PS390 Study Guide - Final Guide: Psych, Atomism, Social Enterprise

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14 Aug 2019
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Psychology as a problematic science
Ontological Problems
-ontology = the study of being, the fundamental characteristics of reality
-applying ontology to Psych = what is the nature of the psychological “object,” what should
psychologists study, what are the specific and defining characteristics of psychological subject matter?
-most prominent ontological models in Psychology have been technological ones; history of Psych
often parallels development of technology
-cognitive psych’s model of human mental life based on computer + in earlier eras, psychologists
borrowed simpler mechanical devices to express concepts (ex clocks, steam engines)
-machine models are embedded w/i network of ontological assumptions; ex that a person responds to
an external stimulus like a mechanism, not like a human agent
-dividing psychological phenomena into stimuli/responses (as behaviourists did) or into IVs and DVs
(as natural-science psych has done since the 1930s) neglect subjectivity and agency
-instead of investigating complexity of human mental life, mainstream psych assume it is sufficient to
study manipulable bits of behaviour (atomism)
-from perspective of subject, thinking, feeling, and willing are usually experienced in their connection
in concrete life-situations and not in isolation
-Gestalt psychologists demonstrated that parts do not just add up when it comes to mental life
-should begin w the nexus of human experiences in order to understand the parts and not vice versa
-inaccurate to conceive of social-historical reality as only a stimulus environment to which one
responds, bc individuals are not independent of their environments and vice versa
-psych’s credibility as a science would be enhanced by studying human subjectivity as embedded in
specific historical/social conditions
-such an ontological shift might be facilitated by psychologists adopting a reflexive standpoint whereby
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