Is Psychology Still a Science of Behavior? – Dolinski (2018)

Since the 1970s, social psychology has examined real human behaviour to an increasingly smaller degree. This article is an analysis of the reasons why this is so. The author points out that the otherwise valuable phenomenon of cognitive shift, which occurred in social psychology precisely in the 1970s, naturally boosted the interest of psychologists in such phenomena like stereotypes, attitudes, and values; at the same time, it unfortunately decreased interest in others, like aggression, altruism, and social influence. In recent decades, we have also witnessed a growing conviction among psychologists that explaining why people display certain reactions holds greater importance than demonstrating the conditions under which people display these reactions. This assumption has been accompanied by the spread of statistical analysis applied to empirical data, which has led to researchers today generally preferring to employ survey studies (even if they are a component of experiments being conducted) to the analysis of behavioural variables. The author analyses the contents of the most recent volume of “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology”, and argues that it is essentially devoid of presentations of empirical studies in which human behaviours are examined. This gives rise to the question of whether social psychology remains a science of behaviour, and whether such a condition of the discipline is desirable.

Pretend Play – Weisberg (2015)

Pretend play is a form of playful behavior that involves nonliteral action. Although on the surface this activity appears to be merely for fun, recent research has discovered that children’s pretend play has connections to important cognitive and social skills, such as symbolic thinking, theory of mind, and counterfactual reasoning. The current article first defines pretend play and then reviews the arguments and evidence for these three connections. Pretend play has a nonliteral correspondence to reality, hence pretending may provide children with practice with navigating symbolic relationships, which may strengthen their language skills. Pretend play and theory of mind reasoning share a focus on others’ mental states in order to correctly interpret their behavior, hence pretending and theory of mind may be mutually supportive in development. Pretend play and counterfactual reasoning both involve representing nonreal states of affairs, hence pretending may facilitate children’s counterfactual abilities. These connections make pretend play an important phenomenon in cognitive science: Studying children’s pretend play can provide insight into these other abilities and their developmental trajectories, and thereby into human cognitive architecture and its development.

Core Knowledge – Spelke and Kinzler (2008)

Human cognition is founded, in part, on four systems for representing objects, actions, number, and space. It may be based, as well, on a fifth system for representing social partners. Each system has deep roots in human phylogeny and ontogeny, and it guides and shapes the mental lives of adults. Converging research on human infants, non-human primates, children and adults in diverse cultures can aid both understanding of these systems and attempts to overcome their limits.

The natural order of events: How speakers of different languages represent events nonverbally – Goldin-Meadow et al (2008)

“To test whether the language we speak influences our behavior even when we are not speaking, we asked speakers of four languages differing in their predominant word orders (English, Turkish, Spanish, and Chinese) to perform two nonverbal tasks: a communicative task (describing an event by using gesture without speech) and a noncommunicative task (reconstructing an event with pictures). We found that the word orders speakers used in their everyday speech did not influence their nonverbal behavior. Surprisingly, speakers of all four languages used the same order and on both nonverbal tasks. This order, actor–patient–act, is analogous to the subject–object–verb pattern found in many languages of the world and, importantly, in newly developing gestural languages. The findings provide evidence for a natural order that we impose on events when describing and reconstructing them nonverbally and exploit when constructing language anew.”