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 Definition The study of systemic properties of the brain and their relation to behaviour. [d] [e]

"study of the human mind, brain, and behavior." Comment: A substantial part of psychology consists of research on nonhumans: rats, mice, monkeys, dolphins, etc. A branch of psychology, comparative psychology, ethology, animal behavior, is largely concerned with this. E.g., research on ape language learning. So I would recommend removing human. Please let me know if this criticism/suggestion belongs in "edit" rather than "discussion." Thanks.

Reply: just edit the article!  :-) --Larry Sanger 12:42, 6 November 2006 (CST)


I attempted to expand the article, as a new author here I am curious about some initial feedback before plowing ahead. Thanks! Trent Toulouse 22:19, 28 April 2007 (CDT)


I, too, am new here, and not all too sure of protocol for changing text, so I thought I'd note a few things about the changes I just made. Anyway, I modified the section about Chomsky's and Skinner's linguistic theories, since I believe the conclusion that Chomsky disproved Skinner is not universally accepted. For one thing, their theories are of two different types. The structures Chomsky postulates as antecedents of language are not necessarily antithetical to an explanation of language by its consequences (and when we learn another language, a functional approach works quite well, at least in the beginning). Another criticism of Chomsky's theory I recall from long ago is that it does not explain comprehension; when you look at his disambiguation of ambiguous phrases by deep structure, that criticism seems to the point – the speaker may disambiguate the statements structurally, but his or her audience have no way of apprehending that deep structure. Perhaps a fairer conclusion of this section would be that Chomsky opened up a whole new dimension for psychological study of linguistics.

Or maybe I'm just full of it, and for that reason I would appreciate hearing others' opinions. John FitzGerald 17:31, 25 September 2007 (CDT)

It's true that there are some people on the fringes of psychology who are still working in a behaviourist framework - I've seen them try to use these ideas to treat child language impairment, for example. But in linguistics, mainstream psychology and cognitive science I'm not aware of anyone who really has a Skinnerian view. Many people don't accept Chomsky, but they don't accept the behaviourist claim that studying the workings of the mind to account for behaviour is unscientific, and that we should confine ourselves to using environmental stimuli to account for tasks as sophisticated as language acquisition and even tying our shoelaces.
The criticisms you mention don't really stand up because for one thing, Chomsky does not dismiss the role of the environment - indeed, the presence and nature of the ambient linguistic data the child is exposed to is crucial for language acquisition to proceed. The point is that what they say and how they understand things - that they produce and comprehend instances of language they've never heard before, and more importantly rule out novel unacceptable examples - is underdetermined by the input they receive. Chomsky considered this so obvious that he did no empirical research on it, but no study has unarguably shown otherwise.
Though Chomsky actually said very little about whether language itself is innate - he merely argued you can't just learn it through hearing examples - researchers have used his work to come to the conclusion that either there is an innate language faculty, or at least general cognitive processes that can ensure the child comes to language. It's hard to see how comprehension in particular could be explained through environmental stimuli alone, when the child has most likely never heard anything like the utterance before. Skinner never said we were all 'blank slates', of course, but he did want to try and explain behaviour purely through environmental interaction, which most people today would reject.
To get back on to the purpose of this Talk page, which is to discuss the development of the article rather than argue at length about Chomsky and Skinner, I think we need to steer it away from any kind of acceptance of behaviourism - this theory is generally met with laughter by most mainstream researchers, in a wide variety of fields. I will modify what you've written a little, while keeping the broad strokes. John Stephenson 20:58, 25 September 2007 (CDT)

It wasn't my intent to argue at length about Chomsky and Skinner, or to promote acceptance of behaviorism, although i can't say one would be unjustified to draw that conclusion. I just thought the article went a bit far in estimating the seriousness of the blow Chomsky is supposed to have dealt to behaviorism. I don't see how what I added steered people into accepting behaviorism, but certainly the article should be steered away from promoting acceptance of any school. I have no problem with your changes, though; in particular they effectively amplify the part about Chomsky's influence. Thanks for the help and the comments. John FitzGerald 08:22, 26 September 2007 (CDT)

Not so reader-friendly

I have to admit that while copyediting I found this article quite hard going because of the technical language it employs. I think it needs experts to come in and tell us why psychology is so interesting. John Stephenson 21:23, 25 September 2007 (CDT)

Social and cognitive psychology -- history

I don't know the history of modern cognitive psychology, so I want to discuss here before editing.

The article currently portrays cognitive psych, starting in the 1960s, as the first counter to behaviorism. However, Festinger's "When Prophecy Fails" presented cognitive dissonance theory, generally considered in social psychology's bailiwick, in 1956; the first controlled experiments on it were published by Festinger and Carlsmith in 1959.

Do we need to rearrange and put social psych first? Or does cognitive psych, in fact, predate the 60s as well?

Patrick Malone 12:49, 17 November 2007 (CST)

There's always the canine counter to behaviorism. They define it as a discipline to teach humans to ring bells when they think of salivating.
The feline version is even more powerful, but they are keeping it secret. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:22, 19 June 2010 (UTC)

Clinical includes research

Another significant issue I want to have vetted. There are a lot of clinical psychologists doing research. The distinction isn't as clearcut as the article has it. Counseling Psychology (often from a school of Education) is, as far as I know, strictly an applied degree. But Clinical Psychology programs include research training.

Suggestions for how to edit?

Patrick Malone 13:05, 17 November 2007 (CST)

Mail suggesting new link

I received the following mail:

I would like to thank you for maintaining the resources at as it has been of great help to me in my studies. It's really a clean and easy navigated list I must say. I even checked the podcasts out and they were really good.

I don't know if you are interested in suggestions or not, but I came across a really useful resource while searching for psychology information, and thought I might pass it on.

The website address is and it's a psychology degree information and resource guide, with links to research tools, writing guides, journals, literature, etc.

I think professionals and students alike might find good use for it. It would be interesting to hear what you think!

--Larry Sanger 14:20, 18 February 2009 (UTC)