Encountering the World: Toward An Ecological Psychology

By Edward S. Reed | Go to book overview
Save to active project

An Evolutionary Psychology

Charles Darwin, Psychologist

Charles Darwin's experimental research in psychology is surprisingly little known and less understood. One can read the most thorough available histories ( Boakes, 1984; Richards, 1987) and not even find a reference to Darwin's many behavioral experiments or to the theoretical approach that motivated his work (see Reed, 1982c and forthcoming for further historical discussion). This is all the more unfortunate, as Darwin's work still offers important insights.

Darwin treated both behavior and awareness as integral parts of animal life and as subject to the same evolutionary pattern of variation and selection as all other aspects of the living world. He rejected his friend Huxley's theory of animals as automata, and he believed not only that animals had mental states but that these states could be known through a combination of observation, experiment, and ecological analysis. Darwin did not explicitly develop the core ideas of ecological psychology, the concepts of ecological resources for behavior and awareness (what I here term affordances and information), but he came surprisingly close to doing so. Many of the ideas discussed in this chapter are, at the very least, implicit throughout his work on behavior and evolution. Moreover, Darwin invented several basic experimental procedures for analyzing how animals regulate their encounters with their surroundings. It is this Darwin, the experimental behaviorist and evolutionist, who is surprisingly still unknown, more than a century after his death. A convenient overview of his efforts at creating an experimental and evolutionary science of behavior can be found by reviewing his studies of earthworm activities and awareness, as I now proceed to do.

Earthworms: An Example of How Behavior Is Regulated by Affordances

Earthworms spend most of their time burrowing in the ground. Because worms are covered with a layer of sensitive skin, this habitat can be challenging for them. Worms whose skin becomes desiccated through heat or evaporation will die. Worms avoid desiccation through a number of behavioral adaptations that were first studied by Charles Darwin ( 1881; see Reed, 1982c). This case is so interesting in part because earthworms have neither separate sensory organs (although one might well count their entire epi


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Encountering the World: Toward An Ecological Psychology


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 216

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?