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:

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


Journal of Clinical Psychology, December 2004

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...

References: Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American Psychologist, 44, 1175–1184. Barkow, J.H. (1992). Beneath new culture is old psychology: Gossip and social stratification. In J. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 627– 638). New York: Oxford University Press. Baumeister, R.F., & Tice, D.M. (1996). Rethinking and reclaiming the interdisciplinary role of personality psychology: The science of human nature should be the center of the social sciences and humanities. Journal of Research in Personality, 30, 363–373. Benjamin, L.T., Bryant, W.H.M., Campbell, C., Luttrell, J., & Holtz, C. (1997). Between psoriasis and ptarmigan: American encyclopedia portrayals of psychology, 1880–1940. Review of General Psychology, 1, 5–18. Bernstein, N. (1967). The coordination and regulation of movements. London: Pergamon. Bevan, W. (1991). Contemporary psychology: A tour inside the onion. American Psychologist, 46, 475– 483. Blumberg, M.S., & Wasserman, E.A. (1996). Animals have minds? American Psychologist, 51, 59– 60. Brown, D.E. (1991). Human universals. New York: McGraw-Hill. Bunge, M. (1990). What kind of discipline is psychology: Autonomous or dependent, humanistic or scientific, biological or sociological? New Ideas in Psychology, 8, 121–137. Cook, N.D. (1989). Toward a central dogma for psychology. New Ideas in Psychology, 7, 1–18. Cronk, L. (1999). That complex whole: Culture and the evolution of human behavior. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Crook, J.H. (1980). The evolution of human consciousness. New York: Oxford University Press. Daly, M., & Wilson, M.I. (1999). Human evolutionary psychology and animal behavior. Animal Behavior, 57, 509–519. Day, W.F., Jr., & Leigland, S. (1992). Radical behaviorism: Willard Day on psychology and philosophy. Reno, NV: Context Press. Deacon, T. (1997). The symbolic species. New York: Norton. Dess, N.K., & Chapman, C.D. (1998). “Humans and animals”? On saying what we mean. Psychological Science, 9, 156–157. Domjan, M., & Purdy, J.E. (1995). Animal research in psychology: More than meets the eye of the general psychology student. American Psychologist, 50, 496–503. Eidelson, R.J., & Eidelson, J.I. (2003). Dangerous ideas: Five beliefs that propel groups toward conflict. American Psychologist, 58, 182–192. Epstein, S. (1994). Integration of the cognitive and the psychodynamic unconscious. American Psychologist, 49, 709–724.
Journal of Clinical Psychology, December 2004
Foa, E.B., & Kozak, M.J. (1997). Beyond the efficacy ceiling? Cognitive behavior therapy in search of theory. Behavior Therapy, 28, 601– 612. Gallup, G.G., Jr. (1970). Chimpanzees: Self-recognition. Science, 167, 86–87. Gergen, K. (2001). Psychological science in a postmodern context. American Psychologist, 56, 803–813. Haggbloom, S.J., Warnick, R., Warnick, J.E., Jones, V.K., Yarbrough, G.L., Russell, T.M., Borecky, C.M., et al. (2002). The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Review of General Psychology, 6, 139–152. Hawking, S. (1998). A brief history of time (2nd ed.). New York: Bantam Books. Hebb, D.O. (1955). Drives and the C.N.S. (conceptual nervous system). Psychological Review, 62, 243–254. Henriques, G.R. (2003). The tree of knowledge system and the theoretical unification of psychology. Review of General Psychology, 7, 150–182. Henriques, G.R., & Sternberg, R.J. (in press.) Unified Professional Psychology. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Hishinuma, E.S. (1998). Pre-unified separatism and rapprochement between behaviorism and cognitive psychology: The case of the reinforcer. Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 18, 1–15. Kaufman, A. (1990). Assessing adolescent and adult intelligence. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Kaye, J. (1996). Animal minds and evolution. American Psychologist, 51, 56–57. Kimble, G.A. (1994). A frame of reference for psychology. American Psychologist, 49, 510–519. Koch, S. (1993). “ Psychology” or “the psychological studies?” American Psychologist, 48, 902–904. Kolb, B., & Whishaw, I.Q. (1990). Fundamentals of human neuropsychology (3rd ed.). San Francisco: W.H. Freeman. Leahey, T.H. (1992). A history of psychology: Main currents in psychological thought. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Matarazzo, J.D. (1987). There is only one psychology, no specialties, but many applications. American Psychologist, 42, 893–903. Maynard-Smith, J., & Szathmary, E. (1999). The origins of life: From the birth of life to the origin of language. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. Mayr, E., & Provine, W.B. (1998). The evolutionary synthesis: Perspectives on the unification of biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Nelson, T.O. (1996). Consciousness and metacognition. American Psychologist, 51, 102–116. Ornstein, R.E. (1972). The psychology of consciousness. San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman. Reber, A.S. (1995). Dictionary of Psychology (2nd ed.). New York: Penguin. Rilling, M. (1996). The mystery of vanished citations: James McConnell’s forgotten 1960s quest for planarian learning, a biochemical engram, and celebrity. American Psychologist, 51, 589–598. Robins, R.W., Norem, J.K., & Cheek, J.M. (1999). Naturalizing the self. In L.A. Pervin & O.P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 443– 477). New York: The Guilford Press. Rumbaugh, D.M. (2003). A perspective of human and chimpanzee cognition. Contemporary Psychology, 48, 5–8. Sarason, S.B. (1989). The lack of an overarching conception in psychology. Journal of Mind & Behavior, 10, 263–279. Savage-Rumbaugh, E.S., & Lewin, R. (1994). Kanzi: The ape at the brink of the human mind. New York: Wiley. Sedikides, C., & Skowronski, J.J. (1997). The symbolic self in evolutionary context. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1, 80–102. Skinner, B.F. (1990). Can psychology be a science of mind? American Psychologist, 45, 1206–1210.
Psychology Defined
Smolin, L. (2001). Three roads to quantum gravity. New York: Basic Books. Staats, A.W. (1999). Uniting psychology requires new infrastructure, theory, method, and a research agenda. Review of General Psychology, 3, 3–13. Thelen, E. (1995). Motor development: A new synthesis. American Psychologist, 50, 79–95. Tolman, E.C. (1978). The determiners of behavior at a choice point. In E.R. Hilgard (Ed.), American psychology in historical perspective (pp. 337–370). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (Original work published 1938). Tomasello, M. (1999). The cultural origins of human cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Uttal, W.R. (2000). The war between mentalism and behaviorism: On the accessibility of mental processes. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Watson, J.B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviourist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158–177. Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. (1994). New York: Gramercy Books. Wolfe, B.E. (2003). Knowing the self: Building a bridge from basic research to clinical practice. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 13, 83–95. Wrangham, R.W., & McGrew, W.C. (1994). Chimpanzee cultures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Yanchar, S.C., & Slife, B.D. (1997). Pursuing unity in a fragmented psychology: Problems and prospects. Review of General Psychology, 1, 235–255.
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Paper of Aflatoxin with Nanis

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free