It matters that people have a way to use the latest findings in psychology beyond buying a pill for depression. It matters that people have a way of looking at their lives that lets them ask the big questions and determine how they want to live – and that this is supported by therapists and mental health professionals.

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Psychology isn't engineering - and is better for it

Posted on 05 Jul | 0 comments
Psychology isn't engineering - and is better for it

In 2010, The American Psychological Association’s 2009 Presidential Task Force on the Future of Psychology published a report arguing that that psychology needs to be recognized alongside other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines.

After all, doesn’t psychology occur in a laboratory? Doesn’t it use math, and statistics, and instruments?
 
Nonsense, says New Existentialist Eugene Taylor. A 2011 rebutal he wrote is essential reading to those who suggest psychology has no room for phenomenology, existentialism, or the kind of issues that most define our humanity.
 
In the first place, Taylor suggests, that’s just bad science.
 
(G)eneral science does not recognize the presence of the experimenter on the outcome of the scientific observation or on the overall experiment; in fact, it believes it has sufficiently controlled for it with the double blind, randomized, placebo controlled experiment. Evidence from quantum theory since the 1920s, however, and even in clinical studies of the unconscious within psychology, has always suggested otherwise. But experimental psychology today, which touted itself in the late 1890s as patterning itself after physics and the natural sciences, never evolved to maturity because it could not accommodate its hidden epistemology to the quantum revolution in the 1920s. Experimental psychology, still based on a Newtonian, Cartesian, and Kantian definition of reality in the late 19th century has tried to maintain control of the definition of experimental science even up to today, even though it has kept psychology as a science in diapers. Meanwhile, the numbers of the experimental reductionists are dwindling even within the Divisions of the American Psychological Association. 
 
 
The only way you can get to that kind of reductionism is by “eliminating emotion, intuition, or personal experience, and the phenomenological impact of meaning, except where it is reduced to operational definitions of behavior and then hyper-objectified.”
 
It’s a lot like the old joke about a man standing under a street lamp at night. A passerby asked him what he was doing there.
 
“I’m looking for my keys!” the drunk man said.
 
“Well, where did you lose them?” the passerby asked. The drunk man pointed over to a dark stretch of road.
 
“Then why are you standing under the street lamp?” the passerby asked.
 
The drunk replied “It’s easier to see over here.”
 
The experimental criteria the reductionists use absolutely produce data that can be graphed and charted and compared: it just isn’t the data that is really meaningful to the questions we want asked. How does help? How is that scientific in a meaningful sense?
 
A more realistic view of psychology – what it is, what it can accomplish, and how it can best get there – embraces the phenomenological, the existential, and the aspects of humanity that are hard to quantify … that even resist quantification.
 
Most members of the APA, Taylor suggests, understand this. APA policy, however, has not yet got there. 
 
Read Taylor’s article, Psychology as a Person-Centered Science versus Psychology as an Ancillary Core Science below.
 
-- Benjamin Wachs

 

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