The Behaviorists - Pavlov, Watson and Skinner (materialist)

188-209 in the textbook

The behaviorists said psychologists should not concern themselves with the mind.   What is this thing that sees feels and thinks?  Where is the soul?  What are dreams?  We should ignore those questions.


We should, instead focus on behavior.


First, Edward Thorndike (1874-1947), a student of William James, did animal studies. 


In James’ basement, he built mazes out of books. 


He put 3 blind alleys and one way that led to food and other chicks.  The chick peeped and ran about blindly until it found the exit.  It very slowly got better at this until it would just walk out the right path. 


He found that animals live by TRIAL AND ERROR


If there had been learning it would have happened much faster.


Cats that had to hit a bar to get out of a box.   They got it by trial and error.  If he  showed the cat another cat doing the behavior in front of it made no difference at all.  Cats don’t think. 


Cats simply do things by trial and error until they fall on the behavior that leads to the reward.  Once the satisfyer is done it is more likely to be repeated.  It is eventually “stamped in”.    If you move the thing that makes it happen you are back to ground zero.


The animal is just responding, it is not thinking.


Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)

Pavlov was a poor Russian.

He was a physiologist who studied dogs digestive systems to tie it to the nervous system.  He was testing which kinds of foods produce which kinds of saliva when he got a problem.  The saliva was starting early.


By surgically creating in the stomach of laboratory dogs a little pouch that let him observe their gastric reflexs (the secretion of gastric juices when the dog began to eat). 


Between 1897 and 1900 he noticed something would secrete stomach acid when something that usually came with the food happened..  He spent the rest of his life studying this.


He invented five  terms


Fear conditioning starts with Pavlov who we’ve already studied. 

There is the unconditioned stimulus (US) then the Unconditioned response (UR)

The Unconditioned response took no training.  When a dog had meat in its mouth the saliva flowed.


There is the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the Conditioned response (CR)


If you ring the bell it is a Conditioned stimulus.  This is followed by what is not a conditioned response.

The conditioned response requires training.  You can get an animal to turn right every time it hears a bell.


Now the dog salivates every time he hears the bell.  But if after a while, the bell doesn’t get followed with food, the conditioned stimulus loses its effect.  This is called extinction.


Not only is fear conditioning strong, but it is long lasting (hard to extinguish)  And once seemingly extinguished, it can be recovered very quickly.   


Example A-

Start to take out the balloon.  Then jump at someone and scream.    This is an unconditioned stimulus.  The fear thing is conditioned.  If I always took out the balloon first.  Then the balloon would get scary.


Extinction: Eventually the connection goes away if it is not reinforced. 


Generalization:  The dogs would secrete less saliva to close objects or sounds.  The less similar, the less saliva.


Discrimination: If the sound were paired with a similar sound, but the similar sound got no reinforcement with food or petting, the dog would learn to differentiate between them.


Example B -Find out if its someones birthday.

Start to blow up a balloon.  Watch as people squirm. 


Hearing the loud noise is the unconditioned stimulus.  Being startled is the unconditioned response.


Anticipating it popping is the conditioned response.  If a baby saw a balloon being blown up it would not get nervous.  It would say look at that pretty thing getting bigger. 


After a couple of pairings with explosions however...  The slow startled response is learned.  A balloon is being inflated and people cringe and contort.


Example C

A car accident on a freeway may make you afraid of freeways.


Example D

If you take psychology from someone with a horrible temper or voice, you will pair psychology with that voice.  Or if the chairs are bad.  We can change that  association.




Mr. Behaviorism John Watson (1878-1958)

Watson was a strange man.  His father ran off when he was young and never came back.  He would always get into fights.  He often left the room when he didn’t  like the conversation.  He never kissed or hugged his children.  At bedtime he shook hands with them.  He got into univerities by sweet talking the presidents.  He also worked really hard and even had a break down due to not sleeping, just working.


two explanations-

a)  Fruedian, the trauma of his father leaving made him like this.  His over work was an attempt to hde from this.


b) Behaviorist, bad associations with  caring were formed at the time of his father’s leaving.  But again, behaviorists wouldn’t care about the why.


He also trained rats.  His first big thing, though, was to create the term “Behaviorism”.  He did it in a paper in 1913.  In the paper he outlined 3 big new ideas



            Not that there isn’t an inside to the mind, but it is too hard to study scientifically and will yield you less results than studying what is external.

Psychology , having first lost its soul to Darwin, lost its mind to Watson.


All organisms adjust to their environment and that certain stimuli lead them to make the necessary responses.  Psychology should be the study between stimulus and responses.


Cognitive dissonance-

For behaviorists, thought is just an interior behavior, also changed by punishment and reinforcement.

Thoughts follow action.


If you have to do something you don’t want to do you have two choices

a - You can tell yourself that you just did something you didn’t want to do.  This will make you doubt your self image

b - You can change your mind and decide that you did want to do it.


The best example of this is desegregation.  Before it, 80% of the people were against it.  Just years after only 24% were against it.   Was this born of experience or folks not wanting to admit that they were willing sending their children into a bad situation.  Skinner would say the later.


So don’t worry if the student doesn’t want to do it.  Have them do so and they will later justify it in their heads.


“What Dr. Eldred said about “Symptoms”



To this end Watson first sought to discover the unconditioned reflxes of the human.  He did this by studying infants.  He found three:

 fear at hearing a loud sound or at suddenly being droped.

rage when its arm or head movements are forcibly restrained

love when stroked rocked, gently patter and the like.


He created objective measures of each:

Fear (catching breath, puckering lips and crying)

Rage (stiffens the body, makes thrashing arm movements, holds its breath, and turns red in the face

Love (gurgles, coos, or smiles)



take a symptom and describe it behaviorally. 



You are the results of your experiences.  Watson said, “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee totake any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select - doctor, lawyer, artist, merchantchief and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and the race of his ancestors.”


Make a calander chart and map out when the above behavior happens.

Now they try.


Albert study

All other human behaviors and emotional reactions were built up of conditioned reflexes.  

If one gets joy whenever someone comes in the room you learn to love that person, not just the rewards, but the conditioned stimulus (them).   


When someone says something not nice, you avoid them.  This is just natural behavior and you associate bad feelings with them  This is not thinking.


To prove this he did his famous Albert study.  when albert was 9 months old they showed him a rat which he did not fear.  They then started to pair it with the striking of a steel bar.  Alber jumped violently, fell forward and buried his face in the mattress.


After a dozen times, the child feared the rat.  Also anything furry (a rabbit, a dog, a seal coat, cotton wool and Watson in a santa clause mask).



He then fell in love with his beautiful young assistant Rosalie Rayner and began an affair with her.  His wife caught him and got him fired.  In those days conduct unbecoming a profesor could get you fired.


He then got a job working for an advertising company and was really successful.    He did Camel cigarettes and deodorants.


He did one where he paired the Queens of Spain and “Romania with Ponds creams.  And one for Maxwell House that helped to make the “coffee break : an American custom for offices, factories and homes.


Smoking is glamorous poster.


He was kicked out of universities at his heighth but continued to write and speak.    Then Rosalie got a disease (dysentary) and died in her mid thirties.  Watson 58 was shattered and he moved back to his farm where he became careless about himself, dressed poorly, grew fat and was solitary.


Applications to humans-

Sometimes really bad associations are set up.

Example A

 Teaching in Korea.  The idea that classrooms are quiet places and that if its not 100% right you get hit or humiliated. 


Example C -

The girl whose father smoked cigarettes and now has a warm and fuzzy reaction to smokers.


Example D - Prejudice

You have a bad experience with a guy who has a tear tattoo in his eye.  After you decide that all people with tear tattoos in their eyes are bad.  You may not even know why you don’t like them.


Example E

you see a needle and your injection fear starts.


B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) Introduction

Was during his lifetime, the best known psychologist in the world.  His ideas are in wide use today in psychological research, education and psychotherapy.


He said that decisions came from the outside.  Feelings are just byproducts of contingencies of reinforcement. 


He was the king of behaviorism and behaviorism was the king (mid 20s to 1960s it ruled American psychology).  If you weren’t a behaviorist, you pretended to be.


Why?  Probably two reasons.  1- it was “scientific”  2- it fit in with american “use” policy


In mid-century American psychology, it would have cost a career to publish on mind, consciousness, volition, or even energy.


Like Watson he was a great publicist.  On his first TV appearance, he asked if he would rather burn his books or kids.  He said his kids.  Outrage and fame followed.


Operant Conditioning

Skinners big technical change in traditional behaviorism was that he added “operant” conditioning.  Here, the animal or human (makes no difference) operates on the environment and learns the rewarded behaviors and stops the punished ones.


Thats why its called operant (because the person operates on the environment)  Then comes the reward or punishment.


So at the bell (stimulus) the dog does an action (operation) and then there is a reward.


CLAssical is S-> R.  Operant is R -> S


Our operant acting is purposeful.  It is with regards to rewards or avoiding anxiety.


Teminology: Reinforcement strengthens a response.  Postive is when something is added to the situation; negative, taken away.

Reinforcement strengthens a response.

positive reinforcement: something good happens and it strengthens the response.

If the rat pushes the bar and gets a pellet, that is a reinforcer.  It reinforces the behavior. Reinforcement  means to strengthen.  Like reinforcing a house or troops.  Reinforcement strengthens a response. 


This can be terrible.  Hypochondriacs got reinforced for being sick.  Perhaps they got sick and they got attention.  So they then are always going for attention.


When you were skinny people said “you look good”  You then starve yourself to death.


 negative reinforcement If you do something it relieves that which is negative.

Being outside creates a lot of fear.  You therefore, don’t go out.  By staying in you can reduce anxiety.

If you are good your parents stop nagging you. 

If you wash your hands a million times, you don’t have to worry about them being dirty anymore.


Punishment weakens a response.   This can also be positive or negative.  Positive is when something is added, negative is when something is taken away.


Positive punishment If the bar pushing brings you an electric shock.   If you do that again I will hit you.  You did poorly on a test and so you won’t take them anymore. You got burned in a relationship and so you’ll never do it again.


Negative punishment (take away a good). No field trip, shorter lunch time.

She leaves you because you aren’t clean enough.  You are now always going to be clean. 

When you don’t work , money goes away and you can’t eat.  Therefore, you work.


How humans are formed

When the pidgeon picks the correct card is it thinking? No right.  He says we don’t think either.  Its just more complex behaviors.


This would be how people learn to talk.  When you make the sound “ma ma” you get a big reward and reaction.  Then you learn “juice” and you get juice.  Then you learn  to say “change the channel” and it may get changed.   If not you hit the person.  If this is rewarded you repeat it.  If this is punished you don’t.


Is it thinking when the baby says MAMA?


A persons whole life and every action is a result of these punishments and rewards. 

Little Johnnie studies and he gets a reward.  He then studies more. 

When he brings home “As” he gets hugs and spending money.

He also is apprised that there is money for people who study science.  He does the behaviors his counselor recommends to be a scientist. 


Later heknows that in science there is a thing called the Nobel Prize.  It makes one Famous.  He studies for it.  Or he and his colleagues know that getting someone to the moon would be rewarding so they do the necessary behaviors.


Or he hears of the time off reward for teachers.  He likes time off rewards.  He learns the behaviors necessary to be a teacher.


This can also be bad.  A girl gets the complimant “boy you look great, you’re so thin”  Then she starts to starve herself hoping for another compliment.


A guy gets lots of praise from his friends when he drinks alot.  Later he has to drink and steal a car to get the same response.


a - So you can explain a person’s entire world, without any reference to mind.

b - Feelings are only an offshoot of going for or against the reward.  A frustration or achievement of the reward.


Experimental Proof

He created the “skinner box”  is a fancy mouse cage.  It records what the rat or pigeon does.   It also gives rewards.So maybe there is a lever and a food dispenser.

So if the rat operates on the lever it gets a reinforcer or a punishment.


He used this box to teach animals to think*. Use the word “think”  to later question what thinking is.


experiment #1 - First you have a pidgeon in a cage.  Then you turn a light on.  When the pidgeon goes to the middle of the cage after the light is turned on it is fed (this is a positive reinforcer.  Soon it does this automatically.  This incrimental approximation is called SHAPING.


Then it will go to the middle.  But then start to reward it only when it goes to the middle and then to one particular side of the cage.  You do this by gradual steps.  Soon when you turn the light on it does the behavior.


Experiment #2 - You place two cards in the cage.  One says “peck” the other “don’t peck”.  If the  pigeon goes to the wrong card, turn off the lights (this is a positive punishment).


Experiment #3 - You only reward it when it pecks at diamonds. 


Experiment #4 - You set up four cards each having the name of a suit on it : spades, hearts etc.  Get the pigeon to peck at them.    Then cover them and put a card above them.  Get the pidgeon to peck at it.  Then, when the pigeon does, show the bottom cards.  If the pigeon pecks at one and then will peck at the bottom row.  Next, when it sees a diamond only reward the pecks at the card followed by pecks at the card that says Diamond.   


He taught a pigeon to play piano. 


Someone else taught a pig to turn on a TV set, pick up dirty clothes and put them in a hamper, and run a vacuum cleaner over the floor.  


modeling  (Albert Bandura)

 Humans are different from animals in that we can learn from watching others.  This is called

So if we see sister set the table and getting praise, we can learn by watching.Cats cannot. 

Furthermore, if sister gets rewarded for it we will mimick that behavior.


Albert Bandura did some interesting studies. 


1) Children view a short videotape of two men, Rocky and Johnny, playing with toys.  Johnny refuses to share his toys and Rocky responds by clobbering him.  Rocky’s actions are rewarded because he winds up with all the toys.  Poor Johnny sits dejectedly in the corner, while Rocky marches off with a sack full of his toys. 


After watching the film, each child was left alone for 20 minutes in a playroom full of toys, including some of the items shown in the film.  Watching through a one-way mirror, the researchers found that the children were more aggressive than a control group that didn’t view the tape.


Tell them of “silence of the lambs”.


Another area of study related to this was girls watch mom, boys watch dad studies.


If we see the guy selling drugs has a big car we learn that that is good behavior. 

We can also learn from other’s reactions.


We don’t need to get hit by a car to be afraid of cars.  We see our mother’s reaction to us going in the street.  We learn from her that spending money is a cause of great worry.


schedules of reinforcement: continuous or variable

Continuous reinforcement schedule is when everytime the behavior is done, you get the reward.

Intermittent is when it doesn’t happen everytime.  This can be fixed or variable.


The rate of learning is increased when the reinforcement is continuous.  A rat will be confused if it doesn’t get it every time initially.


But for maintaining a behavior,  intermittent is better.


Extinguish is the death of the habit.  The behavior goes away.   Intermittent reinforcement increases a previously learned response.  So letting the cat in every 5th time it scratches the door is going to really strengthen the response.  Also harder to extinguish than everytime.


A prime example of this is gambling.

Children may learn that when they cry they get mothers attention. 


When mother cooks tellher you love her.  She’ll cook more.


You can shape conversation this way.  If you don’t like it when someone talks of sports , but do  like to discuss feelings.  You can be subtle.  Look away when they talk of sports.  Look at them when they talk of feelings.

teaching application

a - Use positive - variable reinforcement.  

This causes the behavior to extinguish slower. 

If everytime a student takes a test he or she fails.  Soon they will stop trying.  The idea is to find something done right to praise.  And when they do it right, put a little star or a smiley face on the paper.  Give them 5 minutes of free time and a cookie.  But don’t do it everytime.


If everytime the student finishes another multiplication table he gets a smile and a prize, then they will do it more often.


b - Be conscious of consequences

The student keeps making jokes out loud.  And the teacher doesn’t like it.  Is it rewarding?  What is more rewarding the attention of the students or the dislike of the teacher?  Who controls the reinforcers?


 If you argue with Johnnie in front of the class is that a punishment?  How about being sent to the dean.


If a teacher say’s “If you do that I’ll send you to the dean.”  And then you don’t, then you have set up the system that the teacher saying that is the reinforcer.  The student learns that the behavior has only positive reinforcers. 


The broken record technique is that you don’t argue with the student.  If you do so where is the attention going?  Who is getting the reward?  Who has avoided working.  Now repeat don’t kick people in my class over and over.


c - Be behavior specific

Don’t have a class where the students don’t know what to do.  Write about something is not good enough.  Also just teaching with no clear idea of what the students should be doing is not enough.

Often people who fail, don’t know what they are to do to suceed.  If they cannot get rewards reliably by being good, they can get them by being bad.


If you are punishing someone mention the behavior.  Don’t be vague or the person will take it personally.

Punishment Versus Reward

When a person does this behavior, what does society do?  Punishment, prison. 

Skinner says this is bad.  We’ll look at three reasons.


1 - Punishment is temporary.

Punishment stops the behavior, but only while the punishment is hanging over the person. 

You might stop the behavior while mom and dad were watching but...


rather teach the person an alternate behavior.  Don’t hit them for not setting the table right.  Teach them to do it right and then reward it.


2 - Punishment creates unintended sideeffects.


generalizing side effects-

The person, place,  the circumstances get a negative halo as well.   So you may try to make the person not yell in class, but only end up making them hate school at large, or the teacher.


good side effects-

It may not be a punishment.   It may be a chance to lolligag down to the deans office where you hang with your friends. 


Modeling sideeffects-

punishment may provide bad modelling.  Yelling and hitting then become role models of appropriate behavior.


Rewards will have good side effects.  I like school generally, setting the table is fun.


3 - punishment doesn’t teach new responses. 

If you are punished for robbing stores (which got you 40,000 a year) , what are you going to do when you get out?


When you send someone out of prison you should have taught them new behaviors.  This way they can succeed.


If punishment must be used-----

Verbal reprimandsare the most common school punishment. 

Praise is used more than reprimand in early school years and then it reverses.


It should include a description of the behavior.   Not you are so stupid, but you will fail if you don’t study 30 minutes a night!!!

It should happen at the time of the transgression.  NOt a week later when you burst out of nowhere.


d - teaching machines

In 1953 he visited his daughter’s 4th grade class.  He  got the idea to teach things like pigeon learns to play piano.

 Reward simple steps.  He created machines that reward you when you get a behavior right.  put the right answer to a multiplication problem and it rewards you.  This is behavior learning without the teacher.

One big effect was on language learning.  He dominated this field too.  You just learn the correct responses, you don’t need to know the meaning or grammar.


The tapes in learning labs come from him.

Now with computers this is really huge.  Math programs that reward the right behavior

Disorder applications

In general-

Behaviorist therapist think that once the behaviors are changed there are no deeper issues.

If the person is drinking or depressed or angry or not dressing themselves or OCD, they must adopt differing behavior.  The cause is not important. Tell of why Mrs. Eldred yelled at me.

One is to avoid talk of why and get on with the solution: changing the behavior patterns.


A measurement of the behavior might be taken against which to measure progress.

Then  accountable program of better behaviors will be drawn up.

Then the behaviors will be reinforced.  Usually the behaviors will be self reinforcing. 


Time lapse between the stimulus or operation and response weakens its effectiveness.   The reward or punishment should be instantaneous so that it is beyond thought.   It is an instant reaction for the good or bad that is elicited. 


Problem children-mental home residents

You invoke a token economy.   If they do good they get a token, if they do bad they lose a token.  At the end of the week you give them their total.  They can trade this for cigarettes or a trip to the movies or candy  If they clean their room every friday, they get a reward.

If they go one week without a cuss, they get a reward. 

An allowance is like this.  At the end of a year they may be able to trade their money in for a stereo.

This system may be part of a token economy. 


Irrational fears

Amongst the worst disorders are anxiety disorders.  These acount for about 40% of the 51 million cases of American disorders in America each year (11 million substance abuse 20 million anxiety and 18 million mood disorders) pg 228 the emotional brain.


The problems come then as a result of traumatic coupling.  So if a person gets really scared by something that happens outside they will get afraid of going outside.  If they get really hurt being in a relationship, they will cease to do so.  If they take a really bad fall then heights will scare them.


We act in order to get rewards and avoid pain.

Therefore, our phobias aren’t just in response to something bad that happened (ala Watson), they are an attempt to avoid pain in advance. 


So a person may wash their hands over and over again to reduce anxiety.  They may  not go outside, not because something bad happened, but because they fear what will happen.  They may stay out of relationships, not because of a prior experience, but because of a fear of an anxiety provoking experience.


Behaviorism is really successful with simple phobias.  Fears of flying or speaking or snakes or asking for a date or...

This technique is also successful with OCD.



systematic desensitization:  Here you want to associate a new reaction with the thing that makes you afraid: Relaxation.    If you are an aspiring politician and you get nervous speaking infront of crowds,

First you do relaxing techniques.  Then you mentally approximate phobic situation without anxiety.  Then you physically approximate the situation with relaxation techniques.


This can be used with role playing.  You get used to saying things that you’re afraid of saying.


This is gradual.  If you are afraid of flying, you might first just drive by the airport.

Flooding: you throw em in.



Anorexia happened because once upon a time the person was either chided for being fat, or complimented for being thin.  This became self reinforcing.  The more they got thin and got some compliments, the more they stopped eating.  If the fat comments were distressing, they’ll never stop trying to avoid them.


Laying out an exact list of behaviors you want to see, and then giving positive reinforcement to those met and negative reinforcement for those not done.



Depression is a result of learned helplessness.  You have found that no matter what you do no rewards come of it. 


You, therefore, must learn some new behaviors.

Perhaps this is working on practicing and learning social skills.  Cutting the hair, dressing well, smiling, saying may I have your phone number. 


Aversion therapy

If you have a smoking problem, never smoke one , smoke 5 at a time for 30 minutes.  This will make you sick and soon the thought of smoking will make you sick.


This works with OCD.


antabuse is a drug that when combined with alchohol gives the person nausea, headaches dizzyness and feeling flushed.  It works, but hust short term, when its gone its gone.


Self Programming

bad habits-

If you bite your nails, try whacking the back of your hand on a hard object when you do it.

If you automatically turn on the tv, when you reach for it, slap yourself.

When you get the urge to smoke, bite your tongue.

These sorts of techniques may give you the time you need to stop the impulsive behavior.



You may make behavioral contracts to yourself.  When you spend one hour sitting at this desk, you get ice cream.  Not before.  After I finish reading this paragraph I get another bite.  Is that okay.  Okay.


Love problem

Love is more than verbal behavior.  It is action.  It is no good to say “I love you”.  And then exhibit poor behavior.  Not work, hit you , cheat on you. 

The behaviorist will look upon it as behavior with rewards.



If the bad behavior continues there must be some reward.  Perhaps after he hits you there is a great makeup with passionate lovemaking.  Perhaps there is no punishment for cheating on you.  We know what the reward is.  Afterw ards, he just has to exhibit the behavior “I love you:” and “I’m sorry”  and this punishment isn’t enough to stop the behavior.


Drug Problem-

This is often part of a stimulus response loop that is reinforcing.  You do drugs in a certain place. So whenever you go to the bar you start drinking.  Behaviorists would say avoid the stimulus that leads to the unpleasant response.  Don’t go to the bar.  Avoid the people that lead to the problem substance abuse.


Delayed Gratification

One problem is very William James.  You have the reward of kissingright now.  Or you could think about the bigger reward coming later.  This is called Delayed gratification Instead of getting pregnant when you have a good job and are more impressed with yourself, you’ll be happier. 


But I snuck this in here.  Why wouldn’t behaviorists do this?  Because, the reinforcement is too far away and there are more efficacious ways to stop the behavior.  Get them punished when they do it.


But the thought of your reward is immediately gratifying.  Spend a lot of time dreaming your dreams.  And then when you have the threat of something good being taken away, this is negative punishment that will stop the early sex.


All World Problems

In “Beyond Freedom and Dignity”  Skinner wrote that our thoughts of control are an illusion.  We are controlled all the time.  We are controlled when we get up, how we get to work, what kind of clothes we wear, how our relationships happen. 


We have an illusion that we are free and independent and this is destructive.  That is because we cherish this illusion we will not allow any control of us.  Free market capitalism.


But until we admit that we aren’t free, we will be resistant to control (which we’re under already) and thus not feel comfortable manipulating those controls.


We can only be really free when we admit that we’re controlled and take control of the controls.  Se must make laws that punish overpopulation and reward recycling and stop nuclear waste and reward solar panels.