Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 5/10/2015

Behaviour is the range of actions that act as a response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs.

The primary tenet of behaviorism, as expressed in the writings of John B. Watson, B. F. Skinner, and others, is that psychology should concern itself with the observable behavior of people and animals, not with unobservable events that take place in their minds. John B. Watson put the emphasis on external behavior of people and their reactions on given situations, rather than the internal, mental state of those people. In his opinion, the analysis of behaviors and reactions was the only objective method to get insight in the human actions. The mind just is the behavior of the body. For instance, if I say, "I am happy", this may be translated into a description of my physical state - increased heart rate, smiling, etc.Behaviorists acknowledged the existence of thinking, but identified it as a behavior. Cognitivists argued that the way people think impacts their behavior and therefore cannot be a behavior in and of itself.

The most famous example of a behaviourist experiment is the one conducted by the Russian scientist Pavlov . In the experiment, Pavlov fed some dogs whilst simultaneously ringing a bell. Eventually, the dogs came to associate the bell ringing with being fed and began to salivate. In this way, one stimulus (the food) could be replaced with another which otherwise had no connection with it (the bell) in order to produce the same reaction (salivation).

Another famous expirement is the superstitious pigeon. Skinner placed a series of hungry pigeons in a cage attached to an automatic mechanism that delivered food to the pigeon "at regular intervals with no reference whatsoever to the bird's behavior." He discovered that the pigeons associated the delivery of the food with whatever chance actions they had been performing as it was delivered, and that they subsequently continued to perform these same actions. One bird was conditioned to turn counter-clockwise about the cage. Another repeatedly thrust its head into one of the upper corners of the cage. The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food.

Logical behaviorism says that when we attribute a belief to someone, we are not saying that he or she is in a particular internal state or condition. Instead we are observing his behavioral dispositions or family of behavioral tendencies, evident in how a person behaves in one situation rather than another. Since all that we can know about another person's state of mind is through their behaviour, there is nothing else. In this way logical behaviourism is picking up where logical positivism left off. For logical positivism, the meaning of a statement is established by its method of verification. So, if there is no possible method of verification, then the statement is not a factual one and possibly meaningless. In a similar way, mental statements that cannot be translated into a statement about some actual or possible form of behaviour are considered to be meaningless. Logical behaviorism may be found in the work of Gilbert Ryle (1900–76)


  1. Chomsky claimed that the idea that when we study psychology we are studying behavior is as unintelligent as the idea that when we study physics we are studying meter readings. Of course we use behavior as evidence in psychology, just as we use meter readings as evidence in physics, but it is a mistake to confuse the evidence that we have about a subject matter for the subject matter itself.
  2. Behaviorists would analyze Jones’s belief that it is going to rain into sets of statements about his rain-avoidance behavior, for example carrying an umbrella. But the difficulty with that is that we can only begin to make such a reduction on the assumption that Jones desires to stay dry. We did not really reduce the belief to behavior; we reduced it to behavior plus desire, which still leaves us with a mental state that needs to be analyzed.
  3. The logical behaviorists had argued that mental states consisted in nothing but behavior and dispositions to behavior, but this runs against our common sense intuition that there is a causal relation between our inner mental states and our outward behavior.
  4. Two people can watch the same film and react in opposite ways: one might hate it, the other one love it. So if we cannot predict how someone will react in a certain situation, then how can we be certain that they are just responding to stimuli and not actually thinking and choosing with a private self?
  5. Another problem is related to the idea of Zombies or robots. In such imaginary cases, the behaviourist view would not give us any criteria for distinguishing them from “normal” humans.
  6. Different behaviours can result from the same stimulus. Imagine that you hear the doorbell - how do you react? Perhaps you run to answer it because you are expecting an important visitor; perhaps you ignore it; etc. In other words, there is no one response that can be linked to the same stimulus. So, if this is the case, what causes us to behave differently? The non-behaviourist would answer that it is our beliefs. However, this is a problem for the behaviourist in that it presupposes something that cannot be explained simply in terms of actual or possible behaviour.
  7. Different stimuli can produce the same response. As with the previous example, it is also difficult to say that there is a definite relationship between a certain type of stimulus and a certain response. For example, someone might laugh at someone falling over, seeing a photograph or from hearing a story - whilst someone else might not laugh at any of those things. In other words, there is no certain, one-to-one relationship between a stimulus and a response. If this is so, must we again say that beliefs are responsible for this?

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