Psychology: From the Standpoint of a Behaviorist

By John B. Watson | Go to book overview
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Introduction. --In previous chapters we have dealt largely with the genesis and functioning of individual reaction systems. Psychologists and psychiatrists often have the task of rating the individual as a member of society, passing judgment upon him as a whole from the standpoint of how well or how poorly he functions in his present environment, to form estimates of how smoothly he would react to a new environment and to specify the necessary changes in his equipment which would make for present and future adjustment. Various practical situations force us constantly to examine man in this broader way. In making such estimates or inferences we use the term personality or character1 as a convenient way of expressing the fact that we are looking at the individual not from the standpoint of how well or how poorly any particular emotion, instinct or group of habits he possesses many function, but from that of how the organism as a whole works or many work under changed conditions.

A Possible Hint from Mechanics. --Several times in the text we have contrasted the reaction of parts with reactions of the individual as a whole. To illustrate this more completely it may be well possibly to turn to the world of mechanics for at least a slight analogy. A marine gas engine is made up of a number of parts, such for example as the carburetor, the pump, the magneto, the valve system, the cylinders with their pistons and


As we use these two terms, character is really a subdivision of the broader term personality. Character is generally used when viewing the individual from the standpoint of his reactions to the more conventionalized and standardized situations (conventions, morals, etc.). Personality includes not only these reactions but also the more individual and personal adjustments and capacities as well as their life history. Popularly speaking, we would say that a liar and a profligate had no character, but he may have an exceedingly interesting personality.


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Psychology: From the Standpoint of a Behaviorist


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