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Topics: Psychology, Behaviorism, Cognitive psychology Pages: 23 (7741 words) Published: June 21, 2013
Psychology Defined
Gregg R. Henriques
James Madison University

A new form of knowledge technology is used to diagnose psychology’s epistemological woes and provide a solution to the difficulties. The argument presented is that psychology has traditionally spanned two separate but intimately related problems: (a) the problem of animal behavior and (b) the problem of human behavior. Accordingly, the solution offered divides the field into two broad, logically consistent domains. The first domain is psychological formalism, which is defined as the science of mind, corresponds to animal behavior, and consists of the basic psychological sciences. The second domain is human psychology, which is defined as the science of human behavior at the individual level and is proposed as a hybrid that exists between psychological formalism and the social sciences. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 60: 1207–1221, 2004. Keywords: Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System; psychological formalism; unified theory; mental behaviorism; Justification Hypothesis

We persevere in looking at small questions instead of large ones and our view of the forest is forever obscured by the trees. (Bevan, 1991, p. 475)

What is psychology? Is it a single, coherent scientific discipline awaiting transformation from the current preparadigmatic state into a more mature unified one? Or, is it a heterogeneous federation of subdisciplines that will ultimately fragment into a multitude of smaller, more specialized fields? This is, in essence, the “to be or not to be” question of the field. Currently, psychology exists as an uneasy compromise between unification and fragmentation. On the one hand, the existence of numerous societal institutions suggests that psychology is a singular entity at some level. Academic courses, degrees, and departments, as well as organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA) suggest that the concept of psychology is a specifiable, coherent entity (Matarazzo, 1987). On the other hand, a more detailed inquiry reveals a remarkable degree of confusion, fragmentation, and chaos at the theoretical level. So formidable is the problem of conceptual incoherence that several prominent authors have flatly stated that it is insurmountable (e.g., Koch, 1993). Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Gregg R. Henriques, MSC 7401, Department of Graduate Psychology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807; e-mail: henriqgx@jmu.edu.

JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY, Vol. 60(12), 1207–1221 (2004) © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/jclp.20061

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The confusion inherent in the discipline becomes apparent when an attempt is made to precisely define the field. For example, in his Dictionary of Psychology, Reber (1995) wrote: Psychology simply cannot be defined; indeed, it cannot even be easily characterized . . . Psychology is what scientists and philosophers of various persuasions have created to . . . understand the minds and behaviors of various organisms from the most primitive to the most complex . . . It is an attempt to understand what has so far pretty much escaped understanding, and any effort to circumscribe it or box it in is to imply that something is known about the edges of our knowledge, and that must be wrong. (p. 617)

The problems associated with defining psychology are not new. As noted by Leahy (1992), the field was actually founded on three distinct subject matters: (a) consciousness by thinkers such as Wundt and Ebbinghaus; (b) unconsciousness by thinkers such as Freud and Jung; and (c) adaptation by thinkers like Spencer and James. Of course, shortly after the turn of the century Watson (1913) rejected each of these perspectives, and during the behaviorist reign from the 1920s through the 1960s animal behavior was the proper subject matter of...

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