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Behaviorism, Cognitivism , Nativism & Social Interactions

Behaviorism, Cognitivism , Nativism & Social Interactions

*        Behaviorism

1. What is Behaviorism?

Behaviorism is an attitude. Strictly speaking, behaviorism is a doctrine.Wilfred Sellars (1912–89), the distinguished philosopher, noted that a person may qualify as a behaviorist, loosely or attitudinally speaking, if they insist on confirming “hypotheses about psychological events in terms of behavioral criteria” (1963, p. 22). A behaviorist, so understood, is a psychological theorist who demands behavioral evidence for any psychological hypothesis. For such a person, there is no knowable difference between two states of mind unless there is a demonstrable difference in the behavior associated with each state.
Arguably, there is nothing truly exciting about behaviorism loosely understood. It enthrones behavioral evidence, an arguably inescapable practice in psychological science. Not so behaviorism the doctrine. This entry is about the doctrine, not the attitude. Behaviorism, the doctrine, has caused considerable excitation among both advocates and critics.
Behaviorism, the doctrine, is committed in its fullest and most complete sense to the truth of the following three sets of claims.
  1. Psychology is the science of behavior. Psychology is not the science of mind.
  2. Behavior can be described and explained without making ultimate reference to mental events or to internal psychological processes. The sources of behavior are external (in the environment), not internal (in the mind, in the head).
  3. In the course of theory development in psychology, if, somehow, mental terms or concepts are deployed in describing or explaining behavior, then either (a) these terms or concepts should be eliminated and replaced by behavioral terms or (b) they can and should be translated or paraphrased into behavioral concepts.
The three sets of claims are logically distinct. Moreover, taken independently, each helps to form a type of behaviorism. “Methodological” behaviorism is committed to the truth of (1). “Psychological” behaviorism is committed to the truth of (2). “Analytical” behaviorism (also known as “philosophical” or “logical” behaviorism) is committed to the truth of the sub-statement in (3) that mental terms or concepts can and should be translated into behavioral concepts.
Other nomenclature is sometimes used to classify behaviorisms. Georges Rey (1997, p. 96), for example, classifies behaviorisms as methodological, analytical, and radical, where “radical” is Rey's term for what I am classifying as psychological behaviorism. I reserve the term “radical” for the psychological behaviorism of B. F. Skinner. Skinner employs the expression “radical behaviorism” to describe his brand of behaviorism or his philosophy of behaviorism (see Skinner 1974, p. 18). In the classification scheme used in this entry, radical behaviorism is a sub-type of psychological behaviorism, primarily, although it combines all three types of behaviorism (methodological, analytical, and psychological).

2. Three Types of Behaviorism

Methodological behaviorism is a normative theory about the scientific conduct of psychology. It claims that psychology should concern itself with the behavior of organisms (human and nonhuman animals). Psychology should not concern itself with mental states or events or with constructing internal information processing accounts of behavior. According to methodological behaviorism, reference to mental states, such as an animal's beliefs or desires, adds nothing to what psychology can and should understand about the sources of behavior. Mental states are private entities which, given the necessary publicity of science, do not form proper objects of empirical study. Methodological behaviorism is a dominant theme in the writings of John Watson (1878–1958).
Psychological behaviorism is a research program within psychology. It purports to explain human and animal behavior in terms of external physical stimuli, responses, learning histories, and (for certain types of behavior) reinforcements. Psychological behaviorism is present in the work of Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936), Edward Thorndike (1874–1949), as well as Watson. Its fullest and most influential expression is B. F. Skinner's work on schedules of reinforcement.
To illustrate, consider a food-deprived rat in an experimental chamber. If a particular movement, such as pressing a lever when a light is on, is followed by the presentation of food, then the likelihood of the rat's pressing the lever when hungry, again, and the light is on, is increased. Such presentations are reinforcements, such lights are (discriminative) stimuli, such lever pressings are responses, and such trials or associations are learning histories.
Analytical or logical behaviorism is a theory within philosophy about the meaning or semantics of mental terms or concepts. It says that the very idea of a mental state or condition is the idea of a behavioral disposition or family of behavioral tendencies, evident in how a person behaves in one situation rather than another. When we attribute a belief, for example, to someone, we are not saying that he or she is in a particular internal state or condition. Instead, we are characterizing the person in terms of what he or she might do in particular situations or environmental interactions. Analytical behaviorism may be found in the work of Gilbert Ryle (1900–76) and the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–51) (if perhaps not without controversy in interpretation, in Wittgenstein's case). More recently, the philosopher-psychologist U. T. Place (1924-2000) advocated a brand of analytical behaviorism restricted to intentional or representational states of mind, such as beliefs, which Place took to constitute a type, although not the only type, of mentality (see Graham and Valentine 2004). Arguably, a version of analytical or logical behaviorism may also be found in the work of Daniel Dennett on the ascription of states of consciousness via a method he calls ‘heterophenomenology’ (Dennett 2005, pp. 25–56). (See also Melser 2004.)

3. Roots of Behaviorism

Each of methodological, psychological, and analytical behaviorism has historical foundations. Analytical behaviorism traces its historical roots to the philosophical movement known as Logical Positivism (see Smith 1986). Logical positivism proposes that the meaning of statements used in science be understood in terms of experimental conditions or observations that verify their truth. This positivist doctrine is known as “verificationism.” In psychology, verificationism underpins or grounds analytical behaviorism, namely, the claim that mental concepts refer to behavioral tendencies and so must be translated into behavioral terms.
Analytical behaviorism helps to avoid substance dualism. Substance dualism is the doctrine that mental states take place in a special, non-physical mental substance (the immaterial mind). By contrast, for analytical behaviorism, the belief that I have as I arrive on time for a 2pm dental appointment, namely, that I have a 2pm appointment, is not the property of a mental substance. Believing is a family of tendencies of my body. In addition, for an analytical behaviorist, we cannot identify the belief about my arrival independently of that arrival or other members of this family of tendencies. So, we also cannot treat it as the cause of the arrival. Cause and effect are, as Hume taught, conceptually distinct existences. Believing that I have a 2pm appointment is not distinct from my arrival and so cannot be part of the causal foundations of arrival.
Psychological behaviorism's historical roots consist, in part, in the classical associationism of the British Empiricists, foremost John Locke (1632–1704) and David Hume (1711–76). According to classical associationism, intelligent behavior is the product of associative learning. As a result of associations or pairings between perceptual experiences or stimulations on the one hand, and ideas or thoughts on the other, persons and animals acquire knowledge of their environment and how to act. Associations enable creatures to discover the causal structure of the world. Association is most helpfully viewed as the acquisition of knowledge about relations between events. Intelligence in behavior is a mark of such knowledge.
Classical associationism relied on introspectible entities, such as perceptual experiences or stimulations as the first links in associations, and thoughts or ideas as the second links. Psychological behaviorism, motivated by experimental interests, claims that to understand the origins of behavior, reference to stimulations (experiences) should be replaced by reference to stimuli (physical events in the environment), and that reference to thoughts or ideas should be eliminated or displaced in favor of reference to responses (overt behavior, motor movement). Psychological behaviorism is associationism without appeal to mental events.
Don't human beings talk of introspectible entities, thoughts, feelings, and so on, even if these are not recognized by behaviorism or best understood as behavioral tendencies? Psychological behaviorists regard the practice of talking about one's own states of mind, and of introspectively reporting those states, as potentially useful data in psychological experiments, but as not presupposing the metaphysical subjectivity or non-physical presence of those states. There are different sorts of causes behind introspective reports, and psychological behaviorists take these and other elements of introspection to be amenable to behavioral analysis. (For additional discussion, see Section 5 of this entry). (See, for comparison, Dennett's method of heterophenomenology; Dennett 1991, pp. 72–81)
The task of psychological behaviorism is to specify types of association, understand how environmental events control behavior, discover and elucidate causal regularities or laws or functional relations which govern the formation of associations, and predict how behavior will change as the environment changes. The word “conditioning” is commonly used to specify the process involved in acquiring new associations. Animals in so-called “operant” conditioning experiments are not learning to, for example, press levers. Instead, they are learning about the relationship between events in their environment, for example, that a particular behavior, pressing the lever, causes food to appear.
In its historical foundations, methodological behaviorism shares with analytical behaviorism the influence of positivism. One of the main goals of positivism was to unify psychology with natural science. Watson wrote that “psychology as a behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is … prediction and control” (1913, p. 158). Watson also wrote of the purpose of psychology as follows: “To predict, given the stimulus, what reaction will take place; or, given the reaction, state what the situation or stimulus is that has caused the reaction” (1930, p. 11).
Though logically distinct, methodological, psychological, and analytical behaviorisms often are found in one behaviorism. Skinner's radical behaviorism combines all three forms of behaviorism. It follows analytical strictures (at least loosely) in paraphrasing mental terms behaviorally, when or if they cannot be eliminated from explanatory discourse. In Verbal Behavior (1957) and elsewhere, Skinner tries to show how mental terms can be given behavioral interpretations. In About Behaviorism (1974) he says that when mental terminology cannot be eliminated it can be “translated into behavior” (p. 18, Skinner brackets the expression with his own double quotes).
Radical behaviorism is concerned with the behavior of organisms, not with internal processing. So, it is a form of methodological behaviorism. Finally, radical behaviorism understands behavior as a reflection of frequency effects among stimuli, which means that it is a form of psychological behaviorism.

*        Cognitivism

In psychology, cognitivism is a theoretical framework for understanding the mind that came into usage in the 1950s. The movement was a response to behaviorism, which cognitivists said neglected to explain cognition. Cognitive psychology dervived its name from the latin cognoscere, referring to knowing and information, thus cognitive psychology is an information processing psychology derived in part from earlier traditions of the investigation of thought and problem solving. Behaviorists acknowledged the existence of thinking, but identified it as a behavior. Cognitivists argued that the way people think impacts their behavior and therefore cannot be a behavior in and of itself. Cognitivists later argued that thinking is so essential to psychology that the study of thinking should become its own field.
Founders and proponents: Replaced behaviorism in 1960s as dominant paradigm. Noam Chomsky. Basic idea: Mental function can be understood. Learner viewed as: Information processor.
Cognitivism focuses on inner mental activities — opening the “black box” of the human mind. It is necessary to determine how processes such as thinking, memory, knowing, and problem-solving occur. People are not “programmed animals” that merely respond to environmental stimuli; people are rational beings whose action are a consequence of thinking. Metaphor of mind as computer: information comes in, is being processed, and leads to certain outcomes.

2. Theoretical approach

Cognitivism has two major components, one methodological, the other theoretical. Methodologically, cognitivism adopts a positivist approach and the belief that psychology can be (in principle) fully explained by the use of experiment, measurement and the scientific method.[citation needed] This is also largely a reductionist goal, with the belief that individual components of mental function (the 'cognitive architecture') can be identified and meaningfully understood.[citation needed] The second is the belief that cognition consists of discrete, internal mental states (representations or symbols) whose manipulation can be described in terms of rules or algorithms.[citation needed]. All of these assumptions come from a school of metaphysics known as naturalism and have been severely criticized as they have not been able to provide any adequate support for their claims and assumptions. Cognitivism becomes ever more specious once the collapse of positivism as a theory of meaning is acknowledged.
Cognitivism became the dominant force in psychology in the late-20th century, replacing behaviorism as the most popular paradigm for understanding mental function. Cognitive psychology is not a wholesale refutation of behaviorism, but rather an expansion that accepts that mental states exist. This was due to the increasing criticism towards the end of the 1950s of simplistic learning models. One of the most notable criticisms was Chomsky's argument that language could not be acquired purely through conditioning, and must be at least partly explained by the existence of internal mental states.
The main issues that interest cognitive psychologists are the inner mechanisms of human thought and the processes of knowing. Cognitive psychologists have attempted to shed some light on the alleged mental structures that stand in a causal relationship to our physical actions.

3.    Criticisms of psychological cognitivism
In the 1990s, various new theories emerged and challenged cognitivism and the idea that thought was best described as computation. Some of these new approaches, often influenced by phenomenological and post-modernist philosophy, include situated cognition, distributed cognition, dynamicism, embodied cognition. Some thinkers working in the field of artificial life (for example Rodney Brooks) have also produced non-cognitivist models of cognition. On the other hand, much of early cognitive psychology, and the work of many currently active cognitive psychologists does not treat cognitive processes as computational. The idea that mental functions can be described as information processing models has been criticised by philosopher John Searle and mathematician Roger Penrose who both argue that computation has some inherent shortcomings which cannot capture the fundamentals of mental processes.
  • Penrose uses Gödel's incompleteness theorem (which states that there are mathematical truths which can never be proven in a sufficiently strong mathematical system; any sufficiently strong system of axioms will also be incomplete) and Turing's halting problem (which states that there are some things which are inherently non-computable) as evidence for his position.
  • Searle has developed two arguments, the first (well known through his Chinese Room thought experiment) is the 'syntax is not semantics' argument—that a program is just syntax, understanding requires semantics, therefore programs (hence cognitivism) cannot explain understanding. Such an argument presupposes the controversial notion of a private language. The second, which Searle now prefers but is less well known, is his 'syntax is not physics' argument—nothing in the world is intrinsically a computer program except as applied, described or interpreted by an observer, so either everything can be described as a computer and trivially a brain can but then this does not explain any specific mental processes, or there is nothing intrinsic in a brain that makes it a computer (program). Detractors of this argument might point out that the same thing could be said about any concept-object relation, and that the brain-computer analogy can be a perfectly useful model if there is a strong isomorphism between the two. Both points, Searle claims, refute cognitivism.
Another argument against cognitivism is the problems of Ryle's Regress or the homunculus fallacy. Cognitivists have offered a number of arguments to refute these attacks.

*        Nativism

1.      Definition of NATIVISM
1    : a policy of favoring native inhabitants as opposed to immigrants
2    : the revival or perpetuation of an indigenous culture especially in opposition to acculturation
      — na·tiv·ist noun or adjective
      — na·tiv·is·tic adjective
Nativism may refer to:
  • Nativism (politics) or political nativism, a term used by scholars to refer to ethnocentric beliefs relating to immigration and nationalism; antiforeignism
  • Psychological nativism is a concept in psychology and philosophy which asserts certain concepts as being natural, hence "native" to a species
  • Linguistic nativism – see universal grammar
  • Innatism, the philosophical position that minds are born with knowledge.

*        Social Interactions

1.        Meaning
is the process in which people act toward or respond to others. Social interactions refer to particular forms of externalities, in which the actions of a reference group affect an individual’s preferences. In the presence of strategic complementarities, social interactions help reconcile the observation of large differences in outcomes in the absence of commensurate differences in fundamentals. I survey the theoretical literature and discuss different approaches to estimating social interactions.

Veblen’s [1934] analysis of conspicuous consumption that is consumption that signals wealth, is perhaps the first contribution to the economic literature on social interactions. Duesenberry [1949] and Leibenstein [1950] are also among the earliest contributors. Although Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class has had a remarkable impact in the social sciences, Schelling’s [1971,1972] pioneering formal analysis of the influence of social groups in behavior was particularly important for the later developments in economics.

Models of social interactions seem particularly adapt to solve a pervasive problem in the social sciences, namely the observation of large differences in outcomes in the absence of commensurate differences in fundamentals. Many models of social interactions exhibit strategic complementarities, which occur when the marginal utility to one person of undertaking an action is increasing with the average amount of the action taken by his peers. Consequently, a change in fundamentals has a direct effect on behavior and an indirect effect of the same sign. Each person’s actions change not only because of the direct change in fundamentals, but also because of the change in the behavior of their peers. The result of all these indirect effects is the social multiplier. When this social multiplier is large, we expect to see the large variation of aggregate endogenous variables relative to the variability of fundamentals, that seem to characterize phenomena as diverse as stock market crashes, religious differences, and differences in crime rates. In fact, if social interactions are large enough, multiple equilibria can occur - that is one may observe different outcomes from exactly the same fundamentals. The existence of multiple equilibria also helps us to understand high levels of variance of aggregates.
 Social interactions models have implications for the sorting of people and activities across space. As Schelling [1971] demonstrated, when individuals can choose locations, the presence of these interactions may result on segregation across space, even in situations where the typical individual would be content to live in an integrated neighborhood, provided his group does not form too small a minority. Cities exist because of agglomeration economies which are likely to come from non-market complementarities. In dynamic settings, social interactions can produce s-shaped curves which help to explain the observed time series patterns of phenomena as disparate as telephone adoption and women in the workplace. Closely related topics include social learning, where  agents learn from observing choices by other agents (e.g. Arthur [1989], Bickhchandani, Hirshleifer and Welch [1992]), and local interaction games (e.g. Ellison[1993], Morris [2000]).

2.      Symbolic Interactionism-
…human interaction is mediatedby the use of symbols, by interpretation, by ascertaining the meaning of one another’s actions. (Stimulus and response in the case of human behavior.)

3.      Schelling’s critical mass model

In chapter 3 of his 1978 book, Schelling discusses a critical mass model where he supposes that there is an activity which some individuals will always take, others will only take it if a high enough fraction of the population is engaged in the action, and still others may never undertake. Formally, agents are parameterized by an x € [0, 1], and can choose between taking an action or not. The gain in utility for an agent of taking the action is given by u(x, t), where t is the fraction of the population engaging in the action. Schelling assumed that u(x, t) decreases with x, that is agents can be inversely ordered by their gains from undertaking the action. He also assumed that
u(x, t) increases with t, that is the gain is larger if a larger fraction of the population is engaged in the action. This assumption is exactly what was later named “strategic complementarity.” Each agent x takes t as given and chooses to take the action if and only if u(x, t) _ 0. An equilibrium is a fraction t_ such that u(t_, t_) = 0. Clearly for such a t_ every agent x _ t_ will undertake the action while, if x > t_, agent x would refrain. Schelling constructs a numerical example where multiple equilibria arise and notices that even when uniqueness prevails such models display a “multiplier effect.”

In his example, the presence of a smaller number of individuals that would undertake the activity unconditionally would have a more than proportionate effect in the equilibrium level of the activity. Gravonetter [1978] proposes a very similar model to analyze riots and other collective actions. He notes that as parameter changes some equilibria may disappear leading to drastic changes in the equilibrium outcomes. Versions of the critical mass model described in Schelling [1978] were later used to study a myriad of economic questions, often with a more detailed microeconomic foundation to justify strategic complementarities. Examples include income inequality (Loury [1977] and Durlauf [1996]), social customs (Akerlof [1980]), the big-push in industrialization (Murphy, Shleifer and Vishny [1989]), crime (Sah [1991]), education (Benabou [1993], savings and consumption norms (Lindbeck [1997]), the transmission of culture (Bisin and Verdier [2000]), and the timing of desertion by soldiers (De Paula [2005].)

A continuous action version of the same model, where an agent’s utility depends on the average action of the population, was used by Cooper and John [1988] to model macroeconomic coordination failures. Much of this work has ignored market responses to the presence of social interactions. Among the exceptions are Becker and Murphy [2000], who produced a systematic analysis of the effect of prices on market behavior when social interactions are present, and Pesendorfer [1995] who examined how a monopolist would exploit the presence of non-market interactions.


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