Books > Social sciences > Psychology > Cognition & cognitive psychology
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D. E. Broadbent
Series: Psychology Revivals
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Original blurb from 1961: For most laymen the science of behaviour
hardly exists. Few people have any clear idea of its methods, its
history or, above all, its significance. Beside the popular
interest aroused, for example, by the achievements of Freud, the
work of the behaviourists is almost unknown. Yet this is a science
which is of the highest importance, has practical applications of
immediate use, and offers the hope of profound insights into the
human mind. What distinguishes the behaviourists is their
insistence on exact scientific verification. Introspection may
suggest a theory but only objective experiments will be admitted as
evidence in its favour. The observation of how a rat behaves in a
maze may seem a far cry from the study of mankind but it has the
supreme advantage that what is observed can be exactly recorded and
analysed. Progress by such methods is slow but what is discovered
is much less likely to be upset by future discoveries than is work
based on subjective judgments. Some of the results already obtained
are fruitful and suggestive. Mr Broadbent's treatment of rewards
and punishments is most striking, both for the importance of the
results and for the precision of the methods by which they are
obtained. To reward a child for doing something or to punish him
for abstaining might seem to be equally effective methods, to be
distinguished only on ethical grounds. Mr Broadbent, however, sets
out modern evidence and opinion about the means by which each
method operates and so demonstrates that there exist sharp and
general rules governing the situations in which each is likely to
be effective. He describes the state of 'neurotic' conflict
produced when a reward and a punishment are both associated with
the same object and again a series of simple, controlled
experiments throws light on a basic human problem. The science of
behaviour is closely linked with other branches of research such as
the theory of information and the development of electronic and
mechanical 'brains', and this common field of research promises
exciting results. Mr Broadbent shows how behaviourism has grown
towards such sophisticated developments from the beginnings of such
men as Watson and Pavlov. To any intelligent reader this book will
give not only the pleasure of watching a series of brilliantly
devised experiments gradually giving birth to a new and important
science, but also the insight which comes from examining such basic
concepts as memory and learning, of discovering how much of what we
think we know is merely an unexamined assumption, and of being
forced to think again in precise terms. For anyone willing to make
this effort Behaviour is an exceptionally rewarding book.
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