Encountering the World: Toward an Ecological Psychology

By Edward S. Reed | Go to book overview

Human beings have specialized in collectivizing our motivations, as I shall show in the following chapters. We have evolved social relationships that coordinate efforts after both meaning and value. And an integral part of our development as infants are social situations that select and shape the objects toward which our efforts after meaning and value are directed, as well as the process in which these efforts are embodied.


Conclusion

Ecological psychology differs from previous psychologies at many levels of analysis. The definitions of action and awareness used here differ from those one finds in standard texts. Moreover, the emphasis in previous scientific psychologies has been on finding the causes of behavior and or awareness. In contrast, I am suggesting that scientific psychology should look more toward the meaning and significance of behavior than toward causes.

These differences between existing scientific psychologies and the new ecological psychology offered here are clearly seen by contrasting their approaches to motivation. Traditionally, motivation has been seen as an internal state of organisms, biasing an animal's behavior toward activities that the animal finds more satisfying. On this view, motivation is an internal mechanism, and states that vary along a single dimension (positive-negative; approach-avoid, etc.). In contrast, ecological psychology sees motivation as functional, not as a mechanism, and as being multi-dimensional. From an ecological point of view, motivation is constituted by the kinds of efforts animals tend to make to obtain values and meanings from the environment. These efforts may be influenced by internal mechanisms, but not reduced to them. And, while the internal states of efforts after value and meaning are not ignored here, they are treated as they should be, as simply one among many factors influencing the direction of behavior.

This novel concept of motivation as effort to find and use affordances and information leads to the even more novel concept of a collective effort after meaning and value. Social animals, especially humans, can work together to obtain what they need from the environment. This need not mean that every individual in a group does the same thing or that each individual has internalized the same motivational ideal or mechanism; on the contrary, each individual may do something that is unique in order that the group as a whole achieves its needs.

-110-

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Encountering the World: Toward an Ecological Psychology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction: the Significance of the Psychological 3
  • 1 - Regulation Versus Construction 9
  • Conclusion: the Fundamental Hypothesis of Ecological Psychology 18
  • 2 - An Evolutionary Psychology 20
  • Conclusion 27
  • 3 - Affordances: A New Ecology for Psychology 29
  • Conclusion: the Evolution of Behavior Among the Affordances of the Environment 45
  • 4 - The Importance of Information 47
  • Conclusion 67
  • 5 - Functional Systems and the Mechanisms of Behavior 68
  • Conclusion 82
  • 6: Varieties of Action Systems 83
  • 7 - The Effort After Value and Meaning 96
  • Conclusion 110
  • 8 - The Human Environment 111
  • Conclusion 125
  • 9 - Becoming a Person 126
  • Conclusion: Becoming A Person and Entering into A Culture 138
  • 10 - The Daily Life of the Mind 140
  • Conclusion 151
  • 11 - Entering the Linguistic Environment 153
  • Conclusion 167
  • 12 - Streams of Thought 169
  • Conclusion 183
  • Epilogue: The Significance of Ecological Psychology 184
  • Conclusion 189
  • References 191
  • Index 207
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