John B. Watson

American psychologist and founder of the behaviorist movement, which emphasized rigorous laboratory experimentation and argued that instincts were unimportant, behavior patterns were learned by rote association, and consciousness could not be defined or studied objectively. These views broke with the subjective approach of earlier psychologists like Henry James and Romanes, who had strong interests in organismic evolution. Watson did grant that very basic emotions did have a physiological basis. After christening the behaviorist school in 1913, Watson over saw its rise to ascendancy in the 1920's. Watson's emphasis on rigor and experimentation followed his teacher Loeb, but Loeb's own psychological research was on tropisms, which did not fit easily into the behaviorist paradigm. Watson's approach in psychology was mirrored by Boas' school of cultural determinism in anthropology, and therefore opposed the rigid hereditarian views that underpinned the American eugenics movement. With Yerkes, founded and edited the Journal of Animal Behavior from 1911 to 1919; also edited the Psychological Review. Not to be confused with James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA.


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