6 General Characteristics of Behaviouralism – Explained!


There has been a difference of approach so much regarding behaviouralism that it has led Dwight Waldo to remark that “Behaviouralism was not and is not a clear and firm creed, an agreed upon set of postulates and rules.”

Still there are some general characteristics of behaviouralism which are given below:

1. Movement of Protest:

Behaviouralism as has already been explained is a sort of protest movement against the inadequacies of conventional Political Science mainly led by the American political scientists. They are highly dissatisfied with the achievements of conventional Political Science because of its inadequacies.


The conventional Political Science confined its study only to the State and Government and he did not take into account the political phenomena and the behaviour of men. As a result, he neglected the .study of many social and political problems facing the human society today.

Hence Dahl has observed correctly:

“Historically speaking, the behavioural approach was a protest movement within political science the behavioural approach came to be associated with a number of political scientists, mainly America who shared a strong sense of dissatisfaction with the achievement of conventional political science, particularly, through historical, philosophical and descriptive institutional approaches and a belief that additional methods and approaches either existed or could be developed that would help to provide political science with empirical propositions and theories of a systematic order.”

Therefore, behaviouralism has shifted its emphasis from the ideal state, government and political institutions to the day today political problems of the citizens. Consequently new methods of study and research have developed in Political Science.

2. Focus on Behaviour:


Behaviouralism is a sort of protest movement against traditional approaches in Political Science, therefore, behaviouralism has made the individual as centre of attention in the study of political phenomena. The behaviouralists thought that though the behaviour differs from individual to individual, yet it shows certain qualities of uniformity. So they believe that behaviour can be expressed in general terms and it can be made predictive also.

However, it must be made clear that the behaviour of the individual is moulded by his own psychological make-up and the social atmosphere in which he lives. The psychological make-up of the individual is affected by many factors which include not only one’s emotions, instincts, passions, feelings, prejudices and fascinations but also one’s values and opinions.

Social environment also influences a particular person because he may behave differently under different atmosphere and circumstances. So the behaviouralists are concerned with the individual’s political behaviour as a member of group and institutions.

3. Scientific outlook and Objectivity:

Behaviouralism stresses the special importance of the scientific outlook and objectivity. Behaviouralists overlook the ethical values because they cannot be studied scientifically and objectively. Instead they advocate value free science of politics. They emphasise empirical values which are arrived at after a lot of objective study and scientific investigation.

4. Methodological Revolution:


Behaviouralism brought about altogether a new approach in the study of political research. Consequently, some scholars regard behaviouralism as nothing but a methodological revolution in political science. Where as the traditional political scientists employed philosophical, historical or comparative methods for their study, the behaviouralists emphasise such techniques are observation, interviews, survey, research, case studies, data collection, statistical analysis, quantification, etc. The behaviouralists have drawn frequently from natural sciences such as Mathematics, Statistics, physics, Biology etc.

In order to be expert in behavioural methods, one has to possess sound knowledge of statistics and model-building. Examples of model-building are found in Easton’s and Almond’s model of political system and Cybernetics model of Karl Deutsch. In this method the researchers design models and with their help they collect data.

5. Inter-disciplinary study:

The political behaviour of an individual is a part of the total social behaviour of all the individuals. In order to get a proper understanding a modern researcher in Political Science has to take the help of various social sciences or different disciplines like Sociology, History, Economics and Anthropology and so on.

Great anthropologists and sociologists like Durkheim, Malin Dwaski, Parsons, Shils and Eisenstadt have made unique contribution to systems theory and the structural-functional approach. The modern political scientists have also started studying the works of the above famous sociologists and anthropologists because the behavioural method can-not be understood fully without studying deeply other disciplines (social sciences).


In this respect Eulou has observed correctly: “A man’s political behaviour is only one of his total behaviour as a social being, political behaviour analysis must be interdisciplinary. It cannot neglect the wider context in which political action occurs. It is bound, therefore to consider the possible effects of social, cultural and personal factors on political behaviour”.

6. Invention of scientific theory:

The main aim of the behaviouralists is to build a scientific theory with the help of observation and experimentation, which may be able to predict things and be applied universally. Eulou emphasises that theory making forms a very important base for political behaviour research and it helps the researcher a lot to properly understand and analyse the empirical data. Traditional political theory could never be empirically tested and validated.

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