Behaviorism: General Characteristic And Types

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Behaviorism can best be described as a theory of behaviors that can be observed and are learned through the environment. Behaviorism started in 1913 because of John Watson wrote an article entitled “Psychology as the Behaviorist views it”. We learn our behaviors through operant or classical conditioning. There are three types of Behaviorism which are methodical, logical, and radical. Theories that need to be supported by observable data are obtained through observation and the measurement of behavior. “Watson (1913) stated that: ‘Psychology as a behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is … prediction and control.’ (p. 158). Behaviorism is mostly concerned with behavior that can be observed, rather than thinking or emotion.

The first type of behaviorism is called Radical Behaviorism which can be described as talking to oneself. The theorist who established Radical Behaviorism was B.F Skinner. It involved environmental factors that are in the outside world. This type of Behaviorism can sometimes cause anxiety. Radical behaviorism uses operant conditioning which states “the behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organism’s tendency to repeat the behavior in the future,” (McLendon, 2011)

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An example of an experiment using Radical conditioning is “Imagine a rat in a cage. This is a special cage (called, in fact, a “Skinner box”) that has a bar or pedal on one wall that, when pressed, causes a little mechanism to release a food pellet into the cage. The rat is bouncing around the cage, doing whatever it is rats do, when he accidentally presses the bar and — hey, presto! — a food pellet falls into the cage! The operant is the behavior just before the reinforcer, which is the food pellet, of course. In no time at all, the rat is furiously peddling away at the bar, hoarding his pile of pellets in the corner of the cage.” (McLendon, 2011)

Methodical Behaviorism is based on the ability to predict and control the behavior of organisms. It should not control mental states or the processing of behavior. This type of Behaviorism deals with how an organism will respond to outside stimulus. The theorist who created this Methodical behaviorism wanted the organism to be able to control their behaviors that would affect them externally.

John B Watson grew tired of arguing with the structuralists and he challenged the view of functionalism with the science of behavior. “Watson believed that phobias are learned through the process of conditioning and set out to prove it. “(CICCARELLI, 2016) He also wanted to prove that all behavior was the result of a stimulus-response relationship that can be described by Pavlov. One of Watson’s students Mary Cover jones decided to repeat Watson and Rayner’s experiment, but she added training that would cancel out the reaction of the baby to the white rat.

Logical Behaviorism helps to avoid a theory called substance dualism. Believing is considered a family of tendencies in the body. For a logical behaviorist, we cannot identify that the belief about my arrival is a part of this family of tendencies. Cause and effect are taught.

Psychological behaviorism has roots starting with people such as John Locke and David Hume. The associations that enable creatures to discover the world. Association can be viewed as the accumulation of knowledge about the relations between events. Intelligence in behavior can be the mark of such knowledge.

Radical behaviorism combines all forms of behaviorism. It follows an analytical structure by paraphrasing mental terms behaviorally, when or if they cannot be eliminated. That makes it a form of methodological behaviorism. Radical behaviorism understands how behavior reflects the effects among different stimuli, which makes it a form of psychological behaviorism.

Behaviorism was popular among students of behavior starting from the third decade of the twentieth century through the middle decades of the twentieth century. Among the psychologist’s behaviorism became more popular to people such as Pavlov, Skinner, Thorndike, and Watson. Behaviorism generated a therapy call behavior therapy. It helped develop behavior management techniques for autistic children and token economies for the management of schizophrenics. This fueled discussions on how to understand the behavior of nonhuman animals.

Behaviorism eventually stumbled upon some difficulties with its commitments. One difficulty was the confusion of reinforcement. The problem with this definition is it defines a reinforcer as a stimulus that changes behavior. The theorists who created behaviorism stated that there are certain behaviors that can be learned through observation. For example, when a child gets scared, they learned it through watching their parents get scared and how they reacted to the situation and then imitated the behavior.

There was an experiment called “Little Albert” in which theorists trained Albert to fear a white rat by making a loud sound which cause him to be scared every time he saw a white rat. Then they also tried to scare him with other animals and items that are white such as a rabbit, a dog and a sealskin coat and Albert was still scared. Another experiment was called little peter which trained Peter to not be fearful of the white rabbit by offering him his favorite food when Peter showed that he was not afraid of the rabbit.

Behaviorism also lead to few other theories and perspectives. An example of one of the perspectives is cognitive psychology which dealt with the study of mental processes. It also led to the development of behavior therapy. Everyone one is born with certain behaviors that can affect other people.

Every Behavior that is learned leads to a set of responses regarding different stimuli.

Behaviors that are part of everyday life that comes with consequences. Children are always exposed to new and different stimuli everyday so they can learn to react to them in a variety of ways. Most Behaviors are learned when we are born. When kids see their parent react to stimulus a certain way the child will also react the same way that their parent did. As we grow up, we learn different things and it teaches us to experience certain things a multitude of ways. One experiment was conducted, and it was teaching a dog to salivate every time they heard a bell it would mean that they are getting food. a salivating dog.

Behaviors are established by social cues and facial cues to understand how to react to a situation. These situations can either be positive or negative depending on what is going on in the environment around them. If we learn more about Behaviorism, we can be able to better understand people’s behaviors and how they influence other people around us. For example, if there is an argument someone has reacted in a negative way. A lot of times arguments can be avoided if we would learn to listen to what other people are saying without judgement.


  1. Ciccarelli, S. (2016). Psychology: Books a la carte edition. Place of publication not identified: Prentice Hall.
  2. Green, C. D. (n.d.). Classics in the History of Psychology. Retrieved from
  3. McLendon, K. (2011, April 26). Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism. Retrieved from
  4. Moore, J. (2013). Methodological Behaviorism from the Standpoint of a Radical Behaviorist. Retrieved from
  5. Sokal, M. M. (1986). The origins of behaviorism; American psychology, 1870-1920. Science, 232, 664+. Retrieved from


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