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Diagram Ivan Pavlov's conditioning experiments with dogs
Diagram of Ivan Pavlov's conditioning experiments with dogs

Behaviourism in psychology

In a bid to build academic credibility for the discipline of psychology - the science of the mind - psychologists created a self-imposed restriction on the kinds of evidence they were willing to accept.

Most prominently in the early twentieth century, psychology chose to focus only on observable behaviour. This allowed psychologists to conduct rigorous scientific experiments such as the classic experiment performed by Pavlov on his dogs. However, there is something counterintuitive about looking to the observable manifestation of the mind to study the mind itself, which is first and foremost subjective.

Read this article about behaviourism to understand why it is not an ideal approach for addressing questions about the mind. The point is not that behaviourism is a bad approach, but that in studying the mind, we should adopt both objective and subjective criteria.

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This article is from the free online course:

What Is a Mind?

University of Cape Town