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Lecture 6

PSYC 215 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: John Dewey, Kurt Koffka, Psychological Bulletin

Course Code
PSYC 215
John Lydon

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Having survived the onslaught of the Nazis up to the mid-1930s, all the core members of the
Gestalt movement were forced out of Germany to the United States by 1935. Köhler published
another book, Dynamics in Psychology, in 1940 but thereafter the Gestalt movement suffered a
series of setbacks. Koffka died in 1941 and Wertheimer in 1943. Wertheimer's long-awaited
book on mathematical problem-solving, Productive Thinking was published posthumously in
1945 but Köhler was now left to guide the movement without his two long-time colleagues. As a
result of the conjunction of a number of events in the early 20th century, behaviorism gradually
emerged as the dominant school in American psychology. First among these was the increasing
skepticism with which many viewed the concept of consciousness: although still considered to
be the essential element separating psychology from physiology, its subjective nature and the
unreliable introspective method it seemed to require, troubled many. William James'
1904 Journal of Philosophy... article "Does Consciousness Exist?", laid out the worries
A third factor was the rise of Watson to a position of significant power within the psychological
community. In 1908, Watson was offered a junior position at Johns Hopkins by James Mark
Baldwin. In addition to heading the Johns Hopkins department, Baldwin was the editor of the
influential journals, Psychological Review and Psychological Bulletin. Only months after
Watson's arrival, Baldwin was forced to resign his professorship due to scandal. Watson was
suddenly made head of the department and editor of Baldwin's journals. He resolved to use these
powerful tools to revolutionize psychology in the image of his own research. In 1913 he
published in Psychological Review the article that is often called the "manifesto" of the
behaviorist movement, "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It." There he argued that
psychology "is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science", "introspection forms
no essential part of its methods..." and "The behaviorist... recognizes no dividing line between
man and brute". The following year, 1914, his first textbook, Behavior went to press. Although
behaviorism took some time to be accepted as a comprehensive approach (see Samelson, 1981),
(in no small part because of the intervention of World War I), by the 1920s Watson's revolution
was well underway. The central tenet of early behaviorism was that psychology should be a
science of behavior, not of the mind, and rejected internal mental states such as beliefs, desires,
or goals. Watson himself, however, was forced out of Johns Hopkins by scandal in 1920.
Although he continued to publish during the 1920s, he eventually moved on to a career in
advertising (see Coon, 1994).
Among the behaviorists who continued on, there were a number of disagreements about the best
way to proceed. Neo-behaviorists such as Edward C. Tolman, Edwin Guthrie, Clark L. Hull,
and B. F. Skinner debated issues such as (1) whether to reformulate the traditional psychological
vocabulary in behavioral terms or discard it in favor of a wholly new scheme, (2) whether
learning takes place all at once or gradually, (3) whether biological drives should be included in
the new science in order to provide a "motivation" for behavior, and (4) to what
degree any theoretical framework is required over and above the measured effects of
reinforcement and punishment on learning. By the late 1950s, Skinner's formulation had become
dominant, and it remains a part of the modern discipline under the rubric of Behavior Analysis.
Behaviorism was the ascendant experimental model for research in psychology for much of the
20th century, largely due to the creation and successful application (not least of which in
advertising) of conditioning theories as scientific models of human behaviour.
In 1918, Jean Piaget (18961980) turned away from his early training in Natural History and
began post-doctoral work in psychoanalysis in Zurich. In 1919, he moved to Paris to work at the
Binet-Simon Lab. However, Binet had died in 1911 and Simon lived and worked in Rouen. His
supervision therefore came (indirectly) from Pierre Janet, Binet's old rival and a professor at
the Collège de France.The job in Paris was relatively simple: to use the statistical techniques he
had learned as a natural historian, studying molluscs, to standardize Cyril Burt's intelligence test
for use with French children. Yet without direct supervision, he soon found a remedy to this
boring work: exploring why children made the mistakes they did. Applying his early training in
psychoanalytic interviewing, Piaget began to intervene directly with the children: "Why did you
do that?" (etc.) It was from this that the ideas formalized in his later stage theory first emerged.
Noam Chomsky's (1957) review of Skinner's book Verbal Behavior (that aimed to
explain language acquisition in a behaviorist framework) is considered one of the major
theoretical challenges to the type of radical behaviorism that Skinner taught. Chomsky showed
that language could not be learned solely from the sort of operant conditioning that Skinner
postulated. Chomsky's argument was that people could produce an infinite variety of sentences
unique in structure and meaning and that these could not possibly be generated solely through
experience of natural language. As an alternative, he concluded that there must be internal
mental structures - states of mind of the sort that behaviorism rejected as illusory. Similarly,
work by Albert Bandura showed that children could learn by social observation, without any
change in overt behaviour, and so must be accounted for by internal representations.
The rise of computer technology also promoted the metaphor of mental function as information
processing. This, combined with a scientific approach to studying the mind, as well as a belief in
internal mental states, led to the rise of cognitivism as the dominant model of the mind.Links
between brain and nervous system function were also becoming common, partly due to the
experimental work of people like Charles Sherrington and Donald Hebb, and partly due to
studies of people with brain injury (see cognitive neuropsychology). With the development of
technologies for accurately measuring brain function, neuropsychology and cognitive
neuroscience have become some of the most active areas in contemporary psychology.
With the increasing involvement of other disciplines (such as philosophy, computer science,
and neuroscience) in the quest to understand the mind, the umbrella discipline of cognitive
science has been created as a means of focusing such efforts in a constructive way.
Functionalism was a philosophy opposing the prevailing structuralism of psychology of the late
19th century. Edward Titchener, the main structuralist, gave psychology its first definition as a
science of the study of mental experience, of consciousness, to be studied by
trained introspection.William James is considered to be the founder of functional psychology.
Although he would not consider himself as a functionalist, nor did he truly like the way science
divided itself into schools. John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, Harvey A. Carr, and
especially James Rowland Angell were the main proponents of functionalism at the University of
Chicago. Another group at Columbia, including notably James McKeen Cattell, Edward L.
Thorndike, and Robert S. Woodworth, were also considered functionalists and shared some of
the opinions of Chicago's professors. Egon Brunswik represents a more recent, but Continental,
version. The functionalists retained an emphasis on conscious experience.