Re: Cognition,constructionism & DOWN-UP

W Ramsay (
Tue, 20 Feb 96 09:01:29 GMT

Jim Mancuso, replying to Trevor Butt's 'behaviour & cognition' posting, writes:

> Are we stuck with a construction of COGNITION which suggests a kind of
>verbal/oral/auditory processing of every construction?
> I would again like to refer to the very superordinate construct
>DOWN-UP. When I fill a glass with water and attempt to take it across the room
>to water a plant, I put into effect my very complex construct DOWN-UP.
>Agreed?? Otherwise, the water would slosh all over the place, and I would
>need to spend a great deal of time correcting for my poor anticipatory
>construction of the way the water function relative to DOWN-UP.
> Now, did I "deliberate on" the use of that construction? Was the
>application of that construction a cognitive process? Was my construction an
>on-the-spot creation which took into account the particulars of the situation
>-- the shape of the glass, the amount of water in the glass, the volume of the
>glass, etc?

Almost certainly not, Jim. The cognitive bit is when you decide to take the
plant to the water (fetching a wheelbarrow for the purpose if necessary) or
decide to what level to fill the glass to minimise the risk of sloshing, or
to use two glasses or to make two trips. Stopping the sloshing is a matter
of tracking the water-level/rim gap round the glass (whatever the sahape,
volume,etc.) and compensating - for which something faster than cognition is
usually needed. Although one may have cognitions _about_ tracking
behaviours, to try to assimilate them to a construing model is surely to
take a sledgehammer to a nut and to do construing a disservice.

I think there is an important point to this discussion. Behaviour is not
enough, neither is construing. PCP's great advantage for me is that it
provides a way of accessing human functioning that avoids, at least
partially, the need to cut away masses of behavioural brushwood to get at
the trees. I've come round to the view, greatly helped by a discussion with
Tom Ravenette in Barcelona, that behaviourist, cognitive and constructivist
models have different ranges of convenience and that the problem is not
which is correct, but which is economical. Trevor has a point.


Bill Ramsay,
Dept. of Educational Studies,
University of Strathclyde,
Jordanhill Campus,
G13 1PP,

'phone: +44 (0)141 950 3364
'fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367