Sunday, February 15, 2009



Lewin emphasized the explanation of human behavior in terms of the forces and tensions that move us to action. Unlike Wertheimer, Kohler, and Koffka, who started with perception and then moved to behavior, Lewin began with behavior and what produces it, and then moved on to the problems of how people perceived their own and others' behavior. When a perceptual set (described below) affected the way learned associations were expressed, Lewin saw it as conflict between competing determining tendencies. In both laboratory and world, he held, a person's behavior is always oriented toward some goal. The person is always trying to do something. That intention or determining tendency is what matters most.

Associations, held Lewin, are not sources of energy,but just links or connections "like the couplings between the cars of railroad train which do nothing except transmit the energy supplied by the locomotiveLewin declared, "Psychology cannot try to explain eerything with a single construct, such as association, instinct, or gestalt. A variety of constructs has to be used. They should be interrelated, however, in a logically precise manner. "
Intentions and intentional actions, he held, do not result from simply a stimulus here or a reinforcer there. They follow "field principles." We have to look for psychological forces and intensions that arise from motives, and at goals, and at how people perceive the situation,.
Lewin did not try to relate psychological forces to physical forces, except in the descriptive names like "vector." He did not address the question of how motives originate, whether in insinct or previous experience, but rather focused on how they operate.

Lewin viewed the person as system containing subsystems that are more or less separate and more or less able to interact and combine with each other. "One subsystem," writes Woodworth, "might be friendship for a certain person; another might be love for a certain sport. When a person is intent on reaching a goal, one of his subsystem is in a state of tension". If he is interrupted, this subsystem remains tense for some time and cause him to resume the activity once the interruption is gone. Or if it can't be resumed, an activity that's somehow similar can substitute for it and drain off the tension. A repetitive task will eventually drain off all the tension in its subsystem, leaving a state of satiation. With continued activity this spreads to related subsystems. ("Cosatiation.")

The structure of a person includes an outer region called the perceptual-motor region that is in contact with the psychological environment, and a central portion called the inner-personal region. Thhe inner-personal region is divided into cells that represent tension systems.
As a child develops, the personality system expands and differentiates. His view of the psychological environment is subject to cognitive restructuring--it becomes better understood and he does a better job of distinguishing between the real world and the "irreal" world of wishes and fears. The child finds new social roles and learns new social norms and codes.

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