Part Three


We now turn from the era when psychology was dominated by systems to a period when psychology produced schools -- namely, behaviorism, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology (or Gestalt psychology). Psychology had previously been the development of different ideas or theories of the mind. There were the British empiricists, the German phenomenologists and German experimentalists, the American structuralists under Titchener, and the American functionalists under Angell, Dewey, and James. There were men associated with these points of view. But that is essentially what they were, points of view. They were limited notions about epistemology, scientific method, or conceptualization of the human mind.

What was to follow was a shift from points of view, systems, or "programmatic research," to theoretical structures. Gestalt psychology (not to be confused with Gestalt therapy), behaviorism, and psychoanalysis all had elaborate programs for developing, supporting, defending, enlarging, and extending their point of view. The functionalists had said, "it makes more sense to conceive of man as being an adaptive animal and to explain his behavior in terms of some accomplished end. The available research was fitted into this scheme. There was no attempt to integrate the principles or facts into some comprehensive whole. But with the advent of schools, the whole domain of psychology was fitted into particular systematic structures; deductions were drawn from this structure; research was designed to test out these deductions; and elaborations of the theory developed as new concepts emerged.

Most important in the development of schools was their institutionalization. Watson, Freud, Wertheimer, and others considered themselves as leaders. Followers were more than casual observers of what the leaders were doing, and made significant contributions clearly identified with those leaders. Followers had labels for themselves -- Gestaltists, Freudians, Watsonian behaviorists, etc. And, of course, there were opponents who criticized the leaders on grounds of theory, method, relevance, or even on personal grounds. All of this provided a lively debate in the journals of psychology.

These schools could also be thought of as being typically "American." At least they thrived in America. Gestalt psychology, though a German phenomenon from beginning to end, created great impact on the United States as opposition to both Titchenerian psychology and to behaviorism and to what was fast becoming a psychological empire. And, of course, all three of the Gestalt leaders eventually settled in the United States -- Wertheimer at the New School of Social Research, Koffka at Smith College, and Kohler at Swarthmore.

Psychoanalytic psychology emerged in Austria, the headquarters for psychoanalysis until the year before Freud's death. But Austria never accepted Freud or his theory. And Freud, of course, yearned to go to England where he would be more readily accepted both as a Jew and as the author of a controversial theory called psychoanalysis. As a "recognized" school, psychoanalysis emerged at the international meeting in the United States where, in 1910, G. Stanely Hall invited Freud, Jung, Adler and other analysts to Clark University. Also invited were the leading American psychologists -- William James, Titchener, et al -- tender and tough minded psychologists alike. Freudian psychology was given an airing at this conference where Americans became exposed to it first hand. Up to this time, there had been few translations available to Americans. And though psychologists for the most part read German fluently, the increase in psychological literature was becoming sufficiently great as to discourage one from exploring new topics. Freudian psychology was clearly different from the traditional physiological psychology or philosophical psychology which had been the basis for such standard works as James' Principles and Ladd's Handbook.

Behaviorism was the only clear and original American phenomenon. The Russian reflexology which formed its base contributed little except through the paradigm of Pavlov's conditioning. In fact, Pavlov could not comprehend why American psychologists invited him to the 1929 International Congress at Yale. As a physiologist working on digestive juices he failed to see the application of his work to problems of the mind.

As David Bakan (1966) has pointed out, behaviorism is not only an American phenomenon but also a middle American or rural American phenomenon. John Watson as well as other leaders of behaviorism was born in a small rural town rather than a large cosmopolitan city. Bakan claims that this background contributed to a certain anti-intellectualism among behaviorists, something not in evidence among representatives of other theoretical points of view. A study of places of birth and the colleges awarding bachelor degrees for experimentalists as compared to clinicians bares out the same conclusion -- experimentalists are more conservative and antiintellectual and clinicians are more erudite, cosmopolitan and liberal. But this is a question to which we will turn later.

These then were the three major schools -- Behaviorism, Gestalt psychology, and psychoanalysis. Each flourished on American soil and, although there were historical backgrounds, these three major schools emerged within a few years of each other at the turn of the century just before World War I. Behaviorism is dated from the paper by Watson in 1913, though there were similar noises being made by both Cattell and himself in 1904. Gestalt psychology can be dated with the paper on the phi phenomenon by Wertheimer in 1912, after von Ehrensfels' earlier work on the "gestalt-qualitaten" in 1890. Although psychoanalytic theory dates with the publication of Freud and Breuer's book, Studies in Hysteria, in 1895, it was not until the Clark Conference in 1909 and Jung's break in 1913 that it became an international theory. At last the positivistic position of the nineteenth century Helmholtz school was seeing fruition -- the Berlin school of logical positivism influenced Koffka and Kohler; Brucke was the teacher of Freud; and Pavlov's conditioning was the paradigm for Watson's behaviorism.

We turn now to each of these schools. As we do, it may aid us to consider that new theories flourished on American soil because it was more congenial. As Esper has put it: ". . . new theories are great fun for the young at heart," and a welcome reception in America is ". . . no doubt facilitated by the well known hospitality to visitors from distant and more ancient shores (1964, p. 12-13)."

Module 1



1. What are the major principles of behaviorism?

2. How does the search for consciousness in animals affect the development of psychology?

3. How were functionalism and structuralism different? How similar?

4. How did Dewey's reflex arc concept differ from that of the reflexologists?

5. Why was William James considered to be psychology's greatest psychologist?

6. What was Thorndike's law of exercise and law of effect, and how did that relate to Skinner's reinforcement theory?

7. What was logical positivism and how did it influence behaviorism?


There are four major principles of behaviorism. We will identify them first and then examine how these and other factors contributed to the development of behaviorism.

First, the primary principle of behaviorism was that the proper subject matter of psychology should be objective phenomena which several persons could observe, not mental events which were the private world of only one person. This was a direct attack upon the structuralist school of Wundt and Titchener who studied the contents of the human mind. The behaviorists asked that psychology study actions, human and animal, not subjective reports about the contents of their minds.

Second, the use of introspection as a scientific method, endorsed by both structuralists and functionalists, was rejected. Psychology should be an objective, not a subjective science. No one had previously questioned whether psychology should study the mind. The behaviorists were the first to suggest that the phenomenon should be that which could be verified by other persons, by using sensory information.

Third, psychology, like the other sciences, should be a natural science. Psychological phenomena were "natural phenomena." Many behaviorists were originally comparative psychologists and were interested in nature's products, whether animals or men. Plants, lacking movement, were usually excluded. Motion, which Aristotle had reserved for those phenomena possessing locomotion, captured the interest of persons calling themselves psychologists.

Fourth, learning and association became the key content area in the new behaviorism. Ebbinghaus had demonstrated that the process and products of learning could be studied objectively, by subjecting the acquisition of mental contents to experimental examination. The early associationists studied how ideas in the mind were associated with other ideas. The modern associationists, the behaviorists, studied the association of stimuli to responses, stimuli to other stimuli, and responses to other responses. Both new and old associationists believed in connectionism -- that elements, whether ideas or actions, get connected to each other through some means.

The background for these principles came from two major sources. On the one hand was physiological research explaining human action by reflexes, thus modeling man after Descartes' mechanical man. A second basis for behaviorism came from the Darwinian revolution, which conceived of man as just one step higher than other primates.

Consciousness in Animals and Men.

Reflexology and evolutionary theory led to strictly scientific and "mechanistic" explanations of man at the turn of the century. There were many parallels between human and animal life. Some comparative psychologists even attempted to reason the other way -- that if man and animals were different only by degrees, that animals must then possess such human attributes as thinking and feeling.

Many comparative psychologists, therefore, looked beyond the mere physical similarities between man and animals. Darwin, in a famous 1872 book, paralleled the emotions in animals and men and claimed that emotional reactions in man were residues of primitive animal emotions. There was just one more step. If emotional behavior evolved from lower forms of animal life, why not also cognition and conation? The fact that feelings and emotions were based on needs and motivation supported the idea of continuity and similarity in human and animal motivation. Several centuries earlier, Hobbes had claimed that the needs of humans were the same as those of animals. And later, McDougall advocated that innate instincts accounted for activity and directionality.

The question of whether animals as well as humans possessed a mind or consciousness became a focal point for investigation. If the Darwinian proposition were true, that man evolved from lower forms of animal life, then it would be necessary to show that both man and animals had minds or that neither had minds. You can't have minds in just man or you are back to the Cartesian dualism between animals and men and you must still then account for the origin of mental processes. Romanes and Jennings both postulated that there must be something akin to consciousness in animals as well as men. Romanes claimed that if there was continuity in the origin of species then there must be a mental life of animals. Jennings argued backwards by noting that since there was variability in animals then animals must adapt. Since the function for adaptation is thought or awareness or problem solving behavior, it should follow that animals have minds (Boring, 1950, p. 625).

Others maintained that animals possessed no consciousness. Lloyd Morgan, Jacques Loeb and Thorndike were among such theorists. Morgan, in his law of parsimony, held that the simplest explanation was the best. Therefore, any attempt to explain what appeared to be mental activity in animals without using mentalistic concepts was a definite advantage. Anthropomorphizing animal life, giving minds to animals, only complicated things more than necessary. Thorndike's work, showing that animal problem solving can be explained without reference to mental processes, provided the opening wedge. Watson then followed by generalizing to humans in suggesting that all mental activity could be explained by using other concepts (Skinner, 1963, p. 952).

Applying techniques of animal psychology to human psychology reverses the question of consciousness. The comparative psychologists, by investigating animal behavior, tried to understand human phenomena. Burnham (1968) claims that behaviorism is a synthesis of: 1) verbal mediating responses (thinking is more than mentalistic), 2) social control, and 3) application of techniques in animal psychology to that of humans. The verbal mediating responses have been investigated by Osgood, Kendler, and others attempting to link Tolman's theory to that of Hull's, reviewed in a later module. The notion of social control will be discussed later (p.25). The techniques used in animal investigations are well known, some of them reviewed in this unit.

Once some similarity between the species was assumed, and the confusion over whether animals possessed consciousness or whether humans lacked it, was resolved, the influence started the other way. Namely, methods of animal study were introduced to study human behavior. Now the influence had gone full swing -- men were understood through a study of animals, and then the new techniques for studying animals were used to study humans. The focus was always on humans; it was only a question of whether you started indirectly, by using what you knew of humans to study animals, or whether you started directly on humans by using what you knew of animal research.


American culture and American psychology.

Americans wanted, above all else, success -- success on the frontier which stretched out seemingly forever in front of them; success in the market place where their farm products and manufactured goods abounded; success at the table of foreign ministers, as America slowly at first and then with auspicious speed dominated international affairs. By the beginning of World War I, America had grown into a vigorous, mature adult who knew her destination and moved there with deliberate speed. (See the lives of Andrew Carnegie and Ford).

English passive,uninteresting, and philosophical psychology did not suit an energetic nation. German psychology, built upon English associationistic philosophy, had been borrowed but changed. Most needed was a dynamic psychology emphasizing the conative rather than the cognitive side of man. James did this partly by suggesting a consciousness in flux. But that was a dynamic mind, not a dynamic person. McDougall attempted to inject a dynamic person into psychology by his doctrine of instincts. All of man's actions could be explained by reference to some instincts. There was an instinct for love, hate, competition, and for all the activities that one could identify in man. This cataloguing of human activities was a natural outgrowth of the growing Darwinian theory. Effort and adaptation were the hallmarks of an evolving animal -- man no less than the lower forms. Instincts in man as in animals were: a) innate; b) characteristic of all members of the species, and c) goal directed.

But the doctrine of instincts did not catch on for two reasons -- Americans could not accept the nativistic assumptions. Second, Americans loathed any suggestion that all members of the species were the same. Individuality and uniqueness of personality had been and continues to be the primary forms of American thought. Every one eventually gets to the same place or tries to do so. But the freedom to choose or reject certain goals is a fundamental right. How can you have freedom and at the same time be controlled by instincts. The dilemma for American psychologists -- the paradox of their way of thinking was the need for a dynamic system to account for effort, striving, and adaptation on the one hand while leaving everyone free and unrestrained on the other hand. Jonathan Edwards' "free will" really did work the best -- it combined freedom and will (determination). This is why the churches succeeded in the first 200 years of American history. And it is possibly why neither McDougall nor Freud could make immediate inroads on serious psychological thinking.

Functionalism vs. Structuralism.

Most of American contemporary psychology grew out of what was known as "functional psychology," a psychology that got its start at the University of Chicago, influenced by Darwin's evolutionary theory. If Darwin was correct that organisms survive because they adapt, then action and consciousness must be continually operating in the direction of adaptation. One needed, then, to study functions. Under Angell, Carr, and Dewey, functional psychology emerged and was then later transported to or merged with the American philosophy and educational theory of Columbia University. But father to both Chicago and Columbia was the guiding light of American philosophical thought, William James of Harvard University, the author of America's first major text on psychology and the greatest perhaps of American psychologists.

James and similar like minded American philosophers had taken particular issue with the experimental psychology growing out of Wundt and his laboratory in Leipzig, Germany. There was no quarrel with the empirical and laboratory approach of Wundt. As a matter of fact, James had received his medical degree at Harvard in 1869 and then moved over to physiology and was appointed an Instructor of Anatomy and Assistant Professor of Physiology at Harvard University in the 1870's. His background was heavily biological and, like Wundt, attempted to base an understanding of the mind on physiological principles. The major difference, however, is that Wundt tended to study the mind more from the viewpoint of anatomy whereas James approached it more from the standpoint of physiology. The difference here is crucial. It is the difference between a structural approach and a process approach. It is a difference between a static and a dynamic conception of the mind. It is a difference between conceiving of the mind as a collection of impressions, ideas, images on the one hand as emphasized by Wundt and conceiving of the mind as an ongoing, continuous stream of consciousness which one could never actually stop and observe, which was stressed by James.

The basic principles of functionalism were outlined in the 1906 presidential address by Angell to the American Psychological Association. In this address he argued that the human mind contained acts and processes or operations rather than or not just contents or elements. Note that both Structuralism and Functionalism are mentalisms; that is, the mind is the subject in any study. They differ, however, in whether the mind is seen as a static structural phenomena or whether it is seen as a dynamic ongoing process phenomena.

The second basic assumption of functionalism is that one must study the whole organism. The point of view of functionalism is that there is a relationship between the mind and the body such that the two are interrelated. You cannot discuss one without recognizing the influence of the other. A third basic notion was that consciousness itself had a certain utility, it had a function. It actually mediates between the organism and the environment. The mind serves as a way of accommodating the organism to the environment in which the person finds himself. Thus, the functionalists are centralists because they focus their attention on the function of the mind, even though they recognize the importance of peripheral physiological processes.

It should be noted that both Wundt and James advocated the study of consciousness. It is no wonder that contemporary psychologists, those interested in levels of consciousness and drug research, have returned to William James as a founder of their movement. This emphasis by both Wundt and James on consciousness was the very point of disagreement by the behaviorists. Wundt's and James' systems were both mentalisms; both required a subjective, personal, individual observation of oneself. The behaviorists thought this unproductive. The subjective mentalism of functional psychology served as a negative stimulus to the development of behaviorism.

On the positive side,however, functionalism positively stimulated behaviorism by emphasizing the physiological approach as opposed to the anatomical approach, or the functional as opposed to the structural approach in studying behavior. This was the point of disagreement between American functionalists and the German structuralists. This controversy is no better illustrated than by those arguments which arose between Titchenor at Cornell University, who was Wundt's representative in the United States, and those who constituted the American functionalists -- Angell, Carr, and Dewey at the University of Chicago, and William James at Harvard.

The American functionalists were identified with the University of Chicago, founded by Rockefeller in 1890. W. R. Harper, the first president, pirated away from other institutions the best of the country's young professors. Hardest hit was Clark University, the new and promising Graduate School that the psychologist G. Stanley Hall had founded. Among the first faculty at Chicago which Harper recruited were John Dewey and J. R. Angell, who both went there in 1894. While at Chicago, Dewey published in the Psychological Review, 1896, his famous paper on the reflex arc.

Dewey's paper on the reflex arc concept marks the beginning of functionalism. Dewey criticized the popular concept of the reflex arc as simply a bridge between the sensation and the response. The reflex arc, since Descartes and increasingly after the French and the Russians, was placed in a mechanistic model where the stimulus and response were both real things, separate independent parts of the nervous system in which the occurrence of one was naturally followed by the other.

Dewey, on the contrary, claimed that sensation and response were not two independent phenomena. He maintained that no differentiation could be made between a stimulus and a response. He conceived the reflex as a circle, not as an arc. This is the important point. In other words, a sensation had no independent existence and could not be defined until the response had occurred. You had to take the whole package. The circular notion of the reflex is illustrated primarily by Dewey's proposition that the organism must do something in order to receive the stimulus, i.e., the response must occur before you can have a stimulus. One has to look before you can see. An organism must accommodate his sense organs in order to receive the stimulus. Therefore, stimuli and responses are one continuous phenomena, the one blending into the other.

Although Dewey's paper initiated interest in a new functional approach, it was Angell, head of the department of psychology at Chicago University who became the leader of functional psychology. He outlined its program and values in his 1906 presidential address to the American Psychological Association in a paper entitled "Provence of Functional Psychology. Both men were at Chicago at the time when Watson went there for graduate work. And it was this functional point of view which influenced the predominant flavor of American psychology.

Later Dewey went to Columbia University and became a leader in the progressive education movement. Angell went on to become president of Yale University where, in that position, he was able to encourage functional psychology by supporting a strong department of psychology and hiring prominent and talented faculty. Among the psychologists going to Yale in those days were Dodge, Yerkes, Hull, Dollard, Miller, Spence, Sears and others -- a formidable collection of neobehaviorists. The groundwork was thus laid in American psychology for concepts of adaptation and purposiveness and a methodology for observing acts and functions rather than speculation about mental contents.

An important bridge between functionalism and behaviorism is Edward Lee Thorndike. Thorndike, a student of James, conducted many experiments to study how both animals and humans adapt to new problems. In this sense, he explored the functional characteristics of the mind. Secondly, he developed principles of learning which laid the foundation for contemporary reinforcement theory. To him we now turn.

Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1940).

While Watson was at Johns Hopkins, Thorndike, almost equally important in the development of behaviorism, was at Columbia. Never considered a behaviorist, Thorndike's research with "chicks, cats, and children," and subsequent principles were, nevertheless, clear illustrations of and antedated the major concepts of both behaviorism and learning theory. While a graduate student at Harvard, Thorndike became interested in maze running activity. Could chicks profit from the experience of running a maze? He needed inexperienced subjects, but the incubation of chicks was not permitted in his rooming house. William James, always sympathetic to the needs of students, permitted Thorndike to raise and experiment with baby chicks in his basement.

Thorndike later worked with cats. His home movies,showing cats trying to get into a puzzle box,have become classics. This box was not unlike and may well have been the first "Skinner box." An animal, a series of levers, a problem to be solved, and something in the way of a reward were all that was needed. Inside of the puzzle boxes were raw fish, a desirable reward for any hungry cat. And the cat could smell the fish, to be sure. The box, a simple orange crate construction, contained a series of pulls, levers, and strings. The execution of a series of tasks would open a door, permitting the cat to enter. Thorndike discovered that performance improved with practice. Thomas Brown's secondary law of association worked for cats, too! Idle or routine practice would not yield results, but practice followed by some rewarding state of affairs. What else could one expect from a typical nineteenth century American, dedicated to the proposition that work pays dividends!

The performance of Thorndike's cats revealed learning curves similar to those obtained by Ebbinghaus in his own memory and verbal learning experiments. Performance, as measured by either the time to solve a problem or by the number of movements involved, showed gradual, steady, and consistent improvement. Further, it seemed as though the cat was actually trying out one solution and then another, rather than making just a random series of responses. Thorndike labeled this phenomenon "trial and error" learning. It appeared that the animal was gradually eliminating all non-productive movements. This decreased the time required to open the door.

Thorndike was not satisfied simply with empirical findings. He constructed a theory about learning which included three primary laws. The first law was the law of readiness, which stated that the animal had to be ready or prepared to learn. No amount of practice or trial and error would result in improved performance unless the animal was capable and ready. This was another way of emphasizing developmental principles, that individuals go through different stages of preparedness.

The second law was the law of exercise. This law stated that performance improved as practice increased. The more the practice or exercise, the greater the improvement, up to a certain point. This was not distinctly different from Ebbinghaus' principle about how memory improved with repetition.

The third law, however, was the "kicker." It was the law of effect, which stated that a response was greatly influenced by the effect which it produced. If a response were followed by some rewarding effect, it would tend to be "stamped in. " On the other hand, if a response was followed by something aversive or negative, then it would tend to be "stamped out." How the response related to the environment was uncovered by Thorndike's puzzle boxes . The animals first had to act, and what followed would then work back upon the action and stamp it in.

The law of effect was a "reward" theory and, as such, contains some difficulties. First, the nervous system is supposed to somehow "hold" the response until the effect can work back on it and stamp it in . Second, it implies that for animals, some things are innately "good" or "bad, " or rewarding or punishing, that permits the stamping in to take place . If one could discover the "given conditions, " then one could shape behavior. The implications here for solving the practical problems of educating school children are obvious.

Thorndike elaborated on his theory of learning and included the secondary laws of associative shifting and stimulus generalization . These laws accounted for transfer effects which facilitated learning in similar though not identical situations. Other subordinate laws of learning were "set" and "analogy."

Thorndike's work is a fair summary of the major tenets in contemporary learning theory and behavioristic psychology. The concepts of contiguity, practice, and reinforcement, became central principles for one or more subsequent theorists. Skinner was recently asked how his theory differed from Thorndike's, and he responded that his theory of reinforcement was essentially Thorndikian, and that credit had not been given for the simple reason that the connection seemed so obvious.

All behaviorists have included the law of exercise. Even Guthrie's one trial learning theory states that at least one trial or one exercise is necessary, though no other attempt is needed because the exercise is so potent . Clark L . Hull, on the other hand, recognizing that while learning might conceivably occur on the first trial, proposed that the strength of response was a function primarily of the number of reinforcements. This was tantamount to saying that more exercise would yield stronger responses.

Skinner, in his system, elaborates on the law of exercise . He claims not only that an increase in/the numbers of trials increases the strength of the connection but that the schedules of reinforcement or the patterning of the reinforcement is a critical variable.

Recognition of the importance of practice in the formation of habits exists from the earliest times. Plato, in Book III of The Republic, admonishes leaders to protect youth against imitating bad men, persons who quarrel, madmen, etc . " . . . madness, like vice, is to be known but not to be practiced or imitated (Plato, 1950, p . 330a) . " But habits, whether physical or mental, require some activity or motion. Socrates in the Theaetetus says, "Then motion is a good, and rest an evil, to the soul as well as to the body? (Great Books, v. 7, p. 518)." The Protestant ethic obviously was consistent with this point of view -- that activity, physical or mental, indicated that one was among the chosen.

Thorndike's third law, the law of effect, is clearly related to the law of exercise. Most theorists agree that exercise works because it produces rewarding effects. As Thorndike's cats increase their exercise, the frequency of rewards increases and thus the number of times the correct response is "stamped in" increases.

There is one theorist who is an exception. Guthrie, a strict contiguity theorist, maintains that there need be only a connection, there need be no reinforcement. At the other extreme from him are the drive reduction theorists like Hull who place reinforcement or the law of effect at the base of their theory. Skinner and Kuo, however, claim that postulating internal drives, purposes, and rewards only tends to confuse the problem more.


Second only to functionalism was the support which behaviorism received from a philosophical school known as logical positivism, a form of positivism popular at the turn of the century. There were three forms of positivism. The first form was known as social positivism and promoted primarily by Auguste Comte (1798-1857). It was a point of view about nature which advocated a kind of phenomenology. Comte maintained that the basic data in science is social. A science can investigate "us" but not "me." Introspection is impossible, and one takes as reality the immediately observable, the preinferential, the undebatable, the nonspeculative.

A second form of positivism maintained that sensations constitute the real world. One can only affirm sensations. There is no mind body division problem in this point of view (Turner, 1967), which was advanced by Mach (1838-1916). ". . . the world is not composed of 'things' as its elements, but of colors, tones, pressures. . . what we ordinarily call individual sensations (Mach, 1883, p. 55)."

The third form of positivism,called logical positivism, was a point of view about what should be the nature of science. Statements in science should be based on concrete sensations rather than upon abstract words. This meant that only the past was a certainty. The future was only probable. Therefore, statements of science, i.e. generalizations and predictions about the universe should be probability statements rather than statements of fact. The major impetus for the logical positivists was a group called the Vienna Circle, a world-wide philosophical movement of scientists-philosophers who met at the University of Vienna.

The Vienna Circle had its origins in a 1907 group composed of Hahn, Neurath, and Frank who met to discuss questions in the philosophy of science. In 1922, this Vienna group invited Schlick to become a professor at the University of Vienna. A seminar conducted by Schlick in 1923 led to what became known as the Vienna Circle (White, 1955, p. 204). During the 1920's the group was very active. The group met as a Thursday night meeting group. Three members of this group became well known. These three were Schlick, a physics student writing on the topic of theoretical optics under Max Planck at Berlin; Philipp Frank, a physicist from Prague who showed up later at Harvard; and Gustav Bergman, who went to Iowa and later to the University of California at Berkeley. Carnap (1891- ) arrived at the University of Vienna in 1926 and an influential book was published by Wittenstein, though he was not a member of this group. By 1931 the group had disbanded. Carnap went to Prague, Feigl went to Iowa and Schlick was shot.* (Rossmore, 1967, p. 52-53).

Logical positivism was an outgrowth of this group. There were really several groups relating to logical positivism. Joergenson (1951) identifies six different groups -- the Berlin group; the Lwow-Warsaw group, interested primarily in symbolic logic; the Cambridge analysts; the Pragmatists; the Operationists; and the Muenster group.

In the Berlin group were such persons as: Reichenbach, Kurt Lewin, Wolfgang Kohler, and Carl Gustav Hempel. Reichenbach was one of the leaders and it was his contention (Joergenson, 1951) that Kantian space/ time was untenable. Probability statements were the only possible statements in science. Statements about the future were neither true nor false. There were, then, a priori principles but these were not eternal or deducible. One had to discover them through scientific analysis. They did not exist separate from analysis or from thought. Scientific principles did not exist as absolutes and as separate from individuals. This resembled Platonic idealism where ideas were relative to the existence and thought of individuals.

Charles Pierce, Wittgenstein, Percy Bridgman, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, and Morris Cohen were the pragmatists and operationists. Knowledge had to work, it had to be useful. There could be no absolutes in knowledge, it emerged in reference to and relevant to a particular time.

The long past of logical positivism is back through those precursors who were anti-metaphysical or antispeculative; they were the realists or the materialists. The central position in positivism is that one can acquire truth without knowing the ultimate nature of things. One can have "correct knowledge of the part without knowing the nature of the whole (Burt, 1954, p. 227)." In essence, metaphysics can be dispensed with. In antiquity, the positivists were those of Epicurean philosophy. During the middle or scholastic period, they were the nominalists. In the modern period of philosophy, they were Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Bentham, J. S. Mill, Spencer, Descartes, Comte, Mach, and Leibnitz. But logical positivism was especially represented by three men: Mach, Bertrand Russell, and by Wittgenstein. (Joergensen, 1951, p. 6).

From 1923 on, the development of logical positivism could be traced by the national and international conferences which were held. The first one was in 1929, at Prague, at which Frank, Reichenbach, Carnap and others attended. In 1930 it was held at Koenigsberg, with von Neuman and Heisenberg. In 1934, at Prague, Ernst Nagel, Charles Morris, and Carnap were there. In 1935, at Paris, there was a joint meeting with the Philosophy of Science group, which included Feigel, Brunswick, Bergmann, Frank and the others.In 1936, in Copenhagen, at the 2nd international congress, Neils Bohr and Popper joined the group. At the Paris conference in 1937, they met as the Unity of Science Congress. In 1938 it was in Cambridge. In 1939 at Harvard, a much larger complement of American philosophers joined the group, including Pratt, Sarton, and Church. This conference was held two days after the war began and so attention and anxiety were directed towards international tensions.


Behaviorism became the dominant theory in American psychology during the first half of the twentieth century. And it was typically American. There were few behaviorists elsewhere in the world, at least nothing like the magnitude and percentage of what was found in the United States. Behaviorism as comfortable to Americans because Americans looked to action and activity rather than to philosophical discussion.

Behaviorism grew naturally out of functionalism, the first major American theory. Functionalism attempted to accommodate the importance of Darwin's adaptive principle for survival to the basic Calvinistic doctrine of effort and hard work. Functionalism maintained that organisms adapted to their environment and therefore mind and action were functional,they had some purpose. The major functionalists, Dewey, James, Angell and Thorndike laid down the foundation for behaviorism. Thorndike's laws of exercise and effect state that learning occurs and problem solving is remembered because solutions to problems produce satisfying states of affairs and because they are practiced. These two tenets were the major statements for behaviorism, to be elaborated on only by the more sophisticated works and research of the behaviorists.

The major tenets of behaviorism were that the subject matter of psychology should be something which could be observed and that the method to be used by psychologists should be objective and subject to verification by others. To make psychology similar to the physical sciences by relying upon empirical means of study was consistent with the new thinking in philosophy called logical positivism.


Now test yourself without looking at the reading.
Select those answers which are correct (one or more) or fill in the blank spaces.

1. The key content areas in behaviorism are:
a. sensation and perception
b. physiology and anatomy
c. learning and association
d. cognition and conation

2. Behaviorism is differentiated from other fields in psychology by its emphasis on:
a. learning
b. perception
c. motivation
d. conation

3. Behaviorism was said to be farther along as a protest against the "new German" psychology of Wundt than the protest of Gestalt psychology, because behaviorism:
a. was the second phase of protest against Wundtian tradition; functionalism was the first
b. moved away from conscious elementalism
c. protested against the inclusion of data of consciousness in psychology
d. all of the above

4. A functional psychology is:
a. always a mentalistic psychology
b. sometimes a mentalistic psychology
c. never a mentalistic psychology
d. a structural psychology

5. The difference between a structural and a functional psychology is that the latter emphasizes:
a. the order
b. the pattern
c. how things operate
d. the relationship between the parts

6. "Practice makes perfect." rote memorization, and learning by doing, all illustrate the law of:
a. effect
b. exercise
c. readiness
d. reinforcement

7. When a response is accompanied by or followed by a satisfying state of affairs, there will be a tendency for the connection between the two events to be strengthened. This is called the law of:
a. readiness
b. exercise
c. effect
d. reinforcement

8. Structuralism is to functionalism as:
a. process is to product
b. anatomy is to physiology
c. Wundt is to James
d. Titchenor is to Dewey

9. He coined the term positivism, he was against introspection, felt experience was unobservable, and felt there could be no individual psychology, only social science. All of this describes which man?
a. Mach
b. Comte
c. Cabanis
d. Descartes

10. Logical positivism was an outgrowth of:
a. the Vienna circle
b. operationism
c. behaviorism
d. Chicago functionalism

FEWER THAN 0 WRONG, go on to Module 2
1 OR MORE WRONG, do exercises on next page


1. The four major principles of behaviorism are:
a. _____________________,
b. _____________________,
c. _____________________,
d. _____________________.

2. Comparative psychology attempted to find some correlation between the _____________ similarities of animals and humans.
a. physical
b. social
c. mental
d. emotional

3. Contiguity means closeness or proximity. When applied to mental associations or learning, there are two kinds of contiguity. These are: ___________ and _________

4. Thorndike's three laws of learning were: ________________, ________________, ________________.

5. Rote memorizing, learning by doing, and "practice makes perfect," illustrate which one of Thorndike's laws? The law of _________________.

6. Darwinian theory seemed to argue that because there was continuity between animals and humans that either both had minds or neither had minds. The theorists who proposed that both animals and humans had minds were ___________ and ____________. Those who proposed that neither animals nor humans had minds were _________________________ and _______________.

7. In 1923, a seminar led by Moritz Schlick and attended by Feigl and others was called the ____________ ___________, after the European city by that name.

8. The reasons that logical positivism is one of the major influences on the development of behaviorism is that it emphasized the importance of:
a. subjective methods in psychology
b. using experiments to conduct scientific research
c. using observable data for the study of psychology
d. stimuli and responses.


2. A, B, C, D
3. time, space
7. Vienna Circle
10. B, C
5. exercise
4. readiness, exercise, effect
1. objective phenomena, objective methods, psychology is a natural science, learning and association explain behavior.
8. C
6. Romanes and Jennings; Lloyd Morgan, Loeb, and Thorndike



1. Functional psychology started at ________________ University, founded by John D. Rockefeller, the place where Dewey and other typically American professors got their start, and where Watson did his graduate work.

2. A psychologist attempts to study the relationship between language development and the play activities planned for children by their parents. This approach is of what kind?
a. structural
b. functional
c. descriptive
d. experimental

3. Dewey criticized the reflex arc concept because he maintained that the reflex was really:
a. a circle
b. a bridge
c. the end result of a stimulus
d. a response that had to be started by another response

4. The behaviorists believed that the subject matter of psychology should be:
a. mental acts
b. observable phenomena
c. products of the environment
d. subjective data

5. The behaviorists believed that psychology should be similar to:
a. natural sciences
b. social sciences
c. physical sciences
d. technologies

6. The belief that "all scientific statements should be reduced to statements of sensation" was a major point advocated by the:
a. positivists
b. functionalists
c. structuralists
d. Gestaltists

7. Which of the following was not a group related to logical positivism:
a. Gestalt psychology
b. Cambridge analysts
c. pragmatists
d. operationists

8. Columbia University, along with Chicago, was a great center for functional psychology and included the presence of several leaders:
a. Guthrie
b. Watson
c. Thorndike
d. Cattell

9. Behaviorists opposed both the structuralists and the Gestaltists primarily over their method of obtaining psychological data. That method required the subject to observe the contents or processes of his own mind and was called:
a. objectification
b. introspection
c. naturalistic observation
d. phenomenological reduction

1 OR FEWER WRONG, go on to Module 2
MORE THAN 1 WRONG, instructor conference


Unit 7 Table of Contents

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