chapter  12
28 Pages

The Mind Returns: What Questions Are Psychologists Exploring Now?

As discussed previously, research reveals a number of anomalies that violate the assumptions of the behaviorist paradigm. These anomalies help to explain the shift in the last half of the century away from radical behaviorism. Animal behaviorists Keller and Marian Breland argue, for example, that three assumptions of the behaviorist paradigm are violated by their work in training animals. First, it is clearly not true "that the animal comes to the laboratory as a virtual tabula rasa" (Breland 324

& Breland, 1961, p. 684), or blank slate. Instead, important differences between individuals, even within the same species, are apparent. The reasons behind these individual differences are explored by the work of behavior geneticists, discussed later in the chapter. Second, the Brelands argue, it is also not true "that species differences are insignificant" (p. 684). Different species are motivated by, and react in different and species-specific ways to, similar environmental stimuli. Comparative psychologists explore these differences, and that work is also discussed later in the chapter. Finally, the Brelands conclude, it is not true "that all responses are about equally conditionable to all stimuli" (p. 684). The evidence gathered in their animal studies violates this assumption. Early information-processing models based on learning theory also leave many questions unanswered about mental states and strategies employed in learning and problem solving. In the view of linguists, behaviorism and learning theories also fail to explain the acquisition and use of language (Chomsky, 1972). The rise of cognitive psychology reflects, in part, the failure of learning theory to explain these anomalies.