Adapted from History of Psychology

Unit 7B: Chapter 14 Notes

Adapted from History of Psychology: The Making of a Science (Edward P. Kardas, 2014)

Susanne Nishino, Ph.D. 2013

Chapter 14: Neobehaviorism

The United States from 1914 – 1941

• 1913 when Watson 1st proposed behaviorism as way of making psychology more scientific,

United States began to experience rapid technological & social changes

• Social changes for women dramatic, filled workplace while men in military service

• After war successfully completed long battle for women’s right to vote, 19th Amendment ratified


• 1929 stock market crash led to Great Depression, economic shrinkage, unemployment levels,

leaving land for jobs in cities, spending power, full recovery not until start of World War II

Neobehaviorism, Gestalt Psychology, & Psychoanalysis

• From 1918 onward psychology changed too

• Functionalist attacks on Structuralism left field open for new definition

• Most psychologists Europe and U.S. now saw themselves as scientists, less a philosophers, any

redefinition had to place firmly on side of science

• Europe two new forms of psychology emerged, both saw themselves as sciences closely linked

to biology & psychophysics

– Wertheimer’s Gestalt Psychology

– Freud’s Psychodynamic Psychology

• In U.S. Neobehaviorism grew out of Watson’s Behaviorism


• Neobehaviorism = the modification of Watson’s Behaviorism that allowed for the experimental

analysis of operationally defined unobservable variables related to cognitive states &

emphasized the study of learning along with the use of animal models for human behavior

• Concentrated on understanding learned behaviors, used animal models, practically eliminated

any references to mental life in psychology

• Influenced by success of physics, some attempted to construct overarching theories to explain

all learning through action of measurable variables, others turned to analyses of goals &

intentions along with how variables related to each other, still others closer to evolutionary

biology & attempt to develop systems that competed for survival through consequence

• Watson’s brand of behaviorism failed to satisfy many

• By 1930 had come to dominate American psychology, would dominate for 30 years

Neobehaviorism: Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism

• By beginning of World War II, American psychology dominated by neobehaviorists, nearly all

used rats or pigeons as research subject within laboratory context

• Public image of American psychology changed, psychologists wore lab coats, ran experiments

with rats, generalized findings to humans

• Most American psychologists saw themselves as behavioral scientists pursuing yet unknown

laws governing learning

• Neobehaviorist approaches would dominate into the 1970s

• Today difficult to spot remains of that era, except for one: Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism

Three Major Neobehaviorists

• After Watson’s Manifesto, American psychologists struggled to incorporate Behaviorism into

psychology, by 1930 change in psychology away from introspection toward more moderate

approach from Watson’s original position

• Term “Neobehaviorism” distinguishes newer approach from Watson’s position

• Edward Tolman

• Clark Hull

• B. F. Skinner

Edward Chase Tolman (1886-1959): Purposive Behaviorism

– 1st to use albino lab rats extensively as models for human learning, introduced use of

intervening variables, intervening variables hypothetical, unseen, but operationally

defined making them objective & measurable unlike introspective variables, intervening

variables cognitive, assumed to have causal power over behavior

– Neither Thorndike’s nor Watson’s approaches to learning satisfied him

– Developed own theoretical approach: Purposive Behaviorism

– Emphasized goal-seeking behavior, assumed learning and performance different from

each other

– Purposive Behaviorism = Tolman’s version of Neobehaviorism that emphasized goal-

directed activity in animals & humans while relying on objective behavioral data

Tolman: Expectancy & Cognitive Maps

• One of 1st to incorporate theoretical explanation from Gestalt psychology into Behaviorism

• Wanted to divorce psychology from close dependence on physiology, at the same time seeking

better theoretical structure for Neobehaviorism

• One of 1st contributions was redefining behavior into two categories: molecular & molar,

molecular closely linked to physiology, molar on larger scale such as maze learning & driving

home from work, argued molar behavior could be studied without reference to any underlying

physiological mechanisms, Popularized use of white rat in psychology, discovered number of

cognitively based phenomena including expectancies & cognitive maps

• Expectancy = an internal state in which an organism anticipates an event based upon prior

learning trials , Tolman & Tinklepaugh monkey experiments, interpreted monkey’s different

reaction as behavioral evidence of different cognitive states, Tolman believed he had

demonstrated expectancy in non-human animal

• Most famous cognitive map, concept derived from Gestalt Psychology, cognitive maps develop

from experience, the more experience the better the map,

Tolman: Latent Learning

• Demonstrated that rats learned spatial relationships between self & food, reinforcement not

necessary for learning = latent learning

• Distinction between learning & performance

• Argued latent learning because learning had already taken place, argued new presence of the

food reinforcer now changed situation, causing errors to go down accordingly

• Reinforcement not necessary for learning

• Critics, issue of latent learning essentially abandoned, textbooks uncritically point to Tolman’s

cognitive map as only solution, other historical & contemporary explanations do exist, no longer

covered in introductory texts, historical misinformation

Tolman: Intervening Variables

• Created neobehaviorist alternative to Watson’s scheme

• Endowed rats (& people) with intervening variables or variables that lay between physical

stimulus & observable behavior

• Intervening variables the actual cause of behavior, but not observable

• Intervening Variable = unobservable variables such as internal states or cognitions assumed to

influence behavior

Tolman: Operationism

• Intervening variables amenable to experimental analysis via doctrine of operationism that came

to psychology via physics

• Operationism = the idea that science is best understood as a public, operationally defined

enterprise in which phenomena may only be analyzed via methods that yield concrete results

• Best example, hunger, operationalized hunger by providing descriptions of how to obtain

hunger, namely by withholding food

• Operational definitions allowed neobehaviorists to describe internal states without using the

methods of traditional introspection

• Tolman created compromise between introspective methods of past and Watson’s extreme

behaviorist position

Modern Physics: Border with Computational Science

• Rise of modern physics about the same time as emergence of Neobehaviorism, influenced


• In psychology intervening variables that predicted particular behaviors also viewed as real but


• During 20th century, physics model for how any science should operate, most psychologists

aspired to make science resemble it

Clark Hull (1884 – 1952)

• For Hull, Tolman’s theories too close to introspective psychology, Hull was Tolman’s main

theoretical rival

• His neobehaviorism sought to emulate Newton’s physics by discovering objective variables that

underlay behavior, dispensed with cognition entirely, created complex theoretical system

designed with minimal number of assumptions, also adopted intervening variables but anchored

in physical world, intervening variables tied to stimuli & responses not to cognitive states

• Sought to make psychology more like physics, dominant model of 20th century science, created

theoretical structure that attempted to assess causal relations between stimuli & responses

based on mathematical relationship between underlying intervening variables

• Solution to problems of Watson’s behaviorism was to keep Watson’s central idea intact:

behavior could be controlled & predicted without using any reference to cognitive concepts

such as expectancies or cognitive maps

• Hull tried to explain learning via complex overarching theory of full mechanistic variables

• Interested in aptitude testing, concept formation, verbal learning, turned strictly to rat learning

after arriving at Yale, spent rest of career providing alternative to Tolman’s line of research

while providing synthetic theory that combined Thorndike’s Law of Effect & Pavlovian


• Believed that much could be learned about human behavior by running laboratory experiments

using white rats,

• His theory only of historical interest today, influential during his lifetime

Hull: Hypothetico-Deductive System

• Wished to make psychology as scientific as physics, his two models : Newton’s Principia and

Euclid’s Elements

• From both adopted Hypothetico-Deductive System = a system using logic derived from small,

restricted set of given truths used to deduce new, derived, and logically consistent statements.

After these deductions are tested experimentally. Statements experimentally confirmed are

kept and others are discarded.

• HDS tight logic of inferred theorems constructed from minimal set of a priori postulates &


• Believed that psychology would advance only when theory & observations were closely linked,

would yield “facts of intrinsic importance”, would yield “truth or falsity of the theoretical system

from which the phenomena were originally deduced”, “Scientific theory in its best sense

consists of the strict logical deduction from definite postulates of what should be observed

under specified conditions. If the deductions are lacking or are logically invalid, there is no

theory” (Hull, 1935, quoted p. 319)

Hull: Mechanistic Learning

• Used Thorndike’s Law of Effect & Pavlov’s analysis of classical conditioning as starting point,

retained Watson’s S-R model but added intervening variables

• Dynamic system, designed to change in face of unexpected new data

• Purposive behavior no place in Hull’s system, ultimately failed to explain learning

• Inspired other psychologists to pursue his vision of a mechanistic explanation for learning

• Hull’s system intended primary principles to be used deductively to predict secondary qualities

• S-R theorist, believed learning strengthened by repetition, reinforcement related to satisfaction

of internal drive states

• Basic structure of system, three types of variables: stimulus, organismic or intervening, &

response, measurable

• Biggest change, Hull added incentive because experiments by Crespi (1942) demonstrated rats

run faster when food reward in goal box bigger

B. F. Skinner (1904-1990)

• Rejected Tolman & Hull formulations, in place proposed Radical Behaviorism, borrowed from

Darwinian selection at three levels: phylogenetic, individual, cultural

• Defined psychology as science of behavior, biology closest science, used operant conditioning to

explain much behavior in organisms

• Environmental determinism along with overarching definition of the environment

• Environment extended inside the skin, move that displaced cognitive components & any

arguments for free will or individual autonomy

• Only Skinner’s approach survives in present day, only small percentage of contemporary


Skinner: Radical Behaviorism

• Another neobehaviorist movement, would prove to be most tenacious form of Neobehaviorism,

still thrives today

• Radical Behaviorism opposed to all forms of mentalism including neobehaviorist approaches

using intervening variables

• Skinner knack with mechanical devices, invented two pieces of lab apparatus instrumental in

development of Radical Behaviorism

– Operant conditioning chamber (Skinner Box)

– Cumulative Recorder

– Dependent variable in Skinner Box rate of response (number of responses over time),

measured by Cumulative Recorder

• 1990 days before death, public appearance American Psychological Association meeting,

reaffirmed his commitment to Radical Behaviorism in face of “cognitive revolution” which had

swept through psychology during his lifetime

• Speech “Cognitive science is the creation science of psychology, as it struggles to maintain the

position of a mind or self” (Skinner, 1990, quoted p. 323).

• World War II engineered apparatus for pigeons inside bombs, could guide to target by pecking

display, device worked, never operationally deployed

• Air Crib, raised daughter, partly to keep her warm, attempted to market device, described it as

experiment in child rearing

Radical Behaviorism: Border with Biology

• Radical behaviorists believe no border between psychology & biology, RB part of biological


• Borrowed mechanism of natural selection from evolutionary theory, argue operates at 3 levels

– 1st level Darwin’s natural selection of organisms whose genes allow to reproduce, innate


– 2nd level operant condition that selects organism’s emitted behaviors (operants) through

action of environment, selected behaviors reproduce, learned behaviors

– 3rd level cultural, human verbal responses (operants) selected through action of

linguistic communities people live in, selected verbal responses become more

numerous, culturally based behaviors

• Interprets each type of selection in own time frame: phylogenetically millions of years, learned

behaviors lifespan of species, cultural behaviors long periods 1000s of years

• All three levels either genes, behaviors, or verbal behaviors selected mechanistically according

to environmental consequences at respective levels

Radical Behaviorism

• Completely different from Watson’s & others

• Preserves Watson’s definition of psychology, prediction & control of behavior, rejects

neobehaviorist theories of intervening variables because mentalistic & assume dualism

• Mentalism = explaining behavior by recourse to variables such as cognitions, memories, or


• Not S-R psychology, instead explains learned behavior through selection by consequences

• Operant conditioning occurs when a response is followed by a reinforcer causing that response

to be emitted more often, organisms also learn environmental occasions when reinforcement

likely, relationship discriminative stimulus, to emitted response to reinforcer (SD to R to SR)

Radical Behaviorism: Applied Behavior Analysis

• Applied Behavior Analysis branch of RB specialized in searching for & understanding how

operants or discriminative stimulus are at work in natural situations

• ABA = the design, application, and assessment of environmental modifications that lead to

improvements in human behavior in the real world using principles derived from Radical


• Work in clinical psychology, knowledge to alter patient environments that lead to positive

outcomes (e.g. token economies) to health or adjustment

• Behavior modification one of techniques, consists of imposing new & consistent environmental

contingencies in real world situations such as classrooms, e.g. tokens as conditioned reinforcers

Understanding Skinner

• Believed genetics played important role in behavior

• Understood that physiology & genetics important role in behavior, innate behaviors existed,

innate behaviors result of natural selection as environment changed, when changed selection

pressures, organisms either adapted or extinct, behaviors that were adaptive at one point in

phylogenetic history might become maladaptive at later point

• Never claimed all behavior modifiable by operant conditioning, contingencies at phylogenetic or

cultural level might prevent

• Believed in human uniqueness, maintained except twins all person uniquely shaped by genetics,

environments, & cultures they lived in

• Believed introducing large group designs & analyzing them statistically confused understanding

Understanding Skinner: ABA Design

• One of most common N = 1 designs

• Organism observed in its environment without altering any behavioral contingencies = A

• Experimenter alter contingency & looks for change in rate of responding (intervention) = B

• If change occurs then next step to remove contingency and observe whether rate of responding

returns to baseline rate = A

• If rate of responding consistently changes, then can infer that intervention was causally

responsible for change in behavior

• ABA often used in applied behavior analysis to discover interventions to change behaviors

Understanding Skinner: Reinforcement & Punishment

• Differentiated between reinforcement & punishment

• Offered three reasons why punishment should not be administered

– Only work temporarily

– Created conditioned stimuli that lead to negative emotional reactions

– Reinforce escape from the conditioned situation in the future

Understanding Skinner

• View on internal states best example of his way of thinking about behaviorism

• Rejects any idea that separate mental world exists, at same time makes possible analysis of

environment inside skin

• Each person affected only by environment, but environment consists of two parts, public

accessible to all & private accessible only to self

• Describes private world as “part of the universe enclosed within the organism’s own skin . . .

With respect to each individual, in other words, a small part of the universe is private” (Skinner,

1953, quoted p. 327)

• Radical Behaviorism eliminates mind, substitutes “private behavior”

• Long-Term Successes of Behaviorism

• Skinner most eminent psychologist of 20th century

• Long-lasting contributions

• Operant chamber & cumulative recorder, discoveries of schedules of reinforcement, partial

reinforcement extinction effect, shaping, desire to apply psychology to betterment of work,

reshape environment

• Described four schedules of reinforcement (interval & ratio), intermittent reinforcement longer

extinction times & higher response rates

• Shaping, described operant conditioning as process similar to sculpting clay, operant responses

not “discrete units of behavior”, rather end product of process he called shaping = the

reinforcement of successive approximations of a final, desired outcome

• Skinner Utopian visions, society improvements only if people willing to give up belief in free will

& autonomy, urged that science new concept of source of behavior = triad of selection by

consequences found at level of natural selection, operant conditioning, & culture

Radical Behaviorism Today

• RB & rest of psychology uneasy partners today

• All psychologists recognize Skinner as one of small handful of eminent 20th century researchers

& theorists

• At the same time, research & practice of Radical Behaviorism and nearly all other psychology

hardly ever overlap or touch

• Skinner’s views on science of behavior often unknown & distorted by mainstream psychology

faculty and students

• Of all neobehaviorist approaches, only his remains vital today

Types of Behaviorism

• Watson’s original form, argued psychology only concern itself with overt behaviors

• Neobehaviorists introduced mediational behaviorism allowing for unobservable stimuli &

responses as long as operationally defined (Tolman, Hull, & Woodworth)

• Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism different, retains Watson’s goal of prediction & control, rejects

practically everything else in previous behavioralist formulations

• Radical Behaviorism sees psychology as part of biology, argues all other behavioral approaches

dualistic, insists on environmental causation only, cleanses psychology of all mentalistic


• Words behaviorism & neobehaviorism carry more than one meaning

The Trend Toward Cognitivism

• The simply Hollywood plot line for psychology might read, “Psychology finds mind, psychology

loses mind, psychology finds mind again” (p. 332)

• Hull & Skinner wished to create mindless psychology, Tolman tried to find it again

• All three major neobehaviorist approaches relied heavily on use of animal subjects as models for

human behavior, often characterized as “rat runners”

• Psychology has moved away from once dominant animal model, today continues study of

human behavior & broader range of animals, for own sake & to shed light on human behavior

• With exception of radical behaviorism, most contemporary psychology dominated by new

cognitive paradigm, derived from sources outside of neobehaviorism

• Beginnings of Cognitive psychology road begins with rise of Gestalt Psychology and its

subsequent fate.


• Neobehaviorist movement emerged from Watson’s idea, promoted use of animal models for

studying learning, extrapolated results from rats, monkeys, & pigeons to humans

• Tolman’s Purposive Behaviorism posited expectancies & cognitive maps

• Tolman & Hull used mazes to investigate learning

• Tolman’s S-S approach, animals as goal-directed

• Hull hypothetical-deductive approach, yielded universal theory of learning

• Behaviorism evolved into two types of Neobehaviorism: mediational & radical

• Mediational permitted existence of unobservable or intervening variables as long as

operationally defined

• Radical Behaviorism dispensed with any type of unobservable variables, labeled the mentalistic,

adopted selectionist methodology, survival of particular behavior depended on consequences

that followed, reinforcers selected for survival behaviors while punishers select for extinction

• Skinner’s RB survives to present, applied behavior analysis moved RB out of laboratory into

homes, classroom, businesses, hospitals, discoveries of schedules of reinforcement, partial

reinforcement extinction, & shaping, less influential have been Skinner’s contribution to study of

language acquisition & Utopian desire to transform world for better using Radical


• Neobehaviorism gradually replaced Watson’s Behaviorism, Tolman & Hull created systems no

longer part of modern psychology, B.F. Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism still part of modern

• Tolman created Purposive Behaviorism, system sought cognitive relationships between stimuli

and between stimuli & responses, believed that animals (white rats) & humans were goal

directed, believed analyzing cognitive maps inside heads of organisms possible

• Hull attempted to create overarching system similar to Euclid & Newton, believed seeking for &

identifying proper variables could explain learning mechanistically

• Skinner’s RB closer to biology, used Darwinian logic, believed environment selected

consequences for organisms, defined environment differently, environment contained public &

private part, same rules applies in both, environmental determinist who believed psychology

out of RB wrong

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