On "psychology as the behaviorist views it."



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ON "PSYCHOLOGY AS THE BEHAVIORIST VIEWS IT."
E. B. Titchener (1914)
Classics in the History of Psychology
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ON "PSYCHOLOGY AS THE BEHAVIORIST VIEWS IT."
E. B. Titchener (1914)
First published in
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
,
53

, When we speak of a science, we have in mind a logically organized body of knowledge that has resulted from certain methods of attacking the problems presented by a particular subject- matter. The methods of science are all, in the last resort, observational the problems of science are all, in the last resort, analytical. The subject-matter of a given science maybe indicated in two different ways by a simple enumeration of objects, or by a characterization of the point of view from which the science in question regards the common subject-matter of all science, namely, human experience. Thus we may say that our psychology will deal with such things as perceptions, feelings, thoughts, or we may say that psychology, dealing "in some sort with the whole of experience" is to be distinguished as "individualistic" from other sciences which are "universalistic." It is clear that a characterization of this kind, though it necessarily transcends the limits of the science in order to show how those limits are drawn, is far more satisfactory than a mere list of objects and psychology, these many years past, has therefore had recourse to it p. 2] Instead, however, of calling psychology with Ward the "science of experience regarded objectively from the individualistic standpoint" or with Avenarius the "science of experience in general, so far as experience depends upon System Cor with Külpe the "science of the facts of experience in their dependency upon experiencing individuals" or something of that sort, we are accustomed to speak of it as the "science of mind" No harm would be done, if we and our readers always remembered what "mind" as used in a scientific context, must mean. Harm begins at once when we forget that scientific meaning, and start out from the commonsense or traditional significance of the word when we equate "mind" with "consciousness" which we take as the equivalent of "awareness" and when we set off a group of "conscious phenomena"

as the peculiar subject-matter of psychology. I do not think that modern psychologists can fairly be charged with neglect of their duty to correct these errors it seems tome, on the contrary,
that our leaders are painfully careful to set their house in logical order. But habits of speech are inveterate, and commonsense is extraordinarily tenacious of life small wonder, then, that misunderstandings should arise. It is, for example, a misunderstanding that has prompted the polemical paragraphs of Watson's recent articles on what, I suppose, we must be content to call Behaviorism


This doctrine, asset forth by Watson, has two sides, positive and negative. On the positive side, psychology is required to exchange its individualistic standpoint for the universalistic; it is to be "a purely objective experimental branch of natural science" in the sense in which physics and chemistry are natural sciences It is to concern itself solely with the changes setup, byway of receiving organ and nervous system, in muscle and gland It is differentiated from its sister sciences of life partly by its special point of view, partly by the goal which it strives to attain. The changes which it p. 3] studies are to be approached from the point of view of adjustment to environment its categories are stimulus and response, heredity and habit.[
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Differentiation, however, is not to be understood as separation there is now no barrier between psychology and the other "natural" sciences in the long run behavior will appear as a matter of physical and chemical causation while nevertheless, as behavior, it is the subject-matter of the special science of psychology, to be interpreted and arranged under the rubrics just mentioned. The erection of this special science is both justified and made possible by the practical goal of behaviorism, which is the working out of general and special methods for the control of behavior, the regulation and control of evolution as a whole On the negative side, again, psychology is enjoined by the behaviorist to ignore, even if it does not deny, those modes of human experience with which ordinary psychology is concerned, and in particular to reject the psychological method of introspection. "Consciousness in a psychological sense" maybe dispensed with consciousness, in the sense of a tool or instrument with which all men of science work, maybe utilized by the new psychology without scruple and without examination Imagery, the "inner stronghold of a psychology based on introspection" is denied outright one of Watson's "principal contentions" is "that there are no centrally initiated processes And if consciousness maybe dispensed with, self-observation and the introspective reports that result from it are to be treated in even more summary fashion;

they are to be "eliminated There will be no real loss for most of the essential problems with which psychology as an introspective science now concerns itself are open to behaviorist treatment, and the residue may "in all probability be phrased in such away that refined methods in behavior (which certainly must come) will lead to their solution p. 4] Such, in outline, is "psychology as the behaviorist views it" Watson, of course, goes into some amount of detail, offering illustration and personal explanation, as well as attacking the method and problems of current psychology. But before I follow him on these various paths, I

should like to record two general impressions that the reading of his articles has made upon me. The first impression is that of their unhistorical character and the second is that of their logical irrelevance to psychology as psychology is ordinarily understood. I call the articles unhistorical because they give no hint that any similar revolt against an established psychology had taken place earlier in psychological history. Yet one need go no farther back than Comte to find a parallel. Comte's rejection of introspection has often been referred to let me now quote another passage in which he sums up his attack upon ideology. It is evident, first, that no function can be studied but with relation to the organ that fulfils it or to the phenomena of its fulfilment and, in the second place, that the affective functions, and yet more the intellectual, exhibit in respect of their fulfilment the peculiar characteristic that they cannot be directly observed during the actual course of this fulfilment, but only in its more or less immediate and more or less permanent results. There are then only two different ways of studying scientifically such an order of functions we must either determine, with all attainable precision, the various organic conditions on which they depend, -- and this is the chief object of phrenological physiology or we must observe the consequence for conduct of intellectual and moral acts -- and this belongs rather to natural history . . .; these two inseparable aspects of one and the same subject being, of course, always so conceived that each may throw light on the other. Thus regarded, this great study is seen to be inseparably connected on the one hand with the whole. . of natural philosophy, and especially with the fundamental doctrines of biology and, on the other hand, with the whole of scientific history, of the animals as well as of man, and even of humanity. But when, by the pretended method of psychology, we discard absolutely from our subject-matter the consideration both of the agent and of the act that is, of the organ of function and of the result of its exercise, what more is there left to occupy the


mind than an unintelligible logomachy, in which merely nominal entities are everywhere substituted for scientific phenomena . . .? The most difficult study of all is thus placed at once in a state of complete isolation, without any possible point of support in the simpler and more perfect sciences, over which it is proposed, on the contrary, to give it sovereign rule. p. 5] On these two points, all psychologists, however extreme their differences in other regards, are found to agree Not Watson himself could be more outspoken or more severe But we need not go back to
Comte and the thirties we need go only to Cournot and the year 1851. After a sharp criticism of introspection, Cournot writes So we see that the most useful observations on the intellectual and moral nature of man,
observations gathered not by philosophers disposed to theories and systems, but by men gifted with the true spirit of observation and prepared to grasp the practical side of things -- by moralists, historians, men of affairs, legislators, instructors of youth, -- have not as a rule been the fruit of a solitary contemplation and an internal study of the facts of consciousness, but far rather the result of an attentive study of the behavior (conduite) of men placed in various situations, subjected to passions and influences of all sorts Here we are hardly without the circle of those "fifty-odd years" which Watson believes -- how mistakenly -- have been "devoted to the study of states of consciousness It would not be difficult to cross that line but it is unnecessary. My point is that Watson's behaviorism is neither so revolutionary nor so modern as a reader unversed in history might be led to imagine;
and that as psychology has weathered similar proposals in the past, -- and, I hope and think,

has benefited by the storm, -- so also it may weather and be benefited by this latest trial of its staunchness p. 6] The second general impression that I record is that of the logical irrelevance of Watson's programme to what is currently called psychology. For suppose that that programme were carried out to its last detail how would introspective psychology be affected Why, those who were interested in the method and results of introspection would simply start out where Watson had left off the universalistic psychology being completed, it would be in order for the individualistic to be begun. A shift of standpoint over against the world of experience means the appearance of anew subject-matter, or (more strictly) of anew aspect of the common subject- matter and anyone aspect has the same claim to scientific consideration as any other nor is therein science a Congregation of the Index to allow this and to forbid that. The behaviorist may, if he will, ignore "consciousness in a psychological sense he may use consciousness as a tool without making it "a special object of observation there is none to say him nay but why should not someone who is not a behaviorist scrutinize what he has ignored, and try to find out empirically of what materials this particular tool is made Logically, so far as I can see,

behaviorism is irrelevant to introspective psychology. Materially, I believe that psychology will be furthered by it, since increased knowledge of the bodily mechanisms, of anything that pertains to Avenarius' System C, means greater stability of certain parts of the system of psychology. Neither logically nor materially can behaviorism "replace" psychology. Impressions, however, must give way to closer argument we must view Watson's articles at shorter range. And we shall, perhaps, make most progress if we begin with his pronouncements regarding the failure of experimental psychology. Psychology, we are told, has failed signally, during the fifty-odd years of its existence, to make good its claim as a natural science. Its present condition is chaotic. The chances are that such ques- p. 7] tions as those of the extensive attribute of auditory and the intensive attribute of visual sensations, or the differences obtaining between sensation and image, will be debated two hundred years hence as inconclusively as they are debated today. Psychological method is esoteric. It has proved unable to grapple with such matters as imagination, judgment,
reasoning, conception these topics have simply become threadbare with much handling.
Functional psychology is at fault no less than systematic and structural psychology. Only those "branches of psychology which have already partially withdrawn from the parent" and which


are consequently less dependent upon introspection, -- experimental pedagogy, the psychology of drugs, the psychology of advertising, legal psychology, the psychology of tests, and psychopathology, -- are vigorous growths. The complete elimination of introspection from these disciplines will make their results still more valuable, and will keep them -- as psychology itself emphatically is not -- in touch with "problems which vitally concern human interest That, I believe, is a fair statement of Watson's position it is given largely in his own words. I

have to reply, first, that fifty-odd years is not necessarily along period in the history of an experimental science. It is not long, of course, regarded as mere duration for it is in the sixteenth century that "the physicist abandons scholastic speculation and begins to study nature in the language of experiment while it is only in the middle of the nineteenth that psychology becomes experimental. It might belong, in a transferred sense, if it were crowded with workers but the number of productive students in "systematic, structural and functional"
psychology does not compare with the number in physics or chemistry Has Watson, I
wonder, ever counted the number of experimental papers that deal with imagination, judgment,
reasoning and conception It is notoriously difficult to trace beginnings but we shall not p. have gone far wrong if we date the first overt attempts to bring these complexes under experimental control from 1902, 1901, 1908 and 1903 respectively, -- if we say, at any rate, that their experimental study belongs to the present century. And we have already worn such topics threadbare I should rather judge that we have hardly touched their fringe. How many decades or centuries they will engage the attention of psychologists, I do not know the important thing is that we should do thoroughly such work upon them as can be compassed in a generation. Our descendants may ask so much of us but we owe them nothing more and though I also hope that two hundred years hence other questions may have replaced those of visual attributes and imaginal characters, of orientation in the rat and of the homing sense of terns, I am far more deeply concerned to sift the materials of discussion than to hurry debate to a conclusion There remain the seceding branches, experimental pedagogy and the rest. In their regard, I

think, the unhistorical nature of Watson's paper renders his exposition seriously misleading it is psychology, and not behaviorism, that has shaped their course and it is psychology, and not behaviorism, that they still look to for guidance. Meumann's


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