Descartes: dualism – actions can be dividied into involuntary and voluntary behaviour
controlled via different mechanisms (reflexes and the mind, respectively). This led to two
schools of thought: mentalism and reflexology
(cause of invol.
Invol. or vol.
(Cause of vol.
Understanding the Mind
• Empiricism (British Empiricists – hedonism [Hobbes], Association [Locke]):
philosophy according to which all ideas in the mind arise from experience
• Nativis (Descartes): philosophy that states humans are born with innate ideas.
• Rationalis (Kant): experience and biological predispositions worked together
• Agreed with discarte on Voluntary and involuntary behavior. He argued that
Voluntary behaviour was predictable too.
• Operated on the principle of hedonism: actions of organisms are determined by
the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain
Connection between the representations of two events (or stimuli) so that the occurrence
of one activates the other. Rules of associations, laid out by Aristotle (384322 BC) and
forwarded by the likes of jhone Locke.
It requires three thing:
1) Contiguity: which was the most important meaning if two items repeatedly occur
together, you will get an association between them. 2) Similarity: if two items are similar
in some aspect (i.e. both are red). There is scientific evidence for this now as well. 3)
Contrast: which is the more they are different the better you can remember them ( i.e.
short and very tall).
Hermann Ebbinghaus • Empirical investigation of associations. Studied the “impossible” or the Recall of
Nonsense syllables ( words with no meaning)
• Forgetting/learning curves, savings, serial position effect (primacy and recency)
Descartes: argued the presence of pineal gland in the ventricle and the presence of ghost
and animals spirits that causes the motion of our bodies. Despite this his contibutions
were very significant:
• Described how reflexes are related to behaviour
• Described a neural circuit including the brain
• Distinction between voluntary and involuntary behaviour
• Decribed how outer world influenced the brain and behavior
Critism of Descartes idea:
• Sensory and motor messages – Good! But In the same nerve – Bad (Charles Bell
– sensory and motor nerves)
• Nervous transmission – Good! But Using animal spirits – Bad (John
• Movement in muscles under nervous control! – Good but being Caused by
hydraulic swelling – Bad (Francis Glisson)
Post Descartes Reflexology
• Ivan Sechenov and Pavlov began to show that all was not so simple in the world
of reflexes. Responses not elicited directly from stimuli or directly linked to
• Edward Thorndike (18741949) studied cat intelligence experimentally and
came up with Law of Effect. SR association and Led to the “stamping in” of
• Ivan Pavlov (studied reflexes experimentally. Came up with SR units. Pavlov’s
work on reflexes then lead to the idea of functional neurology
• Nervism – philosophical position of Pavlov that all behavioural and
physiological functions are under nervous control Pavlov wanted to study how
this principle with respect to physiology. But it was discovered that Pancreas is
under hormonal control – not neural control. Thus, Physiology was out, nervism