papalagi (papalagi) wrote,

Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief


Early accounts of imprinting treated the phenomenon as one in which the imprinted stimulus elicits or releases the behavior of following. But the duckling’s environment can be arranged so that following does not inevitably keep the duckling close to the imprinted stimulus, as in natural environments. Instead, the duckling may have to stand still on a platform or peck on a disk on the wall to keep the imprinted stimulus visible. Ducklings learn to do whatever keeps the imprinted stimulus available. The analysis shows that what is given phylogenically in imprinting is not a special relation between the imprinted stimulus and the following. Instead, it is the capacity of a moving stimulus seen early in the duckling’s life to acquire special significance. Once that has happened, the relation between the imprinted stimulus and the following comes about as an ontogenic contribution, in that the duckling learns which behavior has the consequences of keeping this significant stimulus visible. In the natural world, following typically keeps ducklings close to mother ducks, but the experimental analysis shows that what ducklings do is determined by the consequences of their behavior.


Although James articulated a phenomenology of mind and worked to avoid a reductionism of human experience, he nevertheless agreed that human action was, like all organized systems in nature, the product of external forces that could be measured, described, and ultimately manipulated. Thus James’s move to eliminate the study of consciousness as an independent, causal realm was quickly followed in turn by Watson’s move to eliminate the study of consciousness from psychology altogether. As Watson (1913) noted, “Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. . . . Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness”.

The rise of Watsonian behaviorism, as it would be called, was about more than placing psychology on a sound scientific footing. Behaviorism promised to be practical and relevant to producing outcomes of obvious public utility. Watson’s later success in advertising reflects not only the skills of persuasion that made him the pioneer of behaviorism, but also his commitment to psychology as an applied discipline.

Tags: encyclopedia of psychology
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.