I don’t believe a science can truly be distinguished from its application(s). Indeed, I can’t think of a science that doesn’t claim to have an application to at least some degree. In the case of psychology its application is its raison d’etre.

That said, a theory may be an accurate description of reality and still be applied unwisely or unethically. In this particular instance I was striving to focus more on the application than the theory itself, though I do think behaviorism falls well short as a sufficient explanation for human behavior.

Regardless, the title of the article includes the phrase “Behaviorism Run Amok” as opposed to to just “Behaviorism” for a reason. The article is intended primarily as a critque of the application of behaviorism by the advertising/targeting industries using the specific contemporary example of Cambridge Analytica as an example. To the extent I am critical of behaviorism as such, it is the theory’s failure to take thoughts and feelings seriously that I find fault with.

Behaviorism is by definition an approach to human nature that focuses solely or almost exclusively on visible responses to environmental stimuli. In my opinion this doesn’t make behaviorism wrong so much as it renders it shallow or insufficient. I don’t find fault with researchers that choose to make responses to environmental stimuli their focus. Nor do I deny that such research has produced positive applications. However, I do find fault with researchers that argue that’s all (or primarily all) we really need to study to understand human behavior. I would say the same of a geneticist taking a genetically deterministic view on the matter.

Written by

US citizen residing in British Columbia, Canada. Degrees include anthropology and environmental studies. Activism, politics, science, nature.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store