Kenneth R. Hammond
This book will no doubt stand as an advance for cognitive engineering, but it will also stand as an affirmation of Egon Brunswik's claims for the significant change he claimed was necessary for the advancement of psychology. His claims—put forward in very scholarly yet unusually bold terms —were that behaviorism built on narrow, deterministic, stimulus-response theory, and its accompanying methodology (the rule of one variable) derived from a physicalistic theme that should be given up in favor a theme almost exactly opposite to that. It has taken over a half century for change in that direction to reach this point, but as the many contributors to this volume show, a firm step in the direction Brunswik advocated has now been taken. Although Brunswik's book Perception and the Representative Design of Psychological Experiments (1956) presented his arguments in a coherent and substantive fashion, it could not have appeared at a worse time for his thesis to be considered. The methods of analysis of variance (ANOVA) introduced by Fisher some 30 years earlier had by then been discovered by psychologists and found to be an answer to their dreams. No longer would they be restricted to Woodworth's 1938 dictum about the “rule of one variable” that exhausted the experimental methodology of the day, and once multiple variables could be employed (as in factorial design), they were required, and research blossomed, along with scientific prestige—well, a little, anyway. And you better not try to publish in a major journal without a prominent use of ANOVA. Yet it was this very technique—this goose that was laying the golden egg of scientific respectability—and research money—that Brunswik was trying to kill. Of course, his challenge didn't stand a chance, and it didn't get one.
In 1941, however, Brunswik got his chance to go head to head with Clark Hull and Kurt Lewin, the leaders of the conventional approaches to psychology. In his presentation Brunswik made this statement:
The point I should like to emphasize is …
the necessary imperfection, inflicted upon
achievements … by the ambiguity in the
causal texture of the environment… . Because
of this environmental ambiguity, no matter
how smoothly the organismic instruments and
mechanisms may function, relationships cannot
be foolproof, at least as far as those connecting
with the vitally relevant more remote distal
regions of the environment are concerned.
(Hammond & Stewart, 2001, p. 59)