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The father of behaviorism

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"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 beggarman 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." –John B. Watson, Behaviorism, 1930

This is a quote from the famous psychologist John. B. Watson (1878 – 1958). This South Carolina psychologist was a poor student in his early years. He was arrested twice for causing trouble as a teenager. Yet he was actually smart enough to enter university at the age of 16. He graduated from Furman University with a masters degree at the age of 21 while working at various jobs to pay for his tuition.

Early years

John. B. Watson studied psychology at the University of Chicago and was influenced by renowned professors such as John Dewey. John B. Watson first developed his concept of behaviorism at this university. He earned his PH.D in psychology in 1903. All in all he considered himself to be antisocial.

His work in academia

Watson began his career teaching in 1908 at the John Hopkins University. By 1913 he was in a position to lecture about his position as a behaviorist s at Columbia University. Watson felt psychology had no place for introspection. He defended that psychology was an observable science. This way a psychologist could observe behavior scientifically; it was impossible to do so with personal accounts, thoughts, feelings and emotions.

The little Albert experiment

John B. Watson is most famous for his Little Albert experiment where he was successful in creating a fear in a baby by using the methods of classic conditioning. Researchers could not do a long-term study on the baby in question, Douglass Merritte died at the age of six from encephalitis. The condition of encephalitis produces fluid in the skull.

Retired from academia

John B. Watson was married and had an affair. He resigned from the university because of it. He got a job in advertising and remained with his mistress until her death in 1935. He had poor relationships with his children and lived like a recluse on a farm in Connecticut until his death in 1945.

Contribution to psychology

The second wave of psychology known as behaviorism lost favor in the 1950s but still remains an important part of psychology today. The principles of behaviorism and classic conditioning are used in behavior modification programs for weight loss, drug and alcohol abuse, anger management, teaching children and more.



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