Twentieth Century Psychology: Recent Developments in Psychology

By Philip Lawrence Harriman | Go to book overview

THE PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY OF SET

R. C. DAVIS Indiana University

An investigator in the field of physiological psychology has the choice of two kinds of procedure. On the one hand he may take as his starting point some physiological processes, neural, endocrine, circulatory, etc., and trace in them the effects of stimulation of the organism. He may on the other hand choose to begin with psychological processes, identified by analysis of behavior, and search for whatever physiological processes may comprise them. Whatever hopes there may be for ultimate junction of the two approaches, clarity requires that an investigator know from which direction he is proceeding, for it would hardly be proper to assume that the physiological concepts employed in one approach are congruent with the psychological employed in the other.

It is plain that a discussion of the psychophysiology of set begins at the psychological end of the bridge, with a concept defined on the basis of organismic action; but specifically, how defined? The investigator certainly has a wide choice of definitions of this term, as of other psychological concepts. A recent article by Gibson (16) is an examination of the meanings attached to the word and its correlatives in various accounts. Gibson concludes that "no common meaning can be discerned". Literally taken, this is perhaps an over-statement. For a definition of sufficient generality (e.g., "a set is a determining tendency in the organism, subject to change under certain conditions") would probably apply to all usages. Although this would include

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