Monday, June 9, 2008

The Motor Theory Critiqued - History repeats itself

I dug up this VERY interesting paper by Walter B. Pillsbury. It is the President's Address, at the 1910 American Psychological Association meeting. It was published in 1911 in Psych Review (Pillsbury, W.B. (1911). The place of movement in consciousness. Psychological Review, 18(2), 83-99.)

It seems that motor theories were all the rage back in 1910 just as they are today. And according to Pillsbury, despite this widespread belief in motor theories, there was little to no evidence in favor of the view, and much reason to doubt it. We've pointed out in this blog that the same situation holds of mirror neurons today.

Here's my favorite quote:

"The [motor] theory is so simple and so easy to present that every one is glad to believe it. The only question that any one cares to raise is how much of it will the known facts permit one to accept." p. 84.

Here's my second favorite quote:

"A reader of some of the texts lately published would be inclined to believe that there was nothing in consciousness but movement, and that the presence of sense organs, or of sensory and associatory tracts in the cortex was at the least a mistake on the part of the Creator." p. 83.

Read your history! You really can learn from the mistakes of the past.

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