Uses and Abuses of Psychology

Uses and Abuses of Psychology

Uses and Abuses of Psychology

Uses and Abuses of Psychology

Excerpt

Clemenceau, in one of his more insightful moments, said that war was too serious a business to be left to the generals. In recent years the feeling has been growing that science is too serious a business to be left entirely to the scientists. From birth to death the life of modern man is conditioned and determined by forces and discoveries which he so little understands that he customarily applies the term 'miracles' to them. Statements such as these are platitudes when applied to physical forces and physical discoveries; few people realize to what extent their lives are being shaped by the application of discoveries in the social sciences, more particularly by the recent advances in psychology.

Yet in one way or another almost everyone has come up against the mixed blessings which applied psychology bestows on humanity. Decisions regarding the child's future education are being made on the basis of intelligence tests applied at the tender age of eleven or twelve; indeed, the whole modern system of education is based on psychological discoveries and theories which are relatively recent. The soldier's allocation to a particular arm or trade inside the service, as well as his advancement to officer status, are determined in part by psychological tests; our new rulers, the upper ranks of the Civil Service, are being selected by 'new type' selection methods; vocational guidance and occupational selection are affecting the every-day working lives of many thousands. The extremely numerous nervous breakdowns which appear to characterize modern society are being diagnosed and treated by what purport to be psychological methods. Attitudes are being measured by Gallup and other polls, and the results of such surveys, some of them carried out by Government agencies on a fact- finding basis, help to lay the foundations for legislation and policy-making. Radio programmes and many commercial products take into account survey figures regarding 'audience reactions'. Psychologists investigate optimum working . . .

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