The Behaviourist Theory Of Emotions

We have seen that feeling theory regards emotions as inner states that can only be known through introspection. It is difficult to think of a greater contrast to this view than that of the behaviourists:

Psychology as the behaviourist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. 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. (Watson, 1913, p. 1)

This quote from James Watson sums up what has become known as psychological behaviourism. The official line of the psychological behaviourists makes no epistemo-logical or metaphysical claims—they have nothing to say either way about whether or not mental states exist, they merely argue that we should not study them and that our theories should not rest upon them. In contrast, philosophical behaviourism in its various forms (analytical behaviourism, reductive behaviourism, eliminative behaviourism) makes considerable metaphysical claims about the status of mental states.

In this section we shall briefly consider the theories of emotion put forward by two psychological behaviourists, Watson and Skinner, and by one philosophical behaviourist, Gilbert Ryle.

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