Behaviorism promised to make psychology a science by insisting on observable, measurable events, by not allowing unseen, hypothetical constructs or personality traits to be used in the understanding of behavior. On the surface, this makes sense to many people. After all, we cannot see an id, ego, or superego, and to say that someone suffers from neurotic anxiety simply labels an observation that under certain circumstances this individual displays these behaviors.
Further, the behaviors are often positively or negatively reinforced, which strengthen the likelihood that they will show up again under similar circumstances in the future. To ascribe them to “defense mechanisms” or other unconscious motivations is at best pointless and at worst misleading. This is a two-part question:
1. Based on the issues above, defend the behaviorist position or critique it from a psychoanalytic position. What, from your perspective, makes behaviorist assertions valid or invalid in this argument?
2. Briefly discuss how the new school of thought of behaviorism contributed to the growth of psychology as a professional discipline. What historical events, situations, or circumstances contributed to the rise of behaviorism in the United States?
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