Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Boundaryless Psychology: A Discussion*

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Boundaryless Psychology: A Discussion*

Article excerpt



This article is divided into three parts. In the introduction, I echo the case for breaking down boundaries. In the Article Critiques, I point out some of the good points and some concerns about each of the empirical articles in this section. In the General Comments, I design a two-dimensional matrix to help researchers decide how to best break down barriers in their research. This matrix has Order of Distance Between Fields on one axis and Theory Development on the other. In order of proximal to distal, the former axis is divided into target subdiscipline, other like-paradigm subdisciplines, other subdisciplines, other broad category sciences, and other sciences. In order of moving away from one's own discipline, the later axis is divided into statistical methodologies, philosophy of science, history of science, humanities, vicarious experience, and personal experience. Finally, I give a hypothetical example to illustrate how a researcher could use this matrix to break down barriers in psychology.

My comments arc divided into three broad sections - introduction, article critiques, and general comments.

This series of papers is a very good effort and I want to congratulate the participants and the organizer for providing a stimulating anchor point for the rest of us to centre on. It is my hope that we continue this effort in subsequent research and discussions. What are our choices as scientists? To snub our noses at the findings of other specialties? The truth is, our knowledge is so small compared to the unknowns that we can use all the help we can get.

I remember taking a philosophy course as an undergraduate where the professor declared that all branches of science started out as specialties of philosophy. Perhaps once a specialty has left philosophy, it is doomed to hacking out an isolated existence. Following the metaphor further, looking at our genealogical tree, would we be embarrassed to find any outbreeding? Other branches of science have cross-fertilized. Witness biochemistry, astrophysics, or the second order merger, biochemical engineering. In my opinion, each area of psychology has reached the point where it can reproduce off-spring that arc pure to the respective branch's phenotype. Thus, we do not have to fear losing our identity as a distinct breed by intermingling with other branches of psychology.

On the other side, Benjamin (2001) suggested that the absorption of psychology into other disciplines would be a bad thing, and Bandura (2001) stated that fragmentation would be a reductionist movement (implicitly a bad thing). Suppose the various subdisciplines of psychology were organized around a "common interest." How bad would this be? Instead of dealing with the whole person we could deal with the problems people have. Might sound good to the naive scientist and perhaps the client/patient/subject/consumer. Is it reductionism? Not necessarily. From the perspective of a cohesive psychology, yes, but the result might include education, health care, and, management. Not an outcome any reductionist I know would desire.

No, I think there are other reasons to prevent the absorption of subdisciplines of psychology into other fields built around a "common interest." Can a student learn a subdiscipline of psychology without grounding in the other subdisciplines of psychology? This could be empirically tested. But what if the "common interest" changes? Can we transpose a fractionated science's relevant body of knowledge and methodology onto a new problem when the science no longer exists as a, er, well, science? Again, this is testable but I do not want to be part of a test that destroys a science to see if it should be destroyed, Yet, that is the course we are on. Willfully or not. We are running the risk of isolating ourselves into absorption.

Personally, I side with Bandura (2001). Psychology is in a position to understand the whole person. …

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