Science in Christian Perspective


The Brain and Behavior
Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology
Rosemead, California 91770

From: JASA 26 (December 1974): 165-168.

Presumptuous but Necessary

A discussion of the relationship between the brain and behavior at this point in the development of science may be both presumptuous and necessary. Presumptuous, because the disagreement among psychologists themselves regarding theory, method and the specific subject matter of psychology is so vast that little consensus could be found by Koch (1959, 1962) in his six volume review of psychology. Karczmar and Eccles' volume Brain and Human Behavior (1971) does not indicate that the neurosciences are significantly better off than psychology when they come to interpreting their research findings. Yet, however presumptuous the task appears, it seems necessary to attempt to bring some order and conceptual understanding to the exponential increase in the research evidenced by an increase in the size and number of journals in both psychology and neuroscienecs.

This paper presents (1) a description of two significant areas of research in psychology, (2) an analysis of some methodological implications of these areas for brain research, and (3) a discussion of some of the traditional solutions to the brain-behavior problem.

Attitude Change

Attitude change is one of the most recently developed and most actively investigated areas of research in psychology. An examination of the literature indicates that this area has generated more research and theorizing than any other area in the last ten to fifteen years with the possible exception of behavior therapy (Abelson, Aronsori, McGnire, Newcomb, Rosenberg, and Tannenbaum, 1966).

Although some reviewers of the development of attitude theory and research do not agree on whether the trend is moving from conceptualizing attitudes unidimensionally to multidimensionally (Fishbein, 1967), or from multidimcnsionally to unidimensionally (Insko, 1968), there does seem to he general agreement that three factors are involved: affect, cognition, and motivation-behavior (Secord and Backman, 1964). In the unidimensional view the affective tendency to evaluate objects positively or negatively is the attitude. Cognitions (beliefs) and behavior are some complex function
of the attitude proper. In the multidimensional view all three factors are components of the attitude. Only future research will determine which is the correct view. However, in either view affective, cognitive and conativc components are functionally and intimately linked. The linkage of these three components can also be observed in the discussion of personality. Rogers (1959) and Gendlin (1962) specifically assert that cognition and feeling cannot be separated. Gendlin (1964) also maintains that behavior can carry forward or symbolize feelings. Furthermore, Rogers (1959) argues that a fully functioning individual is "congruent in his experience (of the feeling), his awareness (of it), and his expression (of it)," i.e., in his affect, cognitions and his behavior. In addition, Maddi (1972) asserts there is a whole category of personality theory and research which can he classified as a consistency model of personality. Consequently it is asserted that the three components of attitudes also can be the contents of personality. This does not deny that there may be different types of attitudes in Kelman's (1966, 1967) sense or Katz's (1960; Katz and Stotland, 1959) sense. Nor does it deny that there may he varying sub-organizations within or between the components in Newcomb's (1959) or Rosenberg's (1960a, 1960b) sense. Nor does it deny that some other content(s) or hierarchical organization may also exist, e.g., the self. The assertion is simply that the three components of attitudes are the contents of personality and are organized and changed according to the nature of the personality process.

The central role given to the concept of congruence, consistency or balance (the terms are equivalent) in personality theories (Maddi, 1972) seems to parallel its central role in almost every attitude change theory (Festinger, 1957; Heider, 1958; Neweomb, 1959; Osgood and Tannenhaum, 1955; Rokeaeh and Rothman, 1965; Rosenberg 1960a, 1960b). Festinger asserts that dissonance between two eognitions (or a cognition and a behavior) leads to change. Heider describes imbalanced affect situations among two persons and an object as productive of change. Neweomb, on the other hand, speaks of the strain towards symmetry in a system of orientations is disequilibrium. In Osgood and Tanneribaum's mathematical theory, evaluations move toward congruity and simplicity. Rokeach and Rothman tried to improve on Osgood and Tannenbaum's theory and describe belief congruence in terms of gestalt-like configurations. Rosenberg describes attitude change in terms of inconsistency of affect and cognitions. Clearly these theories are different, partly because they are attempting to explain different aspects of attitude change. Nevertheless, the overriding similarity is congruence or balance as an explanatory concept. The principle of reinforcement is used as an auxiliary explanatory concept by some of the above theorists. Others (Hovland, Janis and Kelley, 1953; Sarnufl, 1962) use it as a central concept. Assuming that incongruence and reinforcement do in fact produce attitude change it is not difficult to explain why this should be so. If personality is an ongoing process of organized components (attitudes) which is interacting with the environment, imbalance in the organization or stimuli from the environment (reinforcement) could lead to reorganization (attitude change) of the expected environmental contingencies. A more extensive review of the theories which use congruence to explain attitude change cannot he made at this point. However , if the three components of attitude: affect, cognition, and conation, are also the contents of personality, then it is to be expected that congruence or balance should play a central role in explaining attitude change as well as a great deal of psychological functinnings. This expectation can be supported in Inskn's (1968) as well as Abelson's (1968) survey of attitude change theory and research. More recently Feather (1971) has conceptualized his extensive research on behavioral and cognitive expectancies in a consistency model.


The second area of research to be examined is Bandura's (1965, 1971), and Bandura and Walter's (1965) extensive investigation of imitation. The basic research setting is a room full of toys or games in which an adult (experimenter-confederate) is observed directly or indirectly by a child who is also involved in play to some extent. If, for example, the adult stages an angry outburst and starts beating one of the larger dolls in a specifically predetermined manner, then what the child does at a later time depends on what happens to the adult after his angry outburst. The expression of the adult-confederate's anger is carried out in specific behavioral, verbal and emotional actions which are capable of direct imitation. The effects on a child of observing this anger or aggression depends on what happened to the adultconfederate. If the major experimenter opens the door to the playroom at a critically staged moment, finds the adult-confederate beating the doll, and reprimands him sharply for his actions, then the child does not imitate the adult. If on the other hand, the adult-confederate's aggressive actions go "undetected and unpunished," soon the child begins to beat the doll in a total detailed imitation including all the verbal, behavioral and emotional specifies. In addition to the total imitation the child often adds novel aggressive behavior or verbalization of his own. Observation of "undetected and unpunished" aggression disinhibits the effects of previously observed "punishment" of an adult-confederate.
However, perhaps of equal interest for the consideration of this paper is the fact not only that imitation of total detected complex aggression acts occur, hot that they are imitated in toto after one observation. Bandura (1965) and Bandura and Walters (1965) have shown this type of imitation takes place for many kinds of acts. Thus the significance of their research has broad implication in that it is not limited to just one type of action or behavior.

Brain centers from considerably different areas and different systems coordinate the behaviors they regulate in a consistent pattern.

The reason for considering the two types of research described above together may not be obvious. However, their similarity becomes more apparent when the different aspects of imitation are examined. In all types of imitation investigated there are specific (and often varied) motor responses, verbal statements and emotional expressions. These three components appear to be the same components that are involved in the attitude change research, though in the latter they are most often not acted out, but described in paper-and-pencil questionnaires. Also the consistency or congruence of the components of the imitated behavior is manifestly evident, most probably because they were combined and expressed simultaneously in adult confederate model. While it is outside the scope of this paper, it might be interesting to speculate on the infrequency of inconsistent verbal and motor behavior accompanying strong emotion in normal individuals.

Implications for Brain Research

The similarity between functional components involved in these two bodies of psychological literature has been stated. Now it is necessary to examine their methodological implication for brain research. It should be noted that the three components being considered, i.e., affect or emotion, speech with its attendant meanings, and motor activity with the impulses behind it, are largely regulated by different areas of the brain. Emotion is largely regulated by the limbic system which is a suhcortical system. Meaningful verbalization, with all its complexities excluding the motor movements of the mouth, is mediated through a number of temporal and lower parietal lobe centers, and motor responses are regulated through an area along the central fissure in the frontal lobe. While their exact location is not important for this discussion, their diversity is. Yet, the observable behavior which stems from these diverse points in the brain becomes integrated, i.e., brain centers from considerably different areas and different systems coordinate the behaviors they regulate in a consistent or congruent pattern. This congruent pattern is the first implication for neuroresearch.

As indicated above, Bandura and Walters (1965) have shown congruent patterns can be acquired in one observation. They call it vicarious learning. What is important here, however, is not learning but the congruent pattern itself. For the attitude change research the pattern is already in the individual and only assessed by the researcher. The consistency or congruency comes into play when the experimenter produces inconsistency either through verbal persuasion or emotional manipulation. When attitude change occurs with the individual, a new consistency or congruency among the verbal, affective and behavioral-motivational components results. Change appears to take place because the experimental conditions prevent return to the original congruency. This need or tendency to congruency is the second implication though it may well be only a more general statement of the former.

Congruency or consistency may appear to he only a new term for old neuroscience concepts such as integration, organization or system. However, the components of the congruent psychological patterns or processes are different. It is this difference which appears to be of immense methodological importance if meaningful research work on the brain-behavior problem is to move forward towards a solution. Neuroscience as well as physiological psychology has long attempted to coordinate specific motor, memory or sensory experiences with specific brain mechanism or neural structure.

However, it is the larger or more complex organization, described in the imitation and attitude change research under the term consistency or congruency, which appears never to have been related to a neural substratum and which may provide the appropriate structures, processes, or mechanisms for coordinating psychological functions and brain functions. Which size units are the most appropriate to investigate and which are the most fundamental to either or both areas of research? This question raises an empirical and methodological issue which may have epistemological and theoretical implications. The issue is not new. The molarmolecular or the wholistie-atomistic issue has appeared frequently in the history of biological, psychological and social sciences. (Matson, 1964; Chaplin and Krawiee, 1968). Perhaps the issue of which unit to employ is related to a more basic issue. Scientists in the social or life sciences who prefer the automatic or molecular level concepts tend to view their field after the model of physics or chemistry, while those who prefer molar or wholistie level concepts tend not to model their discipline after physics (Allport, 1947; Jessor, 1958).

To use an operationally defined neural concept or event to explain a mental or behavioral event is an equivocation of its meaning.

The occurrences of differences in the model, processes and units to he employed between the sciences which deal with nonliving inorganic matter and those which deal with living organic matter is not surprising since by definition living matter is organized and reactive. However, the human sciences, i.e., those which deal with what has traditionally been called mind or behavior, are manifestly different in experimental methodology from the physical sciences. Some examples will be given from psychology at the conclusion of this section of the paper. Experimenters in perception and learning regularly ask the subjects to report on the characteristics of the stimulus or their responses, or more significantly, whether the apparatus is correctly adjusted (fitted) to the part of the body being employed in the research. This subject effect seems to have no counterpart in research in the physical sciences (Orne, 1962). Furthermore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get social psychology research published if controls for "seeing through" the deception or manipulation involved are not adequate. Frequently, subjects who do "see through" the manipulation are excluded from the data tabulation.

Subject reactivity in some form (e.g., response bias and demand characteristics) is probably the biggest single methodological problem in social psychology and personality testing (Oroe, 1962; Block, 1972; Weber and Cook, 1972). This methodological problem reflects something fundamentally different in the subject matter itself. This difference appears to me to call for a different model and different size unit in the human sciences, which in turn calls for a relating of these units to those which are appropriate at the brain level. Although the above discussion may not have brought the solution to the mind-brain problem, hopefully it has clarified some of the methodological issues.

Traditional Solutions to Mind-Brain Problem

Beloff (1962) maintains that the traditional positions on the mind-brain problem reduce to four logical possibilities: (1) mind is reducible to brain, (2) brain is reducible to mind, (3) there are two distinct separate levels which may or may not interact, and (4) the two are not really separate, but related to a third more fundamental phenomenon. Beloff's assignment of the traditional views to these four logical possibilities is not of importance here and the four logical positions serve only as a backdrop with which to interact. While different schools of psychology have preferred one or another of the four solutions (Marx and Flillix, 1963), physiological psychologists (Morgan, 1965) and many neuroscientists seem to favor explicitly or implicitly reducing mental events to brain events (Karezmar and Eccles, 1971). While there are problems with each position on the mind-body problem, there seem to be particular methodological problems with accepting the reduction of mind to brain. In spite of the sophisticated discussion of advanced research in neuroscience and its implications for the brain behavior problem (e.g., Taylor; McMullio's and Toumin's attempt to avoid reductionism and dualism by accepting "Congruency" systems), Karczmar and Eccles (1971, p. 14,15) seem to embrace an implicit reductionism, apparently unaware of the methodological inadequacies of such a position.

The occurrence of neurological "expectancy" waves or "decision" waves prior to a decision appears to be accepted as an explanation for a decision even if it does not appear to be explanatory, or at least "feel" explanatory in an interior sense, The "even if" part of the argument does not create the difficulty. It is the acceptance of a neural correlate as an explanatory concept for a conscious event (even if it antedates it) that creates a basic scientific methodological problem that cannot he surmounted. If a scientific concept is to have scientific meaning, it must be empirically and operationally

The reduction of mental events to brain events is excluded in science. Neural events or brain events can be only correlates of mind or behavioral events in a scientific theory.

 defined, i.e., defined by the measurements used to assess it, or be a hypothetical construct grounded on both its anterior and posterior side in operationally defined constructs. For example, the physical concept of force is defined as the product of two operationally defined entities, mass and acceleration.

There is nothing in the operational definition (measurement) of the firing of neuron(s) which would or could relate a wave of negative electrical potential to a conscious decision. Such a wave might "explain" other waves or the absence or presence of electrical activity in related nerves, but it cannot by its own definition explain a conscious or mental event. To use an operationally defined neural concept or event to explain a mental or behavioral event is an equivocation of its meaning, and creates instead a speculative concept (which is devoid of scientific meaning) but which masquerades as scientific because its scientific "name" remains. That is, scientific concepts obtain their meaning from their operational definition and by being embedded in a network of similarly defined scientific concepts. When a concept is used to explain events outside its own operationally defined network, it loses its meaning and thus its capacity to explain.

Consequently, the reduction of mental events to brain events is excluded in science, i.e., reductionism is not a scientifically acceptable solution to the mind-brain problem. This conclusion does not imply that dualism or some other solution is correct. Time and space do not permit the discussion of other alternative solutions to the brain-behavior problem. The elimination of reductionism occurs on scientific grounds, not metaphysical or philosophical ones, i.e., science by its own nature-the use of operational constructs-is responsible for this exclusion. Thus, neural events or brain events can be only correlates of mind or behavioral events in a scientific theory.


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