A perspective in psychology is a view or an approach that involves certain assumptions and beliefs about human behavior: the way they function, which characteristics of them are worthy of study and what research procedures are suitable for undertaking this study (Brink, 2008). There may be several different theories within an approach, but they all have these common assumptions.
There are many different psychology perspectives from which it cannot be said that there is a correct one and a wrong one. Most psychologists agree that no one perspective is entirely correct, although in the past, in the primary times of psychology, behaviorists would have said their perspective was the only truly logical one.
Each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses and exhibits something different from our understanding of human behavior. For these reasons, it is important that psychology does have different perspectives to the understanding and study of human behavior (Brink, 2008).
John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner had different approaches but none as different as Edward C. Tolman. These many different perspectives are interesting and have been spread along to present-day psychology. This paper will compare and contrast the hypothetical perspectives of Watson and Skinner with that of Tolman; observing each perspective’s relation to present-day psychology.
Watson, in his behaviorist theory, believed that stimuli could be predicted if a response was known and a response would be predicted if stimuli would be recognized. Watson’s approach is seen in his renowned experiment carried out with his aide Rosalie Rayner on an 11 month-old baby (Lil Albert). After repeatedly introducing the unconditioned stimuli, in his case loud noise together with a white rat, Lil Albert cried, a result of an unconditioned response. The rat was the (CS) conditioned stimuli. Lil Albert developed a phobia against white objects and animals. Prior to this experiment, the child did not fear rats or white things. After the experiment was done repeatedly, it is noted the child established a phobia. Suggesting that through classical conditioning phobias can be changed, thus altering behavior (Goodwin, 2008). This gave rise to the theory that managing children’s environment in-turn affects their behavior, and consequently their future.
Skinner’s perspective was different from Watson’s, although both involved studying behavior in human beings. Skinner’s work involved operant conditioning. Skinner was concerned with the behavior of animals, which led to the behaviorism of humans. He theorized that the way to view behavior was to look at the reasons for an action and the consequences that result from the action, and he called this operant conditioning. Skinner introduced the term ‘reinforcement’. Behavior which is reinforced tends to be repeated or strengthened; behavior which is not reinforced dies out or is extinguished or weakened. Presently, Skinner’s study is used in behavioral analysis throughout psychology. Operant conditioning in this modern era is in use all over the world of cognitive psychology.
In contrast to both Watson and Skinner, Tolman theorized behaviorism from a different perspective. He figured that the unit of study should be larger muscle movements more than what Watson theorized as far as molecular behavior is concerned. He also hypothesized that glandular responses along with neurological responses were rather larger in the unit of study. One of his students, for instance, showed that rats trained to swim through a labyrinth were later able to run through it perfectly. Therefore, what is learned cognitively is not only kinesthetic responses as Skinner and Watson theorized (Harzen, 2004). In Gestalt’s theory, which influenced Tolman, the total behavior is more than the sum of its stimulus-response unit. Muscles and glands, sensory nerves, and motor nerves are involved in every portion of human behavior and act autonomously or have their own sufficient properties. Tolman’s Field Theory suggested that behavior had a goal.
Goal-Directedness, in the rat, for instance, was to get some food and nothing more than that. This is similar to evolutionary thinking; the survival of a species will impact behavior. Perhaps survival is the main goal of the species, therefore causing a certain behavior. He called these actions as purposiveness.
Intervening Variables is another concept, by Tolman, used extensively used in psychology. This means “hypothetical aspects that are not seen openly but are inferred from the manner in which independent and dependent variables are operationally defined,” For instance, by not permitting a subject to drink water for long periods, the consequence is thirst (intervening variable). The behavior of the subject is directed to quench the thirst.
A cognitive map is another term developed by Tolman. It means that a subject can develop a map in his head to come up with a way of survival, just like the rats I n his study.
Tolman possessed a healthy boldness when approaching his theories. His commitment, passion, and careful work illustrated in his findings provided a map to behavior today.
Behaviorism in modern psychology is still credited to Watson. This approach focuses on the environment influencing behavior in animals and people. The hereditary aspect of behavior is, however, not ignored. B. F. Skinner is followed in modern-day psychology in the behaviorist theories. The modern theory is that all behavior is a result of some consequences. Skinner reckoned a response is determined by what actions will follow a particular response. This is still effective today (Goodwin, 2008).
The cognitive perspective in modern psychology can be directly connected to Tolman’s unique cognitive theory. Some of his theories are still used in modern-day psychology.
Psychologists from the biological approach also adopt that behavior and experiences are caused by activity in the nervous structure of the body. Focusing on sections of the brain which is accountable for human behavior is the skill biological psychologist use (Harzen, 2004). For instance, the Broca part of the brain is responsible for or monitors language in humans. Biologists also agree with heredity effects. As with schizophrenia; they suggest this from a faulty inherited gene passed down through family generations. Usable and valid scientific evidence is the approach used by Tolman and Skinner as well.
To conclude, Watson, Skinner, and Tolman were backbones of present-day psychology. Students studying psychology in colleges undoubtedly learn these men’s theories and the flaws contained therein. This is the history of the thirst for psychology. Psychology is an ongoing study to attempt to study the reason human-beings go through life and the challenges that take place in it. By recording data, using ethics, laws and developing a strong moral character, emerging psychologists will succeed to come up with new theories on the basis of the old ones, and draw valid conclusions.
Goodwin, C. J. (2008). History of Modern Psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Harzen, P. (2004). Behaviorism for new Psychology: What was wrong with Behaviorism and what is wrong with it now. Behavior & Philosophy, 32(1)
Brink T.L., (2008) Psychology: A Student Friendly Approach. “Unit One: The Definition and History of Psychology.”
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