Introduction to the History of Psychology

Chapter 12 of the Introduction to the History of Psychology by Hergenhahn (2000) discusses the school of behaviorism as a school that envisions psychology as a study of human behavior. The primary objective of the chapter is to demonstrate that John B. Watson, the official “founder” of behaviorism, did not create a unique approach in psychology; rather, he synthesized ideas and thoughts that were prevalent for the zeitgeist.

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Hergenhahn (2000) supports his idea by providing main arguments employed by Russian objective psychologists. The author discussed ideas of Ivan Sechenov who believed that human behavior is not caused by thoughts but rather by external stimulation to illustrate how physiological approach to psychology evolved. Similarly, the author discusses the approach to behavior adopted by Pavlov, who considered that humans are continuously experiencing a wide range of stimuli that either inhibit or elicit human behavior. Finally, the author illustrates novel developments in physiology by providing account of Bechterev’s work. The author uses work of these scientists to illustrate that prior to emergence of behaviorism, psychology as a science was criticized for its introspective approach. Thus, the author arrives to the purpose of psychology formulated by John B. Watson, namely, to predict and control human action.

Although Hergenhahn (2000) provides an account of Watson’s major opponent, McDougall, he does not dedicate specific attention to other opponents of the behavioristic approach. The fact that the author chose to leave out major critics of Watson’s approach leaves many questions unanswered. While the author gives a detailed account of how behaviorism evolved, little or no information is provided on how behaviorists responded to primary critique of their understanding of the purpose of psychology. Furthermore, the author does not provide any information regarding primary problematic points that arose in discussions between behaviorists.

In Chapter 13 of the Introduction to the History of Psychology by Hergenhahn (2000) the impact of logical positivism on behavioral psychology is discussed. By showing that logical positivism allowed psychologists theorize without abolishing the objective approach to science, Hergenhahn (2000) shows how neobehaviorism evolved. The author argues that logical positivism was the primary reason why neobehaviorism evolved into a separate branch of psychological science.

The author uses biographical account of works of such psychologists as Tolman, Hull, Guthrie, and Skinner to illustrate his primary argument. The author evaluates their role in contemporary psychology. In particular, he points out that contemporary psychology is still clashing with problems that were in one or another form resolved by behaviorists. In the chapter, the author elaborates extensively on why some of the major ideas of behaviorists concerning primary problems of psychology were abandoned. The author pointed out that although logical positivism became the reason for neobehaviorism to evolve it also became the primary reason why neobehaviorist ideas were abandoned.

While the author attempts to make an account of the ideas and approaches of behaviorists that still characterize modern psychology, he does not make a sufficient acknowledgement of the legacy of this school. Rather, Hergenhahn (2000) makes a series of short and brief statements of why behaviorism is still important for contemporary psychology. This leaves out a series of questions, namely, what trace behaviorism left in contemporary psychological science and what approaches used by early behaviorists and neobehaviorists are still used now.

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