Some Criticisms of Behaviorism

  • Roger Schnaitter
Part of the Studies in Cognitive Systems book series (COGS, volume 22)


Although rooted in the nineteenth century and before, it was not until 1913, with Watson’s publication of his famous paper, “Psychology as the behaviorist views it,” that behaviorism gained a name and recognizable public identity. Since this inception behaviorism has been subjected to a more or less continuous stream of criticism. During the roughly two decade period of the late 1950s through the late 1970s this criticism assumed the proportions of a full-blown assault when in its headier moments an almost Manichean construction of theoretical debate arose. The more energetic rhetoric of this period seemed less thoughtful than moral, with the purpose of bringing about the destruction of the behaviorist evil and the hegemony of the cognitive good. Following this period of high fervor the critique of behaviorism has over the past two decades subsided significantly, the critics for a variety of reasons having come to the opinion that the battle had been won. The dominant view — that is, the view among the cognitive cognoscenti — now appears to be that behaviorism has been sufficiently marginalized to pose no continuing threat. Consequently what one does tend to find in the current literature is the odd historical reference, to Chomsky or whomever, rather than anything much new. The period of vigorous criticism has substantially passed.


Verbal Behavior Operant Conditioning Causal Structure Intentional State Serial Order 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

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  • Roger Schnaitter

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