Learning Theory and the Symbolic Processes

Learning Theory and the Symbolic Processes

Learning Theory and the Symbolic Processes

Learning Theory and the Symbolic Processes

Excerpt

Within the whole range of the behavioral sciences, few developments have been so striking and significant during the past decade as those pertaining to the symbolic processes. Primitive Behaviorism had no place for nor interest in such phenomena. Speech, like behavior in general, was seen as grossly instrumental, not informative; and the whole concept of knowledge and communication languished. However, as Behaviorism has come of age, attention has been irresistibly drawn, once again, to these phenomena and to a broad spectrum of problems with which earlier behavior theory was not at all concerned. The present book describes and interprets these developments.

Many collateral influences, extending from technical philosophy to the new branch of engineering known as cybernetics, have importantly stimulated and shaped contemporary thought concerning the symbolic, or representational, processes. But we shall here be particularly concerned with the unfolding of potentialities which lay within Behaviorism itself. While originally repudiating all that was subjective and cognitive, this scientific movement has recently shown itself unexpectedly competent to deal therewith, in a framework which is at once more systematic and seminal than any approach previously available. In the beginning avowedly opposed to the study of "mental life," Behaviorism has, paradoxically, provided a new, firm foundation and powerful inducement for just such study.

The reader who wishes a detailed account of the scientific developments which are antecedent to those delineated in this book should consult a companion volume, Learning Theory and Behavior (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1960). In it the systematic conception of learning . . .

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