John B. Watson

1440 Words Aug 5th, 2006 6 Pages
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Watson, John B.

Born : 1878 Died : 1958 Nationality : American Occupation : psychologist

RELATED BIOGRAPHIES: • Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich
• Skinner, B. F. (Ethics) RELATED ESSAYS: • Ethics in Advertising and Science
• Rights of Human Research Participants

John Broadus Watson was one of the most controversial leading figures in American psychology. A pioneer in behaviorism, Watson wrote accessible books promoting the behaviorist agenda that garnered considerable public attention. The cornerstone of behaviorist psychology was the view that behavior should be studied as a product of objectively observable external events instead of
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Watson's claims about the role of conditioning in behavioral development were exaggerated. He created a mountain of speculation out of a molehill of evidence. Watson was an outstanding popularizer and advocate for his point of view. This is illustrated most clearly in his celebrated dictum: "Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant chief, and yes, even beggar-man thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors" (Behaviorism, p. 104). The confidence that Watson expresses in the limitless malleability of human behavior has very little to do with the results of his research and has a great deal to do with the democratic spirit, and affluence of the America in which he lived. In fact, given that no one was likely to volunteer their well-formed healthy infant for Watson's experiment, his statement reduces to a purely rhetorical gesture that has nothing to do with science as such.

Watson's focus on unconditioned responses inevitably sparked renewed interest in the physiological
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