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  Behaviourism means different things to philosophers and psychologists. In philosophy, Analytical Behaviourism is usually formulated as the doctrine that statements about the mental have the same meaning as (are analytically equivalent to) statements about behaviour. Those who contrast private, introspectible mental phenomena such as pains and publicly observable behaviour are mistaken. For, to give a crude example, the behaviourist holds that the statement ‘she is in pain’ means the same as (is analytically equivalent to) the statement ‘she is manifesting aversion behaviour’.

If behaviourism were true it would solve the mind-body problem. For if statements about the mental have the same meaning as statements about behaviour, then (presumably) mental phenomena would just be behavioural phenomena. Being in pain would just be manifesting aversion behaviour. But the relation between behaviour and the body is unproblematic. So if behaviourism were true, the relation between mental phenomena and the body would be unproblematic.

Similarly, if behaviourism were true it would solve the problem of other minds. The problem of other minds is based on the assumption that one\'s beliefs about other minds are the result of an inference from publicly observable behaviour to private, introspectible mental phenomena such as pains. But if statements about the mental are analytically equivalent to statements about behaviour, there is no such inference. There is no ‘epistemological gap’ between behaviour and the mind.

Philosophers have two main objections to behaviourism. First, behaviourists hold that statements about the mental mean the same as statements about behaviour, but it seems obvious that mental phenomena cause behaviour. Pain cannot be identified with aversion behaviour, ‘she is in pain’ cannot mean the same as ‘she is manifesting aversion behaviour’, because pain causes aversion behaviour. The second objection depends on two thought experiments. Consider a race of ‘Super Spartans’ who do feel pain, but behave as though they do not. It will sometimes be true of a ‘Super Spartan’ that ‘she is in pain’, but false of her that ‘she is manifesting aversion behaviour’. Therefore, these two statements do not have the same meaning. Now consider a group of perfect actors. They do not feel pain, but act as if they do. So it will sometimes be true of a perfect actor that ‘she is manifesting aversion behaviour’, but false of her that ‘she is in pain’. Therefore, these two statements do not have the same meaning.

In psychology, behaviourism (founded by J.P. Watson in 1913) is the view that mental disturbances are reflex responses to the conditioning of past life; first and foremost it looks for explanations of human psychology in terms of behaviour, that is, what can be observed. Unlike the psychodynamic theories of psychoanalysis and many psychotherapies, behavioural theory does not believe that emotional disturbance can be modified by simply knowing about such responses. Instead the behaviourist applies a counter-conditioning, and rejects any information or concepts obtained from the patient\'s reflections on his or her conscious experience. The behavioural therapist believes in the determining force of the environment and in working with observable behaviour patterns. He or she will attempt to lessen neurosis using external stimuli, administering rewards and punishments, or exposing the patient by degrees to situations or objects which frighten her or him. Examples of other techniques are systematic desensitization, relaxation training, flooding, positive reinforcement and assertiveness training.

Because the pure behaviourist view sees the subject as entirely passive, having no control over his or her life or destiny, being controlled by reinforcers in the environment and attaching no importance to personal meaning, it has found itself to be limited.

In the development of psychology in this century, behaviourism comes after psychoanalysis and before cognitive therapy. As a theraputic approach based on relearning, it is closer to cognitive therapy (which developed in the 1950s), and further away from psychoanalysis, which oversees change developing through interpretations and insight. Behaviourism therefore incorporates, or is incorporated into, such other approaches as cognitive therapy. AJ MJ

See also functionalism.Further reading N. Block, Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 1; , G. Ryle, The Concept of Mind; , B.F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity; , J.B. Watson, Behaviourism.



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