The purpose of this book is to explore various experimental and naturalistic observations of complex human behavior in terms of learning principles and thereby to offer a relatively general conception of how the physical and social environments may shape human behavior.
The strategy is to employ an integrated set of learning principles that seem to have "heavy-weight" effects. There is no attempt to give an exhaustive account of learning principles or to consider the controversies and on-going research concerned with those that are presented. In extending the principles to complex human behavior, areas of application are sometimes reached that have not yet been sufficiently subjected to experimentation. Nevertheless, there appears to be enough support of the basic principles as well as a sufficient number of demonstrations of the relevance of their extrapolations to consider a learning conception of complex human behavior to be a powerful approach.
Certain aspects of the strategy of the book emerged from the experience of teaching general psychology to a population of students that included both psychology and education majors and general education students. It was found that lectures which presented a selected set of behavior principles were much more meaningful and interesting to the students when they were presented in simple form and the possible extensions to human behavior were outlined in some detail. It was concluded that for the student who will take only one or two courses in psychology the interpretive application of learning principles can yield a practical type of knowledge and yet remain consistent with a scientific approach. For the major in psychology, on the other hand, this approach seemed capable of leading the student to think of human behavior in terms of experimentally derived principles and to appreciate the technical research underlying the establishment of such principles.
It will be recognized that the systematic orientation of the present book is coincident with other efforts to extend learning principles to complex human behavior. It does attempt, however, to give a more central position to description of the development and function of language. This is possible because of recent theoretical and experimental extensions of learning principles to this area. The present interpretation also brings together the conceptions of a number of learning psychologists and in so doing attempts to abstract congruent principles rather than indicate conflicts. The most . . .