Information

Is “gaslighting” a mainstream concept in the cognitive sciences?

Is “gaslighting” a mainstream concept in the cognitive sciences?

The term "gaslighting" (referring to abusive manipulation of the facts to confuse victims) is common in pop-psychology sources, and I have friends who report that their psychologists or psychiatrists use the term as some form of shorthand.

However, I have looked in a couple of online psychology dictionaries, and they don't define the term.

I have looked on this site, and it only appears once.

I have looked on Google Scholar. While I can find some references to the term - especially a "seminal" 1981 paper, Some clinical consequences of introjection: gaslighting, there don't appear to be many papers referencing it, and I haven't the experience to evaluate whether they are fringe ideas or mainstream science.

Is gaslighting just pop psychology, or is the concept of gaslighting widely accepted in the cognitive sciences?


The wikipedia article you linked to regarding the term Gaslighting has references to clinical and research literature.

Dorpat, (1996) talks about the incidences of Gaslighting conducted by therapists.

In treatment, the psychotherapist is in a position of power. Often, this power is unintentionally abused. While trying to embody a compassionate concern for patients, therapists use accepted techniques that can inadvertently lead to control, indoctrination, and therapeutic failure. Contrary to the stated tradition and values of psychotherapy, they subtly coerce patients rather than respect and genuinely help them. The more gross kinds of patient abuse, deliberate ones such as sexual and financial exploitation, are expressly forbidden by professional organizations. However, there are no regulations discouraging the more covert forms of manipulation, which are not even considered exploitative by many clinicians.

Jacobson & Gottman, (1998) talks about wife batterers.

After their decade of research with more than 200 couples, the authors conclude that not all batterers are alike, nor is the progression of their violence always predictable. But they have found that batterers tend to fall into one of two categories, which they call "Pit Bulls" and "Cobras". Pit Bulls, men whose emotions quickly boil over, are driven by deep insecurity and an unhealthy dependence on the mates whom they abuse. Pit Bulls also tend to become stalkers, unable to let go of relationships that have ended.

Cobras, on the other hand, are cool and methodical as they inflict pain and humiliation on their spouses or lovers (Source: Google Books synopsis)

In the book, it says

A tactic of emotional abuse that is common among Pit Bulls, but not Cobras, is the phenomenon known as "gaslighting." (The term comes from the film Gaslight, in which Charles Boyer convinces Ingrid Bergman that she is going insane.) We gave an example of this phenomenon with Dave and Judy, in which he blatantly denied that he was a batterer. Gaslighting is a systematic attach on the wife's perception of reality.

The term has been used in articles I have read within the last few months including one by Christine Louis de Canonville (2017) who has a B.A. (Hons.) degree in Psychology, and Sarkis (2017) within PsychologyToday.

If you search Google Scholar, the site will return thousands of results including articles in therapy journals, so the concept of gaslighting is widely accepted in the cognitive sciences.

References

Dorpat, T. L. (1996). Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation, and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. New York:Jason Aronson
ISBN-10: 1-5682-1828-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-5682-1828-1

Jacobson, N. S. & Gottman, J. M. (1998). When Men Batter Women: New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships. New York:Simon and Schuster
ISBN-10: 1-4165-5133-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-5133-1

Louis de Canonville, C. (2017). The Effects of Gaslighting on Victims of Narcissistic Abuse [Online]
Available at: http://narcissisticbehavior.net/the-effects-of-gaslighting-in-narcissistic-victim-syndrome/

Sarkis, S. (2017) Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do? [Online]
Available at:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/are-gaslighters-aware-what-they-do


I would not call it a mainstream concept but it was discussed in some mainstream sources. However, there's a divergence in meaning; some old Commonwealth medical/psychiatry papers mostly use it to denote having someone inappropriately committed to a mental institution… whereas the broader notion you ask about is found in more recent sources and of more marginal impact factor. Furthermore, the original British concept has been re-labeled "tertiary gain of illness" in the US.

First of all, the 1981 "seminal" paper (by Calef and Weinshel) you mention is in psychoanalytical journal, which would immediately give me pause as to its validity/acceptance (unless you're in France). However the Wikipedia page cites an older paper by Lund & Gardiner, 1977, which is just a case report though, but in a mainstream psychiatry journal, the British Journal of Psychiatry. Abstract:

A case of paranoid psychosis in an elderly female is reported in which recurrent episodes were apparently induced by the staff of the institution where the patient was a resident. The issues raised by this case are discussed.

The actually seminal paper (cited in the previous one) is Barton & Whitehead (1969) "The gas-light phenomenon". Lancet,i,1258-60. but this was also case report (two actually). The Lancet, as you probably know, is a mainstream medical journal (not just psychiatric).

Another paper in the Br. J. Psych is Smith and Sinanan, 1972, The 'Gaslight Phenomenon' Reappears A Modification of the Ganser Syndrome, https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.120.559.685 starts with:

In 1969 Barton and Whitehead reported two cases in which there were definite plots to remove an unwanted and restricting relative by securing admission to a mental hospital, and one case of an old lady admitted to a mental hospital following induced faecal incontinence. The old lady was considered a nursing home nuisance and she was given purgatives regularly. Inevitably she had some "accidents" and these were used as an excuse for removing her to hospital. They labelled such attempts 'The Gaslight Phenomenon', inspired by Patrick Hamilton's play Gaslight which was first produced in London in 1939 and later formed the basis for a film. Their survey of the literature uncovered few recent reports of such manipulations. Without the emphasis of Barton and White head's report the following cases might have passed unnoticed. We feel that it is time to stress again the presence of this phenomenon, and, as this report shows, it is not unique to psychiatric hospitals.

And they also discuss a couple of cases.

But nevertheless these paper have few citations, using the Google Scholar count 30 for the 1969 one. So while it was discussed, it was seldom so. It's true that the 1981 paper seems to have more citations (57) but in my experience GS undercounts for the older papers and overcounts the newer ones.

Searching for the "gaslight" term in pubmed returns around 10 papers (a couple of which are clearly false positive) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=gaslight and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=gaslighting only 3 hits. Hence my conclusion: discussed in mainstream sources, but seldom, so not a mainstream term.

Also note that the sources from the Commonwealth (there is a paper from Canada as well https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7093877) use gaslight phenomenon/syndrome, while all 3 hits in pubmed for "gaslighting" are from US authors (and 2 surely are psychoanalytical, including the paper you found.) I find it a little odd that there no hits in any US psychiatry journals; perhaps US psychiatrists called the notion something else… or they did not find worthwhile discussing. Actually, one US (VA) psychiatrist, Dansak, who is citing Barton and Whitehead, proposed to call the concept… "tertiary gain of illness" and he (unlike the British) applied a psychoanlitic lens:

PSYCHIATRISTS recognize that their patients acquire certain gains from their emotional problems. The gains were originally defined by Sigmund Freud as the primary and secondary gains of illness.' The primary gain is an intrapsychic gain which the patient obtains as a result of his symptoms, i.e… a defense against and a reduction of anxiety. The secondary gain is an interpersonal or social advantage attained by the patient as a consequence of his illness In each case, it is noted, the patient is the one who “benefits.” An intriguing variation of the problem of secondary gain is mentioned by Ross' in his discussion of the “traumatic neuroses” and their relation to compensation. He gives an example in which “the wife of an injured breadwinner may have gone to work while her husband was incapacitated, contributing to the shift in the family equilibrium. This shift may further a regression in which he becomes like a child or a substitute mother in the home, dependent on his wife. or retaliating for her assumption of his role. The wife may then push for compensation to reduce her own load.” This illustration presents the notion that someone other than the patient may seek or achieve gains from the patient's illness. In this particular example the gain would be some form of financial compensation that would allow the wife to stop working, hire a maid. etc. The author proposes that gains sought or attained from a patient's illness by someone other than the patient be called the tertiary gain of illness. Furthermore, though the above example highlights the tertiary gain to the wife of the husband's acquiring compensation for his injury, all tertiary gains are not financial. The following case will demonstrate another type of tertiary gain, that of expelling the patient from his family.

[case details]

In keeping with the frame of reference of the patient and his illness, the writer proposes to define this phenomenon, where someone other than the patient gains from the latter's illness, as the tertiary gain of illness. [… ] Recent reports in the British literatures have discussed examples of this under the heading of the “Gaslight Phenomenon.”

Also worth noting is that the concept discussed in the medical journals is narrower than what Wikipedia proposes, and it's usually just about having someone committed to a mental institution in inappropriate circumstances. I'm not sure about psychoanalytical papers, I'm not really in a mood to read them now.

However the 2017 hit on "gaslight" in pubmed (from J. Adv. Nurs.) has a quite different tint:

Conduct in our nursing workplaces remains a curious contrast of overt statements about quality, collegiality and community accompanied too often with the opposite (Cassell 2011, Lampman et al. 2009, MacKay et al. 2008, Twale & De Luca 2008). Known as gaslighting (Sarkis 2017), misalignment of words with actions serves to deny or justify bullying and harassment in a language of legitimacy. This behavior includes verbal and non- verbal actions, from overt aggression to subtle but ongoing undermining via institutional means, including: unfair allocation of work and roles, assignment of heavier teaching loads, unfair performance evaluations, and denial of opportunity (Gloor 2014, Cleary et al. 2016).

So it's possible the notion adopted in the US came by a different route (not the British psychiatry journals), which might explain the different connotation as well as the small number of citations for the British papers. The "Sarkis S. (2017)" reference in that 2017 paper alas is just a PT blog.

Dorpat writes in his 2007 book "Crimes of Punishment: America's Culture of Violence" (p. 179):

Like the psychoanalysts Victor Calef and Edward Weinshel, I have adapted a broad definition of gaslighting, one that includes not just those who are made psychotic by it, but a wider range of victims. [… ]

A mild and naive form of gaslighting may be carried out by psychotherapists and others who are unaware that they are gaslighting, and who may also be unaware of the harmful effects of what they are doing. I gave examples of psychotherapists and psychoanalysts who were gaslighting patients and did not realize it. [citing his older book mentioned in the other answer]

So I suppose Calef and Weinshel are responsible for broadening the notion, which might explain the number of citations they've got (57 in Google Scholar).

Also note that when applied to therapists this gaslighting clearly falls under iatrogenesis… and iatrogenesis in therapy has been discussed aplenty.

Finally (I hope!) Gass and Nichols (1988) talk about gaslighting in the context of extramarital affairs:

"The worst part, Harry, is the lying."

"I'm not lying; you're just imagining things."

Such conversations become a vicious part of the interaction between some husbands and wives. The husband gaslights or distorts reality in an effort to convince his spouse that she is crazy, that what she is perceiving is not happening.

They don't cite any other paper for their use of the term.


Came across this article 2018 by Riggs and Bartholomaeus and thought of this question. Gaslighting is more common in casual parlance than in the academic literature. There is great difficulty in studying gaslighting as it is inherently relational and by definition, the individual is being manipulated by the other person. It is a very personal experience making it quite hard to objectively study so making it a very difficult to investigate scientifically. Riggs defined gaslighting -

Gaslighting is about subtly conveying to a person that their own judgment is not to be trusted and that they are not competent, thus undermining their confidence in being able to trust their own views and experiences.

Riggs illustrates with case examples how gaslighting is an identity-related abuse and uses his experience with transgender clients to illustrate the gaslighting experiences with parents of transgender children.

gaslighting is centrally about issues of power and control (as is true for any form of abuse), in contexts where power differentials are already significant (such as in parent-child relationships), this can exacerbate the likelihood that control techniques such as gaslighting will occur, and minimise the likelihood that they will be identified by others.

I do like the discussion about the therapeutic approaches that a clinician can take to help ameliorate the impact and validate the impact of gaslighting on the client.

Reference:

Riggs, D. W., & Bartholomaeus, C. (2018). Gaslighting in the context of clinical interactions with parents of transgender children. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 33(4), 382-394. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2018.1444274


9. Thought and Language

To say that a mental object has semantic properties is, paradigmatically, to say that it is about, or true or false of, an object or objects, or that it is true or false simpliciter. Suppose I think that democracy is dying. I am thinking about democracy, and if what I think of it (that it is dying) is true of it, then my thought is true. According to RTM such states are to be explained as relations between agents and mental representations. To think that democracy is dying is to token in some way a mental representation whose content is that democracy is dying. On this view, the semantic properties of mental states are the semantic properties of the representations they are relations to.

Linguistic acts seem to share such properties with mental states. Suppose I say that democracy is dying. I am talking about democracy, and if what I say of it (that it is dying) is true of it, then my utterance is true. Now, to say that democracy is dying is (in part) to utter a sentence that means that democracy is dying. Many philosophers have thought that the semantic properties of linguistic expressions are inherited from the intentional mental states they are conventionally used to express (Grice 1957, Fodor 1978, Schiffer1972/1988, Searle 1983). On this view, the semantic properties of linguistic expressions are the semantic properties of the representations that are the mental relata of the states they are conventionally used to express. Fodor has famously argued that these states themselves have a language-like structure. (See the entry on the language of thought hypothesis.)


Cross-Cultural Psychology Theories and Methods of Study

The question of how information about the psycholog­ical functioning of various cultural and ethnic populations can be studied runs through the history of cross-cultural psychology like a thread. One tradition is based on Waitz’s notion of the “psychic unity of mankind.” according to which the human psyche is essentially similar across cultures. The tradition is rooted in the European Enlightenment of the seventeenth to nineteenth century, when philosophers such as Hume and Kant emphasized the basic similarity of human behavior across times and cultures and the need for cross-cultural research in identifying the principles governing this universality. In the Romantic rebellion against the Enlightenment (expressed in the work of Rousseau and Herder. among others, vast differences in the psychological functioning of different cultural populations were emphasized). Attempts to compare cultures cannot but involve peripheral aspects of psychological functioning. The tradition is noncomparative and maintains that cultures should be understood “from within.” The debate between these two approaches has recurred under various disguises. Examples include the distinction between universalism and cultural relativism. cross-cultural and cultural psychology, and etic and emic approaches (a popular terminology in cross-cultural psychology, drawing on a distinction by the linguist Kenneth Pike). The distinction between a comparative and noncomparative perspective in anthropology and between the nomothetic and ideographic approach in mainstream psychology have similar roots.

Goals of the Study of Cultural Factors in Cross-Cultural Psychology

Three goals of comparative and noncomparative approaches can be discerned: (1) testing the applicability of (usually) Western theories and measures in a non-Western context, (2) exploring the role of cultural factors by extending the range of variation of cultural variables, and (3) integrating culture into theories and measures in order to contribute to a truly universal psychology. These goals have an implicit temporal order. Cross-cultural psychology has enough impetus at present to conclude with confidence that important steps have been taken toward the realization of the first goal. Instruments covering various psychological domains such as intelligence, personality, and social behavior have been administered in cross-cultural studies. It has been repeatedly shown that instruments developed in Western countries are susceptible to various sources of bias, with the susceptibility tending to increase with the cultural distance between the instrument’s author and the examinees. The second goal has also been well studied. Social psychology provides many examples of the former there are ample demonstrations of the vital and not infrequently neglected influence of cultural context on social-psychological functioning.

The pervasive cross-cultural differences in the social-psychological domain have undoubtedly added to the their popularity in cross-cultural psychology. One of the best known examples of cross-cultural research aimed at the second goal such was Segall, Campbell, and Herskovits’s work on illusion susceptibility (1966). In a large cross-cultural study, these authors demonstrated that in the built environment and with openness of the natural vista, illusion susceptibility is positively related to the occurrence of geometric shapes like rectangles and squares. Another example is the ecocultural framework that is frequently employed to link psychological aspects to features of the environment. In particular, food-gathering style has been studied, based on a dichotomy of nomadic hunting and food gatherers living in loosely organized societies in sparsely populated regions versus sedentary agriculturalists living in tightly knit societies in more densely populated regions. Various psychological differences of these societies have been examined, such as child-rearing patterns and cognitive style.

The second goal has also been examined from a non-comparative perspective. Two approaches are discussed here. The first is cultural psychology, a relatively young subdiscipline. It is closely related to social constructionism and aims at an in-depth understanding of psychological functioning by studying in situ behavior, usually in only one culture. Culture and personality are taken to constitute each other in a process of mutual influences. Culture is seen as a system of meanings, with studies often focusing on how individuals gradually acquire the perspective of a culture. In line with common practice in anthropology (ethnography in particular), assessment methods are utilized that impose little or no a priori categorization on the data, such as unstructured interviews and tape and video recordings. Because of the interest in learning processes, diachronic (longitudinal) designs are often employed.

Indigenous psychologies provide another example of an increasingly popular, noncomparative approach to understanding cultural variation. It is a generic name for all types of psychologies that attempt to overcome the limitations of, in Sinha’s words, “the culture-bound and culture-blind tendencies of mainstream psychology” (1997). Indigenous psychologies have been developed in various areas, such as Latin America, India, Japan, and China. The need for developing an indigenous psychology is often triggered by findings that a non-Western application of a common Western theory or instrument does not do justice to the specifics of the non-Western group. In various degrees of elaboration, these psychologies try to overcome Western biases in theory and assessment, ultimately aiming at an enhancement of the adequacy and applicability of psychological knowledge for these areas. Indigenous psychologies are not yet developed enough to have a serious effect on Western psychology. To date, the integration of cross-cultural findings and mainstream theories of psychology, the third goal of cross-cultural psychology, remains an open challenge.

Methodological Issues in Cross-Cultural Psychology

The largest part of the cross-cultural knowledge base is related to the testing of the applicability of Western theories and measures. In such studies, methodological features tend to require attention. It is therefore not surprising that cross-cultural psychology has been described as a method. A good example of such a concern is the sampling of subjects within cultural populations. Whereas the anthropologist can often rely on a small number of informants who, because of their expertise, have good access to the cultural knowledge of interest, such as the indigenous taxonomy of a particular flora, the cross-cultural psychologist usually deals with psychological characteristics that vary substantially across the members of a population. The sampling procedure that is applied then has a bearing on the interpretability of the results. A comparison of two haphazardly chosen samples is susceptible to interpretation problems: Is the observed difference in psychological functioning (e.g., in locus of control) the result of an underlying cultural difference or because of sample differences in relevant though uncontrolled background characteristics, such as socioeconomic status, gender, or education?

Three popular sampling procedures represent different ways of dealing with confounding characteristics. The first is random, or probability, sampling. It assumes an available listing of eligible units, such as persons or households. If properly applied, such a sample will yield an adequate picture of the cultural population. Yet, confounding variables, which are not controlled for in this approach, may challenge the interpretation of cross-cultural differences.

The second type is matched sampling. A population is stratified (e.g., in levels of schooling or socioeconomic status) and within each stratum a random sample is drawn. Using a matching procedure, confounding variables can then be controlled, but such a sample may poorly represent a whole population. The latter may be improved by applying statistical weights to individual scores (e.g., when highly schooled people are overrepresented in the sample, these scores will get a weight that is lower than those of less educated persons). Matching is appropriate when cultural groups are not too dissimilar with regards to confounding variables, but the procedure cannot correct adequately for confounding variables when there is little or no overlap across cultures (e.g.. comparisons of literates and illiterates).

The third sampling procedure combines random sampling with the measurement of control variables and enables a (post hoc) statistical control of ambient variables. The applicability of this procedure is limited only by the assumptions of the statistical technique utilized for example, an analysis of covariance assumes equal regression coefficients of the confounding variables in the prediction of a target variable.

Cross-cultural studies also have to deal with the sampling of cultures. Again, three types of sampling can be envisaged. The first is random sampling. Because of the prohibitively large cost of a random sample from all existing cultures, it often amounts to a random sample of a particular groups of cultures (e.g.. Circummediterranean cultures). The second and most frequently observed type of culture sampling is convenience sampling. The choice of cultures is then governed by considerations of availability and cost efficiency. In many studies, researchers from different countries cooperate, with each collecting data in his or her own country. The reasons for choosing a particular culture are more based on substantive considerations in the third type, called systematic sampling. A culture is deliberately chosen because of some characteristic, such as in Segall, Campbell. and Herskovits’s (1966) study in which cultures were chosen based on features of the ecological environment, such as openness of the vista.

Extensive experience with the application of Western instruments (often adapted) in a non-Western context has led to a set of concepts and recommended practices. Central concepts are bias and (in)equivalence. Bias refers to the presence of validity-threatening aspects of a test or inventory such as inappropriate items a stimulus is biased if it does not have the same psychological meaning in the cultures studied. For example, endorsement of the item “[I] watched more television than usual.” which is part of a common coping list, will depend on the availability of electricity and television sets, among other things. Equivalence refers to the implications of bias on the comparability of scores across cultures.

Multilingual Studies in Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural studies are often multilingual, and recommended practices for how instruments can be translated or adapted have been developed. In an adaptation procedure, one or more parts are rewritten in order to improve an instrument’s suitability for a target group. Most multilingual studies employ existing instruments. A translation, followed by an independent back-translation and a comparison of the original and back-translated version, possibly followed by some alterations of the translation is accomplished. Back-translations provide a powerful tool to enhance the correspondence of original and translated versions that is independent of the researcher’s knowledge of the target language. Yet, they do not address all problems. First, back-translations put a premium on literal reproduction this may give rise to stilted language in the target version that lacks the readability and natural flow of the original.

A second problem involves translatability. The use of idiom (e.g., the English “feeling blue”) or references to cultural specifics (e.g., country-specific public holidays) or other features that cannot be adequately represented in the target language challenges translation-back-translations (and indeed all studies in which existing instruments are translated). When versions in all languages can be developed simultaneously, “decentering” can be used. in which no single language or culture is taken as starting point individuals from different cultures develop an instrument jointly, thereby greatly reducing the risk of introducing unwanted references to a specific culture. During the last decade there has been a growing awareness that translations and adaptations require the combined expertise of psychologists (with competence in the construct studied) and experts in the local language and culture of the target culture(s). In this so-called committee approach, in which the expertise of all relevant disciplines is combined, there is usually no formal accuracy check of the translation. The committee approach is widespread among large international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union, in which texts have to be translated into many languages.

Individual and Country-Level Studies in Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural studies can compare psychological functioning at various levels of aggregation, ranging from individuals to households, classes, schools, regions, and even whole countries. By far, most studies compare individuals, while more recently there is an increasing interest in country-level comparisons. With regards to the former, much research has been carried out in the area of intelligence and cognitive development. Factor analyses of cross-cultural applications of intellectual tasks have yielded strong support for the universality of the cognitive apparatus, with factoral structures found in Western and non-Western groups tending to be identical. On the other hand, average scores on intelligence tests in particular differ rather consistently across cultural groups, with Western individuals frequently obtaining higher scores than non-Western. The interpretation of these differences was and still is controversial, and inconclusive reasons have been offered, such as genetic origin, environmental background, and measurement artifacts (the differential suitability of the instrument).

Piagetian theory has also spurred cross-cultural research. The order of the stages as proposed by Piaget has been found to be universal, yet the age of onset of each stage tends to differ, with more cross-cultural variation in age found at the higher stages. Evidence for the universality of the highest stage, formal-operational thinking, is weak, although the poor applicability of formal-operational tasks in particular cultures can at least partly account for this observation. Evidence from cultural anthropology based on observations of behavior in situ supports the universality of formal-operational thinking.

In sum, there are no studies refuting the universality of basic features of cognitive functioning, like primacy and recency effects in short-term memory retrieval, the virtually unlimited storage capacity of long-term memory, the attainment of Piagetian conservation, and logical reasoning. Nevertheless, the area of application of certain cognitive skills may differ across cultures (and often across professional groups within cultures). Cultures can build on a set of universal “building blocks” such as long-term memory, but the kind of information that is stored (e.g., scholastic information) may vary considerably across cultures.

The second line of research attempts to establish the universality (or cultural specificity) of certain traits or personality structure in general. Eysenck’s three-factor model of personality (emotional stability, psychoticism, and extroversion) and more recently, the “Big Five” model of personality (conscientiousness, neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness, and openness), which is based on psycholexical studies, have been the subject of cross-cultural research. Despite minor problems in both traditions (Eysenck applied a statistical procedure to demonstrate factoral stability with a low statistical power, while the fifth factor of the Big Five could not always be retrieved), the personality structure among Western subjects seems to be essentially universal. However, some non-Western studies have pointed to the incompleteness of Western models of personality. For example, in a large Chinese study it was found that a Western model of personality did not cover aspects frequently utilized in self-descriptions, such as face and harmony. The possible incompleteness of Western models of personality points to an observation often made in cross-cultural psychology: Universal aspects of psychological functioning can be found at a fairly abstract level, while a closer examination of a single group (as in the case of the Chinese study) points to the existence of cultural specifics not covered by the Western structure.

For obvious reasons, comparisons based on country scores are not numerous, yet the few large-scale studies that have been reported have been influential. The first large data base containing information about a large set of cultures was the Human Relations Area Files, published in the 1960s by George Peter Murdock, a cultural anthropologist. The data base contains scores for many variables of hundreds of (mainly nonindustrial) societies. The well-acknowledged problem of data quality (scores were obtained from a wide variety of sources ranging from trained anthropologists to missionaries, and often not applying identical criteria and with an unknown interrater agreement) is more than compensated for by the sheer size of the data base and the opportunity to compare a large set of cultures. The publication of the data base has initiated an ongoing series of publications.


What Is Cognitive Theory? (with pictures)

Cognitive theory is built around the premise that a person's thoughts control his actions, personality, and to some degree his circumstances. It is an area of psychology that is in sharp contrast with behavioral theory, which states that there is an interrelationship between an individual's behaviors and his physical environment. Some psychologists merge the two theories to form what is called cognitive-behavioral theory. One of the more controversial aspects of cognitive theory is the idea that severe mood disorders can be altered by patterns of thinking.

The main idea behind cognitive theory is that an individual becomes what he thinks. Behaviors are the direct result of internal thoughts, which are able to be controlled. The theory purports that thought processes and patterns can be changed if a person learns how to recognize and correct destructive tendencies. For example, a person's personality and identity can be reshaped through thought manifestation.

In fact, some would go so far as to say that entire life circumstances and outcomes can be directly controlled through the thought process. According to cognitive theory, one way to encourage and unlock new thought patterns is through meditation. Mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety have been shown to be responsive to cognitive forms of therapy. Some experts agree that cognitive therapy is a more effective treatment method than antidepressants alone.

In some ways, cognitive theory is similar to Eastern religious concepts, particularly those found in Buddhist teachings. Sayings such as, "I think, therefore I am," and "we become our thoughts," are reflective of the theory. It is the idea that a person's outward expression is a result of his inner one.

Cognitive theory began to gain a stronghold in the 1980s and 1990s. Many self-help resources are built around the idea of changing a person's life and mood through a change in thought patterns. For example, happiness will continue to elude those who think they are unhappy or who do not see the positive aspects in their situations. Criticisms of this theory revolve around the idea that the thought process is too complex and abstract to understand completely.

Some might argue that an individual's thought process is not only influenced by his own perceptions, but by the perceptions of others in his environment. Feedback, especially criticism, might stimulate thoughts that are beyond the control of the person who is on the receiving end. While that person can certainly attempt to change those thought patterns and reframe the way the criticism is processed, those negative thought patterns might unintentionally reemerge. An additional criticism of cognitive theory is that it is relatively undefined and difficult to apply to the population as a whole.


Overview of the theoretical basis

Jean Piaget, one of the most significant researchers in developmental psychology of the 20th century, was primarily interested in the investigation of the cognitive processes and development of cognitive abilities in children. According to his approach, the ability that distinguishes human beings from all other animals is &ldquoabstract symbolic reasoning&rdquo (Huitt). Observing his children and the way they come to know and develop their thinking, Piaget elaborated on the theory incorporating two main aspects: the way people come to know and the general stages they come through on the way of cognitive development (Huitt).

Regarding the relation to either nature or nurture as the key driver of children&rsquos development, Piaget as a biologist chose to rely upon nature and maturation as the driving forces of the development process. In other words, according to this theory, there are certain age-based stages and age trends observed in children in the process of development and playing the key role (Bergin). In contrast to nativist developmental theories taking nature for the main development drive, current theory perceives a human being as an active participant of the process of development and supposes an individual to build up the cognitive abilities relying on the experience of his/her action within the environment.

Piaget&rsquos theory consists of three main building blocks: schemas, adaptation processes that enable the transition between the stages, and the stages of development themselves (McLeod).

Schemas, according to Piaget, are the elementary units of knowledge and intelligent behavior that refer to different aspects of world perception (McLeod). In other words, schemas are fragments of data stored in the brain that gives a human being a hint on possible reactions to the incoming information and stimuli (Wadsworth). Thus, Piaget implied the increase in the number and complexity of schemas in the process of mental development (McLeod). Being a set of mental representations of the world in the human&rsquos mind, the schemas are the kind of patterns of understanding and response to various surroundings and situations. People store them during their development process and apply them in case of need. In infants, we can provide smiling when being talked to as an example. Schemas are rather simple in babies and gradually become more complex with growing up. Piaget supposed even newborns to possess a certain set of innate schemas or reflexes, and &ndash whereas animals possessing the same reflexes remain on the same level of cognitive development throughout their lives &ndash the innate schemas possessed by infants tend to develop and grow in quantity (Huitt).

The second aspect of the theory deals with adaptation. According to Piaget, intellectual growth (and storing more and more schemata) is perceived as a way of adjustment to the outer world. In order to adapt to the world, an individual tends to use assimilation and accommodation processes (Huitt). Assimilation is reflected in the perception of the new information and its fusing with already possessed schemas and knowledge, while accommodation is aimed at changing the already existing schema to make it work with new knowledge. Assimilation is observed in the following example provided by Siegler: a two-year-old toddler saw a man with the head bold on the top and long hair on the sides and called him &ldquoclown&rdquo (Siegler et al., 2003). His father explaining the differences between the real clown and the man to the toddler and thus correcting the conception of a clown in his mind is an example of accommodation (McLeod).

The third building block of the theory is presented by four distinguished stages of an individual&rsquos development beginning in the neonatal period and lasting to adulthood. These stages are sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational stages.

Sensorimotor stage of development continues approximately from 0 to 2 years and is obviously focused on the senses of a child. In other words, the sensorimotor stage lasts till the moment of language acquisition (Tuckman). On this stage, the emphasis is laid on the use of motor activity without using symbols (Wood). As knowledge is considerably limited on this stage, there is the necessity to learn through trial and error relying on physical experience and interaction. For example, infants can be given a toy but they won&rsquot try to find it one it is taken away as they do not realize yet that it still exists.

The second stage, preoperational, occurs between 2 and 7 years, between toddlerhood and early childhood (Wood). At this stage, development of language skills, imagination and memory are observed. Thinking processes are dominated by egocentrism and are nonlogical (Huitt). Children are able to make connections between the future and the past, but they are unable to build up complex logical relations, analyze incoming information and manipulate symbols. Concerning egocentrism, one can provide an example of a child closing his/her eyes with hands and thinking that he/she has hidden from you. Thus, the child thinks that if he/she doesn&rsquot see the others, they don&rsquot see him/her, too.

The third stage of intellectual development is referred to as the concrete operational stage occurring between 7 and 11 years. Thinking becomes more logical in this period with increasing ability to manipulate symbols. Moreover, thinking becomes less egocentric and the ability to consider external events increases (Wood).

The final stage of development, according to Piaget, begins at 12 and lasts through adolescence to adulthood. At this stage, adolescents and adults are able to operate symbols and abstract concepts (Wood). The peculiarity of human thinking in this period is demonstrated by the ability to think in a systematic way, create hypotheses, and build up complex cause and effect relationships. Piaget stated intellectual development to be a lifelong process, but as an individual reaches the last stage, there are no more new more complex structures needed. Thus, the further development process is reflected in developing more elaborated schemata that appear as a result of widening the knowledge.


Mainstreaming Means Making All Necessary Accommodations

Districts have to make every effort to include special education students in general education classrooms, and this very often means making special arrangements and accommodations that cater to the unique needs of special needs students:

  • Specialized learning materials, such as large-print texts or audio versions of textbooks.
  • Classroom accommodations like special desks or projectors.
  • Additional in-class assistants trained to assist children with disabilities.
  • Pay for therapy time outside of class to improve the child’s socialization and communication skills to bring them up to a standard suitable for class.

Each of these specific accommodations, as well as every other aspect of how the student is expected to fit into the classroom, are covered in the Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is customized for each student with a disability based on their individual needs and lays out every detail teachers and other faculty need to know.

Mainstreaming sometimes works right out of the box—that is, a child with limited disabilities may be able to drop right into a regular classroom with only minimal accommodations to the overall environment. But sometimes it requires bigger changes to the class and how it is taught.

For example, many children with ASD have extreme sensory sensitivities, a condition known as Sensory Processing Disorder. In extreme cases, this might require changes to be made to the classroom. Bright colors, loud noises, or even stimuli too small for most people to notice, like the hum of fluorescent lights, can become a painful distraction. In these instances, it may be necessary to limit large and colorful displays in the classroom, or change the lighting to accommodate a student.

In other cases, safe spaces are provided adjacent to the classroom where teachers can send these kids if the regular class environment just becomes too much to handle.

In fact, much of the success of mainstreaming rests on teachers, who usually do most of the work involved in implementing the IEP. This means being up to speed on each student’s individual plan and making every arrangement necessary to see to it the plan takes effect. This could involve everything from ordering a special desk (or adjusting the height of an existing desk) to accommodate a wheelchair to using alternative methods to communicate. In many cases, it’s not just a single student, either. A single teacher might have to deal with half a dozen kids with separate disabilities and unique IEPs that each require different accommodations.

To ease this burden, some mainstream classrooms are co-taught between a general education and a special education teacher. Although either teacher may work with any student in the class, the special educator can use their training in techniques like applied behavior analysis to better assist the kids with special needs when they run into obstacles.


Why Dr. Pigliucci is Wrong: There Is an Overarching Theory of Psychology

I have much respect for Professor Massimo Pigliucci, and I have enjoyed and learned from many of his writings over the years. And his Science and Philosophy Medium Essay, Why psychology and history don’t have overarching theories — and probably never will, offers a reasonable synopsis of the field of psychology as I encountered it 25 years ago. Namely, the science of psychology existed then — as it does now in the academic mainstream — as collection of fragmented approaches with “no overarching theory” that enables psychologists to effectively define what the field actually is about.

My goal in this essay is to share with Dr. Pigliucci and others why things have changed. My argument is, admittedly, rather bold. I believe that not only is an overarching theory is possible, but it has already been achieved. Indeed, as this recent series I did with Professor John Vervaeke demonstrates, advances are being made in integrative approaches to human psychology and cognitive science such that we are now in the process of aligning converging approaches that allow us to untangle the world knot of consciousness and start to address the hard problems of mind and meaning.

Although I took over sixty credits of psychology as an undergraduate, I did not become fully aware of just how fragmented the field was until I was a graduate student in the mid1990s. I was being trained as a clinician and was exposed to major competing perspectives for doing psychotherapy (e.g., cognitive behavioral, humanistic, psychodynamic, family systems). I was seeking a more coherent, overarching perspective that would allow me to make music out of the noise that was generated by just jamming the perspectives together into some kind of an eclectic soup.

It made sense to me that, just as modern western medicine is logically organized based on the science of human biology, it would follow that the various approaches to psychotherapy should be based on the science of human psychology. However, when I turned back to the science with this new mindset, I was struck by just how confusing and confused it is. Although I had been dimly aware that the field lacked an overarching theory when I was an undergraduate, its absence had not been particularly salient to me. I had simply bought the mainstream academic justification that the field’s identity was formed by applying the scientific method to questions pertaining to mind and behavior. However, when I looked at the field afresh through the lens of being a clinician facing the problem of operating from a coherent approach to psychotherapy, I was able see much more clearly the extent of its fragmentation.

This oriented me to hunt for a more unified or overarching conception. Between 1994 and 1996, I dove into evolutionary psychology because I found in it an approach that seemed situated to provide a metatheoretical vision. After all, it was clearly consilient with biology in a way that many other perspectives were not. In addition, it seemed to afford a coherent Big History view that was aligned with my sense of cosmic evolution. However, much as Dr. Pigliucci notes in his essay, as I dove deeper into evolutionary psychology during that two-year period, I came to see that it was most definitely not the solution.

The core reason is that it fails to get to the metaphysical root of the problem. The root of the problem is that no one knows how to effectively define what psychology is. This problem must be tackled if one is to seriously engage in the project of developing an overarching theory. It is remarkable to me that many people are not even aware of the nature of the problem. Indeed, it was not clear to me that Dr. Pigliucci’s was aware of the nature of the problem, as he does not say what it is that he thinks psychology is fundamentally about.

To grapple with these issues, it is essential to pay attention to the fact that there is huge ambiguity about what it is that people are referring to when they use the term psychology. To understand my point, let me introduce something I call the “Enlightenment Gap”. The Enlightenment Gap refers to the failure of modernist systems of both science and philosophy to effectively produce a clear descriptive language system for understanding the relationship between (a) matter and mind and (b) social and scientific knowledge. That these are two deep problems that stem from Enlightenment thinking does not need much justification, as they represent some of the most prominent areas of controversy and confusion. Consider, for example, that the “mind-body problem” is central to modern discourse. In addition, the disputes between modernist and postmodernist sensibilities center on interpretations of truth and scientific knowledge relative to the social construction of the knowledge and the linkages of knowledge and power. Together they represent some of the most significant problems with the systems of thought that emerged in during the Enlightenment.

Once we see that modern approaches to science and philosophy carry an Enlightenment Gap, we can understand why a science of psychology has been so difficult to develop. To situate ourselves, let’s start with where mainstream academic psychology currently has landed. Most introductory psychology texts define psychology as “the science behavior and mental processes”. This definition comes from the language game of modern science applied to mental phenomena. That is, the concept of behavior is identified as what can be seen and measured by the methods of science. We can see this explicitly in how Spielman defines the field in her introductory text, Psychology:

The root ‘ology’ denotes scientific study of, and psychology refers to the scientific study of the mind. Since science studies only observable phenomena and the mind is not directly observable, we expand this definition to the scientific study of mind and behavior.

In other words, psychologists are interested in the mind or mental processes, but because they approach it via empirical science, they must study “behavior” because that is what is accessible and then infer things about mental processes accordingly. Stated differently, it is the epistemological requirements of the language game of science that result psychology’s split between behavior and mental process. Unfortunately, this approach is nonsensical at the level of deeper understanding. Although there are many reasons why, the core reason is that there is no shared understanding of what behavior and/or mental processes actually refers to in the world. Given the Enlightenment Gap, this should not be surprising.

Both living cats and dead cats behave as they fall out of trees. What is it that causes living cats to land on their feet and take off? Most psychologists are mentalists. They argue that there are “intervening variables” that regulate the purposeful behavior of live cats and animals in general. But the problem here is that there are many different definitions of mental processes. For example, notice that we are talking here about cats. Yet Dr. Pigliucci, like so many scholars, places psychology firmly in the domain of the social/human sciences. This raises the issue as to whether the field is about animals in general, about some animals like cats, or is only about humans.

As we pause to consider this question, another even more fundamental question arises. What do we mean by mental processes? Some scholars think that mental processes refer to general “neurocognitive processes”. This corresponds to thinking about the nervous system as an information processing system, and thus would seemingly include things like how a spider weaves its web. Indeed, as this video suggests, some scientists and philosophers argue that a spider’s web should be considered an extension of its mind. So, we can ask, is a spider’s web part of its mental processes?

Other scholars consider mental processes to refer to consciousness or subjective feeling states. But this complicates things because this is a very different definition. As this book on the origins of consciousness notes, it is unclear if creatures like spiders have subjective mental lives. (The authors argue they likely do, but note that it is open to much interpretation and many scholars would disagree). Still other scholars, like Zoltan Tory, think the mind refers to the self-conscious reflection of human beings, akin to what Rene Descartes was talking about with his famous dictum, “I think, therefore I am.”

The Enlightenment Gap means we psychologists lack an overarching field of understanding that allows us to talk with the same vocabulary about mental processes. Welcome to the problem of psychology. It is crucial to realize that this problem has been known for almost a century. Back in the mid1920s, the brilliant Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky identified it as the “crisis” of psychology. He lamented that practitioners, researchers and even lay persons interested in the topic noted that the field seemed to refer to fundamentally different things. Some were behavioral psychologists like John Watson, who were concerned with behavioral reflexes and denied any concept of the mental. Others, like Sigmund Freud, were concerned with unconscious mental forces and psychopathology. Others, like Wilhelm Wundt focused on perceptions and inner conscious experience. Still others, like William James, emphasized the functional adaptive properties of mental life. This state of confusion has remained, and I have rechristened as the problem of psychology. It lies at the heart of the discipline, and it refers to the fact that there is no clear definition of the field or its subject matter. I have been dismayed at how little attention this well-known problem receives. It is more important than the problem of “quantum gravity”, and has been lying in plain sight for almost 100 years, but to my amazement very few people are even aware of it.

In the decades that followed Vygotsky’s highlighting of the crisis, the paradigm wars died down. Over time, mainstream psychology gradually evolved into its current state, which can be characterized as an “eclectic” empirical epistemology. The idea of a unified theory of psychology is seen by most researchers as a naïve longing for things to make sense, and the argument usually presented to students is that psychological scientists need to get down to the business of researching phenomena of interest.

Of course, scientific knowledge is not just about applying the scientific method willy nilly. Rather the project of science is fundamentally about developing coherent maps and models that justifiably correspond to the ontic reality. A basic requirement of scientific knowledge is that there is some shared understanding about the way the world works. We have achieved that understanding in the physical and biological sciences in the form of ideas like quantum mechanics, general relativity, and cell theory. This bedrock of consensual knowledge is what makes these sciences “hard”. In contrast, psychology and the rest of the social sciences are “soft” because of the Enlightenment Gap and the failure to achieve coherence, such that there is no agreement about the experts regarding the nature of the field’s subject matter.

Indeed, we can directly link the problem of psychology to the Enlightenment Gap in that we can interpret the problem of psychology both as strong evidence for the Enlightenment Gap and a direct consequence of it. This becomes more apparent when we consider the place of psychology in our systems of human knowledge. Specifically, the field of psychology lies at the heart of academic knowledge, residing on the fault lines between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Moreover, as suggested by the combination of both the mind-matter problem and the social knowledge versus scientific knowledge, we can see that the idea of a science of behavior and mental processes resides at the very center of these two areas of philosophical dispute. Here is how I defined the problem of psychology in A New Unified Theory of Psychology (p. 41–42):

The problem of psychology is the joint observation that the field cannot be coherently defined and yet it connects more deeply than any other discipline to the three great branches of learning. Taken together, these observations suggest that the problem of psychology is a profound problem in academia at large. This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that as psychology has lumbered along acquiring findings but not foundational clarity, the fragmentation of human knowledge has grown exponentially. All of this suggests that the question, “What is psychology?” is profoundly important, one of the central questions in all of philosophy. Asking the right questions is often the most important step in getting the right answer. My interest in psychotherapy integration ultimately led me to ask the question, “What is psychology?”. Although I had no idea at the time, it turns out that this is the right question. And, as startling as it sounds, because psychology connects to so many different domains, the correct answer to it opens up a whole new vision for integrating human knowledge.

The Unified Theory of Knowledge (UTOK) positions itself as a system that resolves the Enlightenment Gap and solves the problem of psychology. It consists of a set of eight key ideas grounded in a metamodern sensibility that engenders a coherent picture of knowledge and wisdom for the 21st Century.

The first key idea in the UTOK is the Tree of Knowledge System. It is a new theory of reality and our scientific knowledge of it that aligns four planes of existence (Matter, Life, Mind, and Culture) with four domains of science (physical, biological, psychological and social). It links the four planes with “joint points”. It identifies the modern evolutionary synthesis as the “joint point” between Matter and Life, and characterizes Life as a novel, complex adaptive plane of existence. It then makes the novel claim that Mind and Culture are similar novel emergent dimensions of behavioral complexity. And it identifies two new “joint points”. It offers Behavioral Investment Theory as the Life to Mind joint point. This provides a metatheory of the mind, brain and animal behavior sciences. And it offers Justification Systems Theory as the Mind-to-Culture joint point, explaining the processes that resulted in us evolving from primates into persons. The result is a vision of scientific psychology that is conceptually up to the task of effectively defining behavior and mental processes and assimilating and integrating the major paradigms (i.e., evolutionary, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, psychodynamic and sociocultural) into one overarching theory.

Here is a vision logic depiction of the argument, as it was spelled out in the first paper on the theory in 2003.


Summary of the History of Psychology

Before the time of Wundt and James, questions about the mind were considered by philosophers. However, both Wundt and James helped create psychology as a distinct scientific discipline. Wundt was a structuralist, which meant he believed that our cognitive experience was best understood by breaking that experience into its component parts. He thought this was best accomplished by introspection.

William James was the first American psychologist, and he was a proponent of functionalism. This particular perspective focused on how mental activities served as adaptive responses to an organism’s environment. Like Wundt, James also relied on introspection however, his research approach also incorporated more objective measures as well.

Sigmund Freud believed that understanding the unconscious mind was absolutely critical to understand conscious behavior. This was especially true for individuals that he saw who suffered from various hysterias and neuroses. Freud relied on dream analysis, slips of the tongue, and free association as means to access the unconscious. Psychoanalytic theory remained a dominant force in clinical psychology for several decades.

Gestalt psychology was very influential in Europe. Gestalt psychology takes a holistic view of an individual and his experiences. As the Nazis came to power in Germany, Wertheimer, Koffka, and Köhler immigrated to the United States. Although they left their laboratories and their research behind, they did introduce America to Gestalt ideas. Some of the principles of Gestalt psychology are still very influential in the study of sensation and perception.

One of the most influential schools of thought within psychology’s history was behaviorism. Behaviorism focused on making psychology an objective science by studying overt behavior and deemphasizing the importance of unobservable mental processes. John Watson is often considered the father of behaviorism, and B. F. Skinner’s contributions to our understanding of principles of operant conditioning cannot be underestimated.

As behaviorism and psychoanalytic theory took hold of so many aspects of psychology, some began to become dissatisfied with psychology’s picture of human nature. Thus, a humanistic movement within psychology began to take hold. Humanism focuses on the potential of all people for good. Both Maslow and Rogers were influential in shaping humanistic psychology.

During the 1950s, the landscape of psychology began to change. A science of behavior began to shift back to its roots of focus on mental processes. The emergence of neuroscience and computer science aided this transition. Ultimately, the cognitive revolution took hold, and people came to realize that cognition was crucial to a true appreciation and understanding of behavior.


Cognitive linguistics


In linguistics and cognitive science, cognitive linguistics (CL) refers to the currently dominant school of linguistics that views the important essence of language as innately based in evolutionarily-developed and speciated faculties, and seeks explanations that advance or fit well into the current understandings of the human mind.

The guiding principle behind this area of linguistics is that language creation, learning, and usage must be explained by reference to concepts in regard to human cognition in general —the basic underlying mental processes that apply not only to language, but to all other areas of human intelligence.


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Why Dr. Pigliucci is Wrong: There Is an Overarching Theory of Psychology

I have much respect for Professor Massimo Pigliucci, and I have enjoyed and learned from many of his writings over the years. And his Science and Philosophy Medium Essay, Why psychology and history don’t have overarching theories — and probably never will, offers a reasonable synopsis of the field of psychology as I encountered it 25 years ago. Namely, the science of psychology existed then — as it does now in the academic mainstream — as collection of fragmented approaches with “no overarching theory” that enables psychologists to effectively define what the field actually is about.

My goal in this essay is to share with Dr. Pigliucci and others why things have changed. My argument is, admittedly, rather bold. I believe that not only is an overarching theory is possible, but it has already been achieved. Indeed, as this recent series I did with Professor John Vervaeke demonstrates, advances are being made in integrative approaches to human psychology and cognitive science such that we are now in the process of aligning converging approaches that allow us to untangle the world knot of consciousness and start to address the hard problems of mind and meaning.

Although I took over sixty credits of psychology as an undergraduate, I did not become fully aware of just how fragmented the field was until I was a graduate student in the mid1990s. I was being trained as a clinician and was exposed to major competing perspectives for doing psychotherapy (e.g., cognitive behavioral, humanistic, psychodynamic, family systems). I was seeking a more coherent, overarching perspective that would allow me to make music out of the noise that was generated by just jamming the perspectives together into some kind of an eclectic soup.

It made sense to me that, just as modern western medicine is logically organized based on the science of human biology, it would follow that the various approaches to psychotherapy should be based on the science of human psychology. However, when I turned back to the science with this new mindset, I was struck by just how confusing and confused it is. Although I had been dimly aware that the field lacked an overarching theory when I was an undergraduate, its absence had not been particularly salient to me. I had simply bought the mainstream academic justification that the field’s identity was formed by applying the scientific method to questions pertaining to mind and behavior. However, when I looked at the field afresh through the lens of being a clinician facing the problem of operating from a coherent approach to psychotherapy, I was able see much more clearly the extent of its fragmentation.

This oriented me to hunt for a more unified or overarching conception. Between 1994 and 1996, I dove into evolutionary psychology because I found in it an approach that seemed situated to provide a metatheoretical vision. After all, it was clearly consilient with biology in a way that many other perspectives were not. In addition, it seemed to afford a coherent Big History view that was aligned with my sense of cosmic evolution. However, much as Dr. Pigliucci notes in his essay, as I dove deeper into evolutionary psychology during that two-year period, I came to see that it was most definitely not the solution.

The core reason is that it fails to get to the metaphysical root of the problem. The root of the problem is that no one knows how to effectively define what psychology is. This problem must be tackled if one is to seriously engage in the project of developing an overarching theory. It is remarkable to me that many people are not even aware of the nature of the problem. Indeed, it was not clear to me that Dr. Pigliucci’s was aware of the nature of the problem, as he does not say what it is that he thinks psychology is fundamentally about.

To grapple with these issues, it is essential to pay attention to the fact that there is huge ambiguity about what it is that people are referring to when they use the term psychology. To understand my point, let me introduce something I call the “Enlightenment Gap”. The Enlightenment Gap refers to the failure of modernist systems of both science and philosophy to effectively produce a clear descriptive language system for understanding the relationship between (a) matter and mind and (b) social and scientific knowledge. That these are two deep problems that stem from Enlightenment thinking does not need much justification, as they represent some of the most prominent areas of controversy and confusion. Consider, for example, that the “mind-body problem” is central to modern discourse. In addition, the disputes between modernist and postmodernist sensibilities center on interpretations of truth and scientific knowledge relative to the social construction of the knowledge and the linkages of knowledge and power. Together they represent some of the most significant problems with the systems of thought that emerged in during the Enlightenment.

Once we see that modern approaches to science and philosophy carry an Enlightenment Gap, we can understand why a science of psychology has been so difficult to develop. To situate ourselves, let’s start with where mainstream academic psychology currently has landed. Most introductory psychology texts define psychology as “the science behavior and mental processes”. This definition comes from the language game of modern science applied to mental phenomena. That is, the concept of behavior is identified as what can be seen and measured by the methods of science. We can see this explicitly in how Spielman defines the field in her introductory text, Psychology:

The root ‘ology’ denotes scientific study of, and psychology refers to the scientific study of the mind. Since science studies only observable phenomena and the mind is not directly observable, we expand this definition to the scientific study of mind and behavior.

In other words, psychologists are interested in the mind or mental processes, but because they approach it via empirical science, they must study “behavior” because that is what is accessible and then infer things about mental processes accordingly. Stated differently, it is the epistemological requirements of the language game of science that result psychology’s split between behavior and mental process. Unfortunately, this approach is nonsensical at the level of deeper understanding. Although there are many reasons why, the core reason is that there is no shared understanding of what behavior and/or mental processes actually refers to in the world. Given the Enlightenment Gap, this should not be surprising.

Both living cats and dead cats behave as they fall out of trees. What is it that causes living cats to land on their feet and take off? Most psychologists are mentalists. They argue that there are “intervening variables” that regulate the purposeful behavior of live cats and animals in general. But the problem here is that there are many different definitions of mental processes. For example, notice that we are talking here about cats. Yet Dr. Pigliucci, like so many scholars, places psychology firmly in the domain of the social/human sciences. This raises the issue as to whether the field is about animals in general, about some animals like cats, or is only about humans.

As we pause to consider this question, another even more fundamental question arises. What do we mean by mental processes? Some scholars think that mental processes refer to general “neurocognitive processes”. This corresponds to thinking about the nervous system as an information processing system, and thus would seemingly include things like how a spider weaves its web. Indeed, as this video suggests, some scientists and philosophers argue that a spider’s web should be considered an extension of its mind. So, we can ask, is a spider’s web part of its mental processes?

Other scholars consider mental processes to refer to consciousness or subjective feeling states. But this complicates things because this is a very different definition. As this book on the origins of consciousness notes, it is unclear if creatures like spiders have subjective mental lives. (The authors argue they likely do, but note that it is open to much interpretation and many scholars would disagree). Still other scholars, like Zoltan Tory, think the mind refers to the self-conscious reflection of human beings, akin to what Rene Descartes was talking about with his famous dictum, “I think, therefore I am.”

The Enlightenment Gap means we psychologists lack an overarching field of understanding that allows us to talk with the same vocabulary about mental processes. Welcome to the problem of psychology. It is crucial to realize that this problem has been known for almost a century. Back in the mid1920s, the brilliant Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky identified it as the “crisis” of psychology. He lamented that practitioners, researchers and even lay persons interested in the topic noted that the field seemed to refer to fundamentally different things. Some were behavioral psychologists like John Watson, who were concerned with behavioral reflexes and denied any concept of the mental. Others, like Sigmund Freud, were concerned with unconscious mental forces and psychopathology. Others, like Wilhelm Wundt focused on perceptions and inner conscious experience. Still others, like William James, emphasized the functional adaptive properties of mental life. This state of confusion has remained, and I have rechristened as the problem of psychology. It lies at the heart of the discipline, and it refers to the fact that there is no clear definition of the field or its subject matter. I have been dismayed at how little attention this well-known problem receives. It is more important than the problem of “quantum gravity”, and has been lying in plain sight for almost 100 years, but to my amazement very few people are even aware of it.

In the decades that followed Vygotsky’s highlighting of the crisis, the paradigm wars died down. Over time, mainstream psychology gradually evolved into its current state, which can be characterized as an “eclectic” empirical epistemology. The idea of a unified theory of psychology is seen by most researchers as a naïve longing for things to make sense, and the argument usually presented to students is that psychological scientists need to get down to the business of researching phenomena of interest.

Of course, scientific knowledge is not just about applying the scientific method willy nilly. Rather the project of science is fundamentally about developing coherent maps and models that justifiably correspond to the ontic reality. A basic requirement of scientific knowledge is that there is some shared understanding about the way the world works. We have achieved that understanding in the physical and biological sciences in the form of ideas like quantum mechanics, general relativity, and cell theory. This bedrock of consensual knowledge is what makes these sciences “hard”. In contrast, psychology and the rest of the social sciences are “soft” because of the Enlightenment Gap and the failure to achieve coherence, such that there is no agreement about the experts regarding the nature of the field’s subject matter.

Indeed, we can directly link the problem of psychology to the Enlightenment Gap in that we can interpret the problem of psychology both as strong evidence for the Enlightenment Gap and a direct consequence of it. This becomes more apparent when we consider the place of psychology in our systems of human knowledge. Specifically, the field of psychology lies at the heart of academic knowledge, residing on the fault lines between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Moreover, as suggested by the combination of both the mind-matter problem and the social knowledge versus scientific knowledge, we can see that the idea of a science of behavior and mental processes resides at the very center of these two areas of philosophical dispute. Here is how I defined the problem of psychology in A New Unified Theory of Psychology (p. 41–42):

The problem of psychology is the joint observation that the field cannot be coherently defined and yet it connects more deeply than any other discipline to the three great branches of learning. Taken together, these observations suggest that the problem of psychology is a profound problem in academia at large. This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that as psychology has lumbered along acquiring findings but not foundational clarity, the fragmentation of human knowledge has grown exponentially. All of this suggests that the question, “What is psychology?” is profoundly important, one of the central questions in all of philosophy. Asking the right questions is often the most important step in getting the right answer. My interest in psychotherapy integration ultimately led me to ask the question, “What is psychology?”. Although I had no idea at the time, it turns out that this is the right question. And, as startling as it sounds, because psychology connects to so many different domains, the correct answer to it opens up a whole new vision for integrating human knowledge.

The Unified Theory of Knowledge (UTOK) positions itself as a system that resolves the Enlightenment Gap and solves the problem of psychology. It consists of a set of eight key ideas grounded in a metamodern sensibility that engenders a coherent picture of knowledge and wisdom for the 21st Century.

The first key idea in the UTOK is the Tree of Knowledge System. It is a new theory of reality and our scientific knowledge of it that aligns four planes of existence (Matter, Life, Mind, and Culture) with four domains of science (physical, biological, psychological and social). It links the four planes with “joint points”. It identifies the modern evolutionary synthesis as the “joint point” between Matter and Life, and characterizes Life as a novel, complex adaptive plane of existence. It then makes the novel claim that Mind and Culture are similar novel emergent dimensions of behavioral complexity. And it identifies two new “joint points”. It offers Behavioral Investment Theory as the Life to Mind joint point. This provides a metatheory of the mind, brain and animal behavior sciences. And it offers Justification Systems Theory as the Mind-to-Culture joint point, explaining the processes that resulted in us evolving from primates into persons. The result is a vision of scientific psychology that is conceptually up to the task of effectively defining behavior and mental processes and assimilating and integrating the major paradigms (i.e., evolutionary, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, psychodynamic and sociocultural) into one overarching theory.

Here is a vision logic depiction of the argument, as it was spelled out in the first paper on the theory in 2003.


9. Thought and Language

To say that a mental object has semantic properties is, paradigmatically, to say that it is about, or true or false of, an object or objects, or that it is true or false simpliciter. Suppose I think that democracy is dying. I am thinking about democracy, and if what I think of it (that it is dying) is true of it, then my thought is true. According to RTM such states are to be explained as relations between agents and mental representations. To think that democracy is dying is to token in some way a mental representation whose content is that democracy is dying. On this view, the semantic properties of mental states are the semantic properties of the representations they are relations to.

Linguistic acts seem to share such properties with mental states. Suppose I say that democracy is dying. I am talking about democracy, and if what I say of it (that it is dying) is true of it, then my utterance is true. Now, to say that democracy is dying is (in part) to utter a sentence that means that democracy is dying. Many philosophers have thought that the semantic properties of linguistic expressions are inherited from the intentional mental states they are conventionally used to express (Grice 1957, Fodor 1978, Schiffer1972/1988, Searle 1983). On this view, the semantic properties of linguistic expressions are the semantic properties of the representations that are the mental relata of the states they are conventionally used to express. Fodor has famously argued that these states themselves have a language-like structure. (See the entry on the language of thought hypothesis.)


Summary of the History of Psychology

Before the time of Wundt and James, questions about the mind were considered by philosophers. However, both Wundt and James helped create psychology as a distinct scientific discipline. Wundt was a structuralist, which meant he believed that our cognitive experience was best understood by breaking that experience into its component parts. He thought this was best accomplished by introspection.

William James was the first American psychologist, and he was a proponent of functionalism. This particular perspective focused on how mental activities served as adaptive responses to an organism’s environment. Like Wundt, James also relied on introspection however, his research approach also incorporated more objective measures as well.

Sigmund Freud believed that understanding the unconscious mind was absolutely critical to understand conscious behavior. This was especially true for individuals that he saw who suffered from various hysterias and neuroses. Freud relied on dream analysis, slips of the tongue, and free association as means to access the unconscious. Psychoanalytic theory remained a dominant force in clinical psychology for several decades.

Gestalt psychology was very influential in Europe. Gestalt psychology takes a holistic view of an individual and his experiences. As the Nazis came to power in Germany, Wertheimer, Koffka, and Köhler immigrated to the United States. Although they left their laboratories and their research behind, they did introduce America to Gestalt ideas. Some of the principles of Gestalt psychology are still very influential in the study of sensation and perception.

One of the most influential schools of thought within psychology’s history was behaviorism. Behaviorism focused on making psychology an objective science by studying overt behavior and deemphasizing the importance of unobservable mental processes. John Watson is often considered the father of behaviorism, and B. F. Skinner’s contributions to our understanding of principles of operant conditioning cannot be underestimated.

As behaviorism and psychoanalytic theory took hold of so many aspects of psychology, some began to become dissatisfied with psychology’s picture of human nature. Thus, a humanistic movement within psychology began to take hold. Humanism focuses on the potential of all people for good. Both Maslow and Rogers were influential in shaping humanistic psychology.

During the 1950s, the landscape of psychology began to change. A science of behavior began to shift back to its roots of focus on mental processes. The emergence of neuroscience and computer science aided this transition. Ultimately, the cognitive revolution took hold, and people came to realize that cognition was crucial to a true appreciation and understanding of behavior.


What Is Cognitive Theory? (with pictures)

Cognitive theory is built around the premise that a person's thoughts control his actions, personality, and to some degree his circumstances. It is an area of psychology that is in sharp contrast with behavioral theory, which states that there is an interrelationship between an individual's behaviors and his physical environment. Some psychologists merge the two theories to form what is called cognitive-behavioral theory. One of the more controversial aspects of cognitive theory is the idea that severe mood disorders can be altered by patterns of thinking.

The main idea behind cognitive theory is that an individual becomes what he thinks. Behaviors are the direct result of internal thoughts, which are able to be controlled. The theory purports that thought processes and patterns can be changed if a person learns how to recognize and correct destructive tendencies. For example, a person's personality and identity can be reshaped through thought manifestation.

In fact, some would go so far as to say that entire life circumstances and outcomes can be directly controlled through the thought process. According to cognitive theory, one way to encourage and unlock new thought patterns is through meditation. Mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety have been shown to be responsive to cognitive forms of therapy. Some experts agree that cognitive therapy is a more effective treatment method than antidepressants alone.

In some ways, cognitive theory is similar to Eastern religious concepts, particularly those found in Buddhist teachings. Sayings such as, "I think, therefore I am," and "we become our thoughts," are reflective of the theory. It is the idea that a person's outward expression is a result of his inner one.

Cognitive theory began to gain a stronghold in the 1980s and 1990s. Many self-help resources are built around the idea of changing a person's life and mood through a change in thought patterns. For example, happiness will continue to elude those who think they are unhappy or who do not see the positive aspects in their situations. Criticisms of this theory revolve around the idea that the thought process is too complex and abstract to understand completely.

Some might argue that an individual's thought process is not only influenced by his own perceptions, but by the perceptions of others in his environment. Feedback, especially criticism, might stimulate thoughts that are beyond the control of the person who is on the receiving end. While that person can certainly attempt to change those thought patterns and reframe the way the criticism is processed, those negative thought patterns might unintentionally reemerge. An additional criticism of cognitive theory is that it is relatively undefined and difficult to apply to the population as a whole.


Overview of the theoretical basis

Jean Piaget, one of the most significant researchers in developmental psychology of the 20th century, was primarily interested in the investigation of the cognitive processes and development of cognitive abilities in children. According to his approach, the ability that distinguishes human beings from all other animals is &ldquoabstract symbolic reasoning&rdquo (Huitt). Observing his children and the way they come to know and develop their thinking, Piaget elaborated on the theory incorporating two main aspects: the way people come to know and the general stages they come through on the way of cognitive development (Huitt).

Regarding the relation to either nature or nurture as the key driver of children&rsquos development, Piaget as a biologist chose to rely upon nature and maturation as the driving forces of the development process. In other words, according to this theory, there are certain age-based stages and age trends observed in children in the process of development and playing the key role (Bergin). In contrast to nativist developmental theories taking nature for the main development drive, current theory perceives a human being as an active participant of the process of development and supposes an individual to build up the cognitive abilities relying on the experience of his/her action within the environment.

Piaget&rsquos theory consists of three main building blocks: schemas, adaptation processes that enable the transition between the stages, and the stages of development themselves (McLeod).

Schemas, according to Piaget, are the elementary units of knowledge and intelligent behavior that refer to different aspects of world perception (McLeod). In other words, schemas are fragments of data stored in the brain that gives a human being a hint on possible reactions to the incoming information and stimuli (Wadsworth). Thus, Piaget implied the increase in the number and complexity of schemas in the process of mental development (McLeod). Being a set of mental representations of the world in the human&rsquos mind, the schemas are the kind of patterns of understanding and response to various surroundings and situations. People store them during their development process and apply them in case of need. In infants, we can provide smiling when being talked to as an example. Schemas are rather simple in babies and gradually become more complex with growing up. Piaget supposed even newborns to possess a certain set of innate schemas or reflexes, and &ndash whereas animals possessing the same reflexes remain on the same level of cognitive development throughout their lives &ndash the innate schemas possessed by infants tend to develop and grow in quantity (Huitt).

The second aspect of the theory deals with adaptation. According to Piaget, intellectual growth (and storing more and more schemata) is perceived as a way of adjustment to the outer world. In order to adapt to the world, an individual tends to use assimilation and accommodation processes (Huitt). Assimilation is reflected in the perception of the new information and its fusing with already possessed schemas and knowledge, while accommodation is aimed at changing the already existing schema to make it work with new knowledge. Assimilation is observed in the following example provided by Siegler: a two-year-old toddler saw a man with the head bold on the top and long hair on the sides and called him &ldquoclown&rdquo (Siegler et al., 2003). His father explaining the differences between the real clown and the man to the toddler and thus correcting the conception of a clown in his mind is an example of accommodation (McLeod).

The third building block of the theory is presented by four distinguished stages of an individual&rsquos development beginning in the neonatal period and lasting to adulthood. These stages are sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational stages.

Sensorimotor stage of development continues approximately from 0 to 2 years and is obviously focused on the senses of a child. In other words, the sensorimotor stage lasts till the moment of language acquisition (Tuckman). On this stage, the emphasis is laid on the use of motor activity without using symbols (Wood). As knowledge is considerably limited on this stage, there is the necessity to learn through trial and error relying on physical experience and interaction. For example, infants can be given a toy but they won&rsquot try to find it one it is taken away as they do not realize yet that it still exists.

The second stage, preoperational, occurs between 2 and 7 years, between toddlerhood and early childhood (Wood). At this stage, development of language skills, imagination and memory are observed. Thinking processes are dominated by egocentrism and are nonlogical (Huitt). Children are able to make connections between the future and the past, but they are unable to build up complex logical relations, analyze incoming information and manipulate symbols. Concerning egocentrism, one can provide an example of a child closing his/her eyes with hands and thinking that he/she has hidden from you. Thus, the child thinks that if he/she doesn&rsquot see the others, they don&rsquot see him/her, too.

The third stage of intellectual development is referred to as the concrete operational stage occurring between 7 and 11 years. Thinking becomes more logical in this period with increasing ability to manipulate symbols. Moreover, thinking becomes less egocentric and the ability to consider external events increases (Wood).

The final stage of development, according to Piaget, begins at 12 and lasts through adolescence to adulthood. At this stage, adolescents and adults are able to operate symbols and abstract concepts (Wood). The peculiarity of human thinking in this period is demonstrated by the ability to think in a systematic way, create hypotheses, and build up complex cause and effect relationships. Piaget stated intellectual development to be a lifelong process, but as an individual reaches the last stage, there are no more new more complex structures needed. Thus, the further development process is reflected in developing more elaborated schemata that appear as a result of widening the knowledge.


Mainstreaming Means Making All Necessary Accommodations

Districts have to make every effort to include special education students in general education classrooms, and this very often means making special arrangements and accommodations that cater to the unique needs of special needs students:

  • Specialized learning materials, such as large-print texts or audio versions of textbooks.
  • Classroom accommodations like special desks or projectors.
  • Additional in-class assistants trained to assist children with disabilities.
  • Pay for therapy time outside of class to improve the child’s socialization and communication skills to bring them up to a standard suitable for class.

Each of these specific accommodations, as well as every other aspect of how the student is expected to fit into the classroom, are covered in the Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is customized for each student with a disability based on their individual needs and lays out every detail teachers and other faculty need to know.

Mainstreaming sometimes works right out of the box—that is, a child with limited disabilities may be able to drop right into a regular classroom with only minimal accommodations to the overall environment. But sometimes it requires bigger changes to the class and how it is taught.

For example, many children with ASD have extreme sensory sensitivities, a condition known as Sensory Processing Disorder. In extreme cases, this might require changes to be made to the classroom. Bright colors, loud noises, or even stimuli too small for most people to notice, like the hum of fluorescent lights, can become a painful distraction. In these instances, it may be necessary to limit large and colorful displays in the classroom, or change the lighting to accommodate a student.

In other cases, safe spaces are provided adjacent to the classroom where teachers can send these kids if the regular class environment just becomes too much to handle.

In fact, much of the success of mainstreaming rests on teachers, who usually do most of the work involved in implementing the IEP. This means being up to speed on each student’s individual plan and making every arrangement necessary to see to it the plan takes effect. This could involve everything from ordering a special desk (or adjusting the height of an existing desk) to accommodate a wheelchair to using alternative methods to communicate. In many cases, it’s not just a single student, either. A single teacher might have to deal with half a dozen kids with separate disabilities and unique IEPs that each require different accommodations.

To ease this burden, some mainstream classrooms are co-taught between a general education and a special education teacher. Although either teacher may work with any student in the class, the special educator can use their training in techniques like applied behavior analysis to better assist the kids with special needs when they run into obstacles.


Cross-Cultural Psychology Theories and Methods of Study

The question of how information about the psycholog­ical functioning of various cultural and ethnic populations can be studied runs through the history of cross-cultural psychology like a thread. One tradition is based on Waitz’s notion of the “psychic unity of mankind.” according to which the human psyche is essentially similar across cultures. The tradition is rooted in the European Enlightenment of the seventeenth to nineteenth century, when philosophers such as Hume and Kant emphasized the basic similarity of human behavior across times and cultures and the need for cross-cultural research in identifying the principles governing this universality. In the Romantic rebellion against the Enlightenment (expressed in the work of Rousseau and Herder. among others, vast differences in the psychological functioning of different cultural populations were emphasized). Attempts to compare cultures cannot but involve peripheral aspects of psychological functioning. The tradition is noncomparative and maintains that cultures should be understood “from within.” The debate between these two approaches has recurred under various disguises. Examples include the distinction between universalism and cultural relativism. cross-cultural and cultural psychology, and etic and emic approaches (a popular terminology in cross-cultural psychology, drawing on a distinction by the linguist Kenneth Pike). The distinction between a comparative and noncomparative perspective in anthropology and between the nomothetic and ideographic approach in mainstream psychology have similar roots.

Goals of the Study of Cultural Factors in Cross-Cultural Psychology

Three goals of comparative and noncomparative approaches can be discerned: (1) testing the applicability of (usually) Western theories and measures in a non-Western context, (2) exploring the role of cultural factors by extending the range of variation of cultural variables, and (3) integrating culture into theories and measures in order to contribute to a truly universal psychology. These goals have an implicit temporal order. Cross-cultural psychology has enough impetus at present to conclude with confidence that important steps have been taken toward the realization of the first goal. Instruments covering various psychological domains such as intelligence, personality, and social behavior have been administered in cross-cultural studies. It has been repeatedly shown that instruments developed in Western countries are susceptible to various sources of bias, with the susceptibility tending to increase with the cultural distance between the instrument’s author and the examinees. The second goal has also been well studied. Social psychology provides many examples of the former there are ample demonstrations of the vital and not infrequently neglected influence of cultural context on social-psychological functioning.

The pervasive cross-cultural differences in the social-psychological domain have undoubtedly added to the their popularity in cross-cultural psychology. One of the best known examples of cross-cultural research aimed at the second goal such was Segall, Campbell, and Herskovits’s work on illusion susceptibility (1966). In a large cross-cultural study, these authors demonstrated that in the built environment and with openness of the natural vista, illusion susceptibility is positively related to the occurrence of geometric shapes like rectangles and squares. Another example is the ecocultural framework that is frequently employed to link psychological aspects to features of the environment. In particular, food-gathering style has been studied, based on a dichotomy of nomadic hunting and food gatherers living in loosely organized societies in sparsely populated regions versus sedentary agriculturalists living in tightly knit societies in more densely populated regions. Various psychological differences of these societies have been examined, such as child-rearing patterns and cognitive style.

The second goal has also been examined from a non-comparative perspective. Two approaches are discussed here. The first is cultural psychology, a relatively young subdiscipline. It is closely related to social constructionism and aims at an in-depth understanding of psychological functioning by studying in situ behavior, usually in only one culture. Culture and personality are taken to constitute each other in a process of mutual influences. Culture is seen as a system of meanings, with studies often focusing on how individuals gradually acquire the perspective of a culture. In line with common practice in anthropology (ethnography in particular), assessment methods are utilized that impose little or no a priori categorization on the data, such as unstructured interviews and tape and video recordings. Because of the interest in learning processes, diachronic (longitudinal) designs are often employed.

Indigenous psychologies provide another example of an increasingly popular, noncomparative approach to understanding cultural variation. It is a generic name for all types of psychologies that attempt to overcome the limitations of, in Sinha’s words, “the culture-bound and culture-blind tendencies of mainstream psychology” (1997). Indigenous psychologies have been developed in various areas, such as Latin America, India, Japan, and China. The need for developing an indigenous psychology is often triggered by findings that a non-Western application of a common Western theory or instrument does not do justice to the specifics of the non-Western group. In various degrees of elaboration, these psychologies try to overcome Western biases in theory and assessment, ultimately aiming at an enhancement of the adequacy and applicability of psychological knowledge for these areas. Indigenous psychologies are not yet developed enough to have a serious effect on Western psychology. To date, the integration of cross-cultural findings and mainstream theories of psychology, the third goal of cross-cultural psychology, remains an open challenge.

Methodological Issues in Cross-Cultural Psychology

The largest part of the cross-cultural knowledge base is related to the testing of the applicability of Western theories and measures. In such studies, methodological features tend to require attention. It is therefore not surprising that cross-cultural psychology has been described as a method. A good example of such a concern is the sampling of subjects within cultural populations. Whereas the anthropologist can often rely on a small number of informants who, because of their expertise, have good access to the cultural knowledge of interest, such as the indigenous taxonomy of a particular flora, the cross-cultural psychologist usually deals with psychological characteristics that vary substantially across the members of a population. The sampling procedure that is applied then has a bearing on the interpretability of the results. A comparison of two haphazardly chosen samples is susceptible to interpretation problems: Is the observed difference in psychological functioning (e.g., in locus of control) the result of an underlying cultural difference or because of sample differences in relevant though uncontrolled background characteristics, such as socioeconomic status, gender, or education?

Three popular sampling procedures represent different ways of dealing with confounding characteristics. The first is random, or probability, sampling. It assumes an available listing of eligible units, such as persons or households. If properly applied, such a sample will yield an adequate picture of the cultural population. Yet, confounding variables, which are not controlled for in this approach, may challenge the interpretation of cross-cultural differences.

The second type is matched sampling. A population is stratified (e.g., in levels of schooling or socioeconomic status) and within each stratum a random sample is drawn. Using a matching procedure, confounding variables can then be controlled, but such a sample may poorly represent a whole population. The latter may be improved by applying statistical weights to individual scores (e.g., when highly schooled people are overrepresented in the sample, these scores will get a weight that is lower than those of less educated persons). Matching is appropriate when cultural groups are not too dissimilar with regards to confounding variables, but the procedure cannot correct adequately for confounding variables when there is little or no overlap across cultures (e.g.. comparisons of literates and illiterates).

The third sampling procedure combines random sampling with the measurement of control variables and enables a (post hoc) statistical control of ambient variables. The applicability of this procedure is limited only by the assumptions of the statistical technique utilized for example, an analysis of covariance assumes equal regression coefficients of the confounding variables in the prediction of a target variable.

Cross-cultural studies also have to deal with the sampling of cultures. Again, three types of sampling can be envisaged. The first is random sampling. Because of the prohibitively large cost of a random sample from all existing cultures, it often amounts to a random sample of a particular groups of cultures (e.g.. Circummediterranean cultures). The second and most frequently observed type of culture sampling is convenience sampling. The choice of cultures is then governed by considerations of availability and cost efficiency. In many studies, researchers from different countries cooperate, with each collecting data in his or her own country. The reasons for choosing a particular culture are more based on substantive considerations in the third type, called systematic sampling. A culture is deliberately chosen because of some characteristic, such as in Segall, Campbell. and Herskovits’s (1966) study in which cultures were chosen based on features of the ecological environment, such as openness of the vista.

Extensive experience with the application of Western instruments (often adapted) in a non-Western context has led to a set of concepts and recommended practices. Central concepts are bias and (in)equivalence. Bias refers to the presence of validity-threatening aspects of a test or inventory such as inappropriate items a stimulus is biased if it does not have the same psychological meaning in the cultures studied. For example, endorsement of the item “[I] watched more television than usual.” which is part of a common coping list, will depend on the availability of electricity and television sets, among other things. Equivalence refers to the implications of bias on the comparability of scores across cultures.

Multilingual Studies in Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural studies are often multilingual, and recommended practices for how instruments can be translated or adapted have been developed. In an adaptation procedure, one or more parts are rewritten in order to improve an instrument’s suitability for a target group. Most multilingual studies employ existing instruments. A translation, followed by an independent back-translation and a comparison of the original and back-translated version, possibly followed by some alterations of the translation is accomplished. Back-translations provide a powerful tool to enhance the correspondence of original and translated versions that is independent of the researcher’s knowledge of the target language. Yet, they do not address all problems. First, back-translations put a premium on literal reproduction this may give rise to stilted language in the target version that lacks the readability and natural flow of the original.

A second problem involves translatability. The use of idiom (e.g., the English “feeling blue”) or references to cultural specifics (e.g., country-specific public holidays) or other features that cannot be adequately represented in the target language challenges translation-back-translations (and indeed all studies in which existing instruments are translated). When versions in all languages can be developed simultaneously, “decentering” can be used. in which no single language or culture is taken as starting point individuals from different cultures develop an instrument jointly, thereby greatly reducing the risk of introducing unwanted references to a specific culture. During the last decade there has been a growing awareness that translations and adaptations require the combined expertise of psychologists (with competence in the construct studied) and experts in the local language and culture of the target culture(s). In this so-called committee approach, in which the expertise of all relevant disciplines is combined, there is usually no formal accuracy check of the translation. The committee approach is widespread among large international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union, in which texts have to be translated into many languages.

Individual and Country-Level Studies in Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural studies can compare psychological functioning at various levels of aggregation, ranging from individuals to households, classes, schools, regions, and even whole countries. By far, most studies compare individuals, while more recently there is an increasing interest in country-level comparisons. With regards to the former, much research has been carried out in the area of intelligence and cognitive development. Factor analyses of cross-cultural applications of intellectual tasks have yielded strong support for the universality of the cognitive apparatus, with factoral structures found in Western and non-Western groups tending to be identical. On the other hand, average scores on intelligence tests in particular differ rather consistently across cultural groups, with Western individuals frequently obtaining higher scores than non-Western. The interpretation of these differences was and still is controversial, and inconclusive reasons have been offered, such as genetic origin, environmental background, and measurement artifacts (the differential suitability of the instrument).

Piagetian theory has also spurred cross-cultural research. The order of the stages as proposed by Piaget has been found to be universal, yet the age of onset of each stage tends to differ, with more cross-cultural variation in age found at the higher stages. Evidence for the universality of the highest stage, formal-operational thinking, is weak, although the poor applicability of formal-operational tasks in particular cultures can at least partly account for this observation. Evidence from cultural anthropology based on observations of behavior in situ supports the universality of formal-operational thinking.

In sum, there are no studies refuting the universality of basic features of cognitive functioning, like primacy and recency effects in short-term memory retrieval, the virtually unlimited storage capacity of long-term memory, the attainment of Piagetian conservation, and logical reasoning. Nevertheless, the area of application of certain cognitive skills may differ across cultures (and often across professional groups within cultures). Cultures can build on a set of universal “building blocks” such as long-term memory, but the kind of information that is stored (e.g., scholastic information) may vary considerably across cultures.

The second line of research attempts to establish the universality (or cultural specificity) of certain traits or personality structure in general. Eysenck’s three-factor model of personality (emotional stability, psychoticism, and extroversion) and more recently, the “Big Five” model of personality (conscientiousness, neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness, and openness), which is based on psycholexical studies, have been the subject of cross-cultural research. Despite minor problems in both traditions (Eysenck applied a statistical procedure to demonstrate factoral stability with a low statistical power, while the fifth factor of the Big Five could not always be retrieved), the personality structure among Western subjects seems to be essentially universal. However, some non-Western studies have pointed to the incompleteness of Western models of personality. For example, in a large Chinese study it was found that a Western model of personality did not cover aspects frequently utilized in self-descriptions, such as face and harmony. The possible incompleteness of Western models of personality points to an observation often made in cross-cultural psychology: Universal aspects of psychological functioning can be found at a fairly abstract level, while a closer examination of a single group (as in the case of the Chinese study) points to the existence of cultural specifics not covered by the Western structure.

For obvious reasons, comparisons based on country scores are not numerous, yet the few large-scale studies that have been reported have been influential. The first large data base containing information about a large set of cultures was the Human Relations Area Files, published in the 1960s by George Peter Murdock, a cultural anthropologist. The data base contains scores for many variables of hundreds of (mainly nonindustrial) societies. The well-acknowledged problem of data quality (scores were obtained from a wide variety of sources ranging from trained anthropologists to missionaries, and often not applying identical criteria and with an unknown interrater agreement) is more than compensated for by the sheer size of the data base and the opportunity to compare a large set of cultures. The publication of the data base has initiated an ongoing series of publications.


Cognitive linguistics


In linguistics and cognitive science, cognitive linguistics (CL) refers to the currently dominant school of linguistics that views the important essence of language as innately based in evolutionarily-developed and speciated faculties, and seeks explanations that advance or fit well into the current understandings of the human mind.

The guiding principle behind this area of linguistics is that language creation, learning, and usage must be explained by reference to concepts in regard to human cognition in general —the basic underlying mental processes that apply not only to language, but to all other areas of human intelligence.


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