In my previous two blogs, I’ve discussed psychology’s purpose, and it’s current issues relating to ethical constraints. Now bearing both these in mind, we must discuss what the future holds for psychology. Is it a positive one that will bring about new finding that will aid humankind? Or is it doomed to a future of dubious and questionable research that does can scarcely be applied and with dubious and questionable results?
For this we must go deeper into my prior posts. What we need to examine closer is the philosophy of psychology. Why do psychologists study the mind? I previously stated that psychology at it heart is a way of understanding and treating mental illness, but over the years, with the experiments mentioned earlier, psychology became a more “traditional science” so to speak. Which involved a intense pursuit of truth and unfortunately didn’t take much into account the welfare of it’s participants. You can’t put human beings in a mass spectrometer to try and see what makes them tick. But these researchers were attacking the problems with the same attitude. Eyes locked on the results, not the aftermath.
I do believe Psychology is a valid science, but it is unique in that it simply cannot be approached like other sciences. For reasons both of practicality, and morality. So what’s the solution? I believe simple solutions are the easiest to implement and also tend to be the most effective, and therefor I believe the solution is to stop crowd pleasing. Today, many different forms of psychology exist, but during the 1950s, only four existed, and of those four, only three were unanimously accepted (Donceel, 1955). Now while this approach is dated, it does highlight the point I’m trying to make. The four types of psychology during the 1950s were: Empirical (study of consciousness), Experimental (study of behaviour), Philosophical (study of self) and the debatable metaphysical (study of spirituality) (Donceel, 1955). And over the years I believe that psychology has become somewhat obsessed with the experimental side of psychology. Ground level psychological knowledge comes from studying famous psychology experiments, such as Milgram, Ache, Harlow, Watson and so on (VCAA, 2012). Why? Because that’s what interests people. Students and the public are not fascinated by cognition and mental illness with the same level of interest as these cruel experiments. And unfortunately, through interest, comes funding. Its a vicious cycle.
So what is the solution? Two simple words really: too bad. We may want to know what human beings breaking points are but it’s one thing civilized society might just never know. Psychology is not a science of human limitations, it goes hand in hand with the medical sciences. Psychology’s primary focus must be to help to mentally unwell, therefor I close by saying that the culture must change. And yes while psychology might become a little less interesting in popular culture, we do have to ask, do we want the people who will be taking care of our mentally ill, to be inspired by cruel, borderline medieval experiments?
Donceel, J. 1955, Philosophical Psychology, Sheed and Ward, London
VCAA- see Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority,
Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority 2012, Psychology: Victorian Certificate of Education Study Design (2013-2016), VCAA, Melbourne