The Mind Doesn’t Matter Anymore
Some of us are old enough to have witnessed the end of the Hull-Spence variety of behaviorism that featured elaborate equations to explain simple maze learning by rats. Then in the 1970s, it seemed that everything in psychology became cognitive, which perhaps it always was. No living psychologist, however, was around for the really intense debates and research on the composition of the mind in the early 1900s. If such a person is still around, I hope he or she will see this blog.
Edward Bradford Titchener was a leader in this controversy which revolved around the contents of the mind as revealed by introspection. Thomas Leahey reviewed The Philosophical Background and Scientific Legacy of E. B. Titchener’s Psychology: Understanding Introspectionism by Christian Beenfeldt which presents the controversy clearly and in depth. A central question was whether there can be imageless thought. But the research method used, introspection, was not as controversial. To be sure, there were forms of introspection; Leahey reminds us not to confuse Wundt’s methods with those of his student, Titchener.
Well, all of that is water over the dam, if you get the picture. My question here is whether anyone doing research cares anymore about what the mind is. After all, most current research involves introspection: people speaking or completing some form of questionnaire. Even a yes-or-no response is a form of introspection. And do those colorful brain-imaging photos mean we have pictures in our head or just blood flowing?
By Thomas Leahey
PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(3)