Many nations, many views of psychology

Piers YoungNotesLeave a Comment

In Britain, there was a noteworthy interest in individual differences, the distribution of these differences in the population and the significance of this data in social, educational and political questions. The result was a psychology intimately bound up with statistics.

In France, a clinical method and an interest in the exceptional, perhaps pathological, individual case (the hysteric, the prodigy of memory, the double personality) was characteristic of early work.

In Germany, the dominant academic interest, supported by an experimental methodology adapted from physiology, was in the conscious content of the rational adult mind. This interest interacted with philosophical questions about the foundations of knowledge.

In the United States, a pragmatic temper and the opportunity to obtain funding for a psychology aimed at the solution of social problems directed psychology towards a science of behaviour, with a methodology appropriate for the study of learning and adaptation.

In Russia, stark opposition between a conservative politics of the soul expressed in Orthodox belief and radical materialism led, in the Soviet period, to support for psychology as a theory of ‘higher nervous activity’, in Pavlov’s phrase, which threatened to make psychology part of physiology.

Such generalisations go only so far, but they do make clear the sheer variety and complexity of psychology just at the time when, as convention holds, the modern discipline emerged.

via Mind Hacks


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