Twentieth Century Psychology: Recent Developments in Psychology

By Philip Lawrence Harriman | Go to book overview

PSYCHOLOGY'S PROGRESS AND THE ARMCHAIR TABOO

D. B. KLEIN

The University of Texas

If we view the history of American psychology since the 1890's, when the American Psychological Association was founded, as a broad culture complex, we can detect the emergence at about that time of our enthusiasm for the totem of experimental techniques. This enthusiasm has become an established, orthodox tradition to which we all pay formal homage. We are proud of this totem. Even those of us who through indolence, administrative responsibilities, paucity of creative ideas, or lack of initiative have not made any sacrifices to this totem since our thesis was published, would hasten to repudiate any suggestion that our failure to sacrifice means loss of faith in the potency of the totem. We would re-enforce our repudiation by references to the laboratory courses we direct, the experimentally grounded theses we supervise, and our lip worship to the experimental gods as exemplified by the rigorous orthodoxy of our classroom lectures. Should the skeptic still harbor lurking doubts of our devotion to the official totem, we might even be constrained to furnish samples of the sincerity of our lip worship. Among these samples we might lay especial stress on the vehemence with which we eschew "armchair psychology." If experimentalism is our totem, armchair psychology is our taboo. Even amateur

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