3.9 Context

Context refers to the current setting or environment in which the event occurs (including physical, social, biological, and cultural features). Context also refers to a person’s learning history, or lifelong history of interacting with their environment.

Functional Contextualism

Analytic GoalMethod
Prediction and influence of psychological eventsFocus on manipulable variables in the context of psychological events

Understanding an organism’s learning history is key to understanding the function of stimuli and events in the present. This history is part of the context of a psychological event. When functional contextualists refer to aspects of learning history as a “manipulable variable,” though, it can be a bit confusing because past learning history is obviously not manipulable (unless one has a flux capacitor, maybe!).

Although we cannot travel through time to change someone’s past history, what we can do is given them new history, experiences, and interactions that can impact their behavior. In other words, new learning experiences (via education, therapy, casual social interactions, etc.) are manipulable variables in the context of psychological events.  

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