Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior: Selected Essays

Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior: Selected Essays

Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior: Selected Essays

Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior: Selected Essays

Synopsis

This diverse set of essays traces Epstein's experimental and theoretical work over a 15-year period. Four of the essays were coauthored by the eminent psychologist B. F. Skinner. The book demonstrates how the scientific study of the behavior can increase our understanding and effectiveness in many domains: creativity and innovation, parenting, artificial intelligence, self-improvement, and even world peace. Reviewers have praised the volume as an impressive effort by one of America's most notable psychologists. The volume paints a fairly consistent picture of Epstein's evolving view on cognition, creativity, and behavior. The first sections focus on generativity research and theory and on some "Columban" (pigeon) simulations of human behavior, including some related laboratory studies. The next sections cover efforts to create a comprehensive science of behavior; esssays about Skinner, one of the principal architects of behaviorism; and forays into artificial intelligence, child rearing, categorization research, and other topics. The volume concludes with some uncertain reflections on growing older and a modest proposal for a day of world peace.

Excerpt

The natural science known as the experimental analysis of behavior is sometimes accused of failing to deal with real-life issues or with complex cognitive aspects of human behavior. Some consider the field to be relevant only to rats pressing levers or pigeons pecking disks. But what of such phenomena as language, creativity, self-control, self-awareness, and problem solving? These are said to be the important issues with which we should be most concerned--the tough problems of modern psychological science. Can a rigorous, laboratory-based science of behavior tackle such phenomena?

The present volume helps meet the challenge. It demonstrates that many areas of complex human behavior can be treated in an objective way and, in so doing, shows how the experimental analysis of behavior can shed light on virtually any human behavior. In its rigor, it replaces mystery with understanding and wonder with technique--with methods for helping children, for enhancing creativity, for generating solutions to problems, and for investigating a wide range of everyday human endeavors. Because problems in our world are often due to excessive, inappropriate, or deficient human behavior, behavior should be investigated by the best means our culture can produce. This book is a step in the right direction. In my view, it includes some of the most original and important work to have appeared in many decades in the behavioral sciences.

Epstein's concept of generativity is an especially significant contribution, and his extension of Generativity Theory to the moment-to-moment analysis of the creative process is persuasive. The theory and the research pertaining to these issues by themselves justify the book. This work has far-reaching implications with regard to unraveling the continuous, probabilistic flow of the behavioral stream. Expansion of this topic by further research is waiting. It is curious how many aspects of the work reported in these papers await further elaboration by the behavioral sciences community; the breadth of Epstein's explorations has left us all with a great deal to do.

Robert Epstein is an energetic, always original scientist. He may not be able to do everything, but it seems he can do anything. His work and his writings, as the examples reported here demonstrate, range across many topics and . . .

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