Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior: Selected Essays

By Robert Epstein | Go to book overview

3
BRINGING COGNITION AND CREATIVITY INTO THE BEHAVIORAL LABORATORY

Summary. Praxics has made little contact with the complex behavioral phenomena that lead people to speak of cognition and creativity, but advances are possible. At least four sources of novel behavior are readily accessible to laboratory study--imitation, instructions, variation, and the spontaneous interconnection of repertoires. The latter process is especially dramatic: Behaviors that have been established separately can, in new situations, come together to produce blends, new sequences, or behaviors that have new functions.

Four categories of complex behavior have traditionally given praxists1 trouble and, not surprisingly, have stimulated theories about cognition and creativity.

Novel behavior. The most perplexing has been novel behavior. Humans and other organisms do things they have never done before and, occasionally, things no member of their species has ever done before. The mystery of novelty underlies most theories of creativity and has spurred such concepts as "generativity" in language production ( Chomsky, 1965) and "productivity" in problem solving ( Wertheimer, 1945).

Delays. Second, behavior often appears to be under the control of events that occurred in the remote past. Köhler ( 1925) notes a case in which some food was buried outside of a chimpanzee's cage in full view of the chimpanzee. When the animal was released the next morning, it immediately unearthed the food. Few people would be content to speak of action at a distance in this situation, in part because we know that intervening events can change the outcome. Clearly, environmental events change organisms, and the changes often manifest themselves in subsequent behavior, even after long intervals of time have elapsed. We know very little about what those changes are. Meanwhile, control of behavior by temporally remote stimuli spurs theories of "memory."

Covert activity. Third, thoughts, feelings, and so on, are accessible only to oneself, and as long as that remains the case, speculative theories about their nature and significance will flourish.

Complex, distinctively human behavior. And finally, complex human behavior, such as language, or the behavior attributed to a self-concept, is often difficult to account for. When an environmental or biological account of distinctively

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