The task-oriented approach in psychology: a solution to Fodor's problem

Ed BaggsUniversity of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Abstract

It is proposed that studying individual tasks in isolation is a solution to Fodor's problem: how can we break down the empirical project in psychology into tractable units? The task-oriented approach is in this sense an alternative to the modular view of the mind. I propose a definition of a task as a researcher-defined unit of study that corresponds to a reconfiguration of resources in an animal-enviroment system; this reconfiguration: is meaningful to a perceiver-actor; is amenable to precise characterization; specifies criteria for succesful completion of the task; and provides a guide to researchers on how to generalize empirical conclusions drawn from the study of a given phenomenon. The task-oriented approach is well-suited to the study of certain phenomena that the standard brain-oriented approach struggles to characterize, such as collaborative activity. Framing the dichotomy between the approaches in terms of methodology allows us to avoid fruitless ontological discussions about external content.

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