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Influence of Schools of Thought
Mental testing practices were rudimentary in China as far back as 2000 B.C. (Gregory, 2011). Much later, the 19th century Europe and Great Britain showed another wave of interest to this subject, which resulted in the formation of mental testing movement.
Among the pioneers of this movement, one can enlist Wilhelm Wundt, Francis Galton, Alfred Binet, and others. At the baseline of mental testing lies the possibility of scientifically estimating the capabilities of mind. Before the “brass instruments” era, this aspect of psychology was unexplored (Gregory, 2011). Although the measures that the specialists conducted were crude and the methodology was close to naiveté, the value of mental testing is undeniable.
The foundational new idea put forward by Wundt was that every person has a different mental capacity (Gregory, 2011). In his turn, Galton was assured that sensory and intellectual capacities were intertwined. His assumption led him to attempt to derive the level of intellect from sensory discrimination measurements (Minton, 1998). After Galton’s attempts were dismissed, Binet, in collaboration with Theodore Simon, devised a method of intelligence assessment to distinguish mentally retarded children who required special education.
It was then that intelligence came to be measured through indicators other than motoric capabilities, namely imagination, memory, comprehension, and other cognitive skills. Binet-Simon tests used heterogenic samples of schoolchildren and a method of scoring to derive numerical results. These methods have laid basis for functionalism and led to development of IQ testing: a ratio of a person’s intellectual performance to their age.
Overall, the mental testing school was the source of measurement practices that avoid bias’ the techniques deployed by mental testing pioneers serve as a basis for neuropsychological assessment, career assessment, treatment, and research.
Comparing Two Schools of Thought
Behaviorism and mental testing movement show great diversity of subject matter – the observable behavior versus cognitive performance – but seem to regard psychology as a science to change the world.
For behaviorists, mental processes were not the matter to be studied in terms of science. Watson, the well-known behaviorist, maintained that the emphasis should be laid on observable behavior. His assumptions were backed up by Skinner who stated that behaviors can be steered by outer stimuli and thus used for proving theories. Behaviorism does not account for internal (covert) behaviors, e.g., thinking. Research methods used by behaviorists are solely empirical. The procedures mainly sum up to stimulation and provoking observable behavioral response (Greenwood, 2015).
Although mental testing was initially driven by Galtonian passion to measurement, sensorimotor experimentation applied by behaviorists was rejected by mental testing school at the stage of formation. Even in the “brass instruments” period, the movement put objectivity at the top of its values and obtained the evidence quantitatively. Despite the fact that mental testing initially mistook sensorimotor performance for intelligence, it was thought power that it was aimed at measuring. In contrast to behavioristic approach, the tests were not response-oriented but performance-oriented (Gregory, 2011).
Albeit the differences, the two schools of thought seemed to share values. Mental-testing movement was not entirely devoid of eugenic stance, trying to hone human intelligence by singling out the “retards” and “morons” and preventing them from breeding. Behaviorism argued that some responses could be hereditary – supporting artificial (that is, man-made) selection of animals and probably humans (Greenwood, 2015, p. 358). Consequently, the two psychologies, strangely enough, seemed to pursue one and the same goal: improving the condition of human race.
Humanistic, Cognitive, and Psychobiology Schools (Option 1)
Humanistic approach to psychology is called the “third” after behaviorist and psychoanalytic. It rejects the behavioristic emphasis on stimulation response and the psychoanalytic subject matter of irrational subconscious (Waterman, 2013). Over time, it has covered most of the aspects of behavior and potential to understand the specificities of human conditions (Hayes, 2012).
Humanism is focused on the study of humans, maintaining that human properties cannot be explained through research on animals valued by behaviorists. The subject matter of humanistic psychology is based on the assumption of essentially virtuous nature that all humans have. It values the power of a person with regard to how they overcome hardships of life and maintain that personal perceptions are more valuable than objective reality.
Consequently, the value of scientific approaches to psychology shared by behaviorism and psychoanalysis is diminished (Hayes, 2012). The methodology of humanistic psychology is mostly qualitative, with the study of the cases based on holistic values and the concepts of free will. In humanistic psychology, the questions are asked in the form of interviews and questionnaires. The questions are formulated open-endedly to invoke extended responses.
Humanist methodology is mostly non-academic and is, consequently, avoided in scientific circles. On the other hand, contemporary behavioral psychology seems to be gradually incorporating some principles of humanism and deploying spirituality for therapeutic purposes (Hayes, 2012). Just as humanistic psychology, and despite long-standing contradictions between the schools, behaviorism is gradually shifting its focus to the area of individual rather than nomothetic. What is more, it is shifting its paradigm towards inborn capabilities to flourish rather than extraneously provoked response (Hayes, 2012).
Identifying a Research Topic
The topic I would like to study is the treatment of social phobias with methodologies that go beyond traditional behavioristic approach. As a consequence, the subject matter of the topic is constituted by social phobias, the methods of treatment, and the efficacy of these methods. It is known that the commonality of behavioristic approach as the way of addressing social phobia issues became evident back in 1990s (Brown, Heimberg, & Juster, 1995).
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The high rate of comorbid personality disorders accompanying social phobias has not decreased over the last three decades, which demonstrates the relevance of the topic for modern psychology (Friborg, Martinussen, Kaiser, Øvergård, & Rosenvinge, 2013). Also, the cognitive-behavioral practices used for treating social phobias do not indicate significant changes over the years, which might call for developing a new approach (Rapee et al., 2013).
The values related to the topic are consistent with those attributed to cognitive and behavioristic approach. These values include, namely, the stimuli-responses models. Additionally, the research is going to be concerned with the ways behaviorist psychology treats social phobias, e.g., via exposure or relaxation response. The research questions that are to be asked in this respect are:
- Whether social phobias and related comorbidities can be treated with practices other than behaviorist;
- Whether such treatment should use a definite approach or a combination of them;
- Whether the treatment can be proved successful.
The complexity of the task is quite understandable. On the other hand, it is evidentiated that behavioral psychology is gradually incorporating elements from schools that are seemingly incompatible with it. If this research proves successful, it can serve as a basis for innovation and development of new practices in general and applied psychology.
Brown E. J., Heimberg, R. G., & Juster, H. R. (1995). Social phobia subtype and avoidant personality disorder: Effect on severity of social phobia, impairment, and outcome of cognitive behavioral treatment. Behavior Therapy, 26(3), 467-486.
Friborg, O., Martinussen, M., Kaiser, S., Øvergård, K. T., & Rosenvinge, J. H. (2013). Comorbidity of personality disorders in anxiety disorders: A meta-analysis of 30 years of research. Journal of Affective Disorders, 145(2), 143-155.
Greenwood, J. D. (2015). A Conceptual History of Psychology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Gregory, R. J. (2011). Psychological Testing: History, Principles, and Applications (6th ed.). London, UK: Pearson.
Hayes, S. C. (2012). Humanistic psychology and contextual behavioral perspectives. Psychotherapy, 49(4), 455-460
Rapee, R. M., MacLeod, C., Carpenter, L., Gaston, J. E., Frei, J., Peters, L., & Baillie, A. J. (2013). Integrating cognitive bias modification into a standard cognitive behavioural treatment package for social phobia: A randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51(4), 207-215.
Waterman, A. S. (2013). The humanistic psychology–positive psychology divide: Contrasts in philosophical foundations. American Psychologist, 68(3), 124-133.