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Social Psychologists (Kenneth Gegen)
The main goal of social psychologists is to analyze relationships between people to be able to explain how humans behave around one another. Gegen noted that behaviors studied by psychologists are always different because people learn all the time and their values change; behaviors differ from natural events studied by natural scientists that are always stable and can be recreated in a lab. In that way, Gegen believed that an experimental approach in a laboratory is not suitable for studying human behaviors. Gegen’s idea was that pure isolated research would produce incorrect and unrealistic results. For truthful results, psychology had to take into account more than just research and experiment outcomes but also historical, economic, political, sociological, and other factors. According to Gegen, control and prediction of social behaviors should not be the main goals of psychologists. Instead, they should think of general laws and try to explain specific situations happening at a given time. Also, Gegen believed that social psychological theories and their principles are the results of their historical periods, and this means that they change together with cultural environments and values.
Humanists (Carl Rogers)
The main focus of humanistic psychologists is people’s free will, individuality, and experience. Humanists believe that people are strong and have a desire to improve themselves. Carl Rogers was both a scientist and a therapist, and these two roles caused him to feel confused about his views. This was because as a scientist, he had to be objective, and as a therapist, he had to be subjective. Therapy sees people as active agents but not objects as they are in science. This is why Rogers believed that science was not very useful in therapy. His idea was that therapy should develop based on the experiences of clients and their therapists but not on scientific methods that view people as objects and are only useful for testing hypotheses. Also, Rogers was convinced that science does not see people as individual persons and pays attention only to general scientific laws that dehumanize patients and ignore their personal experiences. Rogers was against the use of science in social psychology and believed that it denied freedom of choice, limited possibilities, and dictated outcomes. Rogers thought that scientific knowledge about human psychology led to manipulation and control of people through different triggers.
Gestaltists (Wolfgang Köhler)
In Gestalt psychology, therapists use a flexible approach to seeing relations between different parts of the whole. Köhler’s criticism of experimental psychology based in labs was focused on the goal of science to receive knowledge from experiments. Köhler believed that skeptic and conservative approach to people’s behaviors typical for experimental psychology limited research a lot because they did not take into consideration many relevant concepts and features. Conditioning, a common tool in laboratory-based experiments, could not help understand conditions or relations. Conditioning ignores the dynamic of people’s interaction with situations and changes that follow on both sides. Also, Köhler noted that scientists focused on conditioning did not pay attention to motivation which is a very important aspect of Gestalt psychology. Köhler thought that experiments only focused on behaviors that can be seen but not on the processes that happen on the inside.
Social psychologists criticized the goal of experimental psychology for predicting people’s behaviors because theories change over time. Humanistic psychologists disagreed with the approach to people as objects and ignoring their individual experiences. Gestalt psychologists believed that it was wrong for experimental psychology not to consider processes that go on inside people’s brains.