Toward A New Behaviorism

The Case Against Perceptual Reductionism

By William R. Uttal

© 1997 – Psychology Press

272 pages

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pub: 2015-05-07
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pub: 1997-11-01
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About the Book

This volume examines the scientific basis of reductionist approaches to understanding visual perception. The author makes the provocative argument that contemporary neuroscience and cognitive science have gone off on a wild-goose chase in the search for reductionist explanations of perceptual phenomena. This book considers some specific and general examples of this misdirection and suggests an alternative future course for science. It reviews the successes and failures of the sciences' efforts to explain perceptual and other mental functions in the terms of either internal cognitive mechanisms, formal models, or the neural structures from which the brain--the organ of the mind--is constructed.

Although this is an iconoclastic and minority view, the book shows how many contemporary perceptual scientists have qualified their thinking with regard to what their data and theories mean even while generally accepting the empirical findings. It is, without question, an attempted refutation of some of the primary assumptions of contemporary theory. Summing up the author's convictions concerning some of the most important questions of human nature, this book is a statement of a point of view that has provided a framework for his personal answers to some of these important questions of human history.


"In Toward a New Behaviorism: The Case Against Perceptual Reductionism, the distinguished and prolific vision scientist William R. Uttal has offered an extended, thoughtful, far-reaching analysis of the prospects for understanding perceptual phenomena by reducing them to other domains….There is much that I find important and thought provoking in this book. I recommend it highly to anyone engaged in the reductionist enterprise within vision science, which means just about anybody who studies vision these days.

Journal of Mathematical Psychology

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Introduction: The Way Things Are. Barriers Between Theories and Mechanisms. The Case Against Perceptual Neuroreductionism. The Case Against Cognitive Reductionism. Toward a New Behaviorism -- A Summary and Some Conclusions. Emerging Principles.

About the Series

Scientific Psychology Series

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Cognitive Psychology