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Behavioral Variation: A Neglected Aspect in Selectionist Thinking

Siegfried Dewitte and Tom Verguts
Behavior and Philosophy
Vol. 27, No. 2 (Fall, 1999), pp. 127-145
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27759396
Page Count: 19
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Behavioral Variation: A Neglected Aspect in Selectionist Thinking
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Abstract

A selectionist approach to human ontogenetic development relies on three basic processes: variation, selection, and retention. The approach further implies that for adaptive behavior to emerge during development, each of these processes is required. Nevertheless, to date variation has been relatively neglected. Some studies show that behavioral variability is enhanced when the appropriate contingencies are present. Moreover, behavioral variability has been shown to facilitate the acquisition of difficult behaviors in animals (e.g., Neuringer, 1993). In the first part of the present paper, we briefly recapitulate the basic tenets of selectionist psychology and attempt to explore the role of behavioral variability in human behavior. In the second part, its importance in the emergence of intelligence, humor production, and self-regulation is discussed. We present data suggesting that variability enhances intelligent behavior, qualitative humor production and effective self-regulation.

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