Curious Behavior

Curious Behavior

Jerome Bruner: In Search of Mind: Essays in Autobiography; Harper & Row; New York


The so-called cognitive revolution occurred during the career of Jerome Bruner, and his history is essentially its history. At the time Bruner entered the field of psychology it was almost totally dominated by various offshoots of Behaviorism. Behaviorism rests on the paradoxical notion that psychology can be studied best by identifying the stimulus that activates a living organism and then observing the action (behavior) of that organism in response to the impingement of the designated


stimulus. The paradoxical quality arises from the fact that the organism itself, from which, presumably, the activity arises, is ignored. When the organism to be studied in this peculiar fashion happens to be man, the antimentalistic character of Behaviorism becomes clear. Practitioners of this theoretical persuasion find themselves in the strange position of studying learning, memory, perception, and other attributes of the mind without actually acknowledging the mind's existence. The common man, of course, has always known that in order to understand why a person reacts to a given situation (stimulus) in the way that he does, one needs to know either...

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