way that states of consciousness were handled by subjective methods called introspection, and suggested that psychology as a science should focus on “behaviors” that can be directly observed and measured.

In particular, the article “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It” published by John B. Watson in 1913 broke new ground in this regard. In the article, Watson defined the main features of this new perspective in psychology and named it “behaviorism” and also made the name of the approach.

Behaviorists argued that psychology, which claims to be a science, should be objective and use the experimental method, like other positive sciences. For this reason, they abandoned classical methods such as introspection and moved psychology from the clinical environment to the laboratory environment. According to them, behavior can be handled and studied objectively in a laboratory setting. Mind, mind, understanding, will, etc. Since concepts such as these cannot be examined objectively, they have no scientific value and should be ignored.

Behaviorists have argued that the principles of learning operate in the same way in all living things, whether humans or animals. A mouse, a cat, a dog, etc. There is no difference between learning and human learning in terms of learning processes. For this reason, when talking about learning, they preferred to use the concept of organism (living) instead of human or individual concepts. Based on this principle, they generalized the results of their experiments on animals to humans.


According to the behaviorist approach, the human mind is innately like a blank slate. Except for some simple reflexive behaviors from birth, there is no established behavior pattern in humans. All the behaviors developed by man are acquired later, in certain environments. In other words, almost everything that a person does has been learned. Therefore, learning is the most fundamental issue in the behaviorist approach.

According to the behavioral theory, learning is the observable changes that occur in an individual’s behavior. Learning is the association between stimuli and responses or behaviors. Stimulants occur in certain environments. For example, the classroom environment can be thought of as an environment that contains certain stimuli. Learning is considered as the process of associating certain behaviors with certain stimuli in this environment.

Thus, according to the behavioral approach, learning is affected by environmental factors rather than the individual’s mental processes. Behaviorists have preferred to use the term “conditioning” instead of “learning” because they claim that the process of behavior change is affected not by the mental processes of the individual, but by environmental conditions, and that certain stimuli are associated with certain behaviors and that the same behaviors are exhibited in similar situations. Because the organism is not active during learning. Behavior is embedded in stimuli that elicit and/or reinforce the behavior. Learn behavioral theorists