Unity: A Noble Quest

Knight

[Photo by scalleja]

Recently, in the search for unity in psychology (starting here) we’ve hit quite a lot of naysayers: psychology is already unified, it doesn’t need unification, it’s impossible, it’s pointless, it’s missing the point. Today, before I completely give up hope, the case for the defence (or is it prosecution?). In either case, a few hardy souls are happy to stand up and say, yes, things could be different, and perhaps it could even be better. Good for them.

I’ll start with Paul Gilbert who, healthily in this context, was an economist who retrained as a psychologist. Where, he asked when studying psychology, is the macro-level approach that economists have already accepted is required?

“One may take issue with some of the specifics of Henriques’ approach […but…] this kind of thinking should not be reserved for some specialized or graduate course but should be center stage to our thinking, model building, and teaching of psychology. […] Psychology is gradually coming to grips with a need for a macro science of mind. Henriques has done a fine job in carrying this torch forward.” (Gilbert, 2004:1226)

That sums up my view perfectly.

Lawrence Calhoun also provides solace for the weary and brow-beaten unifier. Unity in psychology is a noble quest, Calhoun (2004) says, but one which will require significant work. Whether unity can occur or will be ‘allowed’ is a different matter. Calhoun identifies a variety of theoretical, social, cultural, economic and political factors that will be influential.

One of these points, while not the strongest of them, has particular resonance with me. That is the increasing number of psychologists holding what might be termed post-modern, or highly relativistic viewpoints, which are fundamentally opposed to any kind of unification. That is going to be a tough audience.

Gilbert (2004) A much needed macro level view – a commentary on Henriques’ “Psychology defined” (Abstract)
Calhoun (2004) The unification of psychology: a noble quest (Abstract)

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 24 August 2006

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