Watson, John Broadus

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Watson, John Broadus,

1878–1958, American psychologist, b. Greenville, S.C. He taught (1903–8) at the Univ. of Chicago and was professor and director (1908–20) of the psychological laboratory at Johns Hopkins. Watson emphasized the study of observable behavior, rejecting introspection and theories of the unconscious mind. He originated the school of psychology known as behaviorismbehaviorism,
school of psychology which seeks to explain animal and human behavior entirely in terms of observable and measurable responses to environmental stimuli. Behaviorism was introduced (1913) by the American psychologist John B.
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, in which behavior is described in terms of physiological responses to stimuli. Watson's work influenced B. F. SkinnerSkinner, Burrhus Frederic,
1904–90, American psychologist, b. Susquehanna, Pa. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1931, and remained there as an instructor until 1936, when he moved to the Univ. of Minnesota (1937–45) and to Indiana Univ.
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 in his groundbreaking studies of operant conditioning, and had a major impact on the development of behavior therapybehavior therapy
or behavior modification,
in psychology, treatment of human behavioral disorders through the reinforcement of acceptable behavior and suppression of undesirable behavior.
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. His writings include Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist (1919, repr. 1983), Behaviorism (1925, repr. 1970), and Psychological Care of Infant and Child (1928, repr. 1972).

Watson, John Broadus


Born Jan. 9, 1878, in Greenville, S.C.; died Sept. 25, 1958, in New York. American psychologist and founder of behaviorism.

Watson was a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore from 1908 to 1920. His ideas, which were based on animal studies, represented a reaction to the methods of introspective psychology. In Watson’s view, psychology was to be regarded as one of the natural sciences and should apply the latter’s objective experimental methods. He treated all psychological activity as behavior, which was interpreted as the sum of “stimulus-response” relationships. According to Watson, the organism is a “self-organizing machine,” and the main task of psychology is to study the processes of learning. Even thought was regarded by Watson as a hidden motor activity and as a substitute for action.

Watson’s ideas and methods greatly influenced the development of psychology, especially in the USA, but have come under criticism in contemporary psychology for being mechanistic and limited.


Behavior: An Introduction to Comparative Psychology. New York, 1914.
In Russian translation:
“Bikheviorizm.” In Bol’shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia, vol. 6. Moscow, 1927. Pages 434–43.
Psikhologiia kak nauka o povedenii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926.
Psikhologicheskii ukhod za rebenkom. Moscow, 1929.


Eksperimental’naia psikhologiia, vols. 1–2. Edited and compiled by P. Fraisse and J. Piaget. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from French.)
Iaroshevskü, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii. Moscow, 1966.
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