Behavior analysis and ecological psychology: past, present, and future. a review of Harry Heft's Ecological Psychology in context

  • Morris E
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Relations between behavior analysis and ecological psychology have been strained for years, notwithstanding the occasional comment on their affinities. Harry Heft's (2001)Ecological Psychology in Context provides an occasion for reviewing anew those relations and affinities. It describes the genesis of ecological psychology in James's radical empiricism; addresses Holt's neorealism and Gestalt psychology; and synthesizes Gibson's ecological psychology and Barker's ecobehavioral science as a means for understanding everyday human behavior. Although behavior analysis is excluded from this account, Heft's book warrants a review nonetheless: It describes ecological psychology in ways that are congruent and complementary with behavior analysis (e.g., nonmediational theorizing; the provinces of natural history and natural science). After introducing modern ecological psychology, I comment on (a) Heft's admirable, albeit selective, historiography; (b) his ecological psychology-past and present-as it relates to Skinner's science and system (e.g., affordances, molar behavior); (c) his misunderstandings of Skinner's behaviorism (e.g., reductionistic, mechanistic, molecular); and (d) the theoretical status of Heft's cognitive terms and talk (i.e., in ontology, epistemology, syntax). I conclude by considering the alliance and integration of ecological psychology and behavior analysis, and their implications for unifying and transforming psychology as a life science, albeit more for the future than at present.

Author-supplied keywords

  • *Adaptation, Psychological
  • *Ecological and Environmental Phenomena
  • *Psychological Theory
  • *Social Environment
  • Humans
  • Psychology/*methods/trends

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  • E K Morris

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