John Watson

Watson was born January 9, 1878 in Greenville South Carolina. At the age of 16 he attended Furman University and later graduated with his masters degree at the young age of 21. After college, Watson decided on attending "the University of Chicago to study philosophy with John Dewey" (Wikipedia, 2008) as his advisor. Throughout his time there, Watson came to realize that he did not understand Deweys principles and went looking elsewhere for advice. After working with various professors and advisors, Watson took all that he had learned and combined it into one theory now known as behaviorism. After this reaserch Watson went on to study "the work of Ivan Pavlov" (Wiki) which he then went on to record a simplified version of Pavlovs findings (Wikipedia, 2008). John Watson died on September 25, 1958 after making some of the biggest discoveries of all time such as the "Baby Albert Experiment" and behaviorism itself.

Baby Albert Experiment

The Baby Albert Experiment was one of Watson's best known and controversial experiements. It all started when Watson was observing children in a field. He wondered whether or not loud noises were prompted by fear and with this hypothesis Watson believed that "he could condition a child to fear another distinctive stimulus which normally would not be feared by a child" (Wikipedia, 2007). This lead Watson to chose Baby Albert from a nearby hospital at the age of nine months old. Before any experiments could begin, Watson ran baseline tests that revealed Baby Alberts emotional response to certain stimuli. No fear was shown to any of the stimuli from the baseline tests. Two months later Watson placed Baby Albert on a mattress with a rat lab rat. Baby Albert was able to play with the rat, and through this showed no fear of the rat. After Baby Albert became accustomed to the rat, Watson hit a hammer on a steel bar right behind Albert's head. This caused Baby Albert to cry and to become scared. Watson continued this process until eventually Baby Albert associated the rat with the fearful noise. Soon enough, all Baby Albert had to see was the rat and he would become scared and would start crying and trying to get away from the rat.

After the experiment, Watson came up with the reason to why Baby Albert reacted the way he did. He stated it this way:
Loud sound (Unconditioned Stimulus) -> Fear (Unconditioned Response) Natural response.
Rat (Neutral Stimulus) + Loud sound (Unconditioned Stimulus)-> Fear (Unconditioned Response) During pairing them.
Rat (Conditioned Stimulus) -> Fear (Conditioned Response) Learning occurs. Notice how the response never changes.
(Wikipedia, 2007).
Through Watson's Baby Albert experiment, classical conditioning is evident and is supported in humans and in children.

B. F. Skinner

Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born on March 20, 1904 in the small town of Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. Skinner attended Hamilton College in New York where he recieved his Bachelors Degree in English. Soon after graduating, Skinner realized that English was not one of his strong suits and he decided to go back to college. In 1930 Skinner obtained his Masters Degree in Psychology and in 1931 received his Doctrate in Psychology all from Harvard University. "In 1945, he became the chairman of the psychology department at Indiana University" (Boeree, 1998), until Harvard asked him to return. Skinner returned to Harvard and remanied there until he died on August 18, 1990 from Leukemia. B. F. Skinner is said to be "the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud" (Boeree, 1998).

Operant Conditioning Chamber

Also known as a "Skinner Box", this chamber is used to study animal behavior. Skinner used a rat when first trying this experiment. Skinner placed the rat in a box. In the box was a lever and a dispenser for food. The rat would have to learn to press down the lever a preset amount of times in order to obtain any food. When the food is dispensed an electrical pulse would go through the box making the rat feel uncomfortable. But no matter how uncomfortable the rat felt it still proceeded to push the lever down in order to obtain the food it wanted. This "Operant Conditioning Chamber [is used] to measure organic responses and their orderly interactions with the environment" (Wikipedia, 2007).


Behaviorism is also known as the learning perspective, "where any physical action is a behavior" (Wikipedia, 2008).

Classical Behaviorism

John Watson first came up with the idea of Behaviorism, believing that "psychology was not concerned with the mind or with human consciousness" (DeMar, 1989). This idea instead involved only behavior. Watson's ideas on behaviorism were influenced by those of Ivan Pavlov, who conditioned dogs to salivate at the sight of food, and then without the food present. Although these ideas are still around they are not nearly recognized for B. F. Skinner is the more recent face of Behaviorism.

Radical Behaviorism

B. F. Skinner influence on Radical Behaviorism is still being studied and used today. This type of Behavioism deals with "the the idea that behavior is determined by its consequences, be they reinforcements or punishments, which make it more or less likely that the behavior will occur again" (NNDB, 2008). Skinner thought that Psychology should be only the study of behaviors, not necessarily the study of mental processes. Skinner used Operant Conditioning/Psychology to "account for the behavior" (Wikipedia, 2008) that John Watson's Classical Conditioning did not. Skinner used the system of Rewards and Punishments to show his theory.

  • "If the probability of a behavior is increased as a consequence of the presentation of a stimulus, that stimulus is a positive reinforcer"
  • "If the probability of a behavior is increased as a consequence of the withdrawal of a stimulus, that stimulus is a negative reinforcer"
  • "If the probability of a behavior is decreased as a consequence of the presentation of a stimulus, that stimulus is a positive punisher"
  • "If the probability of a behavior is decreased as a consequence of the withdrawal of a stimulus, that stimulus is a negative punisher or response cost punishment."
  • (Wikipedia, 2008)


1. John B. Watson (2007, June). Retrieved November 5, 2008, from
2. Little Albert Experiment (2008, November). Retrieved November 5, 2008, from
3. Boeree, C. G. (1998). Retrieved November 6, 2008, from
4.B. F. Skinner (2007). Retrieved November 6, 2008, from
5. DeMar, G. (1989, April). Retrieved November 6, 2008, from
Calvin College Hekman Library openURL resolver
Calvin College Hekman Library openURL resolver

6. B. F. Skinner (2008). Retrieved November 6, 2008, from
7.Radical Behaviorism (2008). Retrieved November 6, 2008, from