Volume 5, Number 2, Spring
The Principle of Parsimony and Some Applications in Pyschology
Robert Epstein, Northeaster University and Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.
The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Spring 1984, Volume 5, Number 2, Pages 119–130, ISSN 0271–0137
A modern principle of parsimony may be stated as follows: Where we have no reason to do otherwise and where two theories account for the same facts, we should prefer the one which is briefer, which makes assumptions with which we can easily dispense, which refers to observables, and which has the greatest possible generality. Psychologists often violate this principle, particularly in attributing complex behavior to cognitive processes. The practice is exemplified by recent accounts of chimpanzee behavior.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Robert Epstein, The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, 11 Ware Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.
Affection as a Cognitive Judgmental Process: A Theoretical Assumption Put to Test Through Brain-Lateralization Methodology
An experiment on affection employing brain-lateralization methodology is conducted based upon the tenets and previous research of logical learning theory, but which cannot be derived from the affective theories of Osgood and Zajonc. It is predicted that affective assessment will play a role in the recognition of both pictorial and verbal (language) materials, but left hemispheric conceptualization will rely more on affective contrasts for pictorial recognition than for verbal recognition, and right-hemispheric effects will reflect the opposite predilection. Sixty-four high school students are put through a modified Gazzaniga procedure in which after first rating pictorial or verbal materials for affective value on separate days they are asked to recognize these items on a third day. The experimental hypotheses are confirmed (p < .01). Thus, when a hemisphere is cognizing materials that are not within its primary organizational focus an increased reliance on affective discrimination takes place.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Joseph F. Rychlak, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Loyola University of Chicago, 6625 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, Illinois 60626
A Psycho-Neuro-Endocrine Framework for Depression: A Clinically Eclectic Approach
For quite some time the factors underlying the etiology of clinical depression have reminded elusive. However, many provocative studies have been conducted that have elucidated some of the central features of the clinical picture. Our current understanding provides us with the notion that many factors are superimposed upon the neural architecture which enter into a dynamic interplay in the orchestration of the complex phenomenon associated with the behavioral and arousal changes exhibited by depressed patients. The objective of the present paper is to emphasize the importance of establishing the framework which considers the various acting in the manifestation of the disorder. I will give consideration to a host of neuropsychiatric ramifications which include (1) biobehavioral configurations; (2) genetic and familiar studies with both human and nonhuman primates; (3) the analysis of sleep; (4) neuro-psychopharmacology; and (5) neural circuit mechanisms acting on differentiated axes in the psychoneuroendocrine apparatus. An attempt is made to framework depression and hence bring forth a modicum of understanding to this multifactorial disease which is neither wholly endogenous or wholly exogenous—but rather one whose comprehension necessitates an inevitable union between the biological and psychological concomitants.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Elliot Frohman, Director of Medical Affairs, The Winfield Foundation, 2050 Center Avenue, Fort Lee, New Jersey 07024
A Biofunctional Model of Distributed Mental Content, Mental Structures, Awareness, and Attention
Central to current cognitive theories is the belief that knowledge is an organized collection of long-term structures upon which various information processing mechanisms operate. Consequently much research has been devoted to investigating the organizational and processing aspects of knowledge representations. This paper proposes a shift in the locus of theoretical analysis. Following Bartlett, we argue that mental functioning may be more readily characterized if the idea of abstract long-term associations and structures is abandoned. An account of cognition is proposed in which psychological permanence is a functional characteristic of the neuronal system. Cognition and other aspects of mental life re explained in terms of the activity of anatomically distributed constellations of neuronal elements. These elements are conceived of as psychological microsystems which are capable of generating specialized awareness experiences. The overall mental counterpart of the combined activity of these elements we call the schema-ofthe-moment. We hope that the model we are proposing can contribute to bridging the gap between cognitive psychology and the neurosciences.
The Double Bind and Koan Zen
Double bind epistemology is applied to a beneficent double bind situation — the practice of Koan Zen. The successful resolution of the double bind in Koan Zen occurs within a context created by the interaction of several key factors: a competent teacher, the attitudes of the Zen student toward Zen training, and the support of a strong community of Zen practitioners.
Occultism is not Science: A Reply to Kootte.
While contemplating that Castenada’s critics, notably de Mille (1980), have failed to prove a hoax, Kootte (1984) argues selectively, tendentiously, and unscientifically, misreading de Mille and misplacing the burden of proof. Siegel’s (1981) psychopharmacological refutation of Castaneda’s psychodelics is cited. De Mille’s meeting with Castaneda is reported.
The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development . Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982, 318 pages.
Reviewed by Victor H. Jones, Indiana State University.
Believing that people construct their own realities and that they evolve through a succession of selves “according to regular principles of stability and change,” Robert Kegan identifies himself as a constructive-developmentalist in his philosophical and psychological orientation. His excellent book articulated the process by which the succession of selves evolve and indicates the kind of therapy that the evolutionary movement seems naturally to suggest.
Children of War . New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1983, 212 pages. $13.95.
Reviewed by Mark Senak, The Institute of Mind and Behavior.
Children of War is an attempt by Roger Rosenblatt, a Senior writer for Time magazine, to construct a portrait of the most helpless victims of war — children. In addition, he seeks to answer the overwhelming questions of why wars exist at all, who makes them, and for what reasons. While this lofty ideal cannot be successful of substentively addressed in the two hundred pages that constitute the book, Children of War does offer an insight into the conditions of war through the eyes of children; this insight is vivid, apparently accurate, and compelling. The author felt that if it were possible to obtain any answers at all to his questions on war, it would be from children, because “children are vitally important to adults. One way or another, most grown-ups wish to say something to the world by speaking to or through their children; and the children, as objects of this desire, are in a strong position to know what the world is like.”
Ethnicity and American Social Theory: Toward Critical Pluralism. Lanham (Maryland), New York and London: University Press of America, 1983, 236 pages, $23.50 hard, $11.50 paper.
Reviewed by Werner D. von der Ohe, University of Munich.
The discussion about the secularization trend in modern industrialized countries could perhaps be enriched by my recent “discovery” that a one-dollar bill from the days of the Great Depression does not contain the hope/dream/ideal “In God we trust,” but only the hope/dream/ideal “e pluribus unum.” Is this a symbol or metaphor with an underlying meaning ? Does this mean, for example, that violating the former dream is neither so serious nor so devious as violating the latter? Is it symbolic of a move toward America as the melting pot? And how far can one go when one entertains the metaphor of a “melting pot”? Does the “unum” simply signify the (least) common denominator of “e pluribus”? Or do we talk about a certain transsubstantiation, a catalyst reaction, in the sense, that members of several hundred ethnic groups in the United States produced something more than the neologism of a [sic] “United Statian”? Has God himself become, in a sense, the least common denominator of a multitude of ethnic groups and/or a new unspecified emergent common denominator?
Kurt Koffka: An Unwitting Self-Portrait. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1984, xiv + 334 pages. $30.00.
Reviewed by William F. Stone, University of Maine at Orono.
Molly Harrower arrived at Smith College in 1928, at the age of 22, as a graduate student in experimental psychology. Born in Johannesburg and educated in England (with a year in Switzerland), Harrower was a mature student although young in years. She had come from England to study and research with Kurt Koffka, who had assumed the chair at smith the year before. Thus began a professional relationship that blossomed into correspondence two years later when Harrower took a year off to teach at Wells College in New York.
Aftermath: A soldier’s Return From Vietnam New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1984, 222 pages, $12.95 hard.
Reviewed by Steven E. Connelly, Indiana State University.
Vietnam. The word still triggers ferocious emotions, puzzling and irrational responses. Consider two recent scenes from a college classroom. (1) A middle-aged freshman angrily denounces the documentary Hearts and Minds, declaring that it must have been made by communists. She refuses to believe the maimed and paralyzed veterans interviewed ever really fought in Vietnam; she announces to the class that these men must be actors, because her son was wounded in Vietnam, and she knows that no American wounded in the service of his country could possibly oppose the war. (2) A veteran of 60’s anti-war demonstrations, once beaten and spit upon by “patriots” — remarks casually, but seriously, that American soldiers killed and wounded in Vietnam have simply received their just due. The crazed, twisted logic that once divided the country endures: erupting in an apathetic classroom of the eighties, it shocks all the more.
Freud As A Writer . New York: International University Press, Inc., 1982, 227 pages, $18.50 hard.
Reviewed by Steven E. Connelly, Indiana State University.
Nearly forty years ago, the American novelist Allan Seager suggested that Freudian psychology affected the attitudes of twenty century writers almost as much as all other influences combined: “I agree with Freud himself,” Seager declared, “in believing that, in time, he will come to be regarded as the great literary figure of Our Time because he composed, on the foundation of an hypothesis completely unprovable physiologically, a body of stories about ourselves that we utterly believed.” Certainly Freud’s influence on literature has been colossal. The novel, once virtually by definition committed to the exploration of an entire society, has generally narrowed to a careful study of the protagonist’s psychology. Psychological criticism has become one of the basic approaches to literature. Indeed, not only has Freud influenced the creation and criticism of literature, he has himself became a character in fiction: e.g., The White Hotel and The Seven Percent Solution. The incestuous nature of the relationship between literature and psychology has been frequently noted, and on occasion it has been claimed that literature spawned Freudian psychology: certainly without Freud’s strong schooling in the classics, without his love for Dostoevsky, without his studied insight into the tale well told, the history of modern psychology would have been radically different. Is it not strange, then, that literary Freud has not been a more frequent subject of intense study? Perhaps Patrick Mahoney’s Freud As A Writer will be the forerunner of such investigations.