Neuroscience and humanistic psychology are part of an area of study that I believe is, by definition, designed to help people achieve, in one form or another, their highest possible evolutionary state. Both are part of a long evolutionary process, within psychology, of learning and growth. While Eugenics may be part of that evolutionary process, and I cannot claim it as an anomaly, it is very disturbing and I’ll discuss Eugenics more below. The fact remains that there have been too many of these “anomalies” throughout the history of psychology, most recently the revelation of psychologists’ participation in the torture of political prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
In Tomlinson & Aron (2012), they confirm what many have known intuitively for centuries, that everything is connected. They don’t go that far, limiting themselves to relationship science and the neurological connections within the brain. While they cite a few examples where this approach is beneficial (the adult attachment system and chronic stress on caregivers and romantic love), they discuss interdisciplinary approaches. At the heart and soul of my interest in many things and harnessing them to help people help themselves is combining approaches, philosophies, and disciplines to make the world a better place. It is also key for me that within relationship neuroscience, there is flexibility that allows for longitudinal studies that piques my interest for future studies.
Tomlinson & Aron (2012) also caution us to engage in theory driven work rather than let methodology drive our work, in effect not allowing us to solidify this into dogma like so many other aspects of our lives. Instead, we should always pursue knowledge to the deepest levels to learn how we function in the wide world. And here, the interdisciplinary approach becomes relevant in similar ways that chaos theory has so fascinated me over the last several months. It doesn’t allow for dogma to solidify in one discipline over all other disciplines that are dismissed as invalid. There is much that needs changing in the social sciences, as well as the natural sciences; given that there is at least a two-hundred-year separation of the sciences into divisive specialties. Prior to this, scientists, including David Hume, John Locke, and Isaac Newton, explored all aspects of science, the natural and social freely. Interdisciplinary is an idea that is not new, it is just rusty and so novel to many.
What implications does this work have on Humanistic Psychology and how might Humanistic Psychology (or psychology in general) critique the assumptions, methods, and findings of this emerging field? While we must proceed with caution, exploration of interdisciplinary methods is necessary in order to incorporate additional and valuable disciplines, growing and evolving, rather than becoming dogmatic as I mentioned happening in other disciplines. I believe that the implications and potential are incredible.
Eugenics is a terrible legacy, and Robbins (2012) only taps this surface of this heinous legacy that travelled beyond the confines of the United States of the late 1800s that affected women and Black Americans. Since the tacit acknowledgement of many psychological associations, if not approval, created this environment of oppression, bureaucratic monitoring of activities that could be declared as heinous crimes against humanity are not enough, and the implications are that activism of individuals calling out this kind of activity is vitally needed. If it means challenging that authority of the APA when certain questionable practices are accepted, encouraged, or ignored, tacitly or otherwise, in order to assist in our evolutionary humanity, then yes. In fact, I think a lot more needs to be done to challenge this unchecked authority. This may surprise no one coming from me, but the authoritarian control that some organizations have in society gives them an air of knowledge and authority that they don’t always deserve, and they veil themselves in expertise propaganda.
Tomlinson, J. M. & Aron, A. (2012). Relationship neuroscience: Where we are and where we might be going. In O. Gillath, G. Adams, & A. Kunkel (Eds.), Relationship science: Integrating evolutionary, neuroscience, and sociocultural approaches (pp. 13-26). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Robbins, B. D. (2012). Eugenics and psychiatry: A brief overview and history. Retrieved from http://www.saybrook.edu/newexistentialists/posts/09-12-12