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31846Re: [evol-psych] What is "behavior"? What is "actions"?

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  • Robert Karl Stonjek
    Sep 1, 2004
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      Jay R. Feierman:
      > Also, what are the properties of a good definition? One criterion
      might be a
      > definition which contains the fewest assumptions, as I
      stated in a previous
      > posting that scientific definitions that contain
      assumptions often have
      > relatively short half-lives. And that's why I
      like the simple, descriptive,
      > ethological definition of behavior as the
      self-directed movement of the
      > individual or part of the individual
      through space and time.
      The problem in a multidisciplinary subject such as evolutionary Psychology is that if the term 'behaviour' is used generally, we have no idea what a particular writer is talking about.  We must also know from what discipline that author hails.  If, however, Evolutionary Psychology had its own discipline or crossdisciplinary specific definition then no declaration of allegiance need be made for a an author to be understood.
      We could go with your definition, but then the main subject of consideration may well be an appended property.  An open definition that covers all specific definitions is more useful, in my opinion.
      Thus the three phases I mentioned for instinctual behaviour also covers behaviour generally, that there is an unseen initialization phase, an execution phase, and a consummation phase.  In this simple framework we can easily place your definition in the execution phase, cognitive science definitions in the initiation phase, operant conditioning in the consummation phase (subject fooled into thinking, for instance, that dinner is ready - food seeking behavioural loop is erroneously consummated).
      All three definitional areas all include the other areas as properties of the focus of their definition.  It is my opinion that evolutionary psychology should identify entire cycles, operations, objects and phenomena.  For instance, how would the genetic component, important for evolutionary consideration, fit into your definition?  It can be appended, obviously, but a genetic component can influence the way that the initiation, execution or consummation phase operate, all of which will have an impact on the behaviour observed in your definition.
      There are no other major areas that need to be appended to a definition of the kind I propose.  Phase one leads into the entire cognitive science world where the final result of thinking, contemplation, response to stimulation initiates some behaviour.  Cultural considerations fit neatly into phase three where goals, achievements and the desired results of a behaviour can be considered.  Ethologists observations fit squarely into phase two.
      There are few, if any, 'muscle movements' that do not fit into and are neatly explicable in terms of the simple definitional framework I have proposed.  For instance it is clear, from the three phase consideration, that there may be many phase two (execution) from the same initiation phase.  The variation may be due to the subjects age, to variation between cultures or other factors such as environmental considerations.  It is important to identify common phase one elements if genetic inheritance and so evolutionary directions are to be identified.
      But it is also clear that the same execution (Phase two) may have come from a variety of initiations (phase one).  Thus it is important not to just catalogue a set of muscle movements but to be aware of the motivation that initiated them - particularly important when dealing with humans, as a psychiatrist may observe.
      Finally, the may be many paths to the same phase three.
      Note that my definitional framework is scale invariant, allowing the observation of actual muscle movements (scale specific, as in your definition), or of behaviours executed over weeks, months, years, or even to the point where they identify such concepts as personality.
      My definitional framework can accommodate other definitions, and so is to definitions what models are to hypothesises.  Perhaps my version of the very concept of definition does not fall neatly into the current definition of definitions?
      Kind Regards
      Robert Karl Stonjek
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