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Why Brains Are Not Computers, Why Behaviorism Is Not Satanism, and Why Dolphins Are Not Aquatic Apes

Research paper by Louise Barrett

Indexed on: 05 Aug '16Published on: 11 Nov '15Published in: The Behavior Analyst



Abstract

Abstract Modern psychology has, to all intents and purposes, become synonymous with cognitive psychology, with an emphasis on the idea that the brain is a form of computer, whose job is to take in sensory input, process information, and produce motor output. This places the brain at a remove from both the body and environment and denies the intimate connection that exists between them. As a result, a great injustice is done to both human and nonhuman animals: On the one hand, we fail to recognize the distinctive nature of nonhuman cognition, and on the other hand, we continue to promote a somewhat misleading view of human psychological capacities. Here, I suggest a more mutualistic, embodied, enactive view might allow us to ask more interesting questions about how animals of all kinds come to know their worlds, in ways that avoid the (inevitable) anthropocentric baggage of the cognitivist viewpoint.AbstractModern psychology has, to all intents and purposes, become synonymous with cognitive psychology, with an emphasis on the idea that the brain is a form of computer, whose job is to take in sensory input, process information, and produce motor output. This places the brain at a remove from both the body and environment and denies the intimate connection that exists between them. As a result, a great injustice is done to both human and nonhuman animals: On the one hand, we fail to recognize the distinctive nature of nonhuman cognition, and on the other hand, we continue to promote a somewhat misleading view of human psychological capacities. Here, I suggest a more mutualistic, embodied, enactive view might allow us to ask more interesting questions about how animals of all kinds come to know their worlds, in ways that avoid the (inevitable) anthropocentric baggage of the cognitivist viewpoint.