Behaviorism Verses Psychodynamic

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Behaviorism Verses Psychodynamic

Behaviorism Verses Psychodynamic


Psychology has existed for an extensive period of time in human history. New psychological approaches are put forth in response to changing social situations and dissatisfaction with previous theoretical explanations. As a result, each “system” of psychology has different objectives and differing perspectives on what is fact or fiction. Therefore, the utilization of differing research methods, techniques and goals defines what each system views as the truth. This will be examined through the examples of Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis, two divergent systems of psychology.


Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis both evolved out of unique social and intellectual contexts. Psychoanalysis, arguably the most influential system of psychology was pioneered by Sigmund Freud in Vienna during the 19th century. During this time various social trends were in operation. These were the proliferation of the German School, anti-Semitism and the role of women in society (Ratcliff & McKoon, 1989, pp 139-155). All of these aspects impacted Freud for instance, the German school provided the basis for his treatment situation and anti-Semitic policies forced him into the medical profession. Freud was also influenced by several significant individuals Josef Breuer, Jean-Martin Charcot and Rudolf Chrobak. All three of these intellectuals had radical views about the role of sex in neurotic disorders, for example Breuer once said that “neurotic disorders were always concerned with secrets of the marital bed”. (PAT) These views influenced Freud as did Breuer's former patient Anna O. Through his sessions with her he developed free association one of the main staples of psychoanalysis (Overskied, 1995, pp 517-523).

Oppositely, Behaviorism was developed from a utilitarian school of thought and was designed to predict and control behavior. Behaviorism in essence is a revolt against the study of consciousness and an attempt to “transform psychology into a science much like physics or biology”. Behaviorism was born in the U.S. where the English school of thought was dominant. The intellectual climate lead Watson to do specific goal orientated research, conducted in a lab and that predicted behavior. John B. Watson, one of the preeminent behaviorists was dissatisfied with current theories and this was a factor in the development of behaviorism. In addition, he was also influenced by several of his contemporaries. Jacques Loeb a researcher who studied tropism showed that complicated behaviors were really S-R behaviors. Also, Robert Yerkes who wrote a book with Watson and at the time had the only animal research lab in the country. This stimulated Watson to look further into S-R relationships and do research on animals and led to the proliferation of Behaviorism (Carlson & Buskist, 1997, pp 45-88).

Both Behaviorism and Psychoanalysis utilize different methods and research techniques and these can be tied to the aforementioned social and intellectual circumstances. Some of the techniques that Freud used were free association, dream analysis, transference, resistance and parapraxes. These research techniques stressed that behavior is “not what it seems on the surface, but a large part of the personality is below the level of awareness” (Burt, 1962, ...
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