Cognition & Reality

Friday, 28 January 2011

Psychology In America

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 9:48 am

As I have been reading The Metaphysical Club, I have been struck with the way the author, Louis Menand, who is an English professor, portrays academic psychology. For him, it is of far greater importance to American letters than I am accustomed to imagine. In the period about which Menand is writing, the late nineteenth century, not only did William James, John Dewey, and even Charles Sanders Pierce, as well as several others who perhaps later either became philosophers, consider themselves to be psychologists, but also academic psychology (the New Psychology, as Menand calls it) was catching a fair amount of the limelight in the public imagination. Because James hated the laboratory, I shy away from using the term “experimental psychology” to distinguish the related disciplines of social, developmental and what would come to be called “cognitive” psychology from clinical psychology. I remember being aware, when I was a grad student that psychology had lost some of the robustness it seemed to have in previous times. During my era, and I think that the same conditions prevail today, psychologists have prided themselves on having, in effect, separated themselves from the previous era, dominated by “behaviorism.” The problem is that behaviorism was, if nothing else, the bridge back to psychology as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century. Something has been lost.

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