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  1. Steven C. Hayes

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0225

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Hayes, S. C. 2010. Contextualism. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Nevada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Contextualism is a philosophy of science based on modern variants of American pragmatism. The core analytic unit of contextualism or pragmatism is the ongoing act in context: the common sense situated action. It is doing as it is being done, such as in hunting, shopping, or making love. This has sometimes been termed the “historical act,” but not in the sense of a thing done in the past. Rather, the term “historical act” recognizes that acts occur not just in a current situational context, but also as part of a stream of purposive acts in an individual's life. In practical terms, contextualists (1) focus on the whole behavioral event, (2) are continuously sensitive to the role of context in understanding the nature and function of this event, and (3) maintain a firm grasp on a pragmatic truth criterion. Contextualism is commonly distinguished from mechanism, formism, teleological perspectives, organicism, and other broad philosophical approaches.