Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org From: "Phil Roberts, Jr."
Date: Thu, 02 Sep 2004 13:28:09 -0400 Subject: Re: [evol-psych] What is "behavior"? What is "actions"? John A. Johnson wrote: > On Tue, 31 Aug 2004 19:24:45 -0600 Jay Feirman wrote: > > >>Why do ethologists >>want the definition of behavior to be purely descriptive or phenomenological >>and the cognitive and evolutionary psychologists want to add other >>properties into the definition? What would change in cognitive or >>evolutionary psychology if behavior was just defined descriptively? Or, is >>this just a dominance issue with each field of study trying to get the other >>field of study to use its definition? > > > I would say it is a dominance issue. In this entire thread on definitions > of behavior and actions, I didn't see much recounting of the history of > power struggles on this issue amongst schools of psychologists and > philosophers. I would like to recall a very small portion of that history. > > John B. Watson revolutionized psychology when he declared that psychology > is the study of observable behavior rather than mind, and Watsonian and > Skinnerian behaviorism dominated psychology in the United States from the > 1920s through 1960s. You left something out: ...Watson was a a brilliant polemicist, and for him at least behaviorism was a revolt. But against what? Against the former schools of thought, as any revolutionary would say. But Paul Creelan (1974), analyzing Watson's personality, has suggested that he was revolting agains much more worn-out mentalism. Watson was raised by a devoust Baptist mother, to be a minister. Before he could go to Princeton Seminary, however, his mother died. Instead he went to the University of Chicago, an urban university and the heart of American functionalism, where he met an entirely different atomosphere. He was interested in psychology but had trouble acting as an intropsective subject. Eventually HE HAD A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. After recovering, HE PREFERRED ANIMAL SUBJECTS TO HUMAN ONES (Leahey, 'A History of Psychology'). I remember my first introduction to behaviorism in the fifth grade. I also remember being somewhat in awe of how clean and neat it was. By the seventh grade, however, I was already aware that this cleanness was purchased at the price of ignoring everything about myself that was most urgently in need of understanding, the muddy morass of human emotion, ego-related emotion in particular. And you didn't have to be a genius to realize that science isn't built upon data that is publicly observable, but rather data that is INTERSUBJECTIVELY REPRODUCIBLE (repeatable experiments, etc.). So the whole thing was built on what was either a lie or a misunderstanding any junior high school student should have been able to figure out. Like you, I believe a great deal of the momentum behind behaviorism has been due to the fact that "Psychologists are perenially insecure about their status as scientists" (Leahey, 'A History of Psychology) in which "science functions as a kind of security blanket desperately clutched as a talisman against doubt" (Koch, 'A Study of a Science'). How else do you think folks like Gleitman ('Psychology') and Cosmides and Tooby ('The Adapted Mind') could get away with supposedly definitive books on human psychology that don't contain a single reference to feelings of worthlessness, self-esteem, self-worth, etc. This having been said, I think it is also important to understand that there actually is a problem with introspection, and that the failure to properly identify what this problem is has itself contributed to the behaviorism's momentum, as I have commented upon in my synopsis on this matter (URL below): A Defense of Introspection (synopsis) Facilitated by the isomorphism heretofore apparent within classifications of natural objects (e.g., atoms of oxygen), verification in science is not so much a matter of public demonstration as A MANIFESTATION OF OUR COLLECTIVE FAITH IN INTER-SUBJECTIVE REPRODUCIBILITY (e.g., replicating an observation or experiment). As such, there would seem little reason in principle for treating a scientist's introspective observations of the private events within his own mind as methodologically inferior to so-called empirical observations of physical events, SO LONG AS THEY CAN PASS THE MUSTER OF REPRODUCIBILITY. Ah! But there's the rub. Unlike oxygen, honey bees and Mustang convertibles, in humans there is a considerable amount of individualization, no doubt resulting from nature's increased reliance on imagination and judgement (reasoning). But since this is an order problem rather than a privacy problem, the solution is, not to banish introspection, but to differentiate (stratify) between the more evolved individualized features (specific reasoning, specific higher emotional behavior, etc.) and the more mechanical, isomorphic processes lower in the evolutionary scheme of things (perception, fear, anger, etc.). Once accomplished (e.g., Diagram I), the individualization can then be dealt with by applying corresponding amounts of abstraction and generalization to those features (both thought and behavior) where individualization can be presumed to be most rampant (Diagram II). For example, individualized conclusions for why one selected product A over product B could not serve as a data base, whereas feelings of anger, worthlessness, etc. (enduring structures) could. Diagram II The Domains of Credibility pertaining to the kinematics (thought and behavior) of systems at the holistic level of description ^ ^ | n more evolved | o functions c | n (individual- r | c ization) e | r physical events d | e psychical events less evolved (behavior) i | d (thought) functions b | i (isomorphism) l | b v e | l v | e IIa. Behaviorist/Positivist Conception highest degrees of generalization in descriptions statements, theories, etc. about member of a class ^ ^ least credible (gradient) more evolved - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - functions (individual- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ization) physical events psychical events - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - less evolved (behavior) (thought) functions - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - (isomorphism) v - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - v most credible (gradient) highest degrees of specificity in descriptions statements, theories, etc. about members of a class IIb. Revised Conception -- PR Rehabilitating Introspection A Procedure for a First Person Psychical Science http://www.rationology.net