Psychology as a Human Science: History and Debates

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS2017204

Semester and Year Offered: 1st semester course

Course Coordinator and Team: Gangmumei Kamei (earlier taught by Wrick, Anup, Rachana and Mamatha)

Email of course coordinator: gangmumei[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: To understand the kind of science psychology becomes in its various manifestations and to reflect on the meaning of shifting positions, of subjective experience and objective truth so as to locate new precepts of study in Psychology.

Course Outcomes: By the end of the course, the student is expected to

  1. be familiar with key concepts such as positivism, scientism, subjects and objects, mind, self, historiography, critical thought and so on;
  2. recognize the critical or defining moments in the evolution of psychology as a human science;
  3. locate how structure (group, culture, language and other formations) are situated and debated in psychological discourse.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules: The course studies the kind of science psychology becomes in its various manifestations. After introducing ‘mainstream’ ideas about science itself, about psychology as a positivist science, and the methods associated with such a science, the course raises questions on the kind of science psychology has or can become, given that it involves a mind studying itself to create a theory of the self and of being. That this is only a start is evident since such a theory must inevitably accommodate (and convince) others (with their own minds). The complexities in processing and communicating this knowledge will be noted by reflecting on the meaning of shifting positions, of subjective experience and objective truth so as to locate new precepts of study. The student is encouraged to undertake a critical review of disciplinary practices.

Module 1: Psychology as a Human Science – Debates on Psychology as positivist science or human science, history and historiography of Psychology, the Philosophical and Biomedical Roots.

Module 2: Pathways in Psychology: Evolutionary, Laboratory, Experimental – Debates on the motifs central to the construction of psychology as a positivist science.

Module 3: Pathways in Psychology: Clinical, Social, Cultural – Debates on departing from the earlier positivist construction of psychology and the resulting psychologies along clinical, social and cultural axes.

Module 4: Pathways in Psychology: Critical Perspectives – Debates on critical psychology based on critical theory.

Module 5: Society, Culture and Language – Importance of society, culture and language in understanding Psychology.

Module 6: Indian Psychology – Indian perspectives in Psychology, east versus west debate on Psychology, indigenous Psychology.

Assessment Details with weights: (a) Chapter Review/Class Test – 20%, (b) Mid Semester Examination (40%), and (c) End Semester Examination (40%).

Reading List:

  1. ‘A System of Behavior’ (B. F. Skinner, 1938, History of Psychology, Benjamin, pp. 281-286)
  2. ‘An Outline of Psychology’ (Wilhelm Wundt, History of Psychology, Benjamin)
  3. ‘Between Discourse and Schema: Reformulating a Cultural-Historical Approach to Culture and Mind’ (Holland and Cole, pp. 475-489)
  4. ‘Cattell and the Failure of Anthromometric Mental Testing 1890-1901’ (History of Psychology, Benjamin, pp. 106-114)
  5. ‘Critical Psychology’ (Critical Psychology for Critical Action, pp. 39- 60)
  6. ‘Does Language Embody a Philosophical Point of View?’ (Landesman, pp. 617-636)
  7. ‘Embodiment’ (Social Psychology Matters, pp. 173-198)
  8. ‘Ethical Relativism: Is There a Defensible Version?’ (Shweder, pp. 205-218)
  9. ‘Evolutionary Psychology’ (Great Ideas in Psychology, Moghaddam, pp. 295-312)
  10. ‘Expert Testimony: Law and Practice’ (Handbook of Psychology, Goldstein, pp. 55-66)
  11. ‘From Aesthetics to Psychology: Notes on Vygotsky's "Psychology of Art"’ (Lima, pp. 410-424)
  12. ‘From Control to Co-construction: New Narratives for the Social Sciences’ (Gergen, pp. 101-103)
  13. ‘Historiography: Asking & Answering Historical Questions’ (History of Psychology, Benjamin, pp.1-20)
  14. ‘Introduction: Working Out and Working In’ (Great Ideas in Psychology, Moghaddam, pp. 1-12)
  15. ‘Linguistic Relativity’ (Lucy, pp. 291-312)
  16. ‘Multicultural Psychology’ (Great Ideas in Psychology, Moghaddam, pp. 280-294)
  17. ‘Personality Traits’ (Great Ideas in Psychology, Moghaddam, pp. 194-212)
  18. ‘Philosophy of Psychology at the Turn of the Century’ (American Psychologist, 2000, pp. 1018 – 21)
  19. ‘Psychology and End of History: A Critique and Proposal for the Psychology of Social Categorization’ (Reicher and Hopkins, pp. 383-407)
  20. ‘Psychology as a Science’ (Handbook of Psychology, Fuchs and Milar, pp. 1-20)
  21. ‘Psychology’ (Rachana Johri, pp. 1-18)
  22. ‘Reconstructing the Subject’ (Rediscovering the History of Psychology, Brock, pp 19-32)
  23. ‘Recovering the Experiment’ (Rom Harre, pp. 353-377)
  24. ‘Review: The Beleaguered Self’ (Snow and Heirling, pp. 846-848)
  25. ‘Self’ (Social Psychology Matters, pp. 119-145)
  26. ‘Social Constructionism’ (Great Ideas in Psychology, Moghaddam, pp. 313-334)
  27. ‘Social Psychology of Identities’ (Judith Howard, pp. 367-393)
  28. ‘Social Psychology: Past and Present’ (Social Psychology Matters, pp. 1-32)
  29. ‘Tests of the Senses and Faculties’ (History of Psychology, Benjamin, pp. 101-106)
  30. ‘The Cultural Psychology of Suffering: The Many Meanings of Health in Orissa, India (and Elsewhere)’ (Shweder, pp. 60-77)
  31. ‘The First Course: Introducing How Many -- And Which -- Social Psychologies?’ (McCall, pp. 127-138)
  32. ‘The Freudian Unconscious’ (Great Ideas in Psychology, Moghaddam, pp. 42-62)
  33. ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (Sigmund Freud, 1900, pp. 1-6)
  34. ‘The non-paradigmatic crisis in Indian psychology’ (Ashis Nandy, IJP, 49: 1-20)
  35. ‘The Politics of Application and Social Relevance in Contemporary Psychology’ (Nandy, pp. 129-137)
  36. ‘The present: Globalization, Psychology and History’ (History of Psychology by Lawson, pp. 1-25)
  37. ‘The Psychology Laboratory’ (Great Ideas in Psychology, Moghaddam, pp. 13-27)
  38. ‘The Scientific Status of American Psychology in 1900’ (American Psychologist, 2000, pp. 1014-17)
  39. ‘The Stream of Thought’ (William James, 1890 History of Psychology, Benjamin, pp. 84-87)
  40. ‘The Surprise of Ethnography’ (Shweder, pp. 152-163)
  41. ‘Versions of Vygotsky’ (Gillen, pp. 183-198)
  42. ‘What Is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?’ (Kay and Kempton, pp. 65-79)
  43. ‘What Makes Language Possible? Ethological Foundationalism in Reid and Wittgenstein’ (Rom Harre, pp. 483-498)
  44. ‘Why Cultural Psychology?’ (Shweder, pp. 62-73)
  45. ‘William James and Sigmund Freud: The Future of Psychology Belongs to Your Work’ (Taylor, 1999)
  46. Clinical: Psychotherapeutics and the Problematic Origins of Clinical Psychology in America (online)
  47. Clinical: The Nineteenth Century (online)