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Evolution and Educational Psychology

When psychology began to develop as an academic field in the late 19th century, evolutionary ideas were much in vogue. As a result, virtually all of the first generation of American psychologists, like many elsewhere, adopted an evolutionary approach to the field. An evolutionary conception of mind led William James (1890/1950) to argue that consciousness “exists” (as a function, not a thing); it had practical, adaptive value:

Man, we now have reason to believe, has been evolved from infra-human ancestors, in whom pure reason hardly existed, if at all, and whose mind, so far as it can have had any function, would appear to have been an organ for adapting their movements to the impressions received from the environment, so as to escape the better from ...

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