Progress in Modern Psychology: The Legacy of American Functionalism

By D. Alfred Owens; Mark Wagner | Go to book overview

1
Introduction: Modern Psychology and Early Functionalism.

MARK WAGNER AND D. ALFRED OWENS.


A CRISIS IN MODERN PSYCHOLOGY?

The status of modern psychology is rather pitiful by some accounts. The discipline has been likened to a zoo full of conceptually unrelated creatures. It has been disparaged for lacking a "mature" paradigm; it has been berated for failing to achieve its primary mission of explaining the mind; and it is doomed, according to some prophets, to an early death from cannibalism by its "softer" and "harder" sister disciplines, sociology and biology (e.g., Miller, 1985). Others foresee psychology giving way to a new family of disconnected disciplines, a trend exemplified by recent developments in cognitive science and neuroscience (e.g., Holden, 1988).

It is easy to imagine the imminent demise of scientific psychology as it fragments into a variety of interdisciplinary progeny. The sheer diversity of problems to investigate -- coupled with the current atmosphere of specialization in all things scientific -- would seem almost to mandate such fragmentation. Consider the following short list of examples from recent research: A cognitive psychologist examines the characteristic changes of memory and learning that occur with advancing age, while a psychometrician scrutinizes data from decades of testing in an effort to clarify the structure of intelligence. One perceptual psychologist studies the principles of aesthetics in painting, while another investigates the role of visual limitations in transportation accidents. A developmental psychologist examines the emergence of mathematical skills in children, while comparative psychologists explore the range and potential for symbolic thinking in nonhuman primates. A clinical psychologist works to understand the interplay of drug usage and social context. A physiological psychologist investigates the biochemical determinants of early maturation, while neuropsychologists

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