Unifying Psychology - APA PsycNET - American Psychological ...

1 downloads 0 Views 1MB Size Report
Arthur W. Staats ... productive manner in considering my book BEHAVIOR AND PER- ... Let me add that science does not operate in the manner proposed by.

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

Unifying Psychology: A Scientific or Non-Scientific Theory Task? Arthur W. Staats University of Hawaii The past fifteen years has seen an accelerating growth of interest in psychology's fragmentation and the importance of unification, in a manner that did not exist before. Stephen Yanchar is one of the contemporary leaders in the unification movement, with a focus on philosophy, to which he has been contributing important works. On the basis of his previous writings I expected that he would be interested in a productive manner in considering my book BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY: PSYCHOLOGICAL BEHAVIORISM from his perspective. I have not been disappointed and I thank him both for his reflections on my philosophy of science (Yanchar, 1997) and for the present review. His writing indicates to me, however, that Yanchar's philosophy (which he considers to be theory), fundamental understanding of what psychology is and should be, conception of unifying psychology and, as we will see, his agenda for the field of theoretical and philosophical psychology, are quite different from those of my philosophy of unified positivism and theory of psychological behaviorism (PB). Thus, although this has not been made clear, Yanchar's review is based on a philosophical position that really does not accept psychology as a science. That position is at odds with most of psychology, including PB. As I will indicate, because of this fundamental difference, the review does not consider the nature of the PB endeavor, what PB is in comparison to other "grand" theories—such as Skinner's, Hull's, Tolman's, Watson's, Freud's, Piaget's, or the new cognitive theories of Norman Anderson (1996) and Allen Newell (1990)—with respect to such things as philosophy, method, content, coverage, heuristic value, or potential for contributing to psychology's unification. Rather, his approach appears to stem from his belief that the "central task of unification" (Yanchar, 1997, p. 162) is to evaluate underlying issues in order to select fundamental ideas. Those issues and ideas appear to derive from a classic philosophical perspective, bulwarked by hermeneutic and social construction elements. [A] finite set of such ideas can eventually be woven into a unification framework that : (a) provides guidelines for important moral issues such as freedom and responsibil-

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

Unifying Psychology

71

ity; (b) delimits the appropriate domain of psychological investigation (i.e., establishes ontology); and (c) provides a unified logic of justification (i.e. establishes epistemology) (Yanchar, 1997, p. 162). Despite the fact that he says "unity of this sort need not foreclose on theoretical or investigative diversity "(Yanchar, 1997, p. 162), it is clear that his review does just that, for example, in his rejection of PB because he considers it just a behaviorism. Moreover, his approach, without making this explicit, forecloses on psychology as science and hence on broad unification. That is, he sets forth the task as philosophical, the rationalistic consideration of ideas concerning moral issues, freedom, free will, responsibility, empiricism, and such. But, again, his concerns leave out most of psychology, the many empirical studies, methods, theories, concepts, principles, apparatuses, tests, and therapies that presently exist. Are those many diverse and unrelated findings, that psychology has made through its science practice, not just that which we need to unify? Moreover, should all these findings not play a role in our planning how to work on unification? After all, it is psychological science's production of diversity that constitutes the problem of unification. Let me add that science does not operate in the manner proposed by Yanchar—that is, to work out philosophical issues before beginning to function. Scientists typically take a naive philosophical approach. They do not feel pressed to decide first whether the events they study are real, whether they are figments of someone's mind, what the nature is of causation, and such. They naively confront the phenomena and construct ways of better specifying what they are, to find their relationships, to formulate principles, to improve observations via apparatus, and to construct theories with terms defined empirically. Typically it is later, by philosophers of science, that the basic "assumptions" of the scientist are systematically considered and issues raised concerning how best to proceed. Unified positivism grew in that classic manner. First, in decades of work psychological behaviorism's elements were constructed. It was that experience in working science, and the nature of the theory that resulted, that underlay the formulation of the philosophy of science. Now Yanchar would like to "jump to the head of the line," that is, to by-pass the many works of the science in favor of armchair philosophizing by which to construct a framework for the solution to psychology's vast problem of unification. As I will indicate further, that is not a realistic agenda, and never has been. In his review Yanchar considers psychological behaviorism to be "authoritarian" because it takes learning as fundamental in the explanation of human behavior, disregarding the fact that PB has widely considered and employed to an uncommon extent various develop-

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

72

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psy. Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998

ments of psychology. To add to this negative position, Yanchar indicates the PB goal of "behaviorizing" traditional psychology, but neglects the other side of the PB coin, its goal of "psychologizing" behaviorism. That behaviorizing and psychologizing yields a new, unified psychological behaviorism—different than other behaviorisms or traditional theories because it combines the two opposing traditions. PB's human is no "black box," rather PB's human has intelligence, emotion, cognition, personality, and other causative characteristics. Although he considers PB authoritarian he does not even raise the question of how PB compares to other theories in terms of comprehensiveness in method, theory, and findings or, indeed, how PB compares to other theories in its methods for bridging (unifying) psychology developments that have previously been schismatic. Yanchar's philosophy provides him with a pejorative position with respect to PB. To illustrate, in an earlier paper Yanchar (1997) interpreted PB quite critically, citing a brief PB note (Staats, 1987), for lacking a unification methodology other than that of just including everything, even if apples and oranges. The book he has read not only lays out the unification methods but provides extensively developed cases of unification. Rather than rectifying his previous error, however, he glosses over the matter, still in a negative manner. Mentioning PB's "bridging theory" conception, but not describing it or that two philosophers of science in the biological areas independently developed the same concept (Darden & Maull, 1977), and various psychologists (as well as Darden, 1993) have used the PB concept (see Rappard, van Strien, Mos, & Baker, 1993), Yanchar forecloses on the topic by stating pejoratively that PB employs "behavioristic principles" as basic (p. 5) as though that disqualifies PB without further consideration. He does not mention that at each level of study progressively considered in the PB unified theory new concepts and principles are added that are not "behavioristic" (basic learning) principles, but rather are unifications that psychologize PB. Yanchar's evaluative process is philosophical. He does not ask scientific questions concerning PB's merits as a theory although it has been constructed as a scientific theory. Moreover, Yanchar avoids dealing with any of PB's substantive cases of unification, which prevents him or his readers from performing an evaluation. As one example, he could have described how PB deals with the fields of personality and psychological measurement. The schism between these fields and behaviorism has been deep, with broad and significant effects on psychology. It would be crucial to ask how does PB handle this schism. Does it provide a unification? Are elements from both sides employed in the unification? Is it potentially heuristic, and to what extent? How does PB in this area compare to other approaches? Would it be valuable if psychology could resolve such schisms so separated and opposi-

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

Unifying Psychology

73

tional work traditions could be unified and strengthened rather than detract from each other? Caught up in his own philosophical interests, Yanchar simply does not address the characteristics of the book and PB. Further, with respect to authoritarianism, let me add that PB's position has been to call for the construction of unified theories that deal with the fundamental subject matter of basic and applied psychology, theories that are founded on other traditions, such as cognitive, psychoanalytic, and humanistic. Let us see what each of the traditions produces. (I believe that theories, whatever the tradition, when addressing psychology broadly will end up much the same.) That is a call for serious, extensive, and systematic theory construction, using the panoply of our science, not simple generalities or reflections. Considered in these terms Yanchar's strategy for unifying psychology, as with some other recent cases (Boneau, 1988; Fraisse, 1987; Yela, 1987), are only reflections that do not begin to face the nature of the huge and extended task. The problem of the review is that Yanchar's own philosophy specialty does not provide him with a framework for evaluating PB or, indeed, psychological science, basic or applied. He thus dismisses important developments with simplistic interpretations or by labeling pejoratively without actually considering what is dismissed but, mostly, he simply does not consider PB's central features. P S Y C H O L O G I C A L B E H A V I O R I S M AS A B R O A D U N I F I E D T H E O R Y

Since the review does not characterize PB I will provide a few descriptive words. Psychological behaviorism began in the behaviorism tradition with the aim of analyzing and doing research on phenomena of human behavior in terms of learning principles. This cut across various fields of study and early on it became clear that it was possible to constitute a new type of theory that broadly addressed principles, concepts, methods, theories, and findings generated in other theoreticalphilosophical traditions. I published my first formulation of the broad theory in my 1963 book Complex human behvaior, and successive advancements of it in my 1975 Social behaviorism and in the book Yanchar reviews. This research program has involved many works— theoretical, methodological, and empirical—in more than 45 years of systematic, continuous development. Behavior and personality: Psychological behaviorism weaves interests and materials from the fields of basic animal learning-behavior, human learning and cognition, child development, social psychology, personality, psychological measurement, abnormal psychology, and clinical psychology into a closely reasoned, building, consistent theory framework. PB also sets forth a general method for constructing such theory—involving the new concepts of framework theory, multilevel theory, and bridging theory. The

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

74

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psy. Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998

strategy of traditional grand theories, such as Skinner's, is to deal with the impossibly complex subject matter by rejecting most of it. That by definition cannot produce unification. Rather, PB says that systematically developed materials cannot be rejected "sight unseen," they all must be systematically considered. The way to simplify that gigantic task in constructing the broad unified theory is through framework theory; every systematic development deserves consideration, but not all at once. The task can be confronted progressively, beginning with central areas. And at first only central developments in the areas or fields can be considered. This is done to form a framework theory of the area that shows the value of the principles for that area, projects heuristically new developments, and that helps elaborate the overarching theory. The task also involves relating the area or field to the others treated in the unified principles of the overarching theory. Let me develop an example. Cognitivism and behaviorism are schismatic because the former is interested in human mental characteristics that determine behavior; the latter rejects that goal and its products and is concerned with the principles by which the environment directly determines behavior. Cognitivism also rejects behaviorism. PB is different than each; PB accepts that cognitive characteristics help determine behavior, but sees those characteristics (analyzed as basic behavioral repertoires) to be in large part learned. The level of study of animal learning is thus basic to human learning and cognition, but this latter field contains new principles and concepts not in behaviorism. These two levels of principles, concepts, methods, and findings then provide the foundation for the consideration of child development in terms of how the child's characteristics are learned in a cumulative and hierarchical way. This adds new concepts and principles and the growing framework then provides the foundation for considering the next level of study, that of personality. Personality is conceived of as basic repertoires—language-cognitive, emotional-motivational, and sensory-motor—that are learned in childhood and later. The role that biological factors play in this long-term process is indicated—in a way aimed to resolve the nature-nurture schism. Those basic personality repertoires, as learned, are considered as dependent variables, consistent with behaviorism. But once they are present they constitute personality in the traditional sense, as determinants of the individual differences in behavior in life situations. This conception of personality, and the developments at the other levels of the overarching theory, then provide the basis for formulating the next level of theory, that of psychological measurement. Tests are analyzed—including analysis of specific items—as measures of the personality characteristics of emotion-motivation (like interests, needs, values, anxiety, fear, and depression tests), language-cognitive (like intelligence and developmental

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

Unifying Psychology

75

tests), and sensory-motor individual differences (like developmental and motor achievement tests). With the personality and measurement concepts as well as the principles and concepts of the earlier levels it is then possible to move to the abnormal psychology level of study. PB presents a framework theory of abnormal behavior and develops heuristic theories of various behavior disorders in children (developmental reading disorder, mental retardation, and autism) and adults (depression and the several anxiety disorders). To complete the advancement from basic to applied levels of study Behavior and personality: Psychological behaviorism uses the various levels to set forth a broad approach to clinical psychology that opens new clinical and research perspectives. The method is to treat concepts, principles, methods, and findings at each level of theory, in a manner that considers for use existing knowledge as well as develops new knowledge. This theory development shows how the several fundamental areas in psychology are related and opens avenues for elaborating the bridging of the fields. Traditional grand theories have not performed bridgings such as this and thus in this respect do not yield the possibilities for advancing psychology's unification. It is important to know that the framework theory construction of PB is heuristic, calling for additional developments in the special areas its theories treat. For example, through its multilevel development the PB framework theory of personality includes an objective, explicit theory of intelligence. That theory says that intelligence consists of basic behavioral repertoires—primarily of a language-cognitive nature—that have been studied in the child development level. Analysis of intelligence test items reveals the specific repertoires and their development over age. Since the child development level of study included constructing procedures for training childen in such language-cognitive repertoires it was possible to test whether, and how, training in those repertoires would effect the development of the children's measured intelligence. Confirmation of that theory projection opens new directions; that is, that additional studies could reveal much more completely what repertoires compose intelligence and more generally how to produce intelligence through learning procedures. PB in its general development, as in this case, has been constructed as a heuristic theory that provides the basis for new directions of development of various kinds. There are many such developments in PB that include empirical studies, methods of study, and directions for development. The PB strategy demands further work in a sufficient number of areas in all of its fields treated. It is there to be elaborated and extended by theorists, methodologists, researchers, and applied psychologists. Such developments will realize the potentialities of the

76

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psy. Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998

framework already shown and further produce a unifying and unified theory of classic characteristics. WHAT IS THE AGENDA OF THEORETICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

PSYCHOLOGY TO B E ?

As indicated, Yanchar proposes that philosophical evaluation of assumptions must come first (see also Yanchar & Kristensen, 1996, p. 100) as the basis for constructing broad unified theory. He evalutes the PB book and psychological behaviorism completely within his own philosophical position. Is that a sufficient approach for the task? The fact is that PB is science theory that includes various methods, principles, theories, and many empirical findings, theory structure that extends heuristically to central fields of psychology, that is a subject matter quite beyond Yanchar's philosophy. As a scientific theory, and as a philosphy and methodology for its program, under any normal science circumstance PB calls for assiduous evaluation in and of itself and in comparison to other existing theories that address relevant subject matter. Systematic and serious evaluative works are called for with respect to the specifics of PB, its methodology, its findings, its projections and implications, and the soundness of its formulation and its support. That evaluation calls for comparisons with existing overarching theories. And the smaller special area theories that are part of the overarching theory should also be compared to their relevant alternative theories. How does PB compare to existant grand theories in such things as its coverage, its construction, its empirical and methodological foundations, its heuristic value, its ability to unify, and its projections for development? How do its theories—such as those of personality, intelligence, values, emotion, language, depression, reading, and psychotherapy—compare to other relevant theories? Sciences that take theory seriously perform such evaluations? And we must ask the question, how can a field, whose subject matter is theory, not conduct such evaluations? The review does not hint at those concerns, let alone address them. That raises questions concerning the common understanding of what is the field of theoretical and philosophical psychology. Is the field to be driven by classical philosophical interests to consider moral issues, free will, and such, and to address issues like whether psychology should be a science, subject to empirical proof criteria—that for the majority of working scientific psychologists and practitioners were settled long ago? Following such paths would distance our field of theoretical and philosophical psychology from the mother discipline, sentencing our field to a peripheral rather than central role. In contrast, the philosophy of unified positivism focuses on psychology's diversity and fragmentation, with the goal of describing these characteristics and indicating their disadvantages—through historical

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

Unifying Psychology

77

and comparative means—indicating general and specific science methods for creating unification. The unified positivism position is that it is a philosophy for the science of psychology, that a philosophy of science is a working tool with which to improve the operation of a science. A philosophy of science should spring from the science itself. The clarity of its understanding of the science, then, may in turn be an aid to the science in its further development. In that way, unified positivism characterizes psychology as a modern disunified science. But this philosophy carries an agenda for the development of psychology. It proposes that our field of theoretical and philosophical psychology be very heavily devoted to becoming an important source with which to further psychology's development as a science, a unified science. Psychology produces mountains of products that are unrelated. It has powerful resources for continuing to multiply those products. It has almost none for the enormous task of weaving those products together. Unified positivism says that this is a multifaceted theory task that must begin with study of the substantive science. One cannot remain a specialist in "theory" or "philosophy" and produce unification. The unified theorist must become knowledgeable about the elements of psychology to be unified. This cannot be approached as an armchair, philosophical task, as though the science did not already exist. What we have in Behavior and personality: Psychological behaviorism and Yanchar's review is a clash of agendas. Psychological behaviorism calls for a full agenda. That includes the call for theoristsphilosophers in our field who take the grand theories of psychology as their area of interest—studying their philosophies of science, their aims and general strategy of construction, the breadth of their coverage, the detail of development of what is covered, their methods of construction (in terms of type of validation, how they establish relationships among diverse elements of substantive and methodological knowledge, in terms of the types of concepts and principles employed in explanation). We need to study what theories are in psychology. That is a subject matter by which to gain knowledge of psychological theory, what it is, and what it should become. Such studies, by those devoted to becoming expert in psychological theory, should be a general aim, not limited to the grand theory programs. There are also many theories large and small that have to be studied, interrelated, and collapsed into simpler, more profound, and parsimonious structures. It was silly, for example, that the behaviorisms of Edward Tolman, Clark Hull, and B.F Skinner—which have so much commonality—were left as different, contentious, and mutually exclusive theories. Parsimony in our science requires digging out commonality, a theory task because different theory languages cloak commonality. Psychology must also be examined with respect to its

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

78

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psy. Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998

phenomena, concepts, principles, and methods. Our theory field must take seriously the task of studying those elements toward the goal of organizing the morass. Are there also phenomena that are related? The specialists who discover the phenomena typically are not interested in establishing relationships among them. Our field could take the lead in working on that vital task. The same holds true for different concepts and principles. Is there any relationship among the concepts of interests, values, emotion, mood, attitudes, needs, reinforcements, motivation, as well as anxiety, depression, and stress. We need theorists who confront the phenomena of psychology with such questions; psychology has multitudes of phenomena that one would suspect are related and will turn out to be so on analysis. This is a theoretician's job, but our field has not set up such goals, as do sciences that are farther along on the unification road. There are many types of work for our field to conduct of a unification nature (see Staats, 1983). I believe that Division 24 could become the vanguard of unification in psychology and in advancing knowledge of theory construction. The hugh task is largely theoretical (including methodological theory) and philosophical. If our field of theoretical and philosophical psychology undertook the theoretical tasks of psychology it could become a centrally powerful part of the mother discipline. The fundamental issue here, thus, is how to define theoretical and philosophical psychology and what the field's agenda should be. REFERENCES Anderson, N.H. (1996). A functional theory of cognition. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Boneau, C.A. (1988). Making psychology useful: A framework for understanding human interaction. International Newsletter of Uninomic Psychology, 6, 1-13 Darden, L., & Maull, N. (1977). Interfield theory. Philosophy of Science, 44, 43-64. Darden, L. (1993). Interfield theories and strategies for theory change. In Rappard, H.V., van Strien, P.J., Mos, L.P., & Baker, WJ. (Eds.), Annals of theoretical psychology (vol.9). New York: Plenum. Fraisse, P. (1993). Unity and diversity in the behavioral and natural sciences. In Rappard, H.V., van Strien, P.J., Mos, L.P., & Baker, WJ. (Eds.), Annals of theoretical psychology (vol.9). New York: Plenum. Newell, A. (1990). Unified theories of cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Rappard, H.V., van Strien, P.J., Mos, L.P., & Baker, WJ. (Eds.) (1993). Annals of theoretical psychology (vol.9). New York: Plenum.

This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

Unifying Psychology

79

Staats, A.W. (1963). (With contributions by C.K. Staats). Complex human behavior. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston Staats, A.W. (1975). Social behaviorism. Homewood, 111.: Dorsey. Staats, A.W. (1983). Psychology's crisis of disunity: Philosophy and method for a unified science. New York: Praeger. Staats, A.W. (1996). Behavior and personality: Psychological behaviorism. New York: Springer. Yanchar, S.C. (1997). Fragmentation in focus: History, integration, and the project of evaluation. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 17, 150-171. Yanchar, S.C, & Kristensen, K.B. (1996). Notes on a naturalized epistemology. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 16, 93-102. Yela, M. (1987). Toward a unified psychological science: The meaning of behavior. In Rappard, H.V., van Strien, P.J., Mos, L.P., & Baker, WJ. (Eds.), Annals of theoretical psychology (vol.9). New York: Plenum.

Suggest Documents