Watson & Behaviourism

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What do you think Watson would say if he was to write about behaviourism today? Would his views have changed?

-- Andrea Santoz (squah82@yahoo.co.uk), March 02, 2005


Generally speaking, historical "what if" questions like this are impossible to answer because there are too many indeterminate variables floating around. For instance, do you mean, what if Watson had lived until now (and was 127 years old)? Then he probably wouldn't be intellectually very active and would probably hold views similar to those during his active career. Do you mean, what if he had been born, say, 60 years later and now were near the end of his career? Then he would have been raised in an entirely different intellectual climate than he was and of course his views would be different. Do you mean, what if he were now 127 but had remained intellectually active all this time? Who knows what his views would be. No one has ever been active so long and so it is impossible to tell to what degree his views might have changed. Note that Skinner lived well into the cognitive era but never accepted it, calling it the "creation science" of psychology in one of his last public addresses.

-- Christopher Green (christo@yorku.ca), March 02, 2005.

Hi Andrea, I agree with Christopher's comments, but I will still try to speculate on your question of how Watson would write about behaviorism if he were still usefully active in psychology today. Two things come to mind. One is that Watson as a yound man was involved in ethological-type research, which might make him more open to more hereditary and biological influences that are typically taken into account in psychology today. The other thing is that many strict behaviorists, younger than Watson or Skinner, did live to see the so-called cognitive, evolutionary, and biological revolutions in modern psychology, and many of them shifted their views in new directions. On the other hand, some theoretical leaders may have so much self-esteem tied up in their theories that it is extremely difficult to change, particularly when they were correct about so many other things. Possible this was the case with Skinner. I hope this wild speculation on my part helps. Paul

-- Paul Kleinginna (prk@frontiernet.net), March 03, 2005.

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