Psychology & the Idea of a University

This week many of us go back to school, as teachers or students; we teach or take courses where the subject matter is more or less specialized within a discipline. In the field of psychology, one will find a wide range of topics in Introduction to Psychology but after that the courses will become specialized into sub-fields such as Developmental Psychology, Psychological Testing, Abnormal Psychology, Research Methods or Educational Psychology. College catalogs and enthusiastic core curriculum committees may talk about the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge, but rare is this striving interwoven into the goals of a course, or, as they are called now, outcomes-oriented assessments. Surveying a new class in front of me—always a joy, by the way—I sometimes wonder how the students connect a particular course in psychology to everything else they have learned.

If John Henry Cardinal Newman had a great fear, it was that students and professors would never connect a particular field with an understanding of religion, for him, of course, the Catholic faith of which he became a convert. What would Cardinal Newman say about the secularization of colleges and universities today, and the particular problems inherent in bringing up this topic where there is a multiplicity of faith experiences and even militant atheism present? We can speculate, but I am certain he would listen attentively to any attempts to broach the discussion, as he prided himself in being the classic gentleman, a person who would never intentionally hurt another. Writing "The Idea of a University" even before Wilhelm Wundt, the "founder" of psychology, and years before even Sigmund Freud, Newman considered the role of psychology within a university crucial and he criticized those who "Scoff at the action of mind over matter, or of mind upon mind, or the claims of mutual justice and charity..I am not supposing the principles of Theology and Psychology are the same." Newman worried that some would "get possession of these studies and monopolize them (so) that religion has nothing to do which the studies to which I am alluding, nor those studies to religion."

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In some of the things I have written about, I've tried to show how topics studied by psychologists fall under "the claims of mutual justice and charity" and may be of interest to readers of America magazine. Just last week, descriptions about the struggles of settlers from Cambodia were discussed here, and in the past topics such as orphanhood, depression and anorexia in college students, sexual violence, and even the question of whether or not standardized tests contribute to building better school systems in developing countries have been put in the forefront, with the background always being human justice if not the higher standards of the Gospel. In these small ways I have hoped to follow in Newman's footsteps. There are ways psychology has something good to contribute to a particular religion.

Yet many other interpretations of psychology go against what might be considered the traditional teachings of many cultures or religious groups. Freud of course was an atheist who placed great reverence in his own talents and sadly this brilliant man—whose discoveries became the motivation for many dedicated professionals to help traumatized human beings—became increasingly despondent as he died a painful death from cancer. The textbook goal of psychology "is the prediction and control of human behavior." This runs counter to a universe populated by individuals who make free choices and sayings like "Not even the King knows moment of his own death" (OT) or the more colloquial "when we make plans, God laughs."

Perhaps students and psychology teachers themselves can reflect upon John Henry Newman's continuing challenge to those of us who live and study on college campuses: What topics in a particular psychology course help to bring about "mutual justice or charity" in our local, nationa, or global society? What topics in a psychology course are consistent with a particular student's religious, cultural or philosophical heritage? Which topics or assumptions challenge or contradict such heritage? These are good questions to ask, not just for a course, but in a continuing way throughout one's life. I hope some students will decide to join us in this endeavor.

William Van Ornum

 

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6 years 9 months ago
I find that psychology as a whole is a source of charity.  It is not just a science, but a means of facilitating healthy and fulfilling lifestyles to those who would not otherwise be able to attain this.  Psychology and a greater understanding of human behavior provide people suffering from mental illness with the opportunity to thrive.  This is an evident foundation of charity. 
The integration of psychology into the criminal justice system has blurred the lines between guilty and not guilty.  However, I find that this gray area is essential in maintaining “mutual justice and charity”.  By considering psychology in the courtroom, the criminal justice system is able to recognize that not everyone can be held accountable for their actions.  It is unfair and uncharitable to imprison someone who is unable to understand or foresee the consequences of their actions. 
Katrina Ferrer
6 years 9 months ago
Psychology is the study of human behavior. The way to predict ones human behavior is through that person's cultures, heritage and/or religion. It is through this, that the person will decide justice versus charity. In the example of the mentally ill person committing murder, the judge, assumed fair and impartial, preceding over the trial will determine the punishment of the person based on the judge's cultures, heritage and/or religion. The judge's role in the example is representative of society and his decision in the preceding will be determined by his moral code which has been shaped throughout his whole life. Each and every person will have their own moral code that has been shaped by the people around them from the early years of their life which will aid their decision making in charity versus justice. This is where psychology comes into play as psychology studies and analyzes how and why these decisions came into fruition and the effects that these decisions will have.
jackie p
6 years 9 months ago
A University should funcion similarily to the way a country should function. Contrary to John Henry Cardinal Newmans belief, there should be seperate of church and college, just like there should be seperation between church and state. Psychology studies the human mind and human behavior. Psychologist try to find reasons for why people do what they do. I believe that most healthy human beings have the ability to feel and understand others pain and also want to helps others out of the goodness of their heart. Of course there are greedy, malicious, violent people in this world. I do not necessarily believe that religion is needed to guide us, tell us or give us a reason to help others or live a life of truth and justice. While I understand the tactics of Newmans beliefs, I believe that religion should be optional for those who need something to guide them down the right path and help them to do what is right.
6 years 9 months ago
Although psychology is not as prevalent in the Criminal Justice field as most psychologists would like, it is slowly starting to make headway in the field. The field is beginning to incorporate psychology as a better means of controlling inmates who unfortunately suffer from mental illnesses.  
About a year ago, I toured the maximum security prison, “Sing Sing” and was led through the mental ward of the establishment. It was a positive spin on such a negative place. The inmates, who were clearly suffering from a mental disease, were being dealt with from a psychological approach that could benefit them the most and the other inmates. After this experience, I truly believed that justice and psychology do tie in with each other at some point. Even though the relationship between both fields are not maintained in every criminal justice aspect, psychology is now becoming an important determining factor in ‘punishment’ and ‘justice’ for all.
With that being said, I believe that psychology can be considered a charitable thing as well. As it provides people with the pathway to controlling and changing human behavior in the criminal justice field, it also allows those suffering from mental illnesses the ability to thrive within their own life.  Understanding and being able to control the behaviors of those who cannot control their own behavior through psychology is vital to the happiness of those suffering and is charitable to society as a whole. 
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Jackie,

"A University should function similarily to the way a country should function. Contrary to John Henry Cardinal Newmans belief, there should be seperate of church and college, just like there should be seperation between church and state."

A most important point. A question that follows is: "Should the diversity of cultures, religions, and philosophies" be made available to students in college environments? In this manner, students have an opportunity to attain a greater awareness of all of the people around. Do students have an opportunity to express their cultural/religious/philosophical heritage, be this Islam, Catholicism, Atheism, or Sexual Expression in freedom?

You are right that there are other honorable philosophies to guide one's life other than the major religions, and people may choose these paths because of the ways followers of a particular religion may distort the tenets or otherwise use a religion for purposes of harm to humanity. Sadly, the ideals of a religion do not always describe the followers. thanks, bill



we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Linda,

Psychology is able to bring freedom to the lives of many. In my own career, I think I saw this most when working in psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment (for severely disturbed and traumatized children). Some people literally do recive their lives back. I think we are just beginning to really understand that grey area between psychology and criminal justice. I think it is an area with great potential, and probably a good career choice for many young people. The news every day is full of examples of situations where a better understanding of mental illness/violence would reap benefits for individuals, societies, and families. Tx. bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
David,

Perhaps some folks will need a "therapeutic detention," perhaps even for the rest of their lives?
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Norm,

Ocham's Razor? tx. bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Katrina,

You mention the role of the judge. There is a growing number of judges who are willing to use the advice of expert witnesses who report to the court in helping to determining sentencing vs. treatment where this is an issue. (Please note: an expert witness who reports to the Judge/Court is NOT the same as the kind of expert witness who is hired by either side in a criminal dispute. The latter have a reputation as "hired guns" which is not always inaccurate.)
In many cases bipolar disorder can be a factor in juvenile acting-out such as stealing sprees, etc. and identifying this and treating it can be crucial for all as placing someone who has untreated bipolar disorder in a general prison setting can be disasterous for all. tx, bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
David #22,

I think Katrina has a good understanding of many of the judges. The judge in many situations does have great leeway and that is why before any major trial you will have the lawyers being extremely interested and cocnerned about who the judge will be in an upcoming trial. best, bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Janice F,

I certainly hope that all the information in different psychology courses comes together to promote better understanding of human beings. This has been the case for me and sometimes I look back at one semester in college when I had four psychology courses at once-the intereraction between the material was really neat! As I think you are implying, the line between "proselytizing" and "discussing" is an important one to watch.

And we do have to watch out that "kind hearted folks" can be swayed by those who may want to emphasize their troubles, traumatic upbringing, etc!

best, bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Desiree,

What a great experience-to visit Sing Sing! The place where movies were filmed, where the Rosenberg's were executed...it's UPSTATE. I'm always looking out the windown when the train to NYC goes right through the prison. It is good to hear that they are striving to combine justice with treatment. Karl Menninger once wrote a book THE CRIME OF PUNISHMENT and I suspect many prisons in the USA would receive criticism from Menninger were he still alive. For four semesters I taught in Greenhaven Prison, also maximum security, and it was an eye opener for me. best, bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Janice J.,

One of the great ironies in the field is that the profession of psychology embraces a view of cultural diversity-accepting the cultural background that a person possesses, respecting that background, and trying to understand it. Yet at the same time, certain kinds of cultural backgrounds-usually those of a conservative, religious bent (and it doesn't matter what the religion is if it is copnservative)-are looked down upon, criticized, or made fun of with a kind of "geesh, how could anyone..." putdown. It is going to be interesting when the profession of psychology meets with persons from the Eastern World who practice with great earnestness and devotion a kind of religious outlook that emphasizes family structure, importance of marriage, etc.

Many times we have a fear of the severely mentally ill-and I think education in psychology brings this range of human experience to us so we become more understanding, more comfortable. Knowledge drives out fear.

I'm glad you've kept Dr. Torrey in the discussion. He is a wise man.

amdg, bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Robert,

Your point is a good one that many times criminal justice systems "lump together" people with a certain characterisrtic. Perhaps this is because the field combining criminal justice and psychology is in its infancy? Among those with 'alcohol and substance abuse problems" are individuals who may have one, two, or even three additional psychiatric diagnoses. The assessment and treatment of the "dually diagnosed" is becomeing a speciality and I think effforts like this will help us in the future understand the wide range of problems in what are now lumped together many people under terms such as "sexual offender," "addict", ect.
best, bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
NOTE TO EVERYONE:

I have invited some of my undergraduate students, and students from two other colleges as well, to respond to tbis topic and I am grateful for their already-apparent fresh insights, and for the respect and helpfulness shown by our regular contributors. Thanks! bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Marie,

If you want to have a further discussion on the existence of mental illness, consider ordering the DMS IV. After reading that, I think there could be a good discussion on how effective this book is in defining mental illness. best, bill
Daniela Pereira
6 years 9 months ago
When becoming a psychologist you are usually influenced by theories and ideas based on significant psychologists in the field. One tends to base most of their practice on a particular psychologist because he or she believes that field is most just and charitable when helping others. The main goal of any psychologist is to help the client to the best of his or her own ability free from biases. With that being said, if one tries to combine religion and practice, I feel as though the psychologist in some situations may allow his or her beliefs influence the advice given to the client. Or even worse, the psychologist might judge the client and form opinions that are unethical because of prior beliefs. Although religion for many people helps bring peace, aid and righteousness, it can also bring prejudices and preconceptions. And for that reason I disagree with Cardinal Newman. I believe the separation of religion and psychology is just as beneficial as the separation between church and state due to the many controversies that arise when the two are dealt together.
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Daniela,

For clinical and counseling psychologists it is a never-ending task to work to see that their own preocnceptions or biases don't impinge upon what a client may freely choose. Some call this countertransference and many psychologists continue in consultation or supervision to make sure their background, philosophy, or religion doesn't impact upon a client negatively.
What aout strong philosophical stands? Some psychologists are anti-war or pacifists; this may not come religious belief but from philosophical examination. There is even a Division in the APA on "Peace Psychology". Should psychologists who strongly believe in pacifism try to influence their clients with this viewpoint? I wonder how they handle it when they work with a military person or family?
Thanks for expressing your disgreement with JH Newman with such clarity. best, bill
Marie Rehbein
6 years 9 months ago
Bill, is there an absolute definition of mental illness?  I tend to think there isn't.  I think we assess/judge people to be mental ill by reference to something, but not to an absolute of any kind.  (I have been reading your book, btw, but am not far enough in to say whether it does or does not cover this subject) 
6 years 9 months ago
While the textbook goal of psychology may be to "predict and control behavior," my experience in the field has revealed that psychology is so much more. Throughout my life, I have always believed in equality for every individual. As such, all persons have the right to pursue their own happiness, of course within moral and legal bounds.
     The months I spent on a recent internship program brought to my attention that many individuals are unable to pursue their own happiness; they are stymied by drug-addicted parents, poverty, and abuse. Each day at my internship, I listened to the horror stories of the young children in front of me. On my last day of interning, one of the more quiet girls (who had entered the program for a suicide attempt) tearfully hugged me and told me how incredibly grateful she was to have had me in her life as both someone to listen to, and to learn from. It was at that moment I realized that psychology is more than just something students study in their classes, it is also a form of charity. I should hope that with a continued participation in therapy, this patient, along with all of the others, can achieve happiness, something she deserved so much.
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Alyssa,

You have written a beautiful statement about the value of the profession of psychology. I hope you will have many more experiences like this in the future. Your work is part of the grand tradition of John Henry Cardinal Newman! Keep up the good work. bill
6 years 9 months ago
It is simplistic to talk about the application of criminal justice (with its own limited resources) as either "treatment" or "punsihment". It appears to be true that we do overincarcerate addicted offenders.
The goal in general is to maintain community protection within the ambit of what is available and likely.
To lump all offenders who are mentally disturbed into one category is another oversimplification as we have seen with the issue of dealing with sex offenders.
The concept of justice itself, as it operates in our courts, is both evolving and limited.
The hands of skilled psychology practitioners is helpful indeed but with the limitations of the that field itself.
Tom Maher
6 years 9 months ago
Pyschology is worth knowing since current theories of pyschology greatly influence public policy and culture even though later on these theories may be shown to be wrong, overstated, incomplete or misdirected.  Yet pyschology as a  science is attempting to understand and explain basic questions on human nature,  behavior and ability.   A citizen needs to be aware of the current thinking in pyschology but also needs to be skeptical and notice when the standard explaination of human behavior is not working or at least not working in all cases.  As with any science psychology does not have all the answers.  So much is not known.  And the answer that are given as in all sciences are always subject to critical review, revision or even replacement.   Science is not immutable or infallible.

But current theories of pyschology do impact public policy so the skeptism needed in science is also needed in public policy that uses these theories.  To understand the public policy one has to understand the psychology it is based on that can be later shown to be bogus.

An example is the theory that environment alone and not genetics causes intellectual, learning  and social limitations or abilities in a person.  If a person is better feed, better socialized, better educated  etc that by itself will determine a persons achievments some agrue.   Accordingly society has only to invest more in social programs to yield unlimited results in personal abilities and thereby transform society. The possibility that the Chinese may have a superior gene pool in math or science is not a factor, anyone if properly educated can have superior abilities.

So accordingly in the United States special schools for people who have unusual aptitudes in math and  and science at an early age are looked down on as discriminatory.  There can be no thought that genes play a role in learning or achievement.  We are all equal and we all only need to recieve that same high level of education to perform the same.  

A real life example:  a few years ago fourteen Middlesex county Massachusetts school districts by lawsuit attempted and failed to prevent the opening of a special charter school in math and science for overperforming rather than underperforming students in math and science.  The theory was we are all the same so we should all be educated the same common standards in the public school system.  Learning opportunities should be defined by the lowest common denominator or we will be discriminatiing.  Fortunately by the way the law was written the court disaggreed. Nevertheless fourteen school district's school boards approved the lawsuit to stop cold the opening of the charter shcold with higher standards of performance in math and science.   Such "social justice" reasoning that prevent the full development of gifted individuals as public policy needs to be crtically scrutinized on its scientific basis. 
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Tom,

Many young people now equate "trying hard" with "excellence" and although the first is always important it is not the same as the second.

For example, I could have tried 110% and had the best athletic coaches and probably wouldn't have made the starting gym team let along the intra-murals, varsity, or second base for the Chicago Cubs. There is an interaction of what we are born with and how this is developed.

I believe that somewhere in then original PL94-142 there are statements indicating that programs for gifted children should be established so that gifted children can function at the level of which they are capable. I'm not sure if this was modified during the IDEA modifications but many times gifted children do not receive the full support they need to excel.

Some consider it ironic that the culture places so much emphasis on competitive sports but not competitive academics.

Psychology can play a big role in identifying "giftedness" and Newman might consider this an aspect of "justice." bill 
6 years 9 months ago
My second yr social work internship was at Cleveland Psychiatric Institute, an acute care teaching hospital that was the dreariest, most formidable bldging I had ever been in.  It was the 60's , the period when the mental hospitals were emptying their wards, sending patients to their home communities for the care and support that never materialized.  What was a well-intentioned policy turned out to be tragic for countless mentally ill persons....many have ended up homeless. The psych minor I rec'd as an uundergraduate was fully integrated w' Catholic social theory, in contrast to the secular education I had at the U of MN and Western Reserve.  In fact, one professor of abnormal psychology, a psychiatrist, ridiculed Christ as a masochist hanging from the cross.  No consequences for him.   From what you've written, Bill, it seems as if the field of psychology has been pretty much taken over by secular thinking, divorced from any religious sensibilities.  I think this must be difficult for the committed Jewish or Christian professor.  How do you work social justice and concern into your coursework?  In your book, you do bring up the importance of spirituality in treatment.  Do you have freedom in the classroom to do the same?

On the other hand, I think that there is something inherent in the field that can bring about in the student, empathy for the ill and concerns for social justice.I think that just learning, in a class on abnormal psychology , how much the mentally ill suffer can stimulate compassion.  The compassion that is written on our hearts and sometimes only needs to be awakened.

I am biased having relied on psychological insights in my work and personal life.  I am a fan of E. Fuller Torrey.  His book, "Surviving Schizophrenia" has been very helpful to me.  I think Thomas Szasz is way off base.  To say that schizophrenia is a creation of psychiatry is just ridiculous.  Misdiagnosis is always possible, but a far greater concern is the desperate need for diagnosis and treatment of scores of people.  The field of psychology/psychiatry is far from perfect and not all potentially homicidal mentally ill people can be identified, but it is far better than the ignorance we had in the past.  Now, the challenge is to educate more of the public to understand mental illness and do away with the stigma.

I've rattled on too long.  This is a subject near and dear to my heart.  Thanks, Bill and commentators for your ideas.

6 years 9 months ago
Studying psychology allows for a person to get an in depth look into the human mind and to provide explanations for human behavior. In terms of ''mutual justice and charity'' the topic of how we should punish or treat criminal offenders creates controversy in our national or global society. Should we carry out justice by punishing these people, regardless if they have mental incapacities or should we help rehabilitate them even if they have just taken the life of a loved one. This topic contradicts with my values and beliefs because even though I feel people need to be punished for their actions, not all people should be held accountable if they have a mental illness. Also, where do we draw the line with criminal accountability and mental illness. There are different degrees of mental illness and where should the line be drawn?
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Kayna,

You bring up an excellent topic-punishing those who have shown themselves to be seriously mentally ill does seem to go against the charity part as well as the justice part and those in the psychology and legal field have been reviewing this since the M'naughten ruling about the definition of criminal insanity...1842 or so?  Judges and juries struggle with where to draw the line when severe mental illness is present. Many thanks for getting the discussion going! bvo
Crystal Watson
6 years 9 months ago
When I went to college, my mom decided to go to college too and she majored in psychology, so I ended up taking a few psych classes as well.  In one class we took a field trip to the Napa State Mental Hospotal ... pretty depressing.  One thing I recall in a class in which we read a book by Szasz is that it's maybe not so easy to define mental illness. There was an interesting podcast recently at Philosophy Bites  ...  http://philosophybites.com/2010/12/paul-russell-on-fate.html ... about whether a person can be held accountable for actions they didn't intend.
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Hi David,

I suspect there can be "non-accountability" in a crimnal sense-meaning not going in with the rest of the inmates in a maximum security prison-but rather "accountability" with treatment and where the public is protected from someone whon has committed a crime while severely mental illness. For some this latter detention might have to last lifetime to protect others? Have you followed E. Fuller Torrey's work? He is a psychiarist whose sister suffered from severe schizophrenia. Here is a recent blog post (from my regular blog at the American Mental Health Foundation) about his thoughts in reference to the shooting in California. As you can see, he is a strong proponent for accountability:

http://americanmentalhealthfoundation.org/entry.php?id=215

Students who may be following...you can read the amhf blog also and place any comments here.

David, I have been following your other postings and admire your clarity on this event. best, bill

ps I have been unable to find any more info on the Cambodian refugees. The article I spotted and wrote on was unique. Perhaps you could write to the author, I listed her email back in that posting.  http://americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=3789

we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Crystal,

I suspect the hospital you visited was one of those huge places built at the turn of the last century...if so, the grounds and buildings often are ominous and one gets the feeling it would cause anyone to be depressed to have to go there. Szaz stirs up conflicting feelings in me. On the one hand, he is a keen advocate for the position that no one be labeled "mentally ill" for political reasons as has happened in other countries and sadly, I suspect, even here...In the present climate, and even the past few decades, it has been/was nearly impossible to have someone "committed" for psychiatric grounds (exception: Willowbrook...similar situations...1970s) because of the great cost...Now the problem is in GETTING people treatment, especially long-term help for those who need to be in a place of safety...So ironically Szaz's ideas may be detrimental to the situations that Fuller Torrey writes about in the blog post above I noted to David...I listened to part of the philosophy talk...the two guys talking, white screen..got 4 bothersome pop-ups afterwards...watch that site! bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Turning back to John Henry Newman...

I suspect Newman would give the professions of psychology/psychiatry credit for developing assessments and treatment that have prevented many violent occurrences within the past hundred years. The system and treatments are far from perfect, and professionals are never going to know about all the dire things that might have happened had they not intervened. So in this respect the field of psychology is indeed contributing to justice as well as charity. bvo
6 years 9 months ago
The entire field of psychology in my opinion, represents the idea of "mutual justice or charity." Without the basic understanding of how the mind works and the variations of psychological processes within every individual, justice or charity cannot be provided. The information taught in psychology courses allow us to grasp the complexities of the human mind and should lead the student in a more accepting direction of their peers. As one's knowledge of these processes grow, the more they see that no one set of rules can be appropriately applied to all. Room for change needs to be applied differently to each individual, and as that grows, so does the level of mutual justice and charity. 

Jackie, you say that a university should function as a country with the idea of separation between church and state, but as much as some may believe, that doesn't exactly exist. The influence of religion specifically, Christianity in this country still exists in almost every facet of our government. Something as simple as the phrase "In God We Trust" on the back of the one dollar bill is representative of that. I agree that faith in a religion to guide one's decisions is optional. However I agree with Newman that religion should be able to be connected to information taught in courses within a college when appropriate. By this I mean that it does seem that many, whether it be a student or professor, are extremely hesitant in a classroom to bring up religion, even if it may enhance the conversation. Although this removal of religion may have been an attempt to create a fair environment for all people, it also takes away a freedom, forcing those who may feel strongly about certain beliefs to keep silent.

The earlier conversation of considering mental illness, upbringing, etc. as acceptable reasons for deviation from the normal punishment definitely is leading society towards mutual justice. I do however have a concern, that although a more accepting courtroom allows for those who truly have mental incapacities to be judged fairly(with more appropriate standards/punishment), it also allows room for people to abuse it. Just as psychology is used to benefit people through a more in depth understanding of the human mind, it can be used in a negative way. Desiree mentioned the word control with Psychology and it reminds me that control can benefit patients with mental illnesses but at the same time be used in ways that we should not be able to (i.e. the "brainwashing" of the Nazi doctors during WWII).
Marie Rehbein
6 years 9 months ago
Bill, thank you for referring me to that manual.  I will look for it.  In posing my question, I was thinking along the lines of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.  Your comment that the textbook goal of psychology "is the prediction and control of human behavior" prompted me to wonder whether those who might have picked up the vocabulary of psychology might not be able to put themselves into public policy positions in which they can use this limited knowledge to "control human behavior" as opposed to how knowledge of a psychological nature can help an individual control his or her own behavior or provide him or her insights pertaining to other areas of study.  In other words, "how the students connect a particular course in psychology to everything else they have learned" might also tend in a direction quite different from the gentle and touching comments that people have posted in response to your article.  It wasn't that long ago that the USSR was calling dissidents mentally ill and confining them to institutions, after all.
Marie Rehbein
6 years 9 months ago
Norman, how do you define a good and virtuous life?  It is my impression that the judgment that someone has led a good and virtuous life is made when he or she dies and that it's based on someone not having succumbed to the various vices, rather than having exemplified, say, the seven virtues.  Given that vices are not simply bad behaviors but persumably behaviors that some find difficult to resist despite their having negative after effects, wouldn't psychological knowledge or insight be helpful to someone who wishes to lead a life of virtue but finds himself succumbing to vice?
Casey McGowan
6 years 9 months ago
As has been mentioned in previous posts, one major way psychology can be translated into ''mutual justice and charity'' is in the courtroom. Our understanding of the human mind and psychological processes has given us the ability to justify certain individuals' actions. While this does not make their crimes acceptable, it does allow us to offer them a different course of action other than prison. However, the problem there lies in determining who is responsible for their actions and who is not. In many cases arbitrary cutoffs are used to classify individuals with little room for exceptions. For example in the case of mental retardation, 70 is the IQ score used to separate people of average intelligence from those with below average, but is there really a significant difference between someone who scores at a 69 and someone who scores a 71?
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Marie, Norm, David,

Thanks for keeping things going...those SSRIs bear watching...but remember, it is psychiatry not psychology that prescribes medication....bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Marie, Norm, David,

Thanks for keeping things going...those SSRIs bear watching...but remember, it is psychiatry not psychology that prescribes medication....bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Casey:

Exactly. When a state, school, or professional body uses a "cutting score" in decision making, they are not taking into account that on a psychological test there is no exact score (like on a ruler or weight standard on a butcher's scale) but rather a probability that a score will fall into a certain range. By knowing this it ismpossible to make decisions that are more fair. thanks. bill
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
David 44:

What you write about occurred here:

http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=3330

tx. bill
Lindsay Blevins
6 years 9 months ago
I think your article brings up a valid point. So many things in psychology can appear to go againsta variety of religious beliefs. Just as evolution and religion bash heads, the ideas of psychological disorders, and drug recommendations can clash with religious ideas. Many religions, specifically the Catholic faith, preach that God made everyone the way they are for a reason. This can be hard to accept with those who are born with severe psychological disorders. It also can be hard to find a line when the idea of hardcore drugs is brought up to treat a certain disorder. However, as it is pointed out here, the main goal of psychology is to help mankind. Its purpose is to protect the mental health of all people. Just as medical doctors work to better the physical body, psychologists work to enhance the mind. This is an area that can be often overlooked. Many areas of psychology can bring about justice in a society as well. Forensic psychologists can get into the mind of a criminal and not only determine if such a crime could be committed, but get to the bottom of why they did it. What problems do they have that resulted in such a terrible after-math? Psychologists can assist the abused, neglected, and bullied deal with their hurtful pasts and develop the confidence to move forward in life. I think all of these things contribute to the goal of charity and justice that so many religions work toward.
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Lindsay,

Thank you for mentioning the "bullied." I think I will write about this, very soon! Lots of bashing of heads still going on with evolutiton. best, bvo
Lindsay Blevins
6 years 9 months ago
I think psychology is often described as a social science, implying that interaction with others is expected, if not required. It involved getting to know people, and in one way or another, bettering the lives of others. Perhaps research in psychology can be seen as simply a way to find undiscovered knowledge and cure illness, though, don't many scientists who cure diseases do so because they want people to be free of harmful diseases? And even if they are not driven by such moral desires, do they not still help others by the consequences of their research? I would also hope that many psychologists who choose a path of counseling would do so because they want to help others through discussion and the sharing of personal information that counseling entails, but again, if this is not their goal, their work still strives for the same end result.
6 years 9 months ago
I find it hard to make the connection between psychology and religion. Psychology is a science which studies human behavior and the way the brain functions. Psychology is based on research, studies and facts. Religion, on the other hand, is much more abstract - most of it being based on faith. Yes, there are records about religious events that occurred thousands of years ago; but, would we blindly trust something written thousands of years ago about psychology?  To me, the two fields are completely separate and are not and should not be connected to each other. 

Samantha Rooney
6 years 9 months ago
People may have believed that Psychology should be inter-connected with religion years ago, but after how far we've come in the field, and the broad range of topics psychologists have investigated, they should no longer be connected.  In psychology, there are no boundaries as to what can be studied, or accepted, or even challenged.  Religion, however, is very limiting in it's views and follows a set of beliefs that are not meant to be challenged.  Psychology is constantly expanding and adding new "findings" and whatnot, while religion does not adapt or expand nearly as much.

Psychology is defintiely a key factor in providing "mutual justice or charity".  Psychology gives us solutions to everyday life struggles we're facing, and helps us put a name to certain diseases, addictions, or issues one might deal with.
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Dana,

As you note, the two fields are based upon diffferent metholdologies and they study different material. bvo
we vnornm
6 years 9 months ago
Samantha:

The point on whether or how much each field changes/expands is an interesting one and could probably for the basis for a lengthy debate! bvo
Stephanie Waring
6 years 9 months ago
Psychology is definitely one of the main reasons society is understood so well, as different topics are studied and challenged every single day of our lives.  As a criminal justice major, I relate psychology to practically everything I learn about. It isn't difficult to relate other subjects to psych, I feel it is indeed extremely necessary in order to get the full knowledge of certain subjects. Psych is easily related to criminal justice in that when criminals commit serious crimes, it is up to psychology to try and pin-point what went wrong in their upbringing, what environmental factors could have been the trigger, or simply what in this individuals' brain caused them to act out maliciously.  

Although when it comes to religion and psychology, it is hard to determine any connection. Psychologists do research, studies, experiments, and come out with strong data and conclusions as to why or how something may have occured. On the other hand, in religion, it depends on each individuals' religious belief.  It is extremely difficult, and nearly impossible to prove any facts in religion because the underlying reason that religion came about is through faith. Faith doesn't give definite answers to questions, yet people have faith because they want to believe that what they've learned about God, for instance, is true since they were taught their religious views growing up. Although there are no supported facts and findings from experiments or research, it would still be extremely hard to change an individual's religious beliefs. 
6 years 9 months ago
Just a couple of more thoughts at the tag end of this blog....

Psychology as a social science has a great deal to offer  but its research is not as precise as the sciences of math and psychics.  Human beings in their manifold differences and interrealationships with one another and their environments are extremely hard to study. 

The field of psychology, in its application of clilnical psychology is an art as well as a social science.  The "art" aspect needs to be considered in our discussion here.  The clinical psychologist is tasked with establishing a therapeutic relationship, managing transference and counter-transference and ending the relationship dealing with issues of loss and separation.  This highly sensitive work calls for imaginative and creative thinking and ethical and therapeutic use of the self.

I think that the psychologist should take the patient's religion into consideration as much as he/she takes the patient's cultural, ethnic background into consideration.  For many people, their faith is integral to their functioning and behavior.

Since I am not a psychologist, I stand correction on any of the above!
6 years 9 months ago
OOPS!!  I meant physics not psychics/!
Marie Rehbein
6 years 9 months ago
I have to agree with Janice that there is some connection between religion and psychology.  Religious belief influences behavior in many individuals, obviously.  In addition, sometimes a conflict between religious teachings and the life experience of an individual creates psychological problems.  Most obviously, this could apply to the homosexual Catholic, but it might also operate in more subtle ways.  It might, for example, involve the way someone responds to the death of a loved one, given that not all religions teach the same thing about eternal life and salvation.  

A psychotherapist who is not informed religious beliefs is not likely to be able to help the patient deal with inner conflicts that might exist because of immature understanding of his religion or with external conflicts between teaching and faith that prevent the patient from finding comfort that religion could otherwise provide.  I would think it is also possible, despite the psychotherapist's efforts to avoid tranferrance and countertransferrance, given that religion is a very emotional issue for most people, for a psychotherapist to be unable to properly care for a  patient who is struggling with faith issues if that psychotherapist is either a confirmed atheist or a fundamentalist. 

Then there is what is sounding more and more like my favorite topic in these posts, the issue of beliefs that science considers superstition and that some religions consider to be valid, even though "sophisticated" followers of those religions consider them to be teachings that are taken literally when they are allegorical.  What if the "unsophisticated" believers are actually right, not just influenced by their beliefs?

What if someone comes to a psychologist and is actually being troubled by demons?  Does the fact that a person's religious upbringing substantiates such a belief affect the psychologist's assessment?  Given that some religions teach the reality of demons and possession, can psychologists operate on the premise that these are always delusions or misinterpretations of other processes without inadvertently displacing religion with psychological philosophies, especially given that science has neither proven nor disproven the reality of demons?

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