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Psychological Inquiry Essay

Discuss the role of the researcher in psychological inquiry, referring to at least two of Heuristic and hermeneutics.

            The role of the researcher in psychological inquiry has traditionally focused on the manner and means of developing valid and reliable general knowledge about the human realm.  The researcher is concerned with working out a step-by-step method that, if he will follow properly, would assure the correctness of his findings.  The researcher should include using a statistical analysis method that infers the general characteristics of a population by examining only a limited number of its members.  Then, implicit in this kind of psychological inquiry is that the researcher should apply its generalized knowledge in particular situations.

            In addition, the researcher should produce valid and reliable general knowledge.  The logic of practice inquiry assumed in this move is that the psychological inquiry consists of determining which set of therapeutic techniques work with the kind of client being treated.  As well be developed, the researcher should based not on a general to specific logic, but on a contextualized dialogic between a particular researcher and a particular client.

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            In the main, psychology has held that psychological inquiry should consist of applying the knowledge that is generated by research inquiries. Psychological research, following models of research developed for the physical and biological sciences, aims at discovering the consistent and regular relations that hold across human behaviors, thoughts and feelings.

It produces generalized knowledge claims in a logical form: ‘If a person is a member of a category (e.g. phobic), then he/she will likely respond in a specific manner to an environmental event (e.g. cognitive restructuring).’ This understanding of the researchers` role simply involves determining the category of which the client is an instance (diagnosis) and then utilizing those research-established techniques that have been found to produce the desired outcome for this kind of client.

            This traditional role of researcher – the application of research-developed general knowledge to specific situations- misdescribes the way researchers actually work with the research. Researchers work in particular situations with a particular study.  Practice inquiry role of the researcher, is for the most part, carried out without conscious deliberation about what should be done. The researcher should have the role of an ongoing conversation.  When researchers` non-deliberative  activities appear not to advance the study toward their goals, researchers engage in practical problem-solving.  Researchers` performances are informed by their practical knowledge rather than by research-generated generalized knowledge.

            Researchers consistently report (e.g. Marten & Heimberg, 1995; Stiles, 1992) that they rarely look to generalized research findings in determining what they do with the inquiry.  Instead, their actions draw on their own experiences, their discussions with other researchers, and clinically based literature.  The gap between the traditional model of application and psychological practice has been problematic, if not embarrassing, for the discipline.  The discipline’s call that researchers limit their therapeutic actions to empirically validated sets of techniques (Nathan & Goran, 1998) continues the traditional model of application.  An alternate direction for psychology is inquiry that actually researchers` activity.

            Two basic philosophical responses, the heuristics and hermeneutics, were proposed to the notion that there can be no certain knowledge. French postmodernists such as Deleuze and Gutari (1987) and Foucault (1979) are heuristics.  They counseled that people resist the constriction of possibilities that inheres in the belief in certain knowledge.  The awareness that knowledge is uncertain provides a release form the restraining power of culturally imposed norms clothed as necessary, natural or universal knowledge (Bernstein, 1992).  The end of epistemology makes it possible for people to destabilize and subvert culturally dominant forces and thereby gain power over their own self-formation.  The concern of the heuristics was a prescription of how to live in a world without certainties (McGowan, 1991).

The hermeneutics involved a shift from instruction about how to live without certainty. That is, how   people practically deal with the world and others to accomplish everyday tasks and achieve their goals, even though their knowledge is not certain.  Because of the postmodern rejection of the notion that true knowledge can be methodologically generated, the study of researcher inquiry becomes essential.  If the research inquiry does not produce trustworthy knowledge, the notion that practice should consist of application of this knowledge to a particular situations is undercut.  The philosophical study of how people inquire about what to do focuses on the everyday activities in which people are engaged and not specifically on inquiry in psychological practice.  The two most important philosophers to study people’s everyday inquiry are Heidegger and Gadamer.

Heidegger’s Being and Time (1962) was pivotal in bringing Continental philosophy’s attention to everyday inquiry.  Gadamer, who was a student of Heidegger, extended Heidegger’s position to include the study of how everyday understanding takes place.  I am particularly interested in what Gadamer`s hermeneutics to understanding how psychological researchers determine what to say and do.

Gadamer mistrusted experimental science, as he understood it.  Weinsheimer (1985) points out that Gadamer`s view of science is of the pre-1960s variety, and that ‘some of his characterizations of the methods of natural science are now no longer tenable’ (p. 20).  Gadamer`s heritage was the continental hermeneutic tradition that reached back to Schleiermacher.    Gadamer advanced from a hermeneutic of text interpretation to a philosophical hermeneutics, that is, a general theory of how people understand and how this understanding informs action.

Demonstrate your knowledge of Freud, Jung, Hillman and the philosophical commitments of depth psychology.

The term depth psychology is the container for a number of psychologies that concern themselves with the unconscious. Though its existence was known and utilized by mesmerists and hypnotists (Meissner, 2000), the unconscious gained its first scientific foothold in modern times with Freud. However, the psyche recovered its greater depths in Jungian psychology and Hillman’s (1975) archetypal psychology, In all, the rational, intentional human mind, waking consciousness, or gift of reason, is only one player in a much larger field of consciousness.

These depth psychologists believe that the ego consciousness, our daytime “I,” is not the master of the psychological house. They feel this was proven early on by the word association tests (Jung, 1910, 1970), where the individual, after an initial ease with associating words with given prompts, would begin to take extra long for some responses, draw blanks, give answers that rhymed.

The unexpected or what went wrong, when taken together would often exhibit a thematic quality, be connected to returning emotions, memories, repressed instincts, which came to be known as the complexes. The word association tests demonstrated that in spite of our intentions, something other, not known to the daytime “I,” could interfere and participate in our behavior. Over the years, the metaphoric characters and the inner dramas of the complexes led psychologists to call their approach to the psyche a “poetic basis of mind” (Hillman, 1975, p. xi).

Since the appearance of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams in 1900, the existence of the unconscious has held as a psychological fact. The exact nature of what is in the unconscious is what distinguishes the different depths of the depth psychologies. For Freud, the unconscious contained various forms of instinct and memory in the form of complexes, a personal unconscious that had emotional and somatic/physical attributes.

For Jung (1959), that personal unconscious rested upon an even deeper layer, the collective unconscious or the objective psyche, which was far more ancient than an individual lifetime and contained the primordial images, the archetypes. The archetypes featured not only emotional and somatic attributes, but also spiritual and worldly attributes that appeared in vision, dream and synchronicity. Synchronicity is Jung’s word for the meaningful coincidences that are part and parcel of deep psychological experience. For Jung, the objective psyche also contained a guiding, organizing center, the Self, very much like the Hindu Parusha, the God Within.

Hillman (1975) wished to keep psychology free from the dogmatism of Jung’s Self. He said that our psychological depths do contain archetypes, but they are best served by an understanding that respects their full autonomy. In other words, for Hillman, the depths are polycentric and if there is a Self, we honor it best by not dictating how it should behave. Hillman pushes archetypal theory to its fullest stature.

For him, an archetype and a God, in the classic (e.g., Grecian or polytheistic) sense of the word, are the same. Additionally, he prefers the word soul to the words personal or collective unconscious. Hillman amplified the term “soul” by using these related words: “mind, spirit, heart, life, warmth, humanness, personality, individuality, intentionality, essence, innermost purpose, emotion, quality, virtue, morality, sin, wisdom, death, God” (Hillman, 1964, p. 44).

Jungian idea of the collective unconscious as the “most serviceable in the creation of an ecopsychology” (p. 302). Today we call this theory Gala. Earth itself is a living being and through our becoming conscious, she becomes conscious: “the collective unconscious, at its deepest level, shelters the compacted ecological intelligence of our species, the source from which culture finally unfolds as the self-conscious reflection of nature’s own steadily emergent mindlikeness” (p. 301).

Evaluate heuristic and hermeneutics.

The heuristic psychology was based on a quite simple idea. The theory was designed to explain the prevalence of cognitive biases in reasoning tasks and the puzzling fact that logical competence demonstrated on one task often failed to be exhibited on another (Evans, 1989). The heuristicanalytic theory proposed that two kinds of cognitive process were involved: heuristic processes, which generated selective representations of problem content, and analytic processes, which derived inferences or judgments from these representations. Biases were accounted for by the proposal that logically relevant information might be omitted or logically irrelevant information included at the heuristic stage. Since analytic reasoning could be applied only to these heuristically formed representations, biases could result.

In the revised theory, the heuristic-analytic terminology is retained, with an attempt to define more precisely the nature of the interaction between the two processes and to assist in the generation of experimental predictions about particular reasoning tasks. At the same time, assumptions about dual systems are kept to a minimum.

The present account draws heavily on the theory of hypothetical thinking put forward by Evans, Over, and Handley (2003) in an attempt to gain greater understanding of how the analytic (or explicit) system works and how it interacts with the heuristic (or implicit) system. Evans, Over, and Handley (2003) were attempting to advance in more specific terms the idea proposed by Evans and Over (1996) that the analytic system is involved whenever hypothetical thought is required. Hypothetical thinking involves the imagination of possibilities that go beyond the representation of factual knowledge about the world. Examples include hypothesis testing, forecasting, consequential decision making, and (on certain assumptions) deductive reasoning.

The relevance principle concerns the generation of mental models and hypotheses by the heuristic system. It refers to the powerful tendency to contextualize all problems with reference to prior knowledge elicited by contextual cues and the current goals that are being pursued. This has been described as the fundamental computational bias by Stanovich (1999), although the term bias should certainly not be taken here in a pejorative sense. Given the notorious frame problem of artificial intelligence, we might describe the fundamental computational bias in computers as the failure to contextualize problems.

What Stanovich (1999) is getting at is the fact that we need, in a modern technological society, to be capable also of abstract, decontextualized reasoning, which he believes the analytic system can achieve. Note that the relevance principle contrasts with the principle of truth in the mental model theory (Johnson-Laird & Byrne, 2002), in which it is proposed that people represent only true possibilities. By default, I assume that people represent what is believable or plausible (true is too strong a term) but also that this default can be altered according to context. Our attention can easily be focused on hypotheses that are improbable (buying health insurance to cover emergencies on a particular vacation) or most improbable (thinking about the consequences of life being discovered on Mars).

The heuristic-analytic theory does not offer an original or profound solution to the problem of how relevant knowledge is delivered by the heuristic system. However, in our proposals about mental representations, we have drawn on the notion that implicatures may be added to our mental models (Evans & Over, 2004).

The discipline called hermeneutics has been thriving for more than 300 years. Hermeneutics has played an increasingly influential role in what PoIkinghorne (1983) calls the “long debate” in modern times over the proper mode of inquiry in the human sciences. Should they emulate the methods of the natural sciences or develop their own distinctive approach? Are human beings different in kind from objects in the natural world: Are they requiring such a different approach? Hermeneutics as a self-conscious procedure arose in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, concerned mainly with the interpretation of the bible and classic texts.

Even though these works were consulted for important insights or truths concerning human life, reflective interpretation was often felt to be required because, as the modern world dawned, they seemed to be products of quite different and somewhat alien cultures of the past. Also, the Reformation had, in many quarters, undermined the Church’s exclusive authority to interohmpret the Bible. Friedrich Schliermacher (1768-1834) broadened the scope of hermeneutics and clarified the role of the famous “hermeneutic circle,” according to which our understanding of any part of a text, work of art, or individual life is shaped by our initial or assumed understanding of the whole of it, at the same time that our understanding of that whole is continually revised by our encounter with and modified understanding of its parts.

Some hermeneutic philosophers (Heidegger, 1962; Gadamer, 1989; Guignon, 1983; Taylor, 1989), sometimes termed ontological hermeneutics, might contribute to a more plausible picture of the world and the place of humans in it that would be open to religious claims and meanings. Also, I will suggest a few key ways in which such an ontology calls for a revised understanding of the aims and methods of the social sciences, including psychology. Finally, I suggest that a hermeneutic perspective gives us insights into what might be the most fruitful kind of interaction between psychology and religion.

Some view them as essentially in conflict, of course, while others avoid such conflict by sealing them off from another in separate spheres. Neither approach is very helpful, obviously, to religiously inclined psychologists who want to draw in their work on possibly valid ideas from each realm. At this point, the alternative of seeking an intellectually and spiritually sound “integration” of religion and psychology beckons. From a hermeneutic standpoint, much of the spirit of this approach seems right on target, but still the idea or theory of integrating these fields seems flawed in important ways that call for rethinking the nature of their interchange.

Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) expanded Schliermacher’s ideas into a general theory of interpretation for the human sciences. A strictly naturalistic view of inquiry in the human sciences began to harden with the publication of John Stuart Mill’s influential System of Logic in 1843, which presented a philosophical and logical foundation for empiricism and advocated the use of natural science methods in the study of human phenomenon as the only cure for what Mill thought of as the “backward state of the moral sciences.” However, Dilthey argued forcefully that we simply do not understand our objects in the “human studies” or “human sciences” (Geisteswissenschaften) by subsuming them under general laws.

“We explain nature; man we must understand” (Dilthey, 195.8, p. 144). Rather, in these disciplines we need “to forge new models for the interpretation of human phenomena … derived from the character of lived experience itself … to be based on categories of ‘meaning’ instead of ‘power,’ history instead of mathematics” (Palmer, 1969, p. 103).1 In these fields, according to Dilthey, we immediately grasp the meaning or import of a work of art or historical event in terms of categories of significance, purpose, or value, through a combined exercise of all our powers of cognitive reflection, empathy, and moral imagination.

At the start of the twentieth century, a major transformation in hermeneutic thought took place, reflecting the growing awareness that devising rules for interpreting humans is impossible and that the whole fascination with method is a byproduct of the very scientism being called in question. The result was a shift from seeing hermeneutics as primarily epistemological or methodological, where the aim is developing an art or technique of interpretation, to today’s ontological hermeneutics, which aims to clarify the being of the entities that interpret and understand, namely, ourselves (Richardson, Powers, & Guignon, 1999).

An essential part of this transformation involves becoming clear that the aspiration to pristine, a historical standards for understanding, or truly an Archimedean point for discriminating knowledge from illusion and error, is not only unattainable but reflects, in part, questionable and, in a moral or spiritual sense, somewhat inauthentic motives or goals for humans. I hope to suggest some possible reasons for this claim and provide glimpses of an ontological hermeneutic alternative to scientism, dogmatism, and relativism in the remainder of this article, in line with the effort by some leading thinkers and theologians today to “steer a course between Enlightenment foundationalism and postmodern relativism” (Browning, 2004).


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