Watson, John Broadus

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Watson, John Broadus

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 behaviorism, in which behavior is described in terms of physiological responses to stimuli. Watson's work influenced B. F. Skinner in his groundbreaking studies of operant conditioning, and had a major impact on the development of behavior therapy. 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).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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