Watson, John B.

Watson, John B. (Broadus)

(1878–1958) psychologist, advertising executive; born in Greenville, S.C. Educated at the University of Chicago (Ph.D. 1903), he taught at Johns Hopkins University (1908–20) where he made a radical departure from the psychology of mental processes to found the movement called "behaviorism." (He first used the term in a 1913 article.) His studies in medicine, biology, and animal behavior led him to postulate that man and other animals functioned purely from physiological and physical bases; behaviorism stresses "stimulus–response" as its basic tenet. Rejecting such notions as motivation or innate abilities, he claimed that given the proper environment, a normal child could acquire any skill. His book Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist (1919) ushered in a period of major growth and controversy in the field of psychology. Forced to resign from Johns Hopkins in 1920 after he divorced his wife to marry a former student, he went to New York City and entered the field of commercial advertising, but he continued to write about and promote his behaviorist school.