A paradigm revolution in psychology to treat people as if they are human beings

Parker: Most of the psychology carried out today is still quantitative. It still reduces people to numbers, combines people in experiments, and gives broad general statements about human behavior and cognition. It does not account for individual experience and the meaning that people give to their lives.

Years ago, there were alternative qualitative approaches that suggested that psychology needed a paradigm revolution. A paradigm revolution in science is one that changes the fundamental coordinates, the ways of thinking, about what the academic discipline is. For example, in astronomy, we thought that all the planets went around the Earth, but a paradigm revolution, which was provoked by Copernicus and Galileo, showed us that this was wrong and that planets circulated around each other.

We need a similar paradigm revolution in psychology to treat people as if they are human beings. The old experimental paradigm, which treats people as if they are objects, does things to them and does not take their words seriously, is still very powerful. A new paradigm works with the meanings that people give to their experiences.

This was being argued for by philosopher of science Rom Harre who argued that it would be more scientific because it would take seriously what human beings were and what they could do. Well, the paradigm revolution failed.

Psychology departments are still experimental laboratory-based departments. To be honest, I have concluded that I give up. I give up trying to change psychology. We’ve got to start somewhere else.

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