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Trevor A. Harley
Research in the psychology of language has been dogged by some enduring controversies, many of which continue to divide researchers. Furthermore, language research has been riven by too many dichotomies and too many people taking too extreme a position, and progress is only likely to be made when researchers recognize that language is a complex system where simple dichotomies may not be relevant. The enduring controversies cover the width of psycholinguistics, including the work of Chomsky and the nature of language, to what extent language is innately determined and the origin of language and how it evolved. Chomsky’s work has also influenced our conceptions of the modularity of the structure of the mind and the nature of psychological processing. Advances in the sophistication of brain imaging techniques have led to debate about exactly what these techniques can tell us about the psychological processing of language. There has also been much debate about whether psychological processing occurs through explicit rules or statistical mapping, a debate driven by connectionist modeling, deep learning, and techniques for the analysis of “big data.” Another debate concerns the role of prediction in language and cognition and the related issues of the relationship between language comprehension and language production. To what extent is language processing embodied, and how does it relate to controversies about “embedded cognition”? Finally, there has been debate about the purpose and use of language.
Noemi Pizarroso Lopez
Historical psychology claims that the mind has a history, that is, that our ways of thinking, reasoning, perceiving, feeling, and acting are not necessarily universal or invariable, but are instead subject to modifications over time and space. The theoretical and methodological foundations of this movement were laid in France by psychologist Ignace Meyerson in his book Les fonctions psychologiques et les œuvres, published in 1948. His program stressed the active, experimental, constructive nature of human behavior, spanning behavioral registers as diverse as the linguistic, the religious, the juridical, the scientific/technical, and the artistic. All these behaviors involve aspects of different mental functions that we can infer through a proper analysis of “works,” considered as consolidated testimonies of human activity. As humanity’s successive achievements, constructed over the length of all the paths of the human experience, they are the materials with which psychology has to deal.
Meyerson refused to propose an inventory of functions to study. As unstable and imperfect products of a complex and uncertain undertaking, they can be analyzed only by avoiding the counterproductive prejudice of metaphysical fixism. Meyerson spoke in these terms of both deep transformations of feelings, of the person, or of the will, and of the so-called “basic functions,” such as perception and the imaginative function, including memory, time, space, and object.
Before Meyerson the term “historical psychology” had already been used by historians like Henri Berr and Lucien Febvre, a founding member of the Annales school, who firmly envisioned a sort of collective psychology of times past. Meyerson and his disciples eventually vied with their fellow historians of the Annales school for the label of “historical psychology” and criticized their notions of mentality and outillage mental. The Annales historians gradually abandoned the label, although they continued to cultivate the idea that mental operations and emotions have a history through the new labels of a “history of mentalities” and, more recently at the turn of the century, a “history of emotions.” While Meyerson and a few other psychologists kept using the “historical psychology” label, however, mainstream psychology remained quite oblivious to this historical focus. The greatest efforts made today among psychologists to think of our mental architecture in terms of transformation over time and space are probably to be found in the work of Kurt Danziger and Roger Smith.
Adrian C. Brock
Reflexivity has been a common theme in the literature on the history of psychology in recent years. Reflecting on the history of psychology is for historians of psychology the ultimate reflexive step. Germany is widely regarded as the homeland of “modern” or “scientific” psychology. It is here that the oldest surviving work with the word “psychology” in the title was published in 1590. It was also here that the first book with the title History of Psychology [Geschichte der Psychologie] was published in 1808. This reflects the fact that a substantial literature on psychology had already been published in Continental Europe by the end of the 18th century. Several other works on the history of psychology were published in German-speaking countries in the 19th century and in the years leading up to the First World War. English-speaking countries were relatively late in adopting psychology, but it grew rapidly in the United States when it was adopted, and the country was already the dominant power in the field by the outbreak of the First World War. Several works on the history of psychology were published in the United States around the same time, suggesting that disciplines and disciplinary history tend to appear simultaneously. This is because disciplines use their history to create a distinct identity for themselves. The history of psychology was widely taught in American psychology departments, and several textbooks were published to support these courses. E. G. Boring’s A History of Experimental Psychology (1929, 1950) was by far the most influential of these textbooks, and it has profoundly shaped the understanding of psychologists of the history of their field. For example, it was Boring who traced the history of the discipline to the establishment of Wilhelm Wundt’s laboratory for experimental psychology at the University of Leipzig in 1879. In 1979–1980, was widely celebrated as the “centennial” of psychology and the XXII International Congress of Psychology was held in Leipzig to mark the occasion. Prior to the 1960s, the history of psychology was mainly a pedagogical field, and it still is as far as many psychologists are concerned. However, it also became an area of specialization during this decade. This was partly due to a few psychologists adopting it as their main area of interest and partly due to historians of science becoming more interested in the field. A large body of scholarly literature has been produced, including some scholarly textbooks, but this literature exists side by side with more traditional textbooks for which there is still a significant demand. There are signs that the history of psychology has been facing difficulties as a branch of psychology in Europe and North America in recent years. However, interest in the field has been growing among psychologists in other parts of the world and among historians of science. This situation will inevitably have implications for the content of the field.
Elissa N. Rodkey
James McCosh (b. 1811–d. 1894) was a contributor to early American psychology, writing several books on the topic of mental science. Born in Scotland, he immigrated to America in 1868 to serve as the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). There he promoted science and welcomed the new psychology that was emerging, even supporting his students to pursue psychology graduate study in Europe. McCosh saw faith and science as compatible and embraced theistic evolution as in keeping with Christian theology. McCosh’s psychological works (The Intuitions of the Mind Inductively Investigated; The Emotions; Psychology: The Cognitive Powers; and Psychology: The Motive Powers) were all relied on Scottish-Realist informed inductive methodology, used to map the functions of the mind and uncover mental laws. Although McCosh believed the new psychology had the potential for a dangerous materialism if wrongly interpreted, he thought the new physiological and laboratory research was valuable and worth pursuing. His last major work (Psychology: The Cognitive Powers) attempted to integrate recent physiological psychology research into his mental philosophy methods.
McCosh has traditionally been omitted from histories of psychology, but modern scholarship has noted his absence and explored the reasons for this. Scholars generally agree that there was significant continuity between the old mental and moral philosophy and the new experimental psychology in a number of respects. The new psychologists, in attempting to professionalize and define their discipline, sought to erase their dependence on earlier forms of American psychology. Thus, it is more accurate to understand neglect of McCosh not as a sign of his irrelevance or hostility to psychology but as a historical product of the emergence of a distinct American psychology. His erasure points to the new psychologists’ uneasiness with their folk American elements and their efforts to achieve scientific status as they worked to indigenize German experimental psychology. Given his actions at Princeton, McCosh is rightly understood as a bridge builder between old and new psychology.
From the late 1800s, under the auspices of G. Stanley Hall and then independently by others, investigations of children’s development were undertaken from the perspective of recapitulation theory. This application of the theory was guided by the overarching premises that (a) human evolution was a linear chronology of biological and sociocultural progress; (b) an individual’s abilities, behaviors, and biological development followed the same evolutionary stages as had the human species (i.e., Ernst Haeckel’s dictum that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny); and (c) the path of human evolution could be traced backward through identification of contemporary manifestations of development and behavior.
An assumption of the theory was that the human species is hierarchically differentiated by race, a concept defined by physical attributes and sociocultural practices. Persons of north-western European descent were believed to be of a race that had achieved the greatest evolutionary advancement; those of African descent, as belonging to that with the least evolutionary distance from ape ancestry. Evolutionary achievement was also differentiated by gender and economic status, with Caucasian bourgeois males ranked as superior over all others. Additionally, evolutionary progress was applied to individuals in relation to their proximity to ideals of appearance, heteronormativity, behavior and well-being.
Incorporation of these beliefs into the study of human development was productive of treatises and practices that had widespread influence in scientific and popular culture. Child-centred parenting advice, progressive educational reform, and youth organizations emphasized gendered behaviors that, it was believed, would ensure children’s surpassing their parent’s evolutionary attainment, resulting in continued progress toward an ideal Euro-Anglo race. The playground movement’s segregation of non-whites, the disabled, poor and unattractive from archetype white children was similarly based on the theory’s dictum that the former being seen by the latter would contaminate white evolutionary well-being. The theoretical beliefs became further rationalization for the incarceration of Indigenous children in residential facilities that through coercion and isolation from their communities were intended to abolish the ‘race’s’ genetic lineage. Even though child study regard for the theory declined by the 1920s, its regulatory prescripts endured within developmental psychology, continuing to significantly impact beliefs about women, non-whites, the economically disadvantaged, those with disabilities and those who are gender nonconforming. As example, through policies that limit access to educational funding with explanations that such opportunities fail to alter the economic trajectory of non-whites, and through educational content that presents bourgeois Euro-Anglo persons as representing developmental normality, Academic defence of the theory’s and its founding adherents includes its use to rationalize bigotry, violence and discrimination. It is a legacy that requires concerted effort to defeat.
Depression is defined in diagnostic literature as a mood disorder characterized by depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, significant changes in weight, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation or retardation, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal ideation and/or attempts. Research suggests a link between depressed mood and monoamine depletion, elevated cortisol, and inflammation, but existing laboratory evidence is inconclusive. Current treatments for depression include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and lifestyle changes; however, more severe forms of the disorder can require other medication, sometimes in combination with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Disagreement persists over how to define and classify depression, in part due to its ambivalent relationship to melancholia, which has existed as a medical concept in different forms since antiquity. Melancholia was reconfigured in 19th-century medicine from traditional melancholy madness into a modern mood disorder. In the early 20th century, melancholia gradually fell out of use as a diagnostic term with the introduction of manic-depressive insanity and unipolar depression. Following the publication of DSM-III in 1980 and the introduction of SSRIs a few years later, major depressive disorder became ubiquitous. Consumption of antidepressants have continued to rise year after year, and the World Health Organization notes depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide.
At present, internationally recognized systems of classification favor a single category for depressive illness (alongside a circular mood disorder, bipolar I and II), but this view is challenged by clinicians and researchers who argue for the reinstatement of melancholia as a separate and distinct mood disorder with marked somatic and psychotic features.
Raymond E. Fancher
Robert Winthrop White was an important psychologist and personality researcher at Harvard University during the middle years of the 1900s. First as a student and then chief lieutenant and colleague of Henry A. Murray at the Harvard Psychological Clinic, White became a leading proponent of Murray’s intensively case study-oriented “personological” approach to personality analysis and description. This approach emphasized that personality is not a fixed entity but a constantly changing and developing configuration of many different factors, which must be appreciated as a whole and is best conveyed in the context of individual life histories. Although sometimes overshadowed by both Murray and Harvard personality psychologist Gordon Allport, who both promoted the life study approach, White became the most prolific and skilled early practitioner of that approach. His early case study of “Earnst” was the only one selected to illustrate the Murray project’s personological approach in the seminal 1938 work Explorations in Personality. As the “caretaker” director of the clinic in the late 1930s and early 1940s, White oversaw the collection of numerous further case histories, several of which became the foundations of four highly influential books: The Abnormal Personality, Lives in Progress, Opinions and Personality, and The Enterprise of Living. In 1959, White made important contributions to the theory of motivation by asserting that the standard conception of motives as tension-reducing instincts or drives was severely limited and should be complemented by an innate “effectance” motive: an innate tendency to seek rather than reduce tension while achieving “competence” in dealing with the outside world.
Iris Kranefeld, Gerhard Blickle, and James Meurs
Organizations are political environments, and, thus, individuals engage in political behavior in the workplace. As research on organizational politics grew, it became clear that some individuals are more successful at managing this landscape than others. This construct, termed political skill, was designed to capture the social savvy and competencies an individual needs to effectively achieve organizational and/or personal goals. Political skill comprises four key facets: first, social astuteness refers to the ability to understand others and social situations at work. Second, interpersonal influence comprises the capacity to persuasively communicate with others at work. Third, networking ability captures building, fostering, and using interpersonal relationships and connections to achieve work-related goals. Fourth, apparent sincerity entails conveying authenticity while influencing others at work. The composite construct and its facets are measured with the political skill inventory, which has been extensively validated across many countries and cultures.
Political skill positively associates with workplace and career outcomes such as job performance, job satisfaction, career advancement, stress management, leadership effectiveness, and team performance. It also serves as moderating variable, bolstering (or buffering) effects of individual or job characteristics on those same outcomes. Even though more research is needed that specifies mediating processes and moderating conditions, political skill is already a useful tool for personnel selection. However, a comprehensive training program has yet to be developed. Moreover, political skill can play a critical role in new forms of interaction via social media.
Employment generally entails a deal or a contract describing the exchange of work tasks, remuneration, and other obligations and entitlements. In addition to the formal agreement between the parties, the employment relationship also implicitly consists of perceptions and beliefs about what the deal really involves. This part of the relationship has been labeled the psychological contract (PC) and has been the focus of research for more than 50 years. Underlying principles for the employment relationship have been theories about social exchange and reciprocity. In line with these theories, the two parties aim to reciprocate what has been offered by the other party and achieve a balanced exchange. Clearly, the psychological contract is a useful theory for understanding the employment relationship, and how agreement or disagreement, very often based on unwritten and even unspoken perceptions, affect attitudes and behavior at work. Research confirming this notion has been abundant throughout the last decades. One conclusion, however, is that this research has been narrow, focusing heavily on employees’ perceptions of breach or violation of promises from employers. Results have shown negative effects on both attitudes and behavior toward the organization. Over the last decades, there has been an increasing interest in the interaction and processes involved in developing and maintaining psychological contracts and repairing them after perceptions of breach. There has been a debate about the definition of psychological contracts, and recent research shows a growing interest in the dynamics and interactions between employees and employers and the effect on that relationship. Still, there are many unanswered questions for research concerning the exchange, balance, and processes involved in maintaining and changing the employee-employer relationship. The changing labor market, as well as new forms of employment relationships developing as part of the gig economy (where workers get paid for the "gigs" they do, such as e.g., food delivery), also needs further investigation within this theoretical framework. Focus on the exchange and interaction between employees and employers has the potential to add new insight to previous organizational research, perhaps also expanding ideas about the very nature of that relationship. A definite advantage of the theory and concept of psychological contracts is their close connection to and applicability for management.
There are several aspects of the history of psychological knowledge in Brazilian culture for the period between the 16th and 18th centuries, some of which highlight the process of the transmission and the reception of the European framework. Cultural history methods can be used, organizing the sources by literary genres. Sources analyzed can include philosophical treatises, letters, sermons, and allegorical novels. The Conimbricenses treatises (a set of books brought in the baggage by the missionaries of the Society of Jesus in Brazil) synthesize the philosophical psychology of the Aristotelian-Thomist and Augustinian framework and propose a systematic work of ordering psychic experiences in order to make them a constructive factor of the integral development of the person. The letters are the oldest written documents in Brazil, from the beginning of the 16th century; the quantitatively more consistent epistolary correspondence sent from colonial Brazil to Europe is that of the Jesuits, from their arrival in 1549, with the mission of evangelizing the indigenous people and assisting the colonists. The letters’ authors observed and described psychological experiences from their own experience and from the experience of the indigenous peoples, from the perspective of the knowledge at their disposal. Concepts, practices, and beliefs of the classical, medieval, and Western Renaissance tradition, aimed at changing the habits and mentality of individuals and social groups, were communicated to the Brazilian populations through sermons. All the dimensions of psychic dynamism proposed and acting in the genre of sacred oratory function in relation to the transcendent objects. The psyche was conceived as integrated to the totality of the personal dynamism: the psyche mediated between body and spirit, and this interrelation could be promoted by the preacher’s word. The sacred oratory became a veritable laboratory of the efficacy of the word to care for and heal the imbalances of the person’s psychic apparatus. The concept of human life as a pilgrimage is the plot of two important sources elaborated in colonial Brazil, inscribed in the genre of the allegorical novel História do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu irmão Precito written by Father Alexandre de Gusmão of Bahia and Compêndio narrativo do Peregrino de América(1728) written by Nuno Marques Pereira. Within the scope of the view of the homo viator, the function of the psychic dynamism was delineated and the psychological knowledge proposed by the two novels constructed. What is the relevance of this knowledge for the Brazilian culture of the present? The collective memory of the constituent cultural subjects of Brazilian society is the great cradle transmitting the psychological knowledge elaborated, received, and appropriated. Psychic dynamism plays a fundamental role, configuring a certain way of being, where differences, like threads in the loom, are composed, coupled, and intertwined.