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Evolution of Psychology and Social Cognition Essay

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Updated: Oct 20th, 2020

Psychology deals with probably the most intricate and complex entity that is currently known: the human mind. For this reason, the disciplines and sub-disciplines present in the field are multiple (and will likely multiply even more in the future), diverse, deal with the variety of topics on the variety of levels, interconnect with many other fields, such as physiology, evolutionary biology, sociology, philosophy, and linguistics, and are often considered more an art than solid science.

As soon as the attempts were made to explain the processes behind human behavior, it quickly became apparent that the studies can not be narrowed down to a single field. First, the psychological processes were positively linked to the physiological function of the brain, leading to the involvement of neuroscience (Hunt, 2007). Almost immediately some of the processes were tied to the evolutionary development of human beings, adding evolutionary psychology to the list.

The Chomsky’s cognitive linguistics theory was obviously based on psychological processes, making the emergence of cognitive psychology an inevitability (Forgas, Haselton, & Hippel, 2011). On the other side of the spectrum, the psychological therapy techniques, used previously to treat mental conditions, were gradually applied to healthy individuals to increase the quality of life, leading to the creation of positive psychology.

Some of the limitations of previous studies also resulted in diversification, such as Freud’s psychoanalytic theory prompting the emergence of humanistic psychology. Besides the complexity of the subject, the lack of systematization and solidified scientific approach is the reason behind the factional nature of psychology: as a relatively young field, it is still establishing its norms and standards (Sutton & Douglas, 2013).

For the same reason, psychology often resorts to a philosophical approach, which makes it look like art rather than science (Simon, 2009). The impossibility of obtaining hard evidence also contributes to the matter, putting psychology on a margin between a defined discipline and artistic process. The trend is not likely to change, with several fields, such as behavioral genetics and motivation, exhibiting the benefits of being studied from the psychological perspective, while others, such as positive psychology, facing gradually stronger popularity (Joseph, 2015). Thus, while we can expect psychology to attain more features of traditional science, its diversity and multidisciplinary nature are not likely to be gone in the nearest future.

The article Quality of the Execution of Corporate Safety Policies and Employee Safety Outcomes studies the effect of implementing the safety policies by the company’s management. More importantly, the study considers the employees’ perception of policy implementation. The authors chose thirteen shipping companies as their focus group and concluded that the safety policies played a critical role in the reduction of the incidents as well as the employees’ satisfaction with the workplace conditions (Huang, Chen, Krauss, & Rogers, 2004).

While on the surface the findings are obvious and do not deviate from the intuitive assumption, two points of interest should be considered. First, while the correlation between the over-investment and employee commitment is hardly a surprise (Tsui, Pearce, Porter, & Tripoli, 1997), the recognition of safety policies as care for the workforce is not immediately obvious, so the positive outcome in this regard is somewhat unexpected. Second, the study serves as a proof of the organizational-level variances as clearly dominant over individual considerations of safety.

While my initial assumption was that in a hazardous environment such as a shipping company the employees will gravitate toward stronger personal responsibility, the study suggests that unless the policies are implemented, no such recognition will take place. A friend of mine showed similar alarming behavior when recounted his experience of ignoring the respiratory protective equipment while working with hazardous chemicals. This suggests that addressing individual differences, such as danger perception, clearly are more important in workplace incidents reduction, as they are less predictable and systemic.

References

Forgas, J.P., Haselton, M.G., & Hippel, W. (2011). Evolution and the social mind: evolutionary psychology and social cognition. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Huang, Y. H., Chen, P. Y., Krauss, A. D., & Rogers, D. A. (2004). Quality of the execution of corporate safety policies and employee safety outcomes: Assessing the moderating role of supervisor safety support and the mediating role of employee safety control. Journal of Business and Psychology, 18(4), 483-506.

Hunt, M. (2007). The story of psychology. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Joseph, S. (2015). Positive psychology in practice: promoting human flourishing in work, health, education, and everyday life. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Simon, G. (2009). Web.

Sutton, R., & Douglas, K. (2013). Social psychology. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tsui, A. S., Pearce, J. L., Porter, L. W., & Tripoli, A. M. (1997). Alternative approaches to the employee-organization relationship: does investment in employees pay off?. Academy of Management Journal, 40(5), 1089-1121.

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