New psychology; CYBERPSYCH

From Tom Bourbon [950730.1510]

Forgive me, folks. I've been away from this list for a long time and I
can't pass up the chance to share some irrelevant news about "real"
behavioral science. I've just finished reading recent issues of some modern
psychology journals and my mind has broken, just like the mind of poor Don
Quixote when he read all of those books on chivalry.

Here is something else a few people may enjoy, and others will find
outrageously irreverent.

The latest issue of _Psychological Science_, arrived yesterday. That is the
holiest journal of the American Psychological Society, not to be confused
with the American Psychological Association, although there is really no
difference in the brand of science they support and report.

One article is:

Alice Cronin-Golomb (1995). Semantic networks in the divided cerebral
hemispheres. _Psychological Science_, _6_, 212-218.

Here are a few samples of what she says in the "Abstract."

"Hemispheric differences in the recognition and manipulation of meaning may
be based on distinctions in size, composition, or organization of the right
and left semantic networks"

"The hemispheres' networks were found to be of similar size and composition,
but were organized differently."

"Hemispheric differences in semantic organization mirror differences in
perceptual organization, with the right hemisphere specialized for
conventional meaning and the left hemisphere specialized for detecting and
processing deviations from standard meaning." All from page 212.

Wow! People "recognize" and "manipulate" meaning. Does meaning exist in
the "information" that comes in, or is it constructed in the brain? From
what I can tell, the article isn't clear on that point. One hemisphere
"detects and processes" something called "deviations from standard meaning,"
while the other hemisphere "is specialized for" conventional meaning. I
wonder if the right hemisphere also "detects and processes" conventional
meaning, or if it is merely specialized for it, in a general sort of way.



In the same journal there is an editorial:

John F. Kihlstrom (1995). Psychology, the basic science for mental health,
_Psychological Research_, _6_, 189-191.

This editorial precedes an article that contains a report from The National
Advisory Mental Health Council Behavioral Task Force. The report is titled,
"Basic behavioral science research for mental health: A national investment."

Kihlstrom makes his case for why the National Institute of Mental Health
should continue to fund basic psycho-social research. Along the way, he
describes some of the major "Accomplishments to Date" from the past 20 years
of that research. I'll quote the list of accomplishments, and add a few
irreverent remarks from time to time. In his list, look for any evidence
that psychologists have learned about the phenomenon of control, or the
theory of perceptual control.

"Over the past decade or two, we have completely revolutionized our
understanding of basic behavioral, mental, and social processes. These
changes have affected every aspect of behavioral and social science -- from
elementary processes of classical conditioning to the complexities of human
development and social relations. Compared with the situation 20 years ago,
the current base of knowledge is almost unrecognizable. (TB: Now I know
why I was so uncomfortable while I was still teaching psychology. I kept
thinking contemporary psychologists were saying the same things that were
said 20 -- or 60, or more -- years ago, but that they were just using
different labels and citing more recent publications.) For example:

* Learning is no longer viewed as the passive acquisition of
stimulus-response associations, but rather the active generation of
predictions, and hypotheses concerning forthcoming events. (TB: On this
point, see my previous post about the article in _Psychological Review_. In
these enlightened days, we say: S-representation-plan-R. What a change!
But, wait. Wasn't the idea of S-O-R around long before 20 years ago? Hmm.)

* Perception turns out to be more than the flow of stimulus information from
peripheral receptors to the brain, but rather reflects a complex interaction
between bottom-up and top-down processes. (TB: That's new? That's true?)

* Our understanding of how people think, reason, and make judgments and
decisions has completely overthrown the standard model for human rationality
that has prevailed for morfe than 2000 years. (TB: I'll pass on that one
for now.)

* We have an entirely new view of the nature of unconscious mental life, and
of the reciprocal relations between cognitive and emoptional processes.
(TB: Another pass. I'm waiting for his concluding paragraph.)

* We know better how to support people's intrinsic motivation for learning,
behavior, and behavioral change. (TB: That sounds neat. I wonder where we
can read about how to "support" someone's "intrinsic motivation." Are the
methods different from the ones we use to support non-intrinsic motivation?
How do we know a motivation when we see one?)

* The cognitive capacities of infants and young children are far greater
than we previously imagined. (TB: Is that something psychologists learned
during the past 20 years, with all of that grant money from NIMH, or is it
something psychologists caused to happen? With the grant money, of course.
Inquiring minds want to know.)

* We have discovered the fundamental structure of individual differences in
personality, we understand better the way in which personality emerges, and
changes, as the individual interacts with his or her environment. (TB: Pass!)

* We have a better notion of how social status, and social affiliation,
affects (sic) the individual's attitudes and behaviors -- how individuals
draw support from people around them, and how they relate to others in order
to create a supportive social environment. (TB: What psychologists have
learned about these topics is so clear that the world has become a better
place for it. Didn't you notice?)

* We know more about the role that culture plays in the life of the
individual, and we have a better appreciation of cultural differences in
attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. (TB: New? Pass. Now for Kihlstrom's
conclusion to the section on accomplishments.)

One major theme emerging from the report is the importance of reciprocal
influence, or bidirectionality of causation, between biology and culture
(TB: Didn't Aristotle, and Freud, say that, among others, more than 20 years
ago?), between the individual and society (TB: See my previous irreverent
remark.), and among cognition, emotion, and motivation. (TB: Tripartate
reciprocal interaction -- where have I seen that before, and before that,
and before that?)" . . .

I'll bet my hard drive that The National Advisory Mental Health Council
Behavioral Task Force never said anything about the phenomenon of control by
all living things, or about the idea that living things control some of
their own perceptions. Those would indeed be new ideas, but they were first
published more than 20 years ago, and not one cent of NIMH money has
supported the work on those ideas.


Also in this issue of _Psychological Research_ is an article about
psychology in cyberspace.

Doborah Kelley-Milburn & Michael A. Milburn (1995). CYBERPSYCH: Resources
for psychologists on the internet. _Psychological Science_, _6_, 203-211.

The article describes many LISTSERV lists, USENET groups, WWW sites,
discussion groups, and so on.

Guess what isn't included?