It is useful to compare Lewin's field theory with the two other major theories of the time: behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Lewin's field theory can be summarized by the equation B = f(P,E), or, "Behavior is a function of person and environment." In other words, behavior is function of the life space of a total environment as perceived by the individual. In psychoanalytic thought, behavior is a function of the history of the individual. For example, past childhood experience is supposed to have a direct impact on current psychological processes. In contrast, Lewin's theory is ahistorical. Although the individual's past may influence that person's approach and construal of the psychological field, its influence is only indirect, as behavior is a function of the current and immediate life space.
Lewin's field theory differs from behaviorism on at least two key dimensions. First, Lewin emphasized the subjectivity of the psychological field. To predict and understand behavior successfully, a therapist needs to describe the situation from the viewpoint of the individual whose behavior is under consideration, not from the viewpoint of an observer. Second, Lewin's theory emphasizes that behavior must be understood as a function of the life space or situation as a whole. In other words, behavior is motivated by the multitude of often interdependent forces affecting an individual, as opposed to one or two salient rewards or reinforcers that may be present.
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