Science in Christian Perspective





From: JASA 19 (June 1967):

A great deal has happened in psychology in the past quarter century. Whether all of this may be called "advance" is a question of value judgment on which there is not complete agreement, either inside the discipline, or in the culture as a whole. If we look upon increases in quantity and complexity through the common American rose-colored glasses we may be forgiven for calling it an advance, and we will have preserved the literary symmetry of the afternoon's program topics.

A Growing Record of Proliferation

One of the simplest ways to document the growth of these years is to note a few statistics from the journal, Pyschological Abstracts, which prints a brief summary of every published psychological book and journal article.

In the eight years from 1933 through 1940 there was a fairly steady volume of between six and seven thousand abstracts per year. The war years steadily decreased that number to a low point of 3,539 abstracts in 1945. Since then there has been a steady increase up to a record of 16,619 in the 1965 volume, with the production curve still rising rapidly. At this time these articles are reported from more than 500 periodicals throughout the world. Popular articles are not included. Taking the 1940 bench mark, we see that scholarly production will likely be about 2 1/2 times as great in 1966.

Meanwhile Psychological Abstracts has seen fit to revise and amplify its table of contents. In 1940 there were 13 subject headings. Today there are 173 headings in three rank orders - that is, divisions subdivided twice. This indicates not only the multiplicity of subjects which have come under the umbrella of psychology, but also the degree of specialization which has attended this proliferation. Psychology has come a long way from the days when the philosophy of the soul took on the additional subjects of memory and psychophysics.

* Paul F. Barkman is Coordinator of Research, Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Psychology, Pasadena, Calif. Paper presented at the 21st annual convention of the American Scientific Affiliation, North Park College, Chicago, August 1966.

Specialization in psychology has the same attendant advantages and dangers as elsewhere. The generalist has long since been unable to comprehend the entire field, whereas the specialist fails to keep touch with the larger significance of his field. Because specialists in such diverse fields as infant intelligence testing, olfactory sensitivity of possoms, and the clinical treatment of emotional disorders have so little in common with each other, there are grave problems of communication. When the usual five thousand or more psychologists gather this week end for the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, their monolithic organizational appearance will really hide the fact that in the main these people are attending a small number of sessions in what is a group of minorities meeting under the same roof. The head of this dinosaur sometimes has difficulty getting messages to his distant tail. It is gratifying to see that an organizational structure has nevertheless been maintained through the years.

Some Areas of Prominent Activity and Interest

In 1940 1 had my introduction to psychology by way of the second edition of Floyd L. Ruch's, Psychology and Life. Even then it packed a considerable quantity of material between two covers. In the attempt to give at least a paragraph to each significant new development, the subsequent revisions became so cumbersome that in the middle fifties the publishers already frankly admitted that the average college student could not be expected to study the whole text in a one-semester course. Various methods of skipping chapters and abbreviating courses were attempted, until it has-become evident to everyone that one can no longer teach the subject in any but the most cursory manner in a single semester.

With this awareness let me, nevertheless, select some areas of development which appeal to me as representative of what has happened in psychology in the past twenty-five years. Someone else's selection might differ at a number of points.

About 1940 psychologists began to be very interested in the measurement of public opinion. Since then they have followed this up with an applied field called Consumer Psychology.

Out of the war experiences came a great impetus for the construction and use of measurements for vocational guidance, both in schools and in industry. Together with the development of the study of the relationship of men to machines, there has grown up a flourishing profession of industrial psychology - which also borrows a great deal of the skills from clinical psychology,

Spearman's statistical formula for coefficient of correlation, and his concept of unitary intelligence have both been improved upon - according to some psychologists. With the assistance of a very complicated statistical factor analysis, Thurstone, Cattell, and others have proposed multiple factors in intelligence. The old I.Q. score has therefore given way to more sophisticated descriptions of human intellectual functioning, which also include personality factors that are involved in the mental processes, and estimates of the kind and degree of impairment created by emotional disorders. This is part of the armamentarium with which specialists now identify dozens of types and causes of mental retardation, and distinguish them from emotional disorders.

Psychological testing has become common in the clinical practice of physicians as well as psychologists and social workers. A landmark on the way was Rapaport's monumental study of the diagnostic use of common psychological tests, including intelligence tests. Culture,fair tests were devised as it became apparent that one's upbringing can significantly alter the meaning of test questions.

The anthropologists, in fact, have become ve ry much involved in the question of whether personal or ethnic characteristics are innate or acquired. The result has been the involvement of psychologists and anthropologists with other social scientists on research, theorizing, and even the implementation of findings in the areas of culturally deviant behavior (such as juvenile delinquency), child rearing practices, sexual behavior, prejudice, and authoritarianism. Margaret Meade has greatly influenced the development of such subjects, and also helped spark a whole resurgence of new studies about the age group of adolescence. Adomo's work on the authoritarian personality acquired a bibliography of over a thousand titles in less than ten years. Not only adolescence came in for a new look, but the subject of old age was opened up to psychological study for the first time since G. Stanley Hall wrote his book, Senescence in his own ninetieth year.

The Freudian tradition has deepened and broadened in a number of ways. Homey, Fromm, and others have explored social determinants of personality in a new way, others focused much attention on the ego and its defenses, and Anna Freud has carried her father's work through twenty-two volumes of The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. On that subject, the developmental studies of Gesel have been challenged by Piaget, and there is a vast quantity of data on childhood. Unfortunately, human development still lacks a satisfactory unifying system of explanation, in spite of these impressive contributions.

Certain aspects of Freudian theory and technique have become almost universally used by the helping
professions of clinical psychology, social work, mar riage counseling, and psychiatry. The broad outline of
his theory of psychodynamics is so universally used that many, even of the professions, have no idea
whence they came.

A recent surge of interest has developed in the extension of a study of human dynamics to groups.
Kurt Lewin launched one approach when this leading Gestaltist founded the Research Center for Group
Dynamics right after the second World War. A more recent expression is that of studying family dynamics,
by Ackerman and others. Lewin's studies have greatly influenced business management and social institutions.
Family dynamics has resulted in a new form of inter vention in human troubles - family group therapy. During and after the war group psychotherapy pro cedures were explored and published by Foulkes and Anthony in England, and by Powdermaker and Frank in America, so that group psychotherapy has reduced the cost of treatment for many. A more recent amalgam of these techniques of group dynamics and group therapy is found in the popular, short-term sensitivity training groups. One writer, in dismay, claims to have identified more than two hundred kinds of therapy.

Certainly, one must mention Moreno's psychodrama among these. There are not that many truly distinctive
forms, but we have certainly seen the development of many variations on some old themes which give us a
great variety of approaches to use in different situations. Rogerian non-directive counseling grew up like a mustard seed in these twenty-five years, and has apparently been outgrown by Rogers himself. There is something about this change in a highly respected theorist and therapist which appeals to me as being not only change but advance. However, there are those who do not share Rogers' flexibility, and they might not agree.

Behaviorism had established itself as one of the significant "schools" of psychology back in the late thirties and early forties. Today behaviorism almost completely dominates academic psychology, but it has changed greatly in character. From simple considera tions of stimulus-response arcs, it has had to reckon with the mediating processes of the organism, and got itself deeply involved in the increasingly complex con sideration of intervening variables both within and outside the organism. It has done so in typical mathe matical and research fashion and kept its house in order, but has proliferated in a number of directions.

Interesting to me are the ways in which Mowrer and others applied behavioristic learning theory to many practical affairs, Masserman produced experimental neurosis in cats by way of conflicting learning situations; and Wolpe built a system of psychotherapy on reconditioning and desensitization.

Hebb, in response to studies of sensory deprivation, and the effects of removing portions of the brain, has concluded that instead of seeking quiescence and death (as Freud said), the human being requires an optimum level of stimulation, and seeks it. He has also offered an explanation for the way brain cells do their work by creating networks as a result of a frequently used path. Once any part of the path is stimulated it tends to trigger the activity of the whole network. Thus he explains how partial stimulation of such a figure as a square causes the person to perceive a whole square. In this way, then, behaviorist and Gestaltist have come close to a meeting ground.

Others have applied the principles of engineering to psychology. Norbert Wiener's book, Cybemetics, started people building mechanical models of the brain along the lines of modem computors. These models do not perform the work for human brains, but reproduce more or less complicated aspects of how it works.

Lest that seem too reductionistic, note the struggle to the edges of scientific respectability of three areas of research - hypnosis, extra-sensory perception, and hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD. Each has gained some stature as more refined research has been done. Concerning hypnosis and extra-sensory perception we now know more accurately just what we don't know. With the cooperation of medicine and physiology, psychologists have participated in bringing increased benefits from the new psycho-tropic drugs; but we have also learned that we cannot expect to find a "drug heaven", in spite of what the proponents of drug therapies may preach.

If we now say that these years have produced evidence that instinctive behavior is frequently triggered by highly specific and complex situations in the environment; and that our perception is highly colored by our previous experience; then we have come around to some of the newer discoveries about some of the oldest subjects in psychology. It also gives us an excuse to move on to what may be the most significant single change in psychology in this quarter century.

The Rise of Professional Psychology

The involvement of large numbers of psychologists in the armed forces during World War H seems to have marked a turning point in much of the emphasis of the entire field, and brought about the present deep involvement of psychology as a helping or healing profession. Psychologists no longer only study and teach about people, they do something about them. The largest group of these doers - numerically second only to the teachers of psychology - are the clinical and counseling psychologists who involve themselves in the practical problems, and especially the emotional ills, of others.

Loud cries come from within certain circles in the psychological community to the effect that we don't know enough about human beings to try to take responsibility for helping them, and that the business of psychologists is to research and teach. Certain groups, often politically influential, campaign against what they regard as gross intrusion on human rights and privacy by psychological tests and by clinical practices. In spite of all this, clinical psychologists, marriage counselors, and industrial psychologists, are in much greater demand than the supply; their income rises steadily from year to year; and they are more pushed than invited into an increasing variety of positions of trust and responsibility.

The result within the psychological community is that there is a gradual shift of power, and there is a considerable quarrel as to what should constitute the training of a psychologist. There are those who insist that a clinical psychologist is just another psychologist and he should be trained like all the rest. There are others who feel that the clinician should be specifically trained for his task. One expression of this latter position is the establishment of the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, where the data base of psychology is taught, but the focus is on diagnosis and therapy of emotional disorders; and where great effort is put forth on the part of both the faculty and students to put adequate supervised clinical experience and supervision into the program.

Clinical psychology has tried to profit from the experience of the older helping professions such as medicine. A professional conscience for all psychologists has been published by the American Psychological Association, and has become particularly binding for clinical psychologists. Certification or licensing laws have been enacted in about half the- states of the Union, and standards for adequate training and experience are thus becoming effective in at least the most populous parts of this country. There is not time to enumerate these standards here, but a warning should be sounded to the effect that some persons are offering their services to evangelical Christians with the confidence that their claims and credentials will not be carefully scrutinized.

The recent trend in religious circles of all kinds has been to espouse part or all of the data and techniques of psychology, so that there is another significant trend in recent years of a meeting of two traditions which long remained either independent or at times hostile. Along with this meeting, and partly because of it, there is a recent uneasy stirring in psychology toward the regaining of a psyche, or soul.

Such prominent psychologists as Buhler, Mowrer, Meehl, and London have sparked a reconsideration of moral and ethical values in a discipline which formerly prided itself on scientific objectivity; and they have a following which, if still less than the majority, is never theless bringing the voice of conscience to psychology from within its own ranks. They are pointing out, among other things, that every therapist has values, and that he transmits them to his patients; therefore those values should be examined and openly judged, The existentialist therapists, in particular, use personal involvement with the patient as a technique, and therefore the personality of the therapist becomes even more significant than in the less involving therapies. Without stating his thesis, I should point out that Dr. Travis* will present a paper tomorrow which deals with this subject from the mature perspective of one who has been at the very heart of the whole psychological enterprise for almost fifty years.

In closing one may summarize by saying that in the past 25 years psychology has grown to involve more people, more research, broader scope, greater skills, and more practical involvement in everyday human affairs than in all the time preceding; and, like the young man who finds himself finally successful, acknowledged, and responsible for the welfare of others, psychology has begun to reflect seriously upon its own character. It seems to many of us that this is a most appropriate time for psychology and the Chris tian faith to come into meaningful confrontation.

*See journal of A.S.A., Vol. 18, No. 4, Dec. 1966, p. 127.