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The Ambiguity Of Behaviorism : Human Equality And Freedom Essay

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The Ambiguity of Behaviorism: Human Equality and Freedom
YI TSAM MARY KONG
University of British Columbia

The Ambiguity of Behaviorism: Human Equality and Freedom Behaviorism on learning and memory occupies an important position in the history of psychology. John B. Watson is the father of behaviorism while B.F. Skinner is the most famous behaviorist of the twentieth century. Watson’s methodological behaviorism means that it is only the behaviors of an individual that can be objectively observed. Skinner’s radical behaviorism emphasized that behaviors of human and animals are blindly influenced by environment. In this case, Watson and Skinner share similar views of behaviorism. For instance, they believe that the proper objectives of behavioral research include prediction and control (Staddon and Bueno, 1991). However, there are remarkable discrepancies in their views of human equality and freedom. Watson promoted the progressive process of human equality by maintaining concept of “tabula rasa”, whereas Skinner insisted that freedom is an illusion, so that he provided the adverse effect to the dictatorial institution. The fact is that the potential ambiguity produces a strong influence on people’s thinking and has a practical significance on society. According to the famous “Rats maze” experiment, Watson began by challenging the underlying assumption of instinct (Berntson and Cacioppo, 2000). Watson and Morgan (1917) are considered to be
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