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Definition: As proposed by Harvey Carr, a behavioral unit consisting of a motive, a setting, and a response that satisfies the motive. Example: A rat is hungry (motive) in an experimental cage (setting); pressing a lever (response) in the cage presents food and alleviates the hunger. Background: In 1925, Harvey Carr (1873-1954) wrote Psychology: A Study of Mental Activity, which Schultz (1981) describes as "an expression of the finished form of functionalism" (p. 167). A the title suggests, for Carr, the subject matter of psychology is the study of mental activity, in particular, "the acquisition, fixation, retention, organization, and evaluation of experiences, and their subsequent utilization in the guidance of conduct" (p. 1). Carr introduced the notion of an adaptive act, "conduct that reflects mental activity." An adaptive act consists of a motive, a setting, and a response that satisfies the motive. The result is learning: the response is repeated the next time the need arises in that setting. For Carr, this learning process is an essential ingredient in explaining how an organism adjusts to its environment. Further Reading:
Carr, H. A. (1925). Psychology: A study of mental activity. New York: Longmans, Green.
Schultz, D. (1981). A modern history of psychology. (3rd ed.). New York: Academic Press.
Related Terms: Carr, Harvey (1873 - 1954)
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