REFLEXOLOGY AND JOHN B. WATSON
QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED IN MODULE 2:
1. What contributions were made to reflexology by the French?
2. What is the Bell Magendie Law?
3. What was Pavlov's theory about conditioning and how did this influence the development of behaviorism?
4. Who and what influenced Watson's thinking in the founding of behaviorism?
5. What kinds of persons were attracted to behaviorism?
6. In what ways were behaviorism and psychoanlytic theory similar? In what ways different?
7. How did Watson explain mental phenomenon?
8. What other countries adopted a behavioristic point of view in their psychology?
Behaviorism is more closely associated with reflexology than with any other concept. The reason for this is two fold. Reflexes are involuntary responses and do not require the brain. One major tenet of behaviorism is that psychology should use the simplest explanations possible. Another major tenet is to avoid mentalistic concepts wherever possible.
Descartes. Descartes was among the first to construct an explanation of involuntary action produced by reflexes. He was not aware of the differences between sensory and motor nerves. Sensation and response were both managed by the same nerve. The nerves were hollow tubes which contained "delicate threads." The threads were connected at one end to the sense organs and at the other end to the brain. Stimuli impinging on the sense organs would produce a pull on the threads which would in turn pull open a small pore in the brain, releasing animal spirits into the tube. The animal spirits would then flow through the tubes to muscles and thus enlarge the muscle, making movement possible. These were described in his book, Traite de Homme, 1662 (Fearing, 1964, p. 22).
LaMattrie. But Descartes did not apply his mechanical explanations equally to man and animals. The body operated according to mechanical principles and animals could be explained in those terms. Man, however, had a soul and was thus different from the other forms of animal life.
One hundred years later, another Frenchman, LaMattrie, generalized the machine model to all living creatures, including man, by the publication of his book, The Human Machine, in 1748. This publication immediately made LaMattrie the subject of attack by institionalized religion. Descartes had gone quite far enough by suggesting that the human body was no different from that of animals. LaMattrie, however, went the full way, by eliminating even the soul which Descartes had retained as the differentiating characteristic
Bell-Magendie. It was not until the next century that the structure of the reflex arc was clearly understood. Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842), the foremost anatomist in Britain, published in l811 a paper describing his experiments on the spinal nerves. The nerves leave the spinal cord in two rather than one place. As the nerve approaches the spinal cord separates into two sections, one part entering the cord from the rear, the other from the front. It is these two roots of the nerve, previously undetected because of their microscopic size, which represent the sensory and motor nerves, collected together into one bundle when leading to arm, leg, or other structures.
What Bell discovered, and elaborated on further by the Frenchman Magendie in 1822, was that different things happen if you sever the rear root than if you sever the front root. If the rear root is cut, the animal can feel nothing; i.e., he will not respond when stimulated, though he can move his limbs voluntarily. But if the front root is cut, the animal will not move at all -- whether stimulated or by voluntary action, though he might feel a pain, as indicated by a howl.
What then became known as the Bell-Magendie law was neural specialization -- that there were two fibers entering the spinal cord instead of one -- the sensory nerve enters the back and the motor nerve leaves from the front. The automatic, involuntary reflex is then produced by the stimulus innervating the sensory nerve which makes synapse with the motor nerve which in turn initiates- some muscular reaction.
The Pflueger-Lotze Controversy. Was consciousness present only in the brain, or was it present wherever nervous tissue was found. This was the perplexing question of the late nineteenth century. At first blush, to the naive observer, it would appear that consciousness is everywhere. After all, legs move, arms reach out; there is purposiveness in every action. Even when the head is decapitated, there is movement of the limbs which appear purposive.
Edward Pflueger (1829-1910) thought consciousness was motion and therefore existed wherever nervous tissue was found. Opposing this point of view was Rudolph Lotze (1817-1881) who held that consciousness was unique to the brain only. The fact that decapitated animals would move with apparent purposiveness was explained by traces left in the nervous system. Voluntary action could become habitual and such habit patterns were laid down in the nervous system and operated as reflexes in the absence of the brain.
The Russian reflexologists and American behaviorists sided more with Lotze than Pflueger, though they tended to reject any notion of consciousness at all, explaining all behavior in terms of relex arcs.
The controversy is not present today, unless one sees in the current interest in Reichian energy or in altered states of consciousness some parallels to Pflueger's appeal to a consciousness pervading the whole body. But at least in the development of psychology during the first half of the present century the issue was dropped in favor of a simple explanation for movement. But what the controversy did generate was a large amount of experimental work on the nature of the nervous system which greatly influences numerous fields of psychology.
It must be noted that next to the French, the Russians have contributed most to the concept of a mechanistic psychology, especially in advancing the importance of the reflex arc as a major concept. As early as the 1860's, I. M. Sechenov was publishing papers explaining consciousness and unconscious life as a function of reflexes, this even before Wundt's famous Physiological Psychology, which laid the ground work for experimental psychology, was published. Pavlov was influenced by Sechenov's papers.
Sechenov had taken a medical degree at the University of Moscow, studied under Mueller and du Bois Raymond at Berlin, worked with Ludwig at Vienna and Helmholtz at Heidelberg and under Claude Bernard in Paris. He was a well traveled and well educated man. He claimed to show that there was an interaction among the central and peripheral processes. He used Weber's demonstration of inhibition to show that cerebral mechanisms "could inhibit peripheral reflexes." Sechenov died in 1905.
Pavlov (1849-1936),conducting research on the salivary glands, showed that a certain response could be elicited by new and previously neutral stimuli after a sufficient number of pairings of the natural with the neutral stimulus. If salvation is automatically and naturally produced by food placed on the tongue, the same response could be elicited by ringing a bell if the bell and food were both simultaneously presented a number of times. The substitution of one stimulus for another produced a new association. Food and salavation were natural (and biological) associations, but bell and salivation could be produced only as a new association and cause effect connections. A new bond resulted when the reflex was elicited by a new, thus a conditioned or learned, stimulus.
This Russian emphasis on a mechanistic and therefore non-personal approach to human behavior got reinforced by parallel developments in the United States -- the development of comparative psychology. Early animal biological researchers noted the similarities among plant, animal, and human behavior. Thus, explanations in one area could be used for other forms of animal life -- thus omitting the confusing complexities of the human spirit or mind.
A few years after Pavlov's publication, Jacques Loeb (1859-1924), in the United States, wrote in 1900 a book entitled, Comparative Physiology of Brain and Comparative Psychology, in which he pointed out that many bodily processes are functions of chemical or tropistic reaction rather than of the ganglion. Simple animals, he believed, just as plants, move in the direction of light. These tropisms seemed clear evidence for a mechanistic conception of human as well as animal life. Loeb taught at the University of Chicago (where Watson attended his lectures) and was nationally rated as a hard scientist, coaxing psychology long in the process. At the St. Louis Exposition, a few years later, in 1904, Catell was also asking that psychology attempt to be more productive by proceeding as a natural science.
The third major Russian, Bekhterev (1857-1927), was younger than Pavlov but died earlier. Bekhterev coined the term "reflexology," even though the concept was in evidence earlier in Dewey's paper on the reflex arc. Bekhterev published in 1910 a book entitled, Objective Psychology and his general principles did much to support and encourage the behavioristic movement (Boring, 1951).
WATSON AND BEHAVIORISM
When did behaviorism begin?
It is generally agreed that behaviorism began in 1913 when Watson published his paper, "Psychology as the behaviorist views it." Watson had not invented behaviorism nor first proposed it, but he became the systems' standard bearer. He was the major behaviorist and he was the founder of the school. He developed a system, he had disciples, and he conducted systematic research and inaugurated journals for publishing his findings. All of these are indications that a school exists.
But ideas similar to behaviorism were being proposed by others and some as early as 1904, the year in which the Congress of Arts and Sciences met in St. Louis in conjunction with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. During that meeting, Cattell delivered an address entitled, "The conceptions and methods of psychology," later published as an article in the Congress of Arts. Cattell's statements in that speech were similar to those made by Watson in his 1913 paper rejecting introspection as a method of investigation and advocating ways for controlling other humans as a social technology.
John B. Watson was apparently a member of the audience at the St. Louis meetings. Watson's 1913 paper on behaviorism is remarkably similar to Cattell's 1904 remarks. Both men proclaimed that psychology had opportunities for applied work (Bakan, 1966). Whether Watson was a member of the audience in 1904 is immaterial. The fact remains that in the preface to his book, Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist (1919), Watson refers to Cattell's address when he states that in the study of human activity, any trained scientist, not necessarily a psychologist, can make the necessary observations. And he adds, "In this conclusion, I am in hearty agreement with Cattell's St. Louis address (Watson, 1919, p. vii)." Interestingly enough, Watson dedicates this book to J. McKeen Cattell and Adolph Meyer.
Others have also been credited with or taken credit for introducing behaviorism. Dunlap (1927), for example, points out that "response" and "reaction" were terms used before "behaviorism" was officially launched. Dunlap claims that his ". . . own formulations were made while the inventors of behaviorism were still accepting images and sensations in the old, naive way (Dunlap, 1927, p. 477)." Dunlap says that Aristotle, Binet, and Ebbinghaus, if anyone, should be credited with behaviorism rather than the current inventors. Dunlap was convinced that behaviorism had ceased to exist by 1927, that it had folded up, that behaviorists had abandoned their methods or science, and that shoddy work had subsequently developed (Dunlap, 1927, p. 481).John B. Watson (1878-1958)
The standard bearer of behaviorism was John B. Watson. He was born and reared in Greenville, South Carolina,in the rural south and he died in New York City, in the industrial north. He took his Ph. D. at the University of Chicago in 1903, a year before the St. Louis exposition. Most of his professional life was spent at the Johns Hopkins University. During his tenure there he became involved with a young coed. He was divorced from his wife in 1920 and was subsequently asked to resign his academic appointment. He then joined the New York advertising firm of J. Walter Thompson and William Esty where he remained until 1945. While in New York he lectured at the New School of Social Research (1922-26), a place of refuge for many prominent educators, especially those leaving Germany during the Hitler regime. Watson's recreational interests were in orthinology and carpentry, and he owned a plantation and a mill in the south.
Watson was a personally attractive, persuasive, and dynamic person. The women seemed to like him. McDougall was distressed when, during a famous debate with Watson in Washington, D.C. over the issues of behaviorism, the audience, primarily young and female, obviously sided with Watson (Watson and McDougall, 1929). McDougall claimed that young Americans were attracted to the bizzare, to the simplistic, and to an easy escape from hard or distasteful work. Such criticism was frequently levelled against behaviorism. As a theory it seemed to handle difficult human problems too cavalierly.
Watson's call for behaviorism, the one that formed the break with structuralism, was a publication entitled "Psychology as a behaviorist views it," appearing in the March, 1913 issue of the Psychological Review. Watson was editor of the journal at the time. Others who were journal editors were Howard Warren, Index; James Angell, the Monograph; and Arthur Pierce of Smith as editor of the Bulletin with advisory editors as: Angier, Munsterberg, Dodge, Calkins, Thorndike, Judd, Jastrow, Meyer, Pillsbury, Seashore, and Stratton.
John Watson was a young psychologist, only 35 years old, and a professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins University when he published his paper. Watson's paper served as the guideline for a new approach to the study of psychological phenomena.
Watson's paper was not particularly novel at the time. Cattell had ten years earlier said similar things. And Watson had lectured on behaviorism prior to the publication of the article. Even before 1913, Watson himself appealed for the use of observable data. In 1908 he spoke to the Yale psychology faculty. In that same year, he participated in a seminar at Chicago University. Then, during February and March of 1913, on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, Watson gave a series of lectures at Columbia University. Announced in the New York Times in February 1913 of that year were a series of eight lectures to be given at Columbia University by Dr. Watson of Johns Hopkins. More than casual interest was thus created.
The first lecture of the series was titled the same, "Psychology as a behaviorist views it," as the famous journal article appearing the following month. The second lecture was entitled, "Problems of behaviorism." The ideas in this lecture were similar to those given to a Yale seminar in 1908. The last lecture in the series, reviewing the limits of animal learning, provided greater general public interest by reviewing the spectacular and controversial phenomena of the memory of horses -- the antics of Clever Hans, Kroll's horses, and other legendary horses.
Watson's point of view is now well known. In calling for a purely objective science, he asked that some of the methods of animal psychology be applied to the study of humans. Further, he suggested that we discard the notion of "mind" and other mentalistic concepts which could not be subjected to nor verified by experimental or observational methods. The proper subject matter of psychology should be observable behavior or anything that the organism does. This reduced to two things: muscular (primarily striate) reactions, and glandular (primarily exocrine) secretions. You could see a person moving arms, legs, mouth and head. And you could see perspiration, tears, and saliva. Here was a strictly peripheralistic psychology.
Although behaviorism really got its start at the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins became the center of considerable work in behaviorism and physiological psychology. Angell and Carr, leaders in the new functionalism, were both teaching at Chicago during the first decade of the century when Watson went there as a graduate student in 1903. Watson received his Ph.D. under Donaldson and Angell in 1903 and then stayed on as an assistant and instructor. He was offered a position there as Assistant Professor in 1908 but turned it down in preference for a full professorship at Johns Hopkins University.
It was at Johns Hopkins that Karl Lashley received his Ph.D. in 1914 as a student of Watson, and then stayed on as a fellow for several years before going to the University of Minnesota (1917-1926). Lashley provided a physiological basis for behaviorism. Behaviorism's one major contribution, emphasizing the importance of the use of objective observation rather than the subjective approach of the structuralists, was enriched by Lashley who provided a capstone to this approach. Lashley used the methods of psychology to observe how animals differ in discriminatory ability. He then removed cortical sections of the brain and tested the animals again, noting any differences between his lesioned animals and control groups. By this method, he was able to show how certain brain processes contributed to specific psychological phenomena. Specific responses were found not directly related to specific areas of the brain. In this regard, his findings really argued against behavioristic dogma that claimed discrete kinds of behavior could account for complex psychological phenomena. The brain appeared to him more as a whole rather than as a collection of discrete parts. According to Heidbreder, the theory was not vindicated, but the method of objective observation made a considerable contribution. It was this demonstration of how physiological research could support behavioristic theory, that won for psychology so many rigorous scientific supporters.
WHY BEHAVIORISM WAS ATTRACTIVE TO AMERICANS
David Bakan suggests that behaviorism emerged from an anti-intellectual tradition in America.* It is true that most of the behaviorists were reared in rural areas and small towns, rather than in urban centers so often noted for their support of cultural and intellectual events.
Watson, for example, was raised in South Carolina, attended a variety of small country schools before moving to Greenville, and then eventually went to the University of Chicago. Albert Weiss, who attempted to further behavioristic theory with his book in 1925, attended the University of Missouri where he took all of his work under Max Meyer. He was Meyer's assistant even before completing his bachelor's degree in 1908 and stayed on for the master's and then the Ph.D. degrees. Before finishing his Ph.D. he accepted an appointment at Ohio State University. Both Missouri and Ohio State were great universities, but they were founded for the purpose of providing technical support (rather than intellectual stimulation)for the working classes. And they were land grant institutions in the middle of rural midwestern America.
E. B. Holt was the only one among the group who was raised in a semi-urban environment, if you consider Winchester, Massachusetts, north of Boston between Concord and Lynn, as something other than a rural area. Holt went down to Boston to receive his AB and Ph.D. from Harvard, with a few hours out for a Columbia master's. He stayed on at Harvard to teach until 1918. Later, upon retirement, he was a visiting professor at Princeton where among his students were J. J. Gibson, and Carmichael. Tolman received his Ph.D. under Holt at Harvard the same year that Burtt (I/O) received his Ph.D. and Pressey (Developmental) received his M.A. there. Yerkes was also there just two years before McDougall joined the faculty.
Tolman must have taken Greeley's advice about moving west. He left Harvard in 1915, spent three years at Northwestern and then went to the University of California in Berkeley, where he stayed until his death in 1959. The molar behavior which Tolman advocated was essentially the same kind of behavior that Holt talked about earlier. A strict elementaristic S-R psychology lacked appeal for many of these neo-behaviorists.
Karl Lashley, the neurophysiologist oriented behaviorist (see 952-53), was also from the rural midwest. He was born in Davis, west Virginia, a small town at the foot of the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains, near the fork where West Virginia and Maryland meet. He must have started off to college in 1906. As an undergraduate,he attended west Virginia University, located in Morgantown, in the northern part of the state near the Pennsylvania border. I have no idea how he must have gotten from Davis to there. The roads are blocked by the mountain range and it would be necessary to travel either farther south and then up through Clarksburg, or farther north toward Cumberland, Pennsylvania. If boats were running,he could have gone more directly by river traffic. Once in Morgantown, you are half way to Pittsburgh, which is where he went for his M.S. degree in 1911.
Lashley and Dallenbach arrived in Pittsburgh at the same time, hired as two of the three teaching assistants for that year. Dallenbach handled the laboratory courses in psychology and Lashley did the same in Biology. Dallenbach (1967) reports that Lashley managed to waive for him the biology course requirement of regular students; the same arrangement was worked out for Lashley in psychology by Dallenbach, though Lashley worked independently under Dallenbach. Lashley then went down to Baltimore and worked with Watson at Johns Hopkins. The two must have made a pair -- both from the southern rural United States. Lashley's professional life then included Minnesota, Chicago, and finally Harvard.
Watson was raised near Greenville, SC., in the northwestern part of the state, close to Greenboro, GA. He attended school in villages of quaint sounding rural names -- Reedy River, White Horse, and Traveler s Rest. The family finally moved to Greenville. In his own words he was lazy and insolent, performed poorly in school and was arrested for fighting with black children and for "shooting guns"-- within the city limits. He attended Furnham College in the same town but was required to take an additional year of work because he handed in his final exam backwards! Such a delay was apparently no great tragedy. By the time he was only 29 years old he had been offered a full professorship at a prestigious university. Many roads through southern cities lead to the north; Watson must have found one of them. (Watson, 1936).
Behaviorism, with its practical implications, readily appealed to the younger generation. As the idol of psychology's youth, Watson was elected, with the help of that generation to become in 1915 the president of the American Psychological Association. The idea of control by various reform endeavors was being advanced everywhere in American culture (Bakan, 1966). Today, behavior modification has its youthful votaries, just as the opposing philosophical school of existentialism and sensitivity training also has its devotees. Today, there is little basic difference between behavior modification and sensitivity groups. Both schools have developed techniques for producing change in people. The former is tauted as a means for producing behavioral changes and skill modifications; the latter presumably produces emotional or cognitive changes in the self. In either case, the Utopia will be achieved only if enough people can be won to their cause.
Psychological theories appear to progress from the simple to the complicated; the youthful devotees being attracted to the former.* Structuralism had become overly complicated; by the 1920's, Watsonian behaviorism appeared to be a simple explanation for human behavior. Then behaviorism, under Hull, grew to an immensely complicated and involved system of mathematical concepts and principles, soon discarded by the young psychologists who turned quickly to the more appealing and simplistic theory of Gestalt therapy and sensitivity training.
Another characteristic of behaviorism, as advanced by the two major behaviorists, Watson and Skinner, was social reform. Social reform is a major characteristic of behaviorism and it is indigenous to American political and social thought and action. The United States was founded on a radical revision of political thought. During the ensuing two hundred years, there have been changes in labor, religious, and social institutions. Russia, the country with even more dramatic changes in the social order, has been unusually supportive of behaviorism. Not withstanding criticism to the contrary, framers of the constitution attempted to insure as much individual autonomy as possible, thus encouraging variability and change.
Static societies do not change and cannot easily change. Dynamic societies, in process of change, hold that underlying structures are modifiable. In the debate over habit patterns, behaviorism maintains that habits are products of experience; psychoanalytic theory maintains there are underlying "natural" structures which predispose the individual to certain patterns. It would appear that behaviorism is more sympathetic to a society which seeks changes in persons.
Change is the major characteristic of American technology and of American functionalism. If you know how something "works" and what the mechanism is, then you should be able to adapt it to applied situations. Interest in technology also means interest in practical solutions to problems. Watson and Skinner were interested in both the mechanics of human behavior and in the mechanics of society. Their solutions about human behavior seemed to suggest, at the same time, solutions to societal ills. There was, as Woodworth said, "unlimited faith in the ability of science to take charge of human affairs (Bakan, 1966, p. 6)," or "a religion to take the place of religion." One really cannot find evidence of a thorough going behaviorism except in those cultures which are witnessing drastic reform movements, such as the United States, Russia, or possibly China.
Behavioristic explanations of behavior were entirely environmentalistic. Although a person is born with basic reflexes, a much larger number of modified reflexes or responses (learned reflexes or conditioned reflexes) is acquired. Pavlov convincingly demonstrated that frequent repetitious pairings of a natural with a neutral stimulus produces a learned response. Why not use this as a paradigm for all behavior? McDougall and others had tried to explain all kinds of behavior as a product of instincts in vogue in 1910. There was no proof that such things as instincts existed. Such concepts simply tended to confuse the issue, substituting one level of explanation for another. Why not assume that behavior was molded and learned? Watson maintained that the child came into the world with very simple equipment and would leave it the same way, unless culture produced modifications.
The importance of early childhood was emphasized by both psychoanalysts and behaviorists. Watson had said, "give me a normal child at the age of six, and I will make him a doctor, lawyer, indian chief." He believed that the behavior patterns of adults were nothing more than a complex organization of habit patterns established in childhood. This conception implies that some practice is necessary to produce a habit pattern -- the primary principle for most behaviorists.
Psychoanalysts, on the other hand, while agreeing that adult patterns are formed in early childhood, have placed little importance on the law of exercise. The behaviorists were not able to give an adequate definition of consciousness or unconsciousness. When pressed, Watson said that unconsciousness was simply the "unverbalized," a notion which Watson borrowed from Freud (Hilgard, 1975, p.371).
Behaviorism spread to China, primarily through the influence of Z. Y. Kuo. The "instinct" doctrine was discarded because it implied innateness and force, both of which had become outmoded. Kuo even went so far as to claim that reflexes were acquired. He was so opposed to purposiveness that he attacked Woodworth, Perry, and Tolman, none of whom were considered particularly anti-behavioristic in their point of view. But Kuo wanted psychology to stay close to those principles in physics as implied in the conceptions of stimulus and response. The organism is moved not by those internal forces of purpose and drive as implied by Woodworth and others; thus, there was a return to an emphasis upon movement. Kuo was so radical in his behaviorism that he is credited with having said, "There are one and a half behaviorists in the world; Watson is the half and I am the only one."
Behaviorism emerged in part by adapting the methodology of experimental structural psychology. Structural psychology had begun in Germany when Wundt attempted to understand the philosophical questions of sensation, thinking, and memory by using the experimental methods then used by the physiologists. American philosophers were intrigued with this idea and went to Germany and to Wundt's laboratory to learn first hand about the new techniques. They returned to America and established research laboratories where the new research was expanded. Although not all psychologists agreed that Wundt's methods could answer significant problems, most recognized that the contributions were significant.
8. b, d
2. Sechenov, Bekhterev, Pavlov
4. stimulus, stimulus
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February 14, 2008