Print Email Download Reference This Send to Kindle Reddit This
submit to reddit

Study of Behaviorism Neo Behaviorism and Gestalt Psychology

John B. Watson (1878 – 1958) was known as the father of behaviorism. Watson did not believe that the definition of psychology was the science of the mind. He believed that psychology should be viewed as a “purely objective experimental branch of natural science” and that the goal of the psychologist is not to understand the mind but to understand behavior. (Wozniak, 1997) Watson’s studied behavioristic psychology in neonates at the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore. Hothersall stated that Watson found that there were three main classes of emotional responses that were distinguishable in human neonates: fear, rage, and love. These emotions were elicited by a set of certain stimuli. (Hothersall, 2004, pp. 471 – 472) Watson also conducted experiment and believed that children should be kept on a very strict schedule. He believed that children should not be hugged, kissed, and that they should be treated as little adults. (Wozniak, 1997) Watson began research with a child named Albert who was a child of one of the nurses in the Hospital. Albert was chosen because of his temperament. Watson wanted to study conditioning behavior of fear in a child. He wanted to see if a child could be conditioned to fear, the reconditioned to resolve tat same fear. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 472) Watson’s behavior conditioning of fear was a success and was a widely known research project. He had now proved that fear can be acquired through conditioning and that most fear was probably acquired through a constant exposure. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 474) Albert was removed from the program by his mother before he could be reconditioned to not fear the animals that he were conditioned to fear. Eventually, Watson discovered a new subject whose fears were actually similar to little Albert’s fears. Watson and his assistant Jones began to use conditioning methods on Peter to cure him of his fears. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 477) Peter’s conditioning went from fear to indifference to him being fond of rabbits. Watson kept in touch with Peter and his family and Peter remained found of rabbits for quite some time after the direct conditioning had finished. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 478) After Watson’s forced resignation from John’s Hopkins Department of Psychology, he went to work in advertising. Because he understood advertising from a psychologist view, he was able to apply his behaviorist psychology to advertising and use behaviorism to sell products. He was able to use demographics surveys to target consumers. Watson was a very successful advertiser and was also the first to use radio effectively for advertising. (Hothersall, 2004, pp. 476 – 477) Watson was a very successful advertiser but was never able to return to academics which was his love.

2. Compare and Contrast the "Little Albert" and "Peter" case studies.

Watson’s study of children led him to the two case studies of fear in children. Watson’s research with children began at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore in 1916. Adolf Meyer was sympathetic to Watson’s behaviorism and allowed him to set up a research laboratory at the clinic where he studied child development. At Phipps he studied more than 500 infants. He studied their reflexes and emotional reactions. He believed that the newborns had a number of reflexes but only 3 main classes of emotional responses: fear, rage, and love. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 471) Watson experimented with a normal developing baby at an invalid hospital whose mother was a nurse at the hospital. Watson wanted to see if he could condition the child to elicit a fear response. First he began to create a fear in the child by striking a pole with a hammer until the child became afraid of the sound. Once Little Albert was afraid of the sound, Watson paired the sound to an animal that Little Albert was not afraid of. Whenever Little Albert would reach for the animal, the experimenter would strike the pole with the hammer. At first, little Albert would pull away from the animal. By the third attempt to pair the animal with the sound, Little Albert would cry. Once he elicited the responses that Watson was hoping for, Watson would then begin to introduce more animals to see if Little Albert’s fear would cross over from animal to the other. The experimenter would now introduce other animals and objects to Little Albert. Watson received the results that he was looking for. Although Little Albert never finished the study, the Little Albert study is extremely important in psychology.   The research conducted on Little Albert had a tremendous effect on the world.  Watson’s research and experiments continue to influence psychology and therapy. (Little Albert, 2009) Because Little Albert didn’t complete the study, Watson was left without a subject and without the result he was looking for in order to show that people can also be conditioned to not fear. The case of Peter made it possible for the experiment to continue where Dr. Watson had left off. First Watson would have to condition Peter to not fear a stimulus. Once the fear of the stimuli was gone, he would have to test to see if the resolution of the fear of that stimulus had transferred to his fear of other stimuli. (Green, 2001) Peter was overly afraid of a white rat which transferred to a white rabbit, a fur coat, a feather, and cotton wool. Te begin unconditioning Peter, he was shown a white rat. When he was shown the rat while sitting in the crib, he begins to cry. Afterwards, Peter was sat in a chair as he watched one of the experimenters handle the rat without fear. Peter was then gradually exposed to a white rabbit. Tolerance began with stage A bringing the rabbit into the room in a cage to stage F being free in the room to stage Q nibbling on Peter’s fingers. These degrees of toleration were represented in stages in which the improvement or tolerance occurred. Some things that the stages did not show was the set-backs that Peter experienced such as a sudden change or fear of the rabbit again or the longer time it would take to reach the next stage. (Green, 2001) Watson and Jones research and experiments with Peter found that the most effective method for overcoming fear was direct conditioning to that fear. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 477)

3. What are the major tenants of Gestalt psychology as developed by Wertheimer, Kohler, and Koffka? How do their ideas oppose those of Watson's Behaviorism?

Initially the three founders of Gestalt (meaning shape or form) Psychology, Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler were all German Psychologist whose interest included perception, learning, problem solving, and cognition. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 207)

Max Wertheimer (1880 – 1943) was a young Jewish boy whose parents sent him to study at a Catholic Gymnasium. They also taught him Hebrew and the Torah while at home. His parents bought him the collective works of Baruch Spinoza, a philosopher. He attended the University of Prague where he studied law. He became interested in Psychology and studied under Stumpf at the University of Berlin. He received his Doctorial degree under Kulpe at the University of Wurzburg. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 208) Kurt Koffka (1886 – 1941) was born in Berlin and attended the University of Berlin and earned his PhD in 1909. Koffka had studied movement phenomena under Stumpf at the University of Berlin. (Green, 2000) Wolfgang Kohler (1887 – 1967) was born in Reval and earned his PhD in 1909 at the University of Berlin under Stumpf. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 209)

As Rallman stated, “Gestalt is the German word for form, and as it applied in Gestalt psychology it means unified whole or configuration. The essential point of gestalt is that in perception the whole is different from the sum of its parts.” (Rallman, 2010) Wertheimer, Kohler, and Koffka began working together after Wertheimer consulted with Professor Schumann of the Psychological Institute at the University of Frankfurt about some questions that he had. Wertheimer wanted to know where movement came from. His work with Kohler and Koffka led to phi phenomenon and the 4 principles of Gestalt Theory (Holistic Thinking, Phenomenological Basis, Methodology, and Isomorphism). (Hothersall, 2004, p. 209) Gestalt Psychology differed from Behaviorism because behaviorism was founded on the idea’s that people can change their behaviors. Its basis is that the person can control the mind and their behavior. Gestalt psychology grew out of perceptual theories and its basis is looks at the human mind and behavior as a whole. (Hothersall, 2004, pp. 209-211) The basis of Gestalt Theory is that the form is always a constant. No matter how the sensation or surroundings change, the form remains constant. (Hothersall, 2004, pp. 207 – 208)

4. Outline the major ideas of the Neo-Behaviorists: Tolman, Guthrie, Hull, and Skinner.

Edward Chace Tolman (1886 – 1959) was a Psychologist born in Massachusetts and the brother of a famous Physicist. Tolman received his Bachelors from MIT, but didn’t want to feel like he was following in his brothers footsteps. He changed universities to Harvard University where he studied Philosophy and Psychology. He received his PhD in Psychology in 1915. (Hothersall, 2004, pp. 487-488) Tolman’s theory of Neo-behaviorism is rooted in Gestalt psychology and Behaviorism.

Edwin Ray Guthrie (1886 – 1959) was an American Philosopher and Behaviorist Psychologist. Guthrie showed academic talent even as a young boy. Guthrie was a mathematics major at the University of Nebraska and received his Master’s and PhD in Philosophy. (Hothersall, 2004, p 496) Guthrie’s most important contribution to psychology was his theory of learning or what he called his point of view or his rudiments of a system of learning. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 498) In his book, The Psychology of Learning, he stated that the principle of contiguity in similar words: “a combination of stimuli which has accompanied a movement will on its recurrence tend to be followed by that movement”. (Hothersall, 2004, p 499-500) Guthrie's work played an important part in understanding all the processes that take place as people develop the knowledge and develop the skills which help them to interact successfully with the environment and with the people around them. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 499)

Clark Leonard Hull (1884 – 1952) attended a one room school where he took all of the courses and taught there for a year. As a child he had a strong need to succeed. Because of his need to succeed, he spent long hours working and studying. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 504) After taking a one year break due a typhoid infection, Hull entered the Alma College studying mining engineering. After his second year at Alma College, he has a severe attack of poliomyelitis which left one of his legs paralyzed. Because of his paralysis, Hull would not be able to have a successful career as a mining engineer and decided to study either religion or psychology. (Hothersall, 2004, pp. 504-505) Hull graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA degree and a year later he entered the University of Wisconsin where he was assigned as a research assistant to Joseph Jastrow. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 505) While Hull’s work on aptitude and hypnosis was important, his attempt to develop a comprehensive behavior system was his most important contribution. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 506) His work was cited in the American Journal of Experimental Psychology more than any other Psychologist from 1949 – 1952. Hulls contributions were recognized by his colleagues and he attained the presidency of the American Psychological Association as well as being elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1936. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 513)

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904 – 1990) attended Hamilton College in Upstate New York and aspired to be a writer. After graduating, he set-up a study and spent a year trying to write. At the end of the year, he concluded that he had nothing to write and begin a new career. Skinner purchased Watson’s books on Behaviorism. After Skinner read Pavlov’s book, he decided that his future was in psychology. (Hothersall, 2004, p. 515) He invented the operant conditioning chamber and developed his own philosophy of science. Skinner’s radical behaviorism sought to understand reinforcement on behaviors. (Hothersall, 2004, pp. 517 – 519) To Skinner, reinforcement is integral in the shaping of a person’s behavior. Skinner’s radical behaviorism and operant conditioning is used in child rearing, teaching, and business now. (Hothersall, 2004, pp. 524 – 528)

Print Email Download Reference This Send to Kindle Reddit This

Share This Essay

To share this essay on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ just click on the buttons below:

Request Removal

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please click on the link below to request removal:

Request the removal of this essay.


More from UK Essays