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J Exp Anal Behav. 2014 Jul 25. doi: 10.1002/jeab.98. [Epub ahead of print]

When a clear strong voice was needed: A retrospective review of Watson's (1924/1930) behaviorism.

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  • 1University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


Despite the attention given John B. Watson during the century since he introduced behaviorism, there remain questions about what he really contributed. He is still appropriately criticized for his arrogant self-promotion and especially for his perceived emphasis on a simple S-R reflexology. However, we argue that the former was necessary at the time and that criticism of Watson on the second count only diverts attention from the genuine contributions that he did make. In support of these contentions we examine several aspects of his contributions that warrant clarification, namely, his promotion of applied comparative psychology, his views on the nature of mind, his originality, criticism from and respect afforded by contemporaries, his relation to recent interest in "the embodiment of mind," his treatment of thinking, and his appreciation of Freud's work. We organize our discussion around specific chapters of the two editions of Behaviorism, but in support of our arguments we include publications of Watson that are less well known. Those works develop some important points that are only briefly treated in both editions of Behaviorism.

© Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.


Freud; John B. Watson; behaviorism; embodiment; history; mind; psychoanalysis; thinking

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