Evolution in the field of psychology:
In Practice, Theory, and Perspective.


Jessie-Laine Metz
Camosun College

 


It is impossible for any pursuit of knowledge to remain relevant, if it does not evolve to reflect changes in society over the course of time. Psychology as a discipline is, of course, not exempt from these necessary modifications. From itís inception as a field combining both philology and philosophy, psychological study has faced the challenge of standing on itís own, away from the shadow of both vague abstractions and set scientific laws.
 

In finding a voice of its own, psychology has been guilty of many crimes common in the history of any developing field. It has looked at the perspectives of the privileged few to the exclusion of many, it has been led astray creating false beliefs in bad science, and it has been advocated as a cure-all for a number of problems that are often much more far reaching needing a holistic approach to fully address their scope.
 

However, as psychology has grown, it has offered enormous insight into both the biological and the emotional being. It has narrowed down broad observations and applied individual cases to the vast majority. This view into the minds of living people has offered explanations for behaviours, and cures for issues that do not always manifest themselves physically. This insight into the personal has created a bridge linking the world of one to the world of many, and an examination of how this has come to be requires looking into the discipline from a number of perspectives.
 

Vanessa Young in her article Evolutionary Psychology: A Paradigm to Unite the Field of Psychology explores the development of evolutionary psychology and its relative strengths and weaknesses. Within certain guidelines she proposes that this evolutionary viewpoint may be a way in which the field of psychology can focus on one specific perspective that incorporates all of the strengths of the discipline while carefully avoiding the mistakes associated with it in the past.
 

In Nature versus Nurture: The Impact of the Case of David Reimer on Current Psychology, Chelsea deBruijn examines how perspectives in psychology have affected the field both on the individual level and ideologically. She also considers the role of revision and acknowledgment of past mistakes in order to keep psychology an ethical pursuit. Her overview of the experiences of those subjected to treatments that are supposed to assist them, and those who create these cures offers an interesting insight into psychological theory in practice.
 

Eugenics in Canada is covered from two outside perspectives in my own article, In Pursuit of Perfection: The Political and Social Factors Contributing to the Rise and Decline of the Canadian Eugenics Movement. This article attempts to understand how bad science became law in Canada, and what caused these laws to be repealed. Like many movements based on fear and misinformation, the scope of treatment can often exceed the practicality or ethics of treatment, and the ability of social and political factors to change these events is interesting to consider.
 

Sherrie Welsford in her article Professor C. Heather Ashton: A Clinical Pharmacologistís Influential Contribution to the Field of Psychology, looks at how the evolution of one psychologist can effect the viewpoints of an entire discipline. The article follows the career of Professor Ashton as she comes to understand the consequences of prescribing certain medications, and then steps back to examine how the entire field chose to deal with this information.
 

Finally, in An Educational Account of Stanley Coren, Nick Meikle follows the development of Dr. Coren from his early childhood to his present work in teaching and dog psychology. It is fascinating to see how an individual chooses their path of learning, and how the information that a forward thinking person can contribute to a field as broad and diverse as psychology.
 

Flux is inevitable in any field of study. The fact that these changes occur on so many levels leaves a huge area of information to consider. The articles in this edition touch on a number of these levels, from a wide variety of perspectives, leaving readers with much food for thought.