Does abstracting threaten a sustainable future?

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Author: Lyle K. Grant
Date: Spring 2012
From: The Psychological Record(Vol. 62, Issue 2)
Publisher: The Association for Behavior Analysis International
Document Type: Report
Length: 7,057 words
Lexile Measure: 1590L

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Abstract :

In abstraction, or conceptual behavior, people discriminate features or properties of their surroundings. This permits people to respond selectively and precisely to specialized features of their environment, which has had many benefits, including steady advances in science and technology. Within psychology, J. R. Kantor and B. F. Skinner maintained that using certain types of abstract constructs leads to oversights and errors when the abstractions become separated from event instances. Alfred North Whitehead had similar concerns about the misuse of abstractions, leading Herman Daly to call attention to this problem in contemporary growth economics, where economic abstractions promote errors of overgeneralization, undergeneralization, and misconception and impede development of a sustainable society. Inappropriate abstracting has produced conceptual confusion in psychology, but in economics, the stakes are increasingly higher and include the preservation of the natural environment as we know it and the existence of its inhabitants. Solutions to the problem are reviewed. Key words: concepts, categorization, abstraction, sustainability, overgeneralization, undergeneralization, misconception, concept teaching, nominalism

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A288689704