Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Referential Integration: An Emotional Information Processing Perspective on the Process of Integration

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Referential Integration: An Emotional Information Processing Perspective on the Process of Integration

Article excerpt

This article contends that the field of integration needs to examine the processes involved in achieving unified conceptual truths about human nature. A theory of emotional information processing (Bucci, 1997) that incorporates the concept of implicit relational knowledge is used to examine different models of integration. The authors argue that manipulative integration models tend to rely on linear, verbal (symbolic) processing, whereas nonmanipulative integration models require linking nonverbal emotional (subsymbolic) processing with linear, verbal (symbolic) processing; a process referred to as referential activity (Bucci, 1997). Moreover, it is argued that this type of emotional information processing inherently links experiential and conceptual forms of integration that have been discussed in the literature. This approach is referred to as "referential integration," which focuses on the processes involved in non-manipulative forms of integration. Referential activity in the process of scientific discovery is used as an example of this approach to integration. The authors conclude with practical implications for the integrative task.

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In the past thirty-plus years, the integration of psychology and theology has gained the status of a subdiscipline (Vande Kemp, 1996). This is evidenced by the several journals and monographs devoted to the topic (e.g., Journal of Psychology and Theology; Journal of Psychology and Christianity; Limning the Psyche; Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling), doctoral level training programs that specialize in integrating Christian faith and theology with psychology (of which there are now seven) and professional organizations (e.g., Christian Association for Psychological Studies). The integration endeavor has certainly come a long way since it was first given a formal forum in the pages of the Journal of Psychology and Theology in 1973.

While much has been written about models (see Eck, 1996 for a review) and types of integration (see Bouma-Prediger, 1990 for a review), little attention has been devoted to two key areas: (a) the processes involved in arriving at unified, integrative truths from both psychology and theology that provide a deeper understanding than one discipline alone; and (b) how experiential and conceptual forms of integration interact with each other in support of these processes. We will first trace some of the important trends in integration theory, and then attempt to apply a relational theory of emotional information processing to these two issues. We hope to demonstrate (a) that arriving at unified conceptualizations requires linking nonverbal emotional (subsymbolic) processing with verbal-conceptual (symbolic) processing, a process referred to as referential activity (Bucci, 1997); (b) that nonverbal emotional information processing is a form of implicit relational knowledge that is based on implicit relational representations (Hall, 2004); and (c) that this type of emotional information processing inherently links the notions of experiential and conceptual integration that have been discussed in the literature.

Prior to tracing trends in integration theory, we want to briefly locate our article within the spectrum of modern and postmodern philosophical perspectives on integration, which is the focus of this special issue. This is a difficult endeavor in that where our approach lies on the modern/postmodern divide depends entirely upon how one characterizes modernism and postmodernism. Since there are a myriad of ways to characterize these two "isms," we are somewhat content to leave it up to the reader to judge the degree to which our approach to integration is modern and/or postmodern (or even pre-modern). Nevertheless, it may be helpful to make clear that our position assumes a realist epistemology in which it is held that human nature and functioning exist as mind-independent realities and that through appropriate investigation persons can come to have a more or less accurate understanding of these realities. …

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