Review of Psychologies of 1925

Ellsworth Faris

A recent book by a well-known author refers repeatedly to "scientific psychology," on which the attempt is made to found a structure of sociological theory. All the social sciences and not a few of the practical arts

( 310) build more or less critically on psychological foundations, and would naturally be interested in a statement of what "scientific psychology" is and what it "teaches." This book was planned to meet just such a need, and does so after a fashion that will be a bit disillusioning to the outsider. Six "schools" are represented by nine partisans. Watson and Hunter state the case for "behaviorism," though the latter writer not only repudiates psychology but even prefers to coin. a new term instead of behaviorism. This new term shall be a secret. "Dynamic psychology" is championed by Woodworth. "Gestalt" is represented by Koffka and Köhler, while Prince and McDougall write under the title "Purpose Groups," though the attention paid to groups is negligible. Dunlap calls his system "reaction psychology," and Bentley closes the series with a statement of the achievements of "structuralism." There are nineteen chapters, which makes the book long enough, but the divided and factional condition of psychology in 1925 is indicated not only by the irreconcilable systems and "isms" set forth in the book, but also in the omissions. There is no conclusion of the school represented by Dewey, Bode, Mead, Thomas, and others who might be mentioned, nor is there any recognition of the psychoanalytical school. Perhaps six "schools" seemed bad enough, and besides, a psychologist is, to some, one who receives his salary, or did receive it, as a member of a given "department" in an orthodox university.

It is clear from a reading of this book that "scientific" psychology does not teach anything unitedly. As well ask today what theology "teaches." The very title of the book recognizes this, and Professor Murchison worked up the scheme in order to make clear the situation, apparently hoping, and quite reasonably, that such a publication would help to remedy a very unfortunate and indeed deplorable condition.

The reader is struck by the difference in temper. Some of the writers are argumentative and belligerent, others calm and dispassionate. Bentley will receive the thanks of the reader for his judicial and dispassionate statements, and this is true of several others. McDougall apparently made an effort, but nothing could prevent him from nicknaming his opponents and from saying that they were "misled by their dogma into such monstrous error," and also into "perverse unfortunate endeavor" (p. 281). Concerning his opponents, he says that they "who pretend (sic) to demonstrate the absence of all intelligence and purpose in animals merely prove their own domination by a perverse purpose" (p. 287). Fortunately for him, his lecture came near the last.

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Unquestionably the chapters most revealing to the layman will be the three chapters by the Germans who write on the new movement known as "gestalt," which includes a fascinating chapter on the behavior of apes. It would be interesting to discuss the various positions were this review not limited in space.

It took courage to publish a book which would reveal to the general public how little psychologists agree and how little they think of each other, but it was a fine thing to do, and revealing the differences is one way of harmonizing them, which was the object in planning the series of lectures and printing them thus. When the volume appears depicting the "Psychologies of 1930" there will be a difference, and most likely a difference for the better.



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