Since a class in gender studies last fall, it has dawned on me that much personal distress comes from holding a dichotomized view of whatever it is that is distressing someone. I began thinking intently about this, antecedents, consequents, in a wide range of specific areas and so on, to see how far it could be generalized. And wow, this is a worthwhile concept to start using. Clinically it can be very useful to challenge someone’s knowledge structure on this basis, as it opens up alternatives and reflections that otherwise are lost. I have used it on myself to challenge my own dichotomized perspectives and there have been wide ranging consequences and insights (as some would term self-development/realization). I intend on writing up my thoughts and reflections and invite anyone and everyone to comment with their own experiences, insights and/or theoretical concerns and perspectives.
I had issues coming up with a title for this because it is only a tiny example I use when speaking with undergraduates (usually first-years) about the inadequacy of logic to account for human behaviour. I link it to Gigerenzer’s arguments on this matter.
If this example may be useful for you to use, awesome, otherwise; you can always use it to tire people out and make something easy more of a burden (for no reason at all, which is always a fun pastime).
Imagine a round pillar with four plaques in each cardinal direction, you are to read all four. You may choose to either; walk one cardinal direction clockwise for the entire procedure, or; three cardinal directions counter-clockwise for the entire procedure. However, regardless of which one you choose you would read the plaques, gaining the same information, in the same order. Logically, abstracted from the procedure, you walk away with the same information. Ecologically, obviously, they are different because movement is different. The larger the pillar, the larger the difference.
The point here can then be elaborated further upon depending on the exact idea you are wanting to teach. I find it quite useful for undergraduates, as for postgraduates however, the example is often too basic and Gigerenzer’s ‘Wason four-card task argument’ I find more useful.
If you have any fun techniques or examples you use to teach these ideas, please enrich the comment field!
A point of entry in the free will debate concerns Locke’s example (no reference I’m afraid, I’ve lost it) of a person entering a room, closing the door behind hier [ɪə]. In situation A hie [i:] just makes a decision to stay or leave, in situation B hie is unaware of the door locking behind hier. Now, my own take on this example is that it neatly shows subjective and objective ‘knowledge’ [and its impact on considering free will existent or not]. Hie makes a decision based on free will in the first case and hie only believes hie does in the second. From a subjective perspective there is free will, from an objective there isn’t.
Ecological Psychology does not like this at all. EcoPsy would probably decide that in both cases there is free will because perception, belonging to the observer, does not include the information that the door is locked. Or? EcoPsy is positioned with embodied, embedded and often extended cognition, including dynamicism. This would entail that movement and active exploration is an important aspect of being human. Therefore, the decision to stay in the room can either be classified as free will in both cases or defined a non-decision. The reason for the latter would be that, at that point in time, the perceiver has not actively explored the environment enough to be able to make the decision to begin with. Even a half-arsed exploration of hies [i:z] environment allows perception of which options are available. As I see it, the original example assumes naivité and passivity on part of the observer, and this is unfair.
The most important point however is that the original example also defines decision-making in a strict computational manner; at one point in time, without temporal perspective, in a very strict fashion. It does not take into consideration how we explore, find out and perceive in the real world -how decisions unfold over time and do not boil down to single points in time. In my perspective, there are several more philosophical examples that are conundrums simply because of the distinct connectionist/computationalist ignorance of temporal flow.
This reminded me of something that I have been struggling with in psychology in general for a very long time.
The issue I have is that, in my previous blog post, the exemplification by League of Legends (LoL) specifics (p. 37-38), can be used as conceptually equal to the definition of virtual affordances. This is why I didn’t spot the fallacy to begin with.
On a conceptual level, LoL does indeed contain virtual affordances, but, ontologically, the programming is too weak for it to be anything else -it is not ontologically equal. Another distinction is needed here; of course virtual affordances will not be defined exactly the same as affordances ontologically, they consist of different matter. However, in the realm of virtual environments -the ontological definition comes down to programming, 010101011s and eventually computer chips and electricity. As an abundance of philosophers argue, it is not down to the hardware (and I will refrain from getting into this argument here, worthy of books and hours of deliberating). This may sound representationalist also by the way. I assure you it is not. The point is; the programming code, the 010111s and so on is the environment in the sense that it is what it reduces down to, but, it is not when considering virtual agents/objects/environments interactivity (the epistemological stuffs). This is so for the exact same reason Gibson defines the ecological level for most organisms, and not the physics or astronomical levels.
That said, should each programmed virtual environment be treated as a “full” virtual environment, and that, virtual affordances are to be defined depending on the perspective from each virtual environment? Or should the virtual environments all be defined as “weaker” or “stronger” programmed when compared to the environment, essentially, defining the environment as the strict criteria to which virtual environments are to be judged?
As for psychology in general, it seems to me that they lack a connection between epistemology and ontology, but EcoPsy doesn’t. As usual, correct me if I am wrong.
I must admit a mistake. Virtual affordances, as defined in “Cognitive Psychology in Crisis: Ameliorating the Shortcomings of Representationalism” reads “invariants programmed in environment, objects and agents, allowing, limiting or disallowing virtual behaviours, interactions and coupled systems between those environments, objects and agents” (p. 37). By this definition, the examples used; League of Legends specifics, do not strictly hold up to this definition.
As one example, abilities usable by buttons lack one, very important, aspect of the traditional definition of affordances. Reciprocality. Abilities in LoL do not essentially display virtual agent interaction with virtual object/environment such as throwing corresponds to organism interaction with object/environment. An example of one that would count belongs to two characters named Volibear and Singed, who can run up to an enemy and toss over their shoulders. But even then, it is a stretch to count this as a virtual affordance. Since there are no universal laws of physics programmed into the game, even this activity does not strictly live up to the definition; it is simply a virtual behaviour visualised to mimic what would be an affordance had it been enacted in the environment.
There are better examples from even the earliest FPS-games such as Quake, where you can aim your rocket launcher towards the floor and fire (called rocketjumping) to overcome gravity and reach high altitude plateaus not otherwise reachable. Here, however, there would be debate about how much the virtual agent actually is a virtual agent or not, details, details…
In sum, Human Computer Interface type stuff, still involves human organisms and what they are able and not depending on what is depicted on a screen (which is what my thesis experiment would come closer to). Virtual agents in virtual environments however, requires more from programming than is currently displayed (in general) for me to feel comfortable calling them virtual affordances.
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.
Mathematics preferred over creativity and critical thinking, I’m sad to announce.
Article 6 of 19 in Eric Charles’ Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Daniel Fishman and Stanley Messer; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 156-161.
A very interesting perspective put forward here, and from an angle that I have little insight into but am fascinated by.
To exemplify that pluralism benefits all involved perspectives, four different therapeutic processes/techniques are discussed. It is clear that they have benefits and drawbacks and that they complement each other and are appropriate situationally. A parallel can be drawn here to the different philosophical backdrops used in psychology; social constructionism is an excellent diplomat in that it takes into consideration all opinions, critical realism is humble in its acknowledgement that we may not be perceiving reality for what it is and so on, and so forth. It thus forms valuable insight into the perspective from applied psychology.
“Thus, as mentioned above, treating theories as complementary conceptual tools, rather than as competitors for a single truth, can enhance the effectiveness of applied psychological interventions, like psychotherapy.” (p. 158). This is a neat idea for the unification of applied psychology. I would be very interested to read about how it would relate to basic psychology. Simply multiple-theory-based perspectives? The danger I think is that it might be more clear cut in applied psychology.
“It emerges from a search for a third way out of psychology’s present “culture wars” between modern/positivist and postmodern/constructivist visions of psychology. These culture wars undermine unity in applied psychology and draw resources away from practical problem-solving (i.e. , directed toward today’s pressing psychological and social issues)” (p. 158). Well this certainly applies to basic psychology also, considering for example quantitative and qualitative psychology (an example of this can actually be found in the previous article).
It is proposed that “the ultimate purpose of applied psychological knowledge is to improve the condition of actual clients within the complexities of their reality” (p. 159) and that case studies in applied psychology should form a large database and knowledge be built up inductively. I can’t help but think here that in medical science this works great, how would it fare in a discipline with few agreed upon tenets? Also, how does this suggestion apply to less clearly practically applied psychological areas? Those interested in the most basic theoretical work in psychology can only by several steps come down to a practical level and if focus is pragmatist, will they be able to pursue their interest? It is however a fantastic idea and I hope this last concern could be adressed.
The only other issue I can think of is that I believe we still need a shared ontological basis, otherwise the keywords in the database will confuse when one concept has several definitions. How could this be controlled for? Agreed upon?
“The long journey to unity in applied psychology (and perhaps in basic psychology also) starts with a single, individual case.” (p. 160) I can understand that this most definitely could work in applied psychology, it mimics the medical science recipe in part. Can we have this in basic psychology? Single cases count for little because of the types of questions asked, methodology used and statistics applied -how would basic psychology have to change?
Article 5 of 19 in Eric Charles’ Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Joshua W. Clegg; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 151-155.
There are some very interesting perspectives on unification in this article, for one, it is proposed that there are three approaches to unification; reductionism, pluralism and specialisation. This is a valuable categorisation, as is the later proposal, to combine pluralism and reductionism, however, I disagree with what the solution to a unified psychology would be: One of the arguments in the article “is that fragmentation is written into our discipline at the most basic level, -namely, in our objectivist unit of psychological analysis- and so, any hope for a coherent approach to psychological knowledge must begin with a move toward a more contextual way of framing our phenomena.” (p. 151). Dr. Clegg makes the point that we can’t understand without context and that the current, decontextualised, unit of psychology doesn’t do the job. The opposite argument has been proposed for quite some time now (that we have to be as objective as possible to do science) and it is not the best argument, neither is the opposite..
There are other curious quotes and ideas that I agree or disagree with, but it is outside the scope of unifying psychology, so I will leave the article with the above reflection.
Article 4 of 19 in Eric Charles’ Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Anthony Chemero; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 145-150.
I agree with Chemero’s theoretical perspective, and I believe rECS built on top of Gibson’s Ecological Psychology complements the latter. I believe it does so because questions asked in EP seem to me to be more about the absolute basis on how animals exist in the world (why, is answered by evolution), questions in rECS ask more specifically how we interact with stuffs in the world and why. Neat.
However, specific to the article, I only have one point of disagreement. The last paragraph. “Is Radical Embodied Cognitive Science the Right Way to Do Psychology?” (p. 149). I don’t understand the question.
“It seems prudent to adopt a pluralistic stance toward theorizing in psychology.” “The mind, I submit, is just as complicated as the Mississippi River, and it would be shocking if just one style of explanation could account for all of it.” I am partly stumped for words. Where is the full avant garde against representations and that we can do just as well without them? I’m not advocating dismissing a perspective outright, and while I agree that there are issues calling things right and wrong, it can impossibly be correct both to stipulate the non-existence of representations to be a core value and also state that it is an alternative to use in psychology. Ontologically even, it cannot both be and not be (unless representations are Schrodinger’s cat). On the other hand, it may be easier to explain more complex cognitive experiences with representations, but here I believe empiricism has to supercede pragmatism. How else can we become a unified paradigm?
It seems to me that Dr. Chemero has come to the conclusion that all we have in psychology are perspectives, different ways of seeing the same thing.. I am not ready to concede to this quite yet.