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4 Feb 08 – American Psychological Society and Fragmentation in Psychology.

4 February 2008

On this day in 1987, the American Psychological Association (APA) Board of Directors rejected a proposal to reorganize the APA into 2 to 5 autonomous assemblies.  As a result of the failed proposal, the Assembly for Scientific and Applied Psychology formed.  This group formed the basis of the American Psychological Society, which later became the Association for Psychological Science. 

This proposal was the brain trust of a group of “scientific psychologists,” who wanted to maintain the scientific basis of psychology.  The result was, at the time, conceived as the ultimate indication of the fragmentation of American psychology, with practitioners staying the course with the APA and science-minded psychologists breaking ranks and joining the American Psychological Society.

Still, the idea of fragmentation would require that there was unity to begin with.  That is, the word “fragmentation” implies unity as without unity there is nothing from which to break off or detach from.  In other words, fragmentation implies that there was a paradigm in psychology. 

Unfortunately, there is no clear indication that there was at in 1987, is now, or ever was a paradigm in psychology.  Certainly, we have heard that there has been a “cognitive revolution” in psychology that involved an overthrow of the old behaviorism regime.  Furthermore, there is clear evidence that neuroscientific explanations of psychology are gaining favor.  Hence, we would assume that before cognitivism, behaviorism was the paradigm.  Before behaviorism, many believe that psychoanalysis held sway.  Now, many believe that there is a paradigm shift toward biological explanations.  While I tend to agree that there is an increasing “biologization” of psychology, at no time has there been a single accepted paradigm in psychology.  Instead, we have had a number of different perspectives on how to understand psychological phenomena. 

There have also been great arguments regarding other grounding frameworks or paradigms that are philosophically based.  For example, Brent Slife conceives of the field of psychology being held to linear time conceptualization, naturalistic conceptualizations, and abstractionistic conceptualizations.  While certainly a great majority of the field accepts, probably implicitly, such philosophical conceptualizations, as Thomas Leahy pointed out, these are probably prepardigmatic.  Slife, for example, is quite well aware of evidence that does not support such linear time, naturalistic, and abstractionistic conceptualizations.  These might be conceived of as “anomalies” to the paradigm.  However, these anomalies are truly genuine theoretical concerns that amount to foundational philosophical questions that require acceptable answers in order for there to even be a paradigm.  Hence, they cannot be anomalous because there is no paradigm to be anomalous to. 

Instead, there needs to be a paradigm – given the both linear time and non-linear time, naturalistic and non-naturalistic, and abstractionistic and relational evidence that exists – that is holistic.  Only with a holistic paradigm can we adequately comprehend and synthesize the knowledge that we have.  Only with such a paradigm can both the “science-minded” and “application-minded” individuals work together to advance the science and practice of psychology and prevent the science-practice schism that so many see as ultimately inevitable.

Fuel for thought, I guess… head to my website for more fuel for thought regarding psychology.


February 3, 2008 Posted by | In Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

19 Jan 08 – Rosenhan, Pseudopatients, and “Insanity”?

19 January 2008

On this day in 1973, David Rosenhan’s article entitled, “On Being Sane in Insane Places” was published in the eminently well-respected scientific journal Science.  This was a highly provocative article summarizing the findings of a study that involved eight “pseudopatients” (one graduate student, three psychologists, a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a painter, and a housewife) being admitted to twelve different hospitals in five different states on the East and West coasts.  Each of these pseudopatients was admitted after complaining about hearing voices saying relatively innocuous words such as, “empty,” “hollow,” and “thud.”  While the facts of these pseudopatients’ names, vocations, and employment were altered, no further alterations in life histories and circumstances were made.  All of these, debatably, “normal” individuals were admitted to the psychiatric ward.  All but one was admitted with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Following admission to the psychiatric ward, these pseudopatients ceased presentation of any symptoms of abnormality and began tracking their interactions in notebooks.  In the absence of “abnormal” symptoms, it was quite common for other patients on the ward to tell the pseudopatients that they did not belong there.  The psychiatric staff, however, did not surmise this.  In fact, the length of hospitalization for these pseudopatients lasted anywhere from seven to fifty-two days, with an average stay of about nineteen days.  During this time, these eight pseudopatients were given approximately 2,100 pills, including antidepressants and antipsychotics (none of which they ingested). 

Rosenhan noted that even the pseudopatients’ tracking of their experience was taken as evidence of psychological disturbance.  Rosenhan suggested that the reason for this misinterpretation is that the behaviors of these pseudopatients were interpreted with reference to symptoms of psychological disorder.  In other words, because these individuals were disordered, and because the location of the disorder, in atomistic fashion, continues to remain within the individual, the behaviors must be indicative of the disorder.  In the end, all of the pseudopatients were discharged with a diagnosis of schizophrenia “in remission,” an indication that the schizophrenia may merely be in hiding but remains within the individual just as a remitting form of cancer remains within a treated cancer patient.

There was much debate regarding this study subsequent to its publication.  Much of the debate focused on the methodological problems.  Still, it is difficult to doubt the role of biases in interpreting not only others’ behaviors but also the results of investigation.  In fact, our values and biases appear to have clear relevance to our clinical decisions in psychology as well as our interpretations of research data.  It is encouraging that such a well-respected journal as Science would publish such a thought-provoking and dialogue engaging article as this.

Fuel for thought, I guess… head to my website for more fuel for thought regarding psychology.

January 19, 2008 Posted by | In Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment