Monday, April 15, 2013

Uh-oh, I'm still annoyed by something I read on the Internet...

As I posted on Friday, I found myself irritated by a brief, and not particularly well stated, essay on The Edge website. The author, a research psychologist, wrote that:

Although many psychologists working as clinicians and therapists do indeed analyze individuals, trying carefully to understand their problems, many work as scientists trying to understand how the mind works just as a chemist tries to understand how chemical bonds work.

[When strangers ask him,] "Are you analyzing me?" [this] implies that I, as a psychologist, could indeed analyze you.

It seems to me that he is saying that clinicians analyze individuals, and psychologists cannot analyze individuals. So any clinician who claims to be able to analyze an individual is somehow deluded or ignorant, as well as not really being a psychologist (and certainly not a "scientist"). Further, Dr. Epley's post, taken in its entirety, seems to suggest that attempting to understand an individual human being is not an appropriate scientific enterprise.
Korchin (1976, pp. 144-156) had something to say about people-reading ("analyzing" people):
Whether as psychologists or laymen each of us each day engages in informal assessments....Our judgments of others even in brief encounters are remarkably full and accurate. Often however, they are incomplete, distorted, and inaccurate....We all know people who seem to have an uncanny understanding of the feelings and motives of others, who are in the German word "Menschenkenner," "people knowers." There are others incapable of understanding people, who are grossly insensitive to our needs and feelings.

Much has been said about the hazards of people practicing psychology who do not have adequate scientific training, who do not consistently demonstrate the habits of mind associated with the scientist. However, not enough is said about the converse hazard: research psychologists who know about scientific methods but who lack understanding about people, who lack what James Bugenthal (1987) called, "the normal sensitivity that all of us have in relating to others, but...carried to a greater than normal acuity" (p. 11).

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