Perspectives of Watson, Skinner, and Tolman: Theories on Behavior

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Various perspectives on behavior have changed the face of psychology over the centuries. Some of the most influential of these theories on behaviorism were made by John B. Watson, B.F. Skinner, and Edward C. Tolman. The manner in which behavior is modified has become a growing debate in the aspect of which technique is more reliable and effective. The theories from these three men have become a foundation for many different schools of thought throughout modern psychology. Through their research, many modern psychologists have grown a better knowledge on why people react and behave during certain situations or in different environments. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the various theories of Watson and Skinner to that of Tolman.
John B. Watson
John Broadus Watson (1878-1958) has become well known for being the founder of behaviorism as a school of thought throughout American psychology. His view on psychology consisted of seeing it as a science of observation on behaviors. He believed that one must first observe a behavior in a certain environment or situation, then predict and determine the connection between the two. Much of his theory was based on the work of Ivan Pavlov’s observations through classical conditioning. Watson claimed that the process of classical conditioning could be used to explain any behavioral factor in human psychology. Classical conditioning involves the pairing of two different stimuli in producing a learning response from the participant. His belief on the topic was that single differences in behavior were caused by different experiences of learning.
The most famous study by Watson was the “Little Albert” experiment, which he performed with his colleague, Rosalie Raynor. This study in...

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...theory was based on classical conditioning in behavior, while Skinner thought behavior could be modified through operant conditioning. However, Tolman’s theory was based more on the aspect of internal cognitive motivations or goals toward behavior and he did not believe in conditioned behavior.

Works Cited

Bergmann, G. (1956). The contribution of John B. Watson. Psychological Review, 63(4), 265-276. Retrieved from

Goddard, M. J. (2012). ON CERTAIN SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MAINSTREAM PSYCHOLOGY AND THE WRITINGS OF B. F. SKINNER. The Psychological Record, 62(3), 563-575. Retrieved from

Tolman, E. C. (1954). Freedom and the cognitive mind. American Psychologist, 9(9), 536-538. Retrieved from

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