JOHN B. WATSON
John Broadus Watson (1878–1958) was named for a nationally prominent Baptist minister
from Greenville, South Carolina; his devout mother hoped he would consider the ministry,
but Watson had other interests. While Watson was a student at Furman University, his phi-
losophy and psychology professor Gordon Moore warned that any student turning in a pa-
per “backwards” would immediately flunk. This was a challenge Watson could not ignore,
so the honor student spent a fifth year at Furman, though he did earn a master's, rather than
a bachelor's, degree during that final year. With Moore's recommendation and support,
Watson went to the University of Chicago's joint philosophy and psychology department
and earned his Ph.D. in 1903, working under James Rowland Angell and Henry H. Don-
aldson. Watson remained at Chicago until 1908, when he joined the faculty at Johns Hop-
kins University. Watson inherited editorship of the Psychological Review within months of
arriving at Hopkins, the result of a newspaper exposé involving his senior colleague and a
bordello. In 1915, Watson helped found the Journal of Experimental Psychology, was pres-
ident of the American Psychological Association, and introduced the work of Ivan Pavlov
(p. 178) to American psychology. Watson's academic career came to an abrupt halt in
1920 when he agreed to resign from Johns Hopkins—a request made by the administration
when Watson married his graduate student on the heels of a highly publicized and scan-
dalous divorce from his first wife. He eventually rose to the top of his new career in adver-
tising and provided articles for popular magazines, but wrote no more articles, popular or
scientific, on psychology.
Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness. The behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute. The behavior of man, with all of its refinement and complexity, forms only a part of the behaviorist's total scheme of investigation.
It has been maintained by its followers generally that psychology is a study of the science of the phenomena of consciousness. It has taken as its problem, on the one hand, the analysis of complex mental states (or processes) into simple elementary constituents, and on the other the construction of complex states when the elementary constituents are given. The world of physical objects (stimuli, including here anything which may excite activity in a receptor), which forms the total phenomena of the natural scientist, is looked upon merely as means to an end. That end is the production of mental states that may be “inspected” or “observed.” The psychological object of observation in the case of an emotion, for example, is the mental state itself. The problem in emotion is the determination of the number and kind of elementary constituents present, their loci, intensity, order of appearance, etc. It is agreed that introspection is the method par excellence by means of which mental
From John B. Watson, “Psychology as a Behaviorist Views It.” Psychological Review 20 (1913):158–177.