Academic journal article The Psychological Record

A History of "Behavior" and "Mind": Use of Behavioral and Cognitive Terms in the 20th Century

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

A History of "Behavior" and "Mind": Use of Behavioral and Cognitive Terms in the 20th Century

Article excerpt

Many commentators on the history of psychology have implied the existence of specific timelines relating behavioral psychology, or behaviorism, and cognitive psychology, or cognitivism. According to the standard account, cognitivism, or the study of the mind, held sway during the first part of the last century. Then, influenced by the writings of J. B. Watson from 1913 through the 1920s, there was a "behavioral revolution" in which behaviorism became the prevailing paradigm in psychology. This was followed by what some have termed the "cognitive revolution" or "cognitive counterrevolution," in which behaviorism declined in influence and cognitivism again became the dominant theoretical force (e.g., Baars 1986; Burman in Hobbs and Burman 2009; Cromwell and Panksepp 2011; Gardner 1985; Greenwood 1999; Hunt 1993; Leahey 1992, 2000; Neisser 1967; Mandler 2002; Miller 2003; Proctor and Kim-Phuong 2006; Sperry 1988, 1993; ter Hark 2010; Watrin and Darwich 2012). The following represents a typical statement regarding cognitivism vs. behaviorism during the second half of the last century: "The 'Cognitive Revolution' sprouted in the 1950s and 60s, and in the decade of the 70s, displaced radical behaviorism, by beginning to focus on themes of information-processing and underlying brain-mind computations" (Cromwell and Panksepp 2011, p. 2028).

Although a number of writers maintain that "revolution" is an inaccurate scientific or philosophical characterization of the change commonly referred to as the "cognitive revolution" (Hobbs in Hobbs and Burman 2009; Friman et al. 1993; Leahey 1992; O'Donohue et al. 2003), most writers do agree that a major shift away from behaviorism and toward cognitivism started in the 1950s and reached its height in the 1970s (Pear 2007).

Up to now, there has been little quantitative empirical support for or against the standard historical account of cognitivism vs. behaviorism. Friman et al. (1993) performed a citation analysis of articles in the "top behavioral, cognitive, and psychoanalytic journals" from 1979 to 1988. They concluded that there was an increasing trend for cognitive psychology, but no downward trend for behavioral psychology. Robins et al. (1999) examined the "prominence" of behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytic, and neuroscience approaches from 1950 to 1997; and Tracy et al. (2004) extended the analysis to 2002. Both of the aforementioned studies measured "prominence" according to three indexes: (a) the proportion of articles in each approach in "four 'flagship' psychology publications: the American Psychologist, Annual Review of Psychology, Psychological Bulletin, and Psychological Review" (Robins et al. p. 109); (b) "the subject matter of dissertations" (Robins et al. p. 110); and (c) "how frequently articles published in subdisciplinary journals associated with each school were cited by the four flagship publications" (Robins et al. p. 110). With regard to the behavioral and cognitive approaches, the studies "showed that the cognitive school has overtaken the behavioral school ... supporting the claim that there has been a 'cognitive revolution'" (Robins et al. p. 116).

The shortage of quantitative data on this issue is probably due to the difficulty of making a detailed search and comparison of the enormous quantity of writings favoring either cognitivism or behaviorism. With the ability of Google to scan millions of books for specific terms, however, it has become possible to provide quantitative data on the frequencies of certain terms in published books (Michel et al. 2010). If we assume that the terms used in a book tend to reflect the orientation of that book, this would provide a way to compare the relative influences of cognitivism and behaviorism throughout a given time span. Thus, if words related with cognitivism appear with a high frequency relative to words related with behaviorism in a set of books, those books may tend to have a cognitive orientation. …

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