Volume 33, Issue 4 p. 199-212

Lewinian Space and Ecological Substance

Urie Bronfenbrenner

Corresponding Author

Urie Bronfenbrenner

Cornell University

Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853Search for more papers by this author
First published: Fall 1977
Citations: 51


It is proposed that Lewinian theory — a bundle of paradoxes in which the perceived is viewed as more important than the actual, the unreal more valid than the real, motivation inheres in the environment, and the content of structures remains unspecified — constitutes a set of ideas whose time has just now come. A theory of form but not of substance, it proposed a redefinition of psychology as the study of behavior in the psychological field, a terrain which is as yet to be explored. A current program to obtain some of the requisite substantive data about the nature of the perceived environment, an experimental ecology of human development, is outlined. The environment is conceptualized as a series of nested and interconnected structures, moving from the innermost, the microsystem, through the meso- and exo- to the macrosystem at the cultural (or subcultural) level. Examples of conceptual and empirical work with these several system-levels are reported.