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John B. Watson. By: Jean Pierre Miralda. Brief Biography . Complete name: John Broadus Watson Birth: in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, on January 9, 1878, into a very poor family.  Watson was the fourth of six children.  Mother: Emma Kesiah (Roe) Watson 

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by jean pierre miralda

John B. Watson

By: Jean Pierre Miralda


Brief Biography

  • Complete name: John Broadus Watson
  • Birth: in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, on January 9, 1878, into a very poor family. 
  • Watson was the fourth of six children. 
  • Mother: Emma Kesiah (Roe) Watson 
  • Father: Pickens Butler Watson 

Watson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina and went to Furman University there.

  • He entered college at the age of 16 and when he was 21, he left with a masters degree.
  • In 1958 at age 80, shortly after receiving a citation from the American Psychological Association for his contributions to psychology, he died.

This is a photo of the house in which Watson lived as a child.  The house is still in existence, about 5 minutes north of Furman off of SC highway 276.


In 1913, Watson published the article "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It" — sometimes called "The Behaviorist Manifesto". In this article, Watson mainly explains the characteristics of his new philosophy known as “behaviorism”.

  • Watson stopped writing for popular audiences in 1936, and retired from advertising at about age 65.
  • His wife, Rosalie Rayner died in 1935 at the age of 36. Many people say that Watson lived in a farm with a female companion until his death.
  • Rumoredto be a heavy drinker, Watson gave up alcohol on the advice of a close friend and was able to have good, healthy life until his last day.

John Watson and Rosalie Rayner


His Influences

  • The combined influence of Dewey, Angell, Donaldson and Loeb led Watson to develop a highly descriptive, objective approach to the analysis of behavior that he would later call "behaviorism."
  • The reflex studies of the russian psychologists, Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov and Vladimir Bekhterev were particularly very influential in Watson’s works.

John Dewey

Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov


Ivan Pavlov’s Influence

  • Watson’s work was based on the experiments of Ivan Pavlov, who had studied animals’ responses to conditioning.
  • He became interested in the work of Ivan Pavlov and included a brief summary of Pavlov’s works in his major works.
  • Pavlov believed, as Watson was later to emphasize, that humans react to stimuli in the same way.

Ivan Pavlov


B. F. Skinner and Watson

  • Behaviorism is associated today with the name of B.F. Skinner, who made his reputation by testing Watson’s theories in the laboratory.
  • His studies led him to reject Watson’s almost exclusive emphasis on reflexes and conditioning.
  • Skinner developed the theory of “operant conditioning.”

B. F. Skinner



  • “Definition: Behaviorism is a theory of animal and human learning that only focuses on objectively observable behaviors and discounts mental activities. Behavior theorists define learning as nothing more than the acquisition of new behavior.” (1)
  • There are two types of coditioning:
    • Classic conditioning occurs when a natural reflex responds to a stimulus.
    • Operant conditioning occurs when a response to a stimulus is reinforced.

Behaviorism is Biult


Classical Conditioning

  • Discovered by Russian, Ivan Pavlov.
  • It is a learning process that occurs through the association between environmental stimulus and a naturally ocuuring stimulus.
  • Steps in Classical Conditioning:
    • Neutral stimulus
    • Unconditioned stimulus
    • Unconditioned response
    • Conditioned stimulus
    • Conditioned response

Operant Conditioning

  • It is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments.
  • Rewards cause an increase in behaviour, while punishment decrease the behaviour.
  • Aspects in Operant Conditioning:
    • Positive Reinforcer
    • Negative Reinforcer
    • Positive Punishment
    • Negative Punishment
  • There is Continuous or

Partial Reinforcement.

Critics to behaviorism:
    • “Behaviorism does not account for all kinds of learning, since it disregards the activities of the mind.
    • Behaviorism does not explain some learning–such as the recognition of new language patterns by young children–for which there is no reinforcement mechanism.
    • Research has shown that animals adapt their reinforced patterns to new information. For instance, a rat can shift its behavior to respond to changes in the layout of a maze it had previously mastered through reinforcements.” (1)
How Behaviorism Impacts Learning:
    • it relies only on observable behavior and describes several universal laws of behavior.
    • Its positive and negative reinforcement techniques can be very effective (animals & humans)
    • Behaviorism often is used by teachers, who reward or punish student behaviors.
    • “Therapeutic techniques such as behavioral modification and token economies are often utilized to help children learn new skills and overcome maladaptive behaviors, while conditioning is used in many situations ranging from parenting to education.” (2)

His Accomplishments

  • In 1913, he published his first famous article, “Psychology as a Behaviorist Views It,” were he explained his beliefs that psychology was a science of human behavior.
  • He publicated, Behavior: An Introduction to Comparative Psychology, in 1914, were he explains his belief in the importance of using animal subjects to study reflexes activated by heredity. 
  • Another important publication by John Watson was Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist, in 1919.

Little Albert Experiment

  • “In 1920, John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner performed a conditioning experiment on an infant by the name of Albert B. He was given a white rat and his reaction was noted to be playful. He had no fear of the white rat and was even comfortable picking the rodent up while playing with it.
  • The next time the rat was given to Albert, he did exactly the same thing. This time, the psychologists made a loud noise using a metal pipe and a hammer. The noise was so sudden and loud that it made little Albert cry. They did the same thing mutliple times. Finally, when they gave Albert the rat without the noise, the child would cry at the mere sight of the animal.” (3)
“Next, they introduced a white rabbit and as soon as Albert saw the animal, he began to cry. They gave him a Santa Claus mask which also made him cry. Little Albert was conditioned to cry at the sight of the white rat, but in the process, he made the connection to anything that was white and furry would lead to a loud noise.”(3)
  • This experiment proofs the Behaviorism theory and shows that people could be conditioned to fear something and they can even end generalizing the object.


White Rat






White Rat





  • 1st Basic Assumption of Learning:
    • All behavior is learned through experiences and by interaction with the environment.
    • The learning perspective is nurture.
  • Summary of theory:
    • To see of you can condition someone to fear an object and to see if stimulus generalization would occur.

Fear the Rat

Sumary of Work:
    • Watson presented little albert with a simple white rat and he showed no fear. He then presented the rat with a strong bang that made him cry. The continuous use of this bang made littl albert condition the banging to the rat.
  • Methodology:
    • Experimental test
  • Ethics:
    • Unethical because they made a baby feel fear.
    • There was no parental concent.
    • Ther was no desintetization after the experiment.
    • He was showed for the first time to the different objects and showed no fear to them.
  • Limitations:
    • All testing was discontinued for 31 days
    • Nothing is known of Albert’s later life.
  • It is a deterministic experiment.
  • It is non-reductionist because you take into consideration the biological and environmental factors.

The Dozen Healthy Infants

  • “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. [Behaviorism (1930), p. 82]” (4)

Give me a dozen healthy …


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