Giving Away and Selling the Behavioral Sciences
Most psychological phenomena — memory, consciousness, emotions, mental disorders, stereotyping, and perception—can be fully explained only by using multiple paradigms, and psychology departments are organized by subfields of the discipline: biological, clinical, social, developmental, and social. Each paradigm has its own specialized language and methodology, and this made psychology a complex subject. In recent times, there is a call for a unified phenomenon-based approach in which problems, rather than sub-disciplines as the organizing basis for the study of psychology. Such an approach would facilitate the “giving away” of psychology.
George Miller, as president of the APA in 1969 called for psychology to be “given away to the public. This meant simplifying complex scientific knowledge into something that the citizens can understand and appreciate. In his article titled “Does Psychology Make a Significant Difference in Our Lives?”, Philip G. Zimbardo says that psychology has achieved a lot and it needs to be taken to the public – who were just people other than the experts – through the media, as psychologists are socially accountable to the people. He says that as most of the research in psychology was conducted through taxpayers’ funds, it is only proper that psychologists are accountable to the public.
Zimbardo points out that the psychologist has a lot of valuable knowledge that can be applied to real-life and application to real-life is possible only when common people are able to understand and apply psychological concepts. For this, psychology needs to be “given away”. Robert Bjork says that giving away the behavioral sciences will help in solving the complex problems facing individuals and society. He points to the potential of behavioral sciences to improve health, increase public safety, enhance education and promote prosperity and democracy.
I think psychology is truly being “given away” effectively as today there is great awareness of psychology in various fields. For example, recruitment is based on psychological tests, criminal courts permit psycho-analytic tests, managerial students study motivational concepts and behavioral sciences, educationists study learning processes and parents try to bring up children through positive reinforcement, etc.