Psychology: From the Standpoint of a Behaviorist

By John B. Watson | Go to book overview

PSYCHOLOGY
FROM THE STANDPOINT OF A BEHAVIORIST

CHAPTER I
PROBLEMS AND SCOPE OF PSYCHOLOGY
Psychology a Science of Behavior. --Psychology is that division of natural science which takes human activity and conduct as its subject matter. It attempts to formulate through systematic observation and experimentation the laws and principles which underlie man's reactions. Every one agrees that man's acts are determined by something, and that, whether he acts orderly or not, there are sufficient grounds for his acting as he does act, if only these grounds can be discovered. In order to formulate such laws we must study man in action--his adjustments to the daily situations of life, and to the unusual situations which may confront him. When sufficiently worked out, the principles we obtain from such a study permit of two generalizations:
1. To predict human activity with reasonable certainty. It is sometimes asserted that we can never reach a point where such predictions can be made--that human activity is too variable; and determined by too many momentary conditions to permit us ever to reach such a goal. A little consideration shows that common-sense psychology is already, and has been since the social life of man began, making serviceable predictions. Every institution and custom we have depends upon it: for example, our savings banks, churches, and business. When it comes to the individual the facts are not different. We accept a man's note because we predict (not always or ordinarily in words) from our study of his character that he will pay it at the proper time. The wife cheerfully begins the rearing of a family because she predicts that her husband will remain attached to her, and provide herself and her children with bread. We can bring the matter

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