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A constructivists perspective on Objectivity in Psychological science

Glen M. Sizemore gmsizemore2 at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 19 08:28:51 EST 2004


from: 'Constructivism and narrative psychology'
©© Luis Botella Ramon Llull University


MB (quoting Luis Ramon): During a significant part of its not so long
history, psychology uncritically
accepted the basic assumptions of what has been termed an objectivist
epistemology. Some of these basic assumptions, chiefly derived from
positivism
and logical empiricism, are as follows. First, objectivist psychology
endorses a
mechanistic worldview, seeing the world--and its inhabitants--as a complex
machine, and events in nature as the product of the transmittal of forces.

GS: Curiously, this is true of mainstream psychology, and it was true for
some forms of behaviorism (which is basically the only alternative to
mainstream psychology). A good many radical behaviorists do not view
themselves as "mechanistic." Using Pepper's terminology, they view
themselves as "contextualists." Another way to look at it is that they are
"selectionists." But, of course, none of this goes to the issue of alleged
flaws in the "mechanistic" world view. I agree, though, that mainstream
psychology and much of what it has contaminated is a sort of S-R psychology
that implicitly or explicitly views the effects of controlling stimuli
(controlling in the immediately antecedent sense; they have little
appreciation for the role of contingencies) as a sort of transfer of energy.
Indeed, it is quite a curious view. The environment is seen as entering the
organism and then "coming out" as behavior. It is related, of course, to the
nonsensical view that "language" is a sort of representation of the
environment.

MB (quoting Luis Ramon): Second, objectivist psychology views knowledge as a
process of value-free
observation and accumulation of discrete pieces of evidence; that is, what
Kelly
termed accumulative fragmentalism.

GS: Hmm.....this strikes me as untrue.....to the extent that it is even
understandable.....in any event, what is wrong with mainstream psychology is
that it views knowledge as a "thing" that causes behavior.

MB (quoting Luis Ramon): Third, objectivist psychology accepts
truth-value as the only valid criteria for justifying a proposition.

GS: My guess is that most psychologists don't really know what you (or
Ramon) are trying to say here. I know I don't. Mainstream psychologists
"justify propositions" by rejecting the straw-man null hypothesis. Well, I
guess you could say that they think they are "estimating truth-value."

MB (quoting Luis Ramon): Fourth, the
objectivist application of these and other assumptions to the study of human
beings gives place to a view of people as reactive and passive organisms,
determined by their environment in an almost unidirectional way.

GS: I agree that this is, to a great extent, true of mainstream psychology
(though they would object, no doubt, citing things like "active processing"
etc.). It is not true of behaviorism, however. The first sentence, for
example, in Skinner's Verbal Behavior is "Men act upon the world and change
it, and are changed in turn by the consequences of their actions." Or
something very close to that.

MB (quoting Luis Ramon): However, during the last decades a growing body of
research has acknowledged the
general inadequacy of objectivism applied to the study of human beings.

GS: Hardly. Plus, I disagree that what Ramon is calling "objectivism" is how
all "objectivists" go about their business.

MB (quoting Luis Ramon): Among
them, constructivism and narrative psychology represent two of the most
promising alternatives to objectivist psychology.

GS: "Constructivism" is the single-most intellectually bankrupt notion in
the history of thought.

MB: To a broad extent, both
approaches share epistemological assumptions that stand in contrast to the
objectivist ones. First, constructivism and narrative psychology endorse a
contextualist worldview, seeing the world as an ever-changing text that has
to
be actively interpreted and construed in order to be understood.

GS: Not a particularly good treatment of contextualism.

MB: Second,
constructivism and narrative psychology view knowledge as a process of
construction and reconstruction of personal or social meanings, a process
that
Kelly termed constructive alternativism.

GS: Yeah, when people come over I point to the couch and say "Have a seat on
the particle accelerator." Gets 'em every time.

MB: Third, constructivism and narrative
psychology adopt pragmatic and predictive usefulness as justification
criteria,
since the ultimate truth of any proposition is not considered to be
available.

GS: Most people with any more than a sophomoric understanding of science
understand that "truth" is not available. I agree, however, that mainstream
psychology doesn't care much about pragmatism - which explains why behavior
analysis is the only kind of psychology to produce a useful technology.

MB: Fourth, constructivism and narrative psychology adopt a view of human
beings as
proactive and future-oriented.

GS: As does the experimental analysis of behavior and behaviorism. However,
it doesn't share constructivism's psychological creationism. The reason that
humans are "proactive and future-oriented" is the same reason that organisms
in general are "proactive and future-oriented;" that reason is that
selection processes have operated in the past.

MB: Both theories also view the relation between
people and environment as a dialectical one, in which both parts are
modified by
their mutual and reciprocal action.

GS: Funny, that is the cornerstone of behavior analysis and behaviorism. We'
re Bros!

MB: Despite the broad similarities between constructivism and narrative
psychology,
it is worth noting that the two approaches adopt different root metaphors to
characterize the core of human psychological processes. While
constructivism,
and particularly PCP, adopts the metaphor of knowledge as a personal theory,
narrative psychology uses the metaphor of knowledge as a personal narrative.
The
aim of the rest of this work will be to elucidate to what extent these two
metaphors are compatible or reflect a different understanding of human
psychological processes--and, particularly, of self-identity construction
processes. This comparison is in itself a valuable goal, since a
cross-fertilization between constructivism and narrative psychology could
potentially result in a stronger alternative to the stagnating objectivist
paradigm in psychology. .

GS: Highly unlikely. It is more likely that it will be just one more useless
sort of psycholgy because of its essentially creationist view.

The problem with "constructivism" is that it takes a grain of truth and
expands it into useless gaggle of post-modern double-talk.

"Mr Michael Bibby" <s4032484 at student.uq.edu.au> wrote in message





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