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Comparing Watson, Skinner and Tolman

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Compare and contrast the perspectives of John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner with that of Edward C. Tolman and how each perspective relates to the field of modern-day psychology.

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One approach to help you with an essay assignment is to provide a tentative outline, and then look at research information to consider for each section, which you can draw on for your final copy. This is the approach this response takes.

1. Compare and contrast the perspectives of John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner with that of Edward C. Tolman and how each perspective relates to the field of modern-day psychology.

Like other academic assignments, this paper will included an introduction, body and conclusion. One approach is to compare and contrast the three theories an the following dimensions:

- Theory
- Principles
- Scope/Application (e.g. include how each relates to modern-day psychology)
- Research and writings

Thus, the tentative outline might look something to the effect:

I. Introduction (introduce topic; include purpose statement: The purpose of this paper is to...)

II. John B. Watson
- Theory
- Principles
- Scope/Application
- Research and writings
III. B.F. Skinner
- Theory
- Principles
- Scope/Application
- Research and writings
IV. Edward C. Tolman
- Theory
- Principles
- Scope/Application
- Research and writings
V. Conclusion (tie up main points)

Now, let's take a closer look at some relevant research information that you can consider for each section.

1. John B. Watson:

John B. Watson was an American psychologist born in Greenville, S.C. He taught (1903-8) at the Univ. of Chicago and was professor and director (1908-20) of the psychological laboratory at Johns Hopkins. In 1913, Watson published an article outlining his ideas and indeed established a new school of psychology. It was new because Watson disagreed with Freud and found the latter's views on human behavior philosophical to the point of mysticism (like Skinner). Like Skinnier, Watson also dismissed heredity as a significant factor in shaping human behavior. (1) Watson influenced the work of Skinner, which is implication in behaviorism in it's present day form (e.g, behavioral modification discussed in more detail below).


- Like Skinner, Watson emphasized the study of observable behavior, rejecting introspection and theories of the unconscious mind.
- He originated the school of psychology known as behaviorism, in which behavior is described in terms of physiological responses to stimuli. Watson formed ideas that would become a whole branch of psychology: behaviorism. (1) He influenced the later work of Skinner.
- In The Ways of Behaviorism, Watson states that behaviorism is the scientific study of human behavior. It is simply the study of what people do.
- Behaviorism is intended to take psychology up to the same level as other sciences.
- The first task is to observe behavior and make predictions, then to take determine causal relationships.
- Behavior can be reduced to relationships between stimuli and responses, the S --- R Model. A stimulus can be shown to cause a response or a response can be traced back to a stimulus. All behavior can be reduced to this basic component. According to Watson, "life's most complicated acts are but combinations of these simple stimulus- response patterns of behavior."
- Conditioning is the process of learning to react to the environment. (2)

Assumptions and Principles:

1. Human psychology has failed to make good its claim as a natural science. Due to a mistaken notion that its fields of facts are conscious phenomena and that introspection is the only direct method of ascertaining these facts, it has enmeshed itself in a series of speculative questions which, while fundamental to its present tenets, are not open to experimental treatment. In the pursuit of answers to these questions, it has become further and further divorced from contact with problems, which vitally concern human interest.

2. Psychology, as the behaviorist views it, is a purely objective, experimental branch of natural science which needs introspection as little as do the sciences of chemistry and physics. It is granted that the behavior of animals can be investigated without appeal to consciousness. Heretofore the viewpoint has been that such data have value only in so far as they can be interpreted by analogy in terms of ...

Solution Summary

This solution guide provides a tentative outline for the student to compare and contrast the perspectives of John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner with that of Edward C. Tolman and discuss how each perspective relates to the field of modern-day pyschology. This outline is approaches the compare/contrast exercise by looking at theory, principles, scope/application, and research and writings. This solution guide is 2,397 words, with 16 references, and should provide the student with enough information to build their own paper.