A computer game designed by psychologists from the University of Manchester has challenged the theories on which psychology is based for more than a century.
Dr. Warren Mansell said that theories that divide the response stimulus, which underlie smoking cessation programs and most psychological therapies, should be re-evaluated.
The influence of BF Skinner is at the origin of these theories. In 1913, the American psychologist John Watson had stated that the goal of psychology was "the prediction and control of behavior".
The study is published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General aujourd & # 39; hui.
Mr. Mansell 's computer game, based on perceptual control theory, supports the view that our behaviors vary from one moment to the next rather than being triggered by thoughts. or learned by associations through stimuli in our environment.
"Humans are striving for" perfect "experiences, such as maintaining a comfortable temperature or staying safe, Dr. Mansell said.
"Not surprisingly, most initiatives to change people's behavior to eliminate stimuli that trigger habits such as smoking, or to incite children to behave with rewards and threats, are failing. long-term.
"This is because psychologists favor the view of an observer's behavior on the experience of the person who does it.
"Our study shows just how much these two perspectives can be contradictory and paves the way for a new generation of interventions designed to help people with habits, fears and addictions."
A total of 164 people participated in the game, in pairs. A person – the actor – has been instructed to move a computer mouse so that the cursor is in a circular target at the bottom of the screen.
The movements of the mouse have left a trace at the top of the screen and the second person, the observer was asked to observe the actor and the screen of the computer.
The cursor movement that the actor had to counteract to keep the cursor on the target was an inverted inverted image of the word "hello".
Most of the actors did not know that they had written the word "hello", and most observers were not aware of the fact that the actors were trying to keep a cursor on their target.
Dr. Mansell added, "There was a discrepancy of almost 100% between the responses of the actors and those of the observers.This is because we only think that the side effects of the" catchy "behavior – in the first place. ; occurrence the writing of the word "hello" – is the intended action.
"From programs to help people quit smoking, to the management of children's behavior in schools, this century-old vision that a stranger can accurately measure, predict and change another person's behavior has prevailed. .
"Therapies for a range of mental health problems should rather help people become aware of what they are trying to control in their lives and balance them in a more useful way.
"We believe that this approach would be applicable in various fields, such as the acquisition of new skills, the management of dementia and even the construction of robots."
Study finds few people are aware of everyone's intentions
Observers fail to detect that this behavior is the control of perception: a computer demonstration of involuntary writing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. DOI: 10.1037 / xge0000590
University of Manchester
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