Psychology 2135A/B Lecture Notes - Anthropomorphism, Noam Chomsky, Behaviorism

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Published on 9 Nov 2011
Department
Professor
History of ideas about behaviour
- we have a tendency to anthropomorphize
- we all know that human behaviour is very complex; need complex theory to explain behaviour
- Classical times: gods caused human to do things; gods are the complex mechanisms; something
complex, powerful, and mysterious was needed to explain behaviour
- Behaviourists argue that behaviour is caused by one's life history of conditioning i.e.
reinforcements; complexity is in the idea of one's life-history; to know entire history in detail is
impossible
- modern neural-network theories argue behaviour explained by complex changes in trillions of
connections between billions of neurons; complexity is in sheer number of facts involved in
trillions of connections and the process through which they are altered by experience
- theories of behaviour answer a human need: to understand the system of the world; makes
world seem less unpredictable
- cognition is about us; we begin with a need to find the system
Pre-history
Did early societies have the concept of mind?
- no evidence integrated concept of mind existed
- reference to many functions, but not to relations among functions
- words for memory, perception, language, but not mind
Did early societies see a connection between mental contents and behaviour?
- Gods and demons were thought to interfere with human activities
- idea that behaviour comes from outside the person
- Modern echoes of idea that behaviour comes from outside the person
- i.e. television causes violence, media causes anorexia
- diminishes the person, who is not seen as having agency
- brain had no special status, but internal organs seen as interacting in complex ways to produce
behaviour i.e. "venting their spleen"
Early History
Descartes
- system and order were very important to him
- distinguished between reason and emotion and said emotion should not control behaviour
- knew that animals share many psychological functions i.e. learning; differences between
animals and humans are interesting
- language and consciousness are functions of the human soul
- we are self-aware; conscious in a way that animals are not
Locke
- two types of knowledge
- sensation: sensory impressions of the world
- reflection: combining sensations through association to create complex knowledge; only
source of complex knowledge
- everyone born a blank slate; against divine right of kings, against idea that some people are
born special, for idea that knowledge comes from experience
- anybody with right experience can govern; basis for democracy
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