behavourism : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread

In the 1950's behavourism lost its position as the prevailing school of thought in Psychology. What were the contributing factors to its demise and how did these factors shape the mentalist approach that was to replace behavourism??????

-- Jo-Anne Townsend (, April 11, 2002


There were many factors. One was the rise of computers as a way of giving cognitive "symbol-processing" a rigorous formulation (see esp. the work of Alan Turing in the early 1950s, and of Alan Newell & Herb Simon in the late 1950s). A second important event was Noam Chomsky's devastating review of B.F. Skinner's book, _Verbal Behavior_. You might have a look at Howard Gardner's book _The Mind's New Science_ for an easy-reading history of the time.

-- Christopher Green (, April 11, 2002.

I recommend the Leahey reference below. Leahey argues there was no cognitive revolution, although he acknowledges a shift in emphasism from behaviorism to cognitivism. Some have suggested that cognitivism is entering its final stages. I like the quotation from Ratliff which suggests the inevitability of behaviorism.

"The simple fact is that there has never been a real choice in the matter, nor is there yet. Our only source of knowledge about other minds is in the overt behavior or in the physiological processes of those organisms in which the mental processes are said to occur. And in this one restricted sense, behaviorism amounts to nothing more that mere acceptance of the inevitable." [The reference for the quotation is: Ratliff, F. (1962). Some interrelations among physics, physiology, and psychology in the tudy of vision. In S. Koch (Ed.). Psychology: A Study of a Science, Biologically oriented fields, Their place in psychology and the biological sciences, Volume 4, pp. 417-482. New York: McGraw-Hill.]


Leahey, T. H. (1992). The mythical revolutions of American psychology. American Psychologist, 47, 308-318.

-- Roger K. Thomas (, April 24, 2002.

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