Encountering the World: Toward An Ecological Psychology

By Edward S. Reed | Go to book overview

Epilogue: The Significance of Ecological Psychology

A Meaningful Science of Psychology

The ecological approach to psychology as presented in this book is a unified, not a fragmented, field; it offers us the prospect of a scientific approach to the study of human nature without eliminating all that is human or meaningful from its subject matter; it encourages the exploration and analysis of varieties of value and meaning without retreating into the arbitrary and capricious; it has room for naturalistic and descriptive methodologies as well as experimental ones. The unifying idea within ecological psychology is its approach to the subject matter of psychology. From an ecological approach, psychology must take an animal's encounters with its surroundings as the fundamental phenomenon to be explained. All forms of subjectivism, whether experiential and hermeneutic or physiological and reductionist, can thus be rejected: psychology is not the study of something in the animal but the study of the animal in its world. Similarly, all forms of objectivism can be rejected: neither behaviorist laws not structuralist rules offer a complete psychology. Psychology is not just the study of environmental contingencies or rule systems (however generated) according to which animal's behave; it is the study of how animal's encounter their surroundings.

The heart of ecological psychology is a functional account of these encounterings: animals seek out the affordances of the environment, doing so by means of available information. The functions of encounters are achieved--to the extent that they ever are, which is never fully, for encounters often put individual animals at risk--because animals are able to find and use available affordances. These findings and usings are regulated by the animal's ability to detect and use ecological information--information that specifies both the affordances and how to use them in that situation. Awareness and action are thus different, but not completely separable. The activity of seeking information--exploratory activity--is the basis of all awareness; the awareness resulting from information pickup is integral to all action. Existing psychologies, whether behaviorist or cognitivist, have tacitly assumed that behavior and awareness belong to two different spheres of reality. Such an assumption makes a coherent psychology impossible and should be rejected. Both behavior and awareness emerge from the lives of animals within their environments.

-184-

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Encountering the World: Toward An Ecological Psychology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction: the Significance of the Psychological 3
  • 1 - Regulation Versus Construction 9
  • Conclusion: the Fundamental Hypothesis of Ecological Psychology 18
  • 2 - An Evolutionary Psychology 20
  • Conclusion 27
  • 3 - Affordances: A New Ecology for Psychology 29
  • Conclusion: the Evolution of Behavior Among the Affordances of the Environment 45
  • 4 - The Importance of Information 47
  • Conclusion 67
  • 5 - Functional Systems and the Mechanisms of Behavior 68
  • Conclusion 82
  • 6: Varieties of Action Systems 83
  • 7 - The Effort After Value and Meaning 96
  • Conclusion 110
  • 8 - The Human Environment 111
  • Conclusion 125
  • 9 - Becoming a Person 126
  • Conclusion: Becoming A Person and Entering into A Culture 138
  • 10 - The Daily Life of the Mind 140
  • Conclusion 151
  • 11 - Entering the Linguistic Environment 153
  • Conclusion 167
  • 12 - Streams of Thought 169
  • Conclusion 183
  • Epilogue: The Significance of Ecological Psychology 184
  • Conclusion 189
  • References 191
  • Index 207
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