The basic proposition of behaviourism is The person has only extrinsic needs, whereas the basic proposition of humanism is The person has intrinsic needs. This distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic needs is thus the basic difference between the behavioristic thesis and the humanistic antithesis. It is also the basic difference between a mechanism and an organism. Behaviorists, aspiring to be rigorous scientists like physicists, considered the person as a mechanism. A mechanism will remain at rest unless acted on by some external force. Thus the person is seen as being pushed and pulled by rewards and punishments. Interactionists agreed with humanists that the organism is intrinsically motivated. The person moves from the inside. Any mother of a 4-year-old child will tell you that the child will explore and manipulate the world without rewards and despite punishments.|
The traditional educational system, based on the behavioristic concept of the person, does not take into account the intrinsic needs for stimulation and consistency which are the organic bases for knowing and understanding. If students have their own "motors" inside, there seems little point in pushing and pulling them around from the outside. It would appear superficially that this outside "help" could do no harm and might even save some wear and tear on the engine. However, there is considerable evidence that extrinsic motivation does not add to the pre-existing intrinsic motivation but destroys it. The student, unlike the car (being an organism rather than a mechanism), tends to switch off the motor.
Interactionists agree with the humanists that The person is growing from the inside out AND with the behaviorists that The person is conditioned from the outside in. However, just as they emphasize intrinsic motivation, so they also emphasize inside-out growing. This is the primary process. However, the person can not grow in a vacuum.
Consider language. Noam Chomsky wrote a devastating review of Verbal Behavior by B. F. Skinner, in which Skinner explained language learning as instrumental conditioning [CHOMSKY 1959]. Children learn by imitating adults. However (as all parents know) children often say novel things, which they have never heard adults say. The creativity of children is nicely demonstrated by what we, in our adultocentric way, call mistakes. Children do not learn to say "goed" and "foots" by imitating adults. Such novel and "wrong" responses suggest that the learning of language can not be purely a matter of imitating adults and being reinforced for correct responses. It is more a matter of learning rules. Since the rule for past tense is "add 'ed', she says "goed". Since the rule for plural is "add 's'", she says "foots". She is not at first aware that adults have those weird exceptions to the rules, but soon learns those exceptions to the rules and plays along with the crazy adults by saying "went" and "feet".
|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14|