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Behaviorism versus introspectionism: Watson versus. Titchener

Behaviorism versus introspectionism: Watson versus. Titchener. Watson Introspection is a poor psychological method … …so we (psychologists) shouldn ’ t use it. Consciousness has no place in experimental psychology. Instead, psychology is for predicting and controlling behavior

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Behaviorism versus introspectionism: Watson versus. Titchener

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  1. Behaviorism versus introspectionism: Watson versus. Titchener

  2. Watson • Introspection is a poor psychological method… • …so we (psychologists) shouldn’t use it. • Consciousness has no place in experimental psychology. • Instead, psychology is for predicting and controlling behavior • Titchener • consciousness is important for psychology • introspective methods are new and still developing • there is more to the mind than behavior • behavioral control is a mere ‘technology’, not a science

  3. Titchener on introspection (1912) • “introspection” is equivocal: • i.e. the word has many meanings • but, these meaning are related in an important way • introspection is an act of psychological observation • Introspective reports describe psychological states/events. • e.g. “I’m having a blue-ish visual experience.” • These descriptive reports serve as data for psychology. • Introspective data requires psychological explanation.

  4. Introspection as ‘inner’ observation • “He can take a (non-optical) ‘look’ at what is passing in his mind.” (Ryle 1942) • Vision (outer) • We can view a flower with our sense of sight • Hearing (outer) • We can listen to and discriminate the notes of a bell through our sense of hearing • Introspection (inner) • We can reflectively or introspectively ‘watch’ the current episodes of our ‘inner’ mental life.

  5. Objective versus subjective observation Introspective observation Experience

  6. Introspection and (interactionist) dualism • Non-physical • Physical It looks like a saguaro is standing right in front of me. “I’m having a visual experience of a saguaro..” “There’s a saguaro.” i-thought visual experience body stimulus

  7. Titchener (1912: 486) “The ideal introspective report is an accurate description, made in the interests of psychology, of some conscious process.” “We may say, again, that the introspective methods do us the same service in psychology that the inspective methods---'observation and experiment' is the more usual phrase---do in natural science.”

  8. Introspectionist science of the “mind” • introspectionist view (Ward): • “science of experience regarded objectively from the individualistic standpoint” • (Titchener, page 2) • this conflicts with the behaviorist view: • “if consciousness may be dispensed with, self-observation and the introspective reports that result from it are to be treated in even more summary fashion; they are to be ‘eliminated.’” • (Titchener, page 3)

  9. Watson (page 158) • Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. • Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. • Introspection is subjective, and thus forms no essential part of psychology’s methods, • Nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness.

  10. Behaviorism’s goal: • “In a system of psychology completely worked out, given the response the stimuli can be predicted; given the stimuli the response can be predicted.” (Watson 167) • If we were able to do this, would psychology be complete? • Watson thinks, “Yes!”

  11. Importance of behavioral study • Watson claims that the study of behavior is important, even if it’s ‘not psychology’ • Suppose that behaviorism isn’t psychology because it doesn’t include consciousness (a la Titchener) • Still, we can use it to predict and control behavior. • This is pretty important, and Watson’s main concern. • Still, Watson thinks it’s perfectly appropriate to call this kind of research program “psychology”.

  12. Titchner’s preliminary criticism, Part 1 • Watson’s account “not historical enough” • e.g. Comte (1830) preceded Watson: • “[T]he affective functions, and yet more the intellectual, exhibit in respect of their fulfillment the peculiar characteristic that they cannot be directly observed during the actual course of this fulfillment, but only in its more or less immediate and more or less permanent results.” • i.e. Watson’s argument has been made before • But, does this mean it’s a bad argument??

  13. Titchner’s preliminary criticism, Part 2 • Watson’s program “irrelevant to psychology” • i.e. predicting/controlling behavior is not psychology • “For suppose that that programme [i.e. behaviorism] were carried out to its last detail: how would introspective psychology be affected? … [W]hy should not some one who is not a behaviorist scrutinize what he has ignored, and try to find out empirically of what materials this particular tool is made?” (Titchener 1912: 6) • Basic idea: even if we had a complete behaviorist theory, there would be a furtherexperiential aspect of the mind left to investigate.

  14. T’s first reply to Watson’s overall argument • “[F]ifty-odd years is not necessarily a long period in the history of an experimental science.” (Titchener 1912: 7) • In other words, introspective psychology is young, so it’s not surprising to find confusion and disagreement. • Titchener points out that it took around 300 years for a recognizable physical science to emerge from a focus on experiment and empirical observation of the physical world. • To make things worse, relatively few people work in psychology. • So we can expect progress, but it will take some time. • Is this a convincing argument? • Possible objections?

  15. Sciences vs. Technologies • “[S]cience goes its way without regard to human interests and with-out aiming at any practical goal” (Titchener: 1914, 14) • But, behaviorism is aimed at the practical goal of predicting and controlling behavior! • “Watson's behaviorism can never replace psychology because the one is technological, the other scientific.” • How might a behaviorist reply to this?

  16. Upshot of the Watson/Titchener debate • As a matter of history, behaviorism won out over introspectionism. • methods were much more clear • methods easier to implement • intersubjectivity obviously a good thing when available • But, there’s a nagging sense that behaviorism ‘leaves something out’ • sense that behaviors don’t fully capture/explain experience • questions about what’s going on inside • worries that psychology must be subjective (in some sense)

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