The FACES of Behavioral Psychology

As we have discussed and understood the different concepts and theoretical perspectives relevant to the school of Behaviorism, let us have a quick familiarization of the major figures behind its success. Other personalities were also part of this school of thought, but the following are considered the most influential and significant in the field of education and behavioral sciences.


Edward Thorndike (1874 – 1949)

He is famous in psychology for his work on learning theory that lead to the development of operant conditioning within behaviorism. Whereas classical conditioning depends on developing associations between events, operant conditioning involves learning from the consequences of our behavior. It must be clear however that Skinner wasn’t the first to study the principles of operant conditioning; in fact, he built his theoretical bases with the works of Thorndike.


Edward L. Throndike’s pioneer investigations in the fields of human and animal learning are among the most influential in the history of Psychology. In 1912, he was recognized for his accomplishments and elected president of the American Psychological Association. In 1934, the American Association for the Advancement of Science elected Thorndike as the only social scientist to head this professional organization. Thorndike retired in 1939, but worked actively until his death ten years later


Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)

Pavlov was born on September 14, 1849, at Ryazan, Russia. Because he was born into a large family, poverty was always an issue. His father, Peter Dmitrievich Pavlov, was the village priest and young Ivan tended to the church property. Pavlov inherited many of his father’s characteristics including a strong will to succeed.

Eventually, Pavlov’s research on the physiology of digestion would earn him the Nobel Prize. As a skilled surgeon, he was able to implant small stomach pouches in dogs to measure the secretion of gastric juices produced when the dogs began to eat. With the help of his assistants, he was able to condition the dogs to salivate at the click of a metronome. As his work progressed, Pavlov established the basis for conditioned reflexes and the field of classical conditioning.


John B Watson

John Watson (1878-1958)

In 1878 John Broadus Watson was born to Emma and Pickens Watson, a poor family in Greenville, South Carolina. He is an American psychologist who believed that psychology should be the science of observable behavior.

In The Ways of Behaviorism, Watson states that behaviorism is the scientific study of human behavior. It is simply the study of what people do. Behaviorism is intended to take psychology up to the same level as other sciences. The first task is to observe behavior and make predictions, then to take determine causal relationships. Behavior can be reduced to relationships between stimuli and responses, the S — R Model. A stimulus can be shown to cause a response or a response can be traced back to a stimulus. All behavior can be reduced to this basic component. According to Watson, “life’s most complicated acts are but combinations of these simple stimulus- response patterns of behavior.”


B.F. Skinner

B.F. Skinner (1904-1990)

B.F. Skinner described his Pennsylvania childhood as “warm and stable.” As a boy, he enjoyed building and inventing things; a skill he would later use in his own psychological experiments. He received a B.A. in English literature in 1926 from Hamilton College, and spent some time as a struggling writer before discovering the writings of Watson and Pavlov. Inspired by these works, Skinner decided to abandon his career as a novelist and entered the psychology graduate program at Harvard University.

Skinner is regarded as the father of Operant Conditioning, but his work was based on Thorndike’s law of effect. Skinner introduced a new term into the Law of Effect – Reinforcement. Behavior which is reinforced tends to be repeated (i.e. strengthened); behavior which is not reinforced tends to die out-or be extinguished (i.e. weakened).


Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura (1925- Present) 

Albert Bandura was born on December 4, 1925 in the province of Alberta, Canada. His parents were Polish wheat farmers. He went to a small high school with only 20 students and 2 teachers. In 1949 Bandura received his B.A. from the University of British Columbia. Bandura then went on to the University of Iowa where he obtained his doctorate in 1952. Upon graduation Bandura did a clinical internship at the Wichita Kansas Guidance Center. The following year, in 1953, Bandura accepted a teaching position at Stanford where he continues to teach today. While at the University of Iowa Bandura’s interests in learning and behaviorism began to grow.

Bandura has done a great deal of work on social learning throughout his career and is famous for his “Social Learning Theory” which he has recently renamed, “Social Cognitive Theory”. Bandura is seen by many as a cognitive psychologist because of his focus on motivational factors and self-regulatory mechanisms that contribute to a person’s behavior, rather than just environmental factors. This focus on cognition is what differentiates social cognitive theory from Skinner’s purely behavioristic viewpoint.

Albert Bandura focuses on the acquisition of behaviors. He believes that people acquire behaviors through the observation of others, then imitate what they have observed. Several studies involving television commercials and videos containing violent scenes have supported this theory of modeling.



Clark Hull (1884-1952)

Clark Hull grew up handicapped and contracted polio at the age of 24, yet he became one of the great contributors to psychology. His family was not well off so his education had to be stopped at times. Clark earned extra money through teaching. Originally Clark aspired to be a great engineer, but that was before he fell in love with the field of Psychology. By the age of 29 he graduated from Michigan University. When Clark was 34 when he received his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 1918. Soon after graduation he became a member of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin, where he served for 10 years. Although one of his first experiments was an analytical study of the effects of tobacco on behavioral efficiency, his lifelong emphasis was on the development of objective methods for psychological studies designed to determine the inderlying principles of behavior.

Hull devoted the next 10 years to the study of hypnosis and suggestibility, and in 1933 he published Hypnosis and Suggestibility, while employed as a research professor at Yale University. This is where he developed his major contribution, an elaborate theory of behavior based on Pavlov’s laws of conditioning. Pavlov provoked Hull to become greatly interested in the problem of conditioned reflexes and learning. In 1943 Hull published,Principles of Behavior, which presented a number of constructs in a detailed Theory of Behavior. He soon he became the most cited psychologist.

Let us thank them for their indispensable contributions in the fields of education and psychology. May we all apply the positive aspects of their expert works and studies in the noble profession that we are about to enter.  God bless! 😀



Erika Reinemeyer (May 1999). Edward Lee Thorndike Retrieved July 2, 2013 from

Mindy Lautenheiser (May 1999). Ivan Pavlov. Retrieved July 02, 2013 from

Emily Watson (May 1999). John B. Watson. Retrieved July 2, 2013 from

McLeod, S. A. (2007). B.F. Skinner | Operant Conditioning – Simply Psychology. Retrieved July 2, 2013 from

Kendra, Cherry. B. F. Skinner Biography Retrieved July 2, 2013 from

Amanda Moore (May 1999). Albert Bandura Retrieved July 02, 2013 from

Jana Schrock (May 1999). Clark Hull. Retrieved July 02, 2013 from


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