Assessment Description/Brief:

“Account for the rise of behaviourism within psychology, and critically assess

the legacy of this movement.”

Even the early experimentalists in psychology, like Fechner, Wundt and James, were

primarily interested in accessing and understanding aspects of ‘mind’. In rejecting this

approach, behaviourism proposed not only a completely different way of

conceptualising the ‘human condition’, but also a completely different direction for

psychology. This essay is inviting you to do two things. First, identify the factors which

influenced the rapid growth of behaviourism in the early 20th Century.

Movements don’t ‘happen’ in a vacuum. So, in answering the first part of the question,

consider what was going on in science generally, what was going on in psychology,

and what it was that made behaviourism so appealing. You will also need to consider

behaviourism in the context of (and in competition with) other ‘approaches’ in

psychology. And second, you are asked to critically assess behaviourism’s legacy now

– how might psychology have been different if behaviourism hadn’t happened? Here,

keep in mind that psychology, like all disciplines, is an intellectual ecology where

everything affects everything else. By the way, don’t assume from this last part of the

question that behaviourism is extinct; it isn’t. You can draw on the lectures for an

historical ‘timeline’. Before starting the essay, you will also need to review the

‘behaviourist philosophy’.

Please follow the guidelines below.


• In marking the essays we will be rating (among other things) your grasp of the

issues and the quality of your arguments. Feel free to express your own views, but

you must support your key assertions with evidence (typically, citations from the



• Try to use your full word limit (1200 words), but don’t exceed it. This is really a

matter of equity, allowing all students the same opportunity to make their case.

• The word limit means that you will have to be selective with your material, making

choices about what you do and don’t include. This is a discipline we all work to. But

remember this – if the limit is 1200 words, we can only expect 1200 words worth of