MODULE 6

Notes

1. (p. 1). Introspection is a method of reporting the contents or the processes of one's mind. As a method of psychology, introspection is as old as Plato and Aristotle. Even the British empiricists used this subjective method to arrive at their so-called "objective" psychology. Their belief that the mind was really a product of outside stimulation was based upon the experiences of examining their own minds. Wundt and the structural psychologists thought that one could report on the contents of the mind if all experience and bias were removed from the observation. The functionalists essentially agreed with this approach. The Gestalt psychologists also used introspection as a method, but quarreled over whether unbiased observation was either possible or desirable. Such sterile reporting, they believed, led to meaningless or at least misleading notions about e mind. Watson and the behaviorists threw the baby out with the bath. In their attempt to secure a more objective method for psychology, namely observation of overt behavior, they also denied the existence of what others were calling "mind."

2. (p. 23). Bakan hypothesizes that behaviorism came from midwestern, small town, and rural America, rather than from the urban centers. In reviewing a study by Carpenter (1954), Bakan reports that there are differences in the birthplaces of members representing different areas of psychology within the American Psychological Association. For example, members of Division 3 (experimental psychology), more frequently were from small towns and that members of Division 12 (clinical psychology) were from foreign countries or urban centers. If, says Bakan, you assume that the "behavioristic orientation is more characteristic of members of Division 3 than Division 12. . ." then the hypothesis is supported (Bakan, 1966, p. 9).

Although American philosophy is basically Greeco-Christian, it is also naturalistic. It is this naturalistic bias that is coeval with behaviorism. Naturalism recognizes that there are patterns in nature and that these patterns are repetitive, common, and continuing. The American Dream is tied to the forward movement and progressive development of the great rivers, in the forces of nature, and in the changing seasons so clearly evident in the rolling Appalachian hills and in the great plains of the Midwest. The song "On the Banks of the Wabash," whose lyrics were written by Theodore Dreiser, illustrates the naturalistic point of view. This reality of nature does have repeatability. But the changing seasons create not only a phenomenal uniqueness, as if events keep happening again for the first time, but a relativity to changing conditions. In places where there are no seasons,no repetitions, no patterns, no traditions, there is only a grayness which seems to dampen intellectual activity.

The naturalistic novels of Zola, Dreiser and others come from this point of view. These authors accepted determinism. They fed on it, and the American public, not eager to endorse class distinctions or inherited positions of advantage, tolerated this literary age. It was Theodore Dreiser who could write in Sister Carrie (1900), "Our civilization is still in a middle stage, scarcely beast, in that it is no longer wholly guided by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason (Bartlett, p. 905)." It was in middle America, in the sleepy, small midwestern towns of Indiana, Ohio and Illinois, where naturalism flourished and where it bloomed. It was this climate that guided and nurtured behaviorism in America. The elements of nature were manifold, and included animals, fields, harvests and humans -- all identities and none separate or isolated. There was only one nature, and it was spelled with a capital "N."

Oh, the moon is fair tonight along the Wabash, From the fields there comes the breath of new-mown hay; Through the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming On the banks of the Wabash, far away.

--Theodore Dreiser, in brother Paul's poem Barlett, p. 905).

The Wabash River rises from Darke County in western Ohio near Greenville, winds southwest through Indiana and through Terre Haute to form the southern half of the western boundary separating Indiana from Illinois, and ends in the Ohio River. Both man and the universe shared a trenchant destiny. Both seasons and persons came and went as did the celestial planets. There was order in the universe, and the force that thrust up new sprouts each spring was that same force that shaped new infants, or new ideas, or new values.

There is apparent meaning, purpose, order and pattern in such a universe. You don't need to go looking for the pattern; it is there. This was naturalism. Transcendentalism, also deeply rooted in American soil, was a special form of naturalism, the belief that there is a parallel pattern between individuals and the race, the notion that ". . . there exists a unique plan of structure, the idea of the scale of beings, the notion of the parallelism between the development of the individual and the evolution of the race (Russell, E. S., 1916, p. 89)."

3. (p. 24). Skinner was also from a rural community, though from the north rather than from the south. The first sentence of his autobiography (1976) begins with these words: "The Susquehanna River, named for an Iroquois tribe, rises in Otsego Lake in New York State. It flows southwest and south and crosses into Pennsylvania a few miles below the town of Windsor. Almost at once it meets a foothill of the Alleghenies, which proves unbreachable, and it abandons its southern course, swings west and north, and returns to the hospitable plains of New York State . . . In that narrow sweep of a river valley I spent the first eighteen years of my life (1976, p. 3)."

4. (p. 25). The discovery that learning had something to do with the "law of exercise" and the "law of effect" led Pressey in the late 1920's to the discovery and development of teaching machines. The first to develop equipment which the learner could operate himself and thus teach himself, was Sidney Pressey. Pressey devised a simple device consisting of a machine into which could be placed a paper with questions which would appear through the window and various possible answers. Subjects were then to select the best answer and push,pull, or turn one of four handles which would then ring a bell or return a marble if the answer was correct. This gave immediate feedback about the right answer and permitted the learner to make another choice if his first selection was not rewarded. Other variations on this device were a small board which could be placed on the desk alongside a test. The board contained many holes, under which a piece of paper was inserted. Using a wooden stylus, the learner would punch the hole corresponding to his choice. If the answer was correct, the paper would be punched all the way through. If the answer was incorrect, just a small hole would be made. In this way, the learner gets feedback while at the same time a record is made of the number of responses necessary for learning. Skinner, somewhat independently, later devised equipment which would require the writing of correct words or phrases to questions appearing on the machine. With the advent of computers, this exercise could be accomplished with the use of computer stations.

5. (p. 26). The fact that psychoanalysts and behaviorists both emphasized the importance of early childhood made them strange bedfellows. They both agreed on the issue of "determinism,l the belief that events are the products of preceeding events. In psychoanalytic theory, early childhood experiences influence the adult life, if nothing more than through the influence of the unconscious on conscious activity or on the dream life. And in behaviorism, the habit patterns established in childhood are the basis for adult personality. Watson and other behaviorists explained behavior as being the product of conditioned responses from earlier times. Thus, the environment in which we are raised determines what we will become.

6. (p.33). Several other points about Hull should be made, namely his mathematico-deductive system, the concept of the intervening variable, and the idea of drive reduction. Further, Hull maintained that much misunderstanding can be avoided if the scientist will attempt to put his findings in some logical order, setting out his propositions in the form of theorems and corollaries which can be examined for their possible logical fallacies and for their unstated premises (Hull, 1940, p. 10).

7. (p.34). More sophisticated models of learning which involved mathematical models have been proposed by Estes and others. These systems have reflected interest in and understanding of the workings of computers. Work by Estes, Atkinson, and others have been followed up with studies on short term and long term storage units, suggesting that the mind is capable of reliably retrieving information stored for a few seconds in short term areas. More systematic knowledge, in long term storage, can be contained for longer periods of time.


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