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Theories of Development - The Mechanistic Worldview

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 8Theories of Development - The Mechanistic Worldview, The Organismic Worldview, The Contextualist Worldview

The Mechanistic Worldview

Theories built on a Mechanistic Worldview reflect a belief that behavior and behavior change are predictable, lawful phenomena that can, theoretically at least, be fully understood through the use of systematic, objective empirical research methods (empirical meaning that the methods rely on observation or experimentation). Secondly, mechanists believe that behavior is caused by either factors external to the individual (efficient causes) or those defining the individual's biological makeup (material causes). Efficient causes include such things as parenting style, educational opportunities, and peer group composition. Material causes include inherited genetic characteristics and more general biological qualities such as temperament or information processing capability.

Two prominent examples of work within a Mechanistic Worldview are the operant conditioning model, most closely associated with B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), and the behavior genetic model, associated with the work of Robert Plomin and Sandra Scarr, among others. These two models are very contradictory. Skinner's work reflects the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate, while Plomin and Scarr's work reflects the nature side of the debate.

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