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Posted: July 12th, 2023

Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Layperson Explanation

PSYC 565,

Discussion Assignment Instructions

The student will complete one Discussion in this course. The student will post one thread of at least 500 words. The student must then post 2 replies of at least 200 words For each thread, students must support their assertions with at least 3 different peer-reviewed articles (cited in APA format). The 2 replies must be based on what the student has read in the textbook and/or journal articles. Citations are not required for the 2 replies and are considered optional. Acceptable sources include the textbook, the Bible, etc.

Summarize Dr. Watson’s now-famous Behavioral manifesto, “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It.” What is the greatest strength of Behavioralism and, conversely, what is its greatest weakness? Finally, briefly outline how you would describe this school of thought to a layperson who does not have specialized knowledge of psychology.

_______________________________ Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Layperson Explanation

In the field of psychology, numerous perspectives shape our understanding of human behavior and mental processes. One influential perspective is behaviorism, which gained prominence in the early 20th century. Dr. John B. Watson, a renowned psychologist, introduced the now-famous behavioral manifesto titled “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It.” This discussion will provide a summary of Watson’s manifesto, highlight the greatest strength and weakness of behaviorism, and present a layperson-friendly description of this school of thought.

Summary of “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It”

In his 1913 publication, Dr. Watson outlined the fundamental tenets of behaviorism. He argued that psychology should focus solely on observable behavior and reject the study of subjective experiences, such as thoughts, emotions, and consciousness. According to Watson, behaviorism sought to establish psychology as a natural science akin to physics and chemistry, emphasizing objectivity and determinism.

Watson proposed that behavior could be understood and predicted through the principles of stimulus and response. He believed that all behavior was the result of conditioning, with external stimuli eliciting specific responses. Through a process of association, individuals learn to respond to certain stimuli in predictable ways. Watson’s manifesto laid the foundation for behaviorism as a dominant force in psychology for several decades.

Strengths of Behaviorism

The greatest strength of behaviorism lies in its scientific rigor and emphasis on objective measurement. Behaviorists advocate for the use of controlled laboratory experiments to investigate human behavior, which allows for the systematic observation and manipulation of variables. This approach ensures that the results are replicable and verifiable, contributing to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Moreover, behaviorism has made significant contributions to practical applications, particularly in behavior modification and therapy. Techniques like classical conditioning and operant conditioning have proven effective in treating various psychological disorders and improving human functioning. By focusing on observable behavior, behaviorism provides tangible strategies for addressing maladaptive behaviors and promoting positive change.

Weaknesses of Behaviorism

However, behaviorism has faced criticism due to its limitations and reductionistic nature. One of its greatest weaknesses is its failure to account for internal mental processes, such as thoughts, emotions, and motivations. By disregarding subjective experiences, behaviorism provides an incomplete understanding of human behavior. Mental processes play a crucial role in shaping behavior, and ignoring them hinders a comprehensive analysis of psychological phenomena.

Another critique of behaviorism is its disregard for individual differences and uniqueness. Behaviorists tend to view human behavior as a result of environmental factors and general principles of conditioning, neglecting the complexity and diversity of human experience. The exclusive focus on observable behavior overlooks the influence of personal characteristics, genetic predispositions, and cultural factors in shaping behavior.

Layperson Explanation of Behaviorism

To explain behaviorism to a layperson without specialized knowledge of psychology, one could describe it as a perspective that emphasizes the study of observable behavior rather than hidden thoughts or feelings. Behaviorists believe that behaviors are learned through experiences, with certain actions becoming associated with specific situations. They argue that by understanding the environmental factors that shape behavior, we can modify and influence it effectively.

Behaviorism sees human behavior as a product of the interactions between individuals and their environment. It suggests that by altering the environment and providing appropriate stimuli, desired behaviors can be encouraged, while undesired behaviors can be reduced. This approach has practical applications in various fields, such as education, therapy, and parenting, where behavior modification techniques are used to promote positive change.

Dr. John B. Watson’s behavioral manifesto, “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It,” laid the foundation for behaviorism, a prominent school of thought in psychology. While behaviorism’s greatest strength lies in its scientific rigor and practical applications, its greatest weakness stems from its limited focus on observable behavior, disregarding internal mental processes. By providing a layperson-friendly explanation, we can convey the essence of behaviorism as a perspective that emphasizes the study of behavior and its environmental influences.


Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. Free Press.

Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20(2), 158-177.

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Prentice-Hall.

Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes: An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex (G. V. Anrep, Trans.). Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1927)

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