Behaviorism (or behaviourism) is an approach to psychology based on the proposition that behavior is interesting and worthy of scientific research. It is a form of materialism, denying any independent significance for mind. Its significance for psychological treatment has been profound, being one of the pillars of pharmacological therapy.

One of the assumptions of behaviorist thought is that free will is illusory, and that all behaviour is determined by the environment either through association or reinforcement.

The behaviorist school of thought ran concurrent with the psychoanalysis movement in psychology in the 20th century. Its main influences were Ivan Pavlov, who investigated Classical conditioning, John B. Watson (1878-1958) who rejected introspective methods and sought to restrict psychology to experimental laboratory methods. His disciple, B.F. Skinner, sought to give ethical grounding to behaviorism, relating it to Pragmatism.

Approaches to behaviorism

Within that broad approach, there are different emphases. Some behaviorists argue simply that the observation of behavior is the best or most convenient way of investigating psychological and mental processes. Others believe that it is in fact the only way of investigating such processes, while still others argue that behavior itself is the only appropriate subject of psychology, and that common psychological terms (belief, goals, etc.) have no referents and/or only refer to behavior. Those taking this point of view sometimes refer to their field of study as behavior analysis or behavioral science rather than psychology.

Read more about the following Origins.


Early in the 20th century, John B. Watson argued in his book Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist for the value of a psychology which concerned itself with behavior in and of itself, not as a method of studying consciousness... Read more

Radical behaviorism:

B.F. Skinner, who carried out experimental work mainly in comparative psychology from the 1930s to the 1950s, but remained behaviorism's best known theorist and exponent virtually until his death in 1990, developed a distinct... Read more

Behaviorism in philosophy:

Although behaviorism is commonly thought of as a psychological movement, most modern behaviorist's would agree that Behaviorism is a philosophy and upon which the science... Read more