The Ways of Behaviorism/Psychological Care of Infant and Child

by John B. Watson. New York: Harper & Bros. 1928. 8vo. 144 pp. $2.00.
by John B. Watson, with the assistance of Rosalie Rayner Watson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1928. 12mo. 195 pp. Illus. $2.00.
IT is said that when Faraday showed a group of scientists his discovery of magneto-electricity, someone asked: ‘Of what use is it?' To which he replied: ‘Of what use is a babe?' Dr. Watson not only answers this question, but shows us his own experiments, which may prove of greater value to the human race than even Faraday’s.
His teaching has begun to ‘soak’ into the American intelligentsia. Eugenics has been weighed and found wanting. Habits are stronger than heredity. Rearing rather than breeding is the slogan. The mild habit of thumb sucking will yank an infant’s jaw out of plumb and start a gorilla jaw growing. And the habit of fear, inflicted upon a frail babe, may later tilt its personality beyond the margin of the normal.
Dr. Watson’s recent books are crammed with high spots of his earlier studies. But besides, they more than hint at new techniques for the cure and the prevention of unsound behavior. He prescribes, for example, a simple method for blotting out false feelings, such as fears of harmless things, so fatal to the child’s emotional growth. And his exposure of the Freudian ‘subconscious is as refreshing to the student of Behaviorism as was his theory of thinking.
The Ways of Behaviorism is the finest of Dr. Watson’s writings. He has finally succeeded in ’humanizing’ the most elusive of the sciences. There are chapters as crisp in style as any William James ever wrote. And this is unique. For it is a well-known fact that the vague dreams of the ancients were less slovenly verbalized than the solid data of the moderns.
But his two-edged sword prunes and weeds too zealously. He is ‘conditioned’ against the lovable philosopher and the harmless poet, and against his less clear-eyed colleagues, to a degree that verges on intolerance, though that is a nasty word to use about a great thinker. Dr. Watson’s crusading fervor, no doubt, rouses his reader, and heaven knows the reader needs to be roused. But by it his epoch-making teaching loses some of the mellow maturity that otherwise would give implicit confidence.
Psychological Care of Infant and Child is a godsend to parents. It is less attractive in form than The Ways of Behaviorism. And it is unfortunate, indeed, that such important research that has taken years of patient toil should make its début garbed, presumably, in lecture notes, stenographed, and minus the lecturer’s skill with the spoken word. But after all, nothing in the vast literature of psychology compares in importance with Dr. Watson’s teaching. He is more revolutionary than Darwin, bolder than Nietzsche, and, best of all, more useful to the human race than the fatalistic eugenist.