This book covers key movements that helped to shape psychology – from the early philosophical debate between rationalism and empiricism or realists and antirealists through to the emergence of psychology as a science and the ongoing debates about ‘objectivity’ and ‘truth’ and what a science of psychology should be. Often nuanced and complex, the author examines major conceptual issues in the history of psychology that continue to be debated and influence public policy and lay understanding. The latter stages of the book explore notions of individuality, hereditarianism, critical psychology, and feminist perspectives. While deeply rooted in human history, it is made clear that psychology, how it is conceived and practiced, has a bearing on our understanding of what it is to be human. Accessible, objective and above all comprehensive, this book will help students locate psychology in the wider field of science and understand the forces that continue to shape and define it.

Mainstream and its Critics

Mainstream and its Critics

As the above heading suggests, in this chapter our concern is with mainstream (the main stream) psychology, the dominant approach within academic psychology. The term ‘mainstream psychology’ is often used in criticisms but goes undefined, so to be clear, to be mainstream is to hold a position of pre-eminent influence and command. In that sense, mainstream psychology is ‘experimental psychology’ (Much, 1995). There may be disagreement on other issues but there is broad consensus regarding the role of the experiment; the manipulation of independent variables to note the effect on dependent variables, while holding confounds constant (Winston and Blais, 1996). It is the basis of psychology’s ‘scientific method’ as represented in textbooks since the 1970s.

As an expression ...

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