Conflicting Psychologies of Learning

By Boyd Henry Bode | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF BEHAVIORISM

The movement in psychology known as behaviorism is still young, less than twenty years old. Its manners occasionally exhibit the familiar traits of adolescence, especially in taking delight in shocking the susceptibilities of its elders, who are often frankly puzzled by this new phenomenon. The antipathy of behaviorism to anything that goes by the name of mind, soul, or consciousness has to them the appearance of unreasonableness, not only in its violence but in its determination to explain away the facts of everyday life.

This appearance of unreasonableness loses much of its quality if we keep our eye on the historical setting of behaviorism. This new movement is not just a sudden and unaccountable explosion, like a bomb dropped from an unseen airplane, but the crystallization of a tendency that was a long time on the way. For centuries the best minds of the race had wrestled with the problem of dualism, and the story of this struggle is a record of futility. With the development of physiological psychology the emphasis had shifted more and more towards explanation in terms of observable behavior. Wherever possible, the old explanations in terms of mind were superseded by explanations in terms of the nervous system. A tendency of this sort, as we can see now in retrospect, was altogether likely to culminate in a behavioristic view of psychology.

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