An ecological approach to psychology. (7/19)

Article 7 of 19 in Eric Charles’ Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Harry Heft; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 162-167.

My own conviction that EP can be used in a unified psychological discipline had to take a back seat here. Perhaps one thing that this article cleared up for me, is its place in such a unification. I have begun to build a taxonomy for how such a combined psychological discipline would look. It is for now only a perception to me, but I am going to, after devouring all the articles, paint it out and share. I am beginning to understand the value of combination through Eric Charles’ special issue, it is what will characterise my own solution.

“…Psychological inquiry begins with the adoption, often tacitly, of a frame by which its core concerns are bracketed. The standard frame used in psychological inquiry brackets the individual. As a result, at different points in its history, experimental psychology has been defined as the study of the conscious contents of mind, of behavior, of mental processes, of the brain, of the genetic and biological basis of behavior and thought, and so on…” (p. 163). I find this an important statement because it showcases that even though we can agree on “the individual” as our subject matter, it is where we find “the individual”, due to our underlying theoretical conviction, that determines what and how we research psychology.

One of the core strengths of EP comes from it being a ‘relational’ perspective, as opposed to putting the isolated individual in our central focus. However we may like the idea of being separate, autonomous entities, we cannot escape being a part of a world and perceiving an umwelt that affects what we do. This is, by the way, how, amongst others physics and biology, have evolved in the past and EP does a fantastic job to keep to the rigour demanded of a science but allowing for both individuating and generalising approaches to research. “A relational frame gains considerable momentum many centuries later from two 19th century advances in science: the development of field theories in the physics (e.g. , electromagnetism) and, especially, the theory of evolution by natural selection in the life sciences. From the latter standpoint, it is recognized that the characteristics of living things are best understood historically in relation to changing environing circumstances. The starting point for the life sciences now becomes the individual organism in a field of relations.” (p. 163).

The article itself makes a good case for why EP is one of the strongest candidates to keep central in a unified psychology, it lacks however in its discussion of this theme. Unfortunately also, it joins a few of the other articles in that it demotes other areas of inquiry, however, the actual criticism is justified (I use the same arguments when comparing to other theories -this is by the way not the reason for why it is justified, this is) and I am beginning to wonder if not there will have to be collateral damage regardless of how we decide to unite our discipline.