RE: [xmca] Psychology and formalization

From: David H Kirshner <dkirsh who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jul 22 2008 - 13:02:33 PDT

>From my perspective there seem to be two types of theoretical enterprises in psychology. Some theories like behaviorism and cognitive science tend to adopt well defined units of analysis which means the theoretical foundations can be formulated within a closed set of constructs. The trajectory of such theoretical enterprises tends to be outward from a relatively restricted domain of application to broader psychological concerns (often without success). Other theories like sociocultural theory and situated cognition theory opt for a more complex, dialectically framed unit of analysis. These theories tend to easily encompass the broad concerns of the field, but struggle to settle on a particular, agreed upon set of foundational elements. Both of these approaches are legitimate scholarly enterprises, but only the theories with stable foundational constructs seems to be subject to formalization or mathematization.
David Kirshner

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Jorge Fernando Larreamendy Joerns
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 1:36 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] Psychology and formalization

Hi, all,
I've been reading these days some of Edward Tolman's work trying to
trace some points of departure that preceded the cognitive revolution.
It's a fascinating work. One of the most striking features of Tolman's
prose is Tolman's attempt to phrase theories in a formal manner,
either logical or mathematical, and attempt that is strengthened by
the molecular kind of concepts and phenomenic distinctions he draws.
Certainly, formalization is, as Baudrillard suggested, concurrent to
attempts to mathematize reality, to model it, a cornerstone of modern
science. And psychology is full of examples, some of them successful,
some of them failed, from Hull's learning theory to Estes' notions of
statistical learning, from John Anderson's production systems to
recent theorization on causal learning as a Bayesian net or
development as a dynamic system. What's the take of cultural
psychology on formalizing phenomena? That is, beyond the use of mere
pictorial representations or the use of statistics on aggregate data.
It seems to me that it's even an interesting issue with regard to
Vygotsky, who certainly had the intellectual means and the
mathematical and logical resources to have taken that road.


Jorge Larreamendy

Jorge Larreamendy-Joerns
Profesor Asociado y Director
Departamento de Psicología
Universidad de los Andes
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Received on Tue Jul 22 13:04 PDT 2008

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