Schools Of Thought

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Pages: 19

Choose two schools of thought and provide a more detailed and evaluative account of the psychological issues that are reflected and emphasized in this period.


For the subject matter of my essay I have chosen to discuss and evaluate the key schools of thought of Behaviourism and Freud’s Psychoanalysis. Both these areas cover so much material and have had so much comment and critique that it has been a real challenge for me to keep to a restrained response; without further delay I will launch straight into the task.

Behaviourism is a school of thought founded by Psychologist John B Watson in 1913 after his seminal lecture and the publication of his critical paper ‘Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It’. This was a purely objective experimental branch of natural sciences.

John Watson was born in 1878 and grew up in the state of South Carolina, America. Watson believed that psychology should be the science of observable behaviour, with no regards to internal mental states. The basic principle of the behaviourist approach is that all behaviours are learnt through interaction with the environment around us and from the responses individuals have to environmental stimuli, which shape behaviour. Watson believed that individual differences in behaviour were a result of different learning experiences among individuals. ‘’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 and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years’’ (Watson, 2009). These assumptions, along with Watson’s interest in classical conditioning: a form of learning developed and pioneered by theologian Ivan Pavlov, lead Watson to his most famous and controversial experimental study: The Little Albert Study.

Ivan Pavlov was born in Russia in 1849 and began his studies in theology, switching later to the studies of natural sciences, after coming across the inspirational works of Charles Darwin. While Pavlov was carrying out digestive research on dogs and their saliva production, he stumbled across an interesting occurrence: the dogs began to salivate with the presence of a lab assistant entering the room, even with the absence of food or it’s smell. Pavlov had previously stated that the process of salivation was that of an unconscious automatic reflexive response (unconditioned response, UCR). However, through his observations, Pavlov realised astonishingly, that the dogs had learnt an association between the lab assistants and the presentation of food, which then lead to a salivary response to the expectation of food: a conditioned response (CR), of which the dogs had learnt. From this astonishing discovery, Pavlov then went on to investigate how these conditioned responses (CR) became learnt; he did this through a series of experiments. The aim of Pavlov’s experiments was to stimulate a conditioned response (that of salivation) from a previously neutral stimulus (such as that of the lab assistant) in this case: a bell. He did this through the pairing of food (the unconditioned stimulus), with the ringing of the bell (the neutral stimulus), to create an association between the neutral stimulus (the bell) and the unconditioned response to food (salivation). After the conditioning phase of the experiment was conducted, the neutral stimulus (the bell) was now a conditioned stimulus, which now produced a conditioned response (salivation), without the need for the presence of the unconditioned stimulus (food). Pavlov named this learning theory ‘classical conditioning’.

There were three stages to Pavlov’s