Saturday, December 26, 2009

Psychology Class- Part 3 of 12

In Part 2 I gave a clarification of my first essay (Part 1). Each week, the professor would ask us a question about what we learned; she called it a "Reflection on Learning." These were supposed to be short (max 400 words). I asked her if she would allow me more space to develop my thoughts more effectively; she had no problem with that request (thank God!).

This is "Reflection on Learning" from the second week (I didn't include the first in this series because it didn't include anything I haven't already posted).

Since it was not required to be in any specific format (APA), I did include some links. The section in red is the question posed.

Here it is:
What new ideas have you gained from learning psychological theories, and what do you think these theories are “missing” or how are they inaccurate?

I think that the most valuable perspective that I have gained is that no one has a comprehensive view on human behavior. The different perspectives seem to have validity, but I think that the psychologists who adhere strictly to a single perspective overstate the conclusions of their findings. The fact that each perspective has evidence to support it means that none of the perspectives wholly explain human behavior. The “meta-perspective” that is the true perspective must consistently incorporate all the existing perspectives and their evidences in some way.

What is “missing” from the different perspectives is the ability to accommodate the evidence provided by the competing perspectives. For instance, Psychoanalysis would have a difficult time explaining Pavlov’s dogs’ behavior, and Behaviorism would have a hard time explaining why “thinking through” something might result in a change in behavior. The Evolutionary perspective, likewise, cannot account for “thinking through” something.

What makes the lack of the Psychoanalytic perspective so damaging is the fact that it does not recognize that the theorist had to have some observations from the environment to perform mental activities on before any formation of a theory could take place. If the Psychoanalytic perspective were true, by itself; then an accurate theory of human behavior must be able to be formulated without ever having contact with a human (the theorist could do so without even observing or being intimately knowledgeable of his own behavior). Logically speaking, ironically, every time that a Psychoanalytic provides an observation that “supports” the perspective, he undermines his perspective. Based on the claims of the Psychoanalytic perspective, the accusation that it is “non-scientific” (not observable) is accurate, yet is its weakest point.

What makes the lack of the Behavioral Perspective and the Evolutionary Perspective so damaging is the fact that neither would be able to accommodate the idea that the theorists who came up with the perspectives actually “thought through” what they saw.

The claim of the Behaviorist would be that the Behaviorist, himself, is only reacting to his environment when he makes the claim that Behaviorism correctly describes all human behavior. The Behaviorist would also have to posit (to remain consistent in his views) that BF Skinner changed the bird’s environment based on his (BF Skinner’s) environment. In other words, “the environment made him do it.” This can work backwards all the way to the beginning of time. Therefore, the Behaviorist holds that there is no original “thought”, even all the way back to the Big Bang.

The claim of the Evolutionary perspective would be that its theorist formed the Evolutionary theory because something in the environment is forcing it in order for him and his offspring to survive better. Since the Evolutionary perspective is driven by survival (not necessarily truth), its validity may be called into question. The strength of the Evolutionary perspective is that it does allow reaction to the environment, but does not really tie that reaction to “thinking before reacting”- its more of a “knee-jerk” reaction. Since it is based on the environment, it suffers the same weakness as the Behavioral perspective- that it demands a previous state of the environment, per unit of time, all the way back to the Big Bang.

A previous state of the environment all the way back to the Big Bang is problematic to both perspectives. Both perspectives are grounded on the worldview of strict Naturalism (the matter and energy in the universe is all there ever was, ever is, or ever will be). Man is nothing more than matter and energy that reacts to other matter and energy. Humans are the same as animals. Animals are matter. The only distinguishing characteristic between “life” and “nonlife” is that “life” exhibits behavior that cannot be reliably predicted with the same precision that the physical laws can predict the behavior of “non-life” (planets in space or atomic particles). The ultimate claim of these theories is that, as we learn more about what triggers human behavior, we will be able to predict it more reliably, and will eventually be able to form “laws of behavior” (based on the environment, which is governed by the physical laws) that will predict behavior just as precisely. Therefore, eventually human behavior will be able to be predictable to the same precision that physical objects (governed by the laws of physics) are- leaving no distinguishing characteristic between “life” and “non-life.” Therefore, both of these perspectives (when combined with the existing physical laws) ultimately claim to describe the behavior of all physical bodies- which is not totally reaching when you consider that the behaviorism and the physical laws are ultimately based upon the same thing (action and reaction). As these psychological perspectives are fine-tuned, they could be added to the physical laws- allowing the physical laws to even predict human behavior. Since life and non-life are essentially the same (as claimed by the grounding worldview), the behavior of both can be accurately described and predicted by the same laws.

Another reason that their grounding worldview is a problem is that there was no environment (or body or organism to react to the environment) that would have triggered the Big Bang. Both require that something exists prior the Big Bang (side note- before the Big Bang, time did not exist as we know it, neither does it exist as we know it outside the universe, so using both a present-tense word and a past-tense word to describe the existence of this “something” is demanded).

Now, the Cognitive perspective…I described what I see as the strengths and weaknesses of this perspective in my first essay and in the OLS (I’ll spare you the horror of having to read them again). Based on how I have interpreted the Cognitive perspective, I think the true comprehensive perspective or theory of psychology (the “meta-perspective” that I mentioned at the beginning- one that we have yet to formulate) will be a form of the Cognitive perspective with the all other perspectives branching from it (all their attributes will be incorporated with the exception of the attributes that directly contradict attributes of the others). Since each sub-perspective is extremely important in the meta-perspective, specialists in each sub-perspective will have to work together to achieve the highest success rate in treatment of patients.

I realize that I have made a full circle back to the perspective that you say the psychological community is slowly working toward (a holistic perspective- a form of the Cognitive perspective from my interpretation of the Cognitive perspective). However, by taking the long way around, I have established how current psychology requires that something outside our universe exists. Now, we cannot jump to the conclusion that this “something” is the God of the Bible without incorporating other disciplines of science in a consistent manner (see my blog post “Consistency Among Disciplines” if you want more on this and have the time…). However, we can conclude that the God of the Bible is not incompatible with the discipline of psychology; in fact, the God of the Bible fits very nicely. Implication: psychology cannot be used as an argument against the existence of the meta-physical, the super-natural, or God.

Part 4 will be from a post that I submitted to our class forum. In it I discuss an interesting statement that my professor made that seems to have implications for the understanding of how emotion and reason interact in the brain when making decisions; I try to draw out those interactions.

For easier navigation in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

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