Behaviorism V Mentalism

"Behaviourism" Explains How Children Learn

Burrhus F. Skinner

Skinner wanted to study language using the scientific method to make it more credible. He didn't want to allow for the idea of mental structures because the mind (as opposed to the biological construct of the brain) cannot be observed from an objective view. He saw human individuals as complex machines who would respond to external stimulus based on the reinforcement or punishment of past experiences.

Skinner Views language as an input-output function with an emphasis on the impact of the external environment. He would believe in traditional theories of acquisition in which learning is driven by the exchange of data and meaning for sound patterns. Skinner would argue that children can be taught by repetition and conditioning. They can pick up meaning through naming processes which introduce them to concrete objects and concepts.

Some important arguments were presented against Skinner based on the fact that the number of possible sentence structures is infinite. The unpredictability of these potential structures overturns some of his explanations.