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Friday, February 01, 2008

Mezmer's Predictions for Bad Psychology in the 21st Century

As we enter the 21st century, we can be sure that there will be technological marvels aplenty. So what's in store for psychology? One thing we can count on is the continually renewing creativity of psychologists in reinventing, or should we say renaming the wheel. Thus, common sense will be repackaged yet again in books extolling the 10 habits, 7 steps, 9 maxims, etc. that summarize the rules that presume to allow you to manipulate like a tinker-toy the human psyche, until of course a day or two later the proverbial wheels come off, leaving you back in the rut which inspired you to literally buy into that nonsense to begin with.

But there are many other exciting changes afoot which will serve the human race well in its intellectual dotage. Thus, I, Dr. Mezmer make the following predictions about what the new century harbors for the science of mind.

1) Evolutionary Psychology will explain why we like Britney Spears music.

I understand how cars work because I know why I have to get to work. If this logic makes sense to you, then evolutionary psychology (or EP) is the science for you! EP doesn't just hold that we do a lot of things because of the influence of instinctive mechanisms of brain and body, but that an inference as to why our ancestors needed to behave tells us how we now behave. Thus screeching half-naked cave babes were important for brutish ancestral cave guys to grab, thus improving 'reproductive fitness' (although feminists would have another take on the matter), and if those cave babes perchance looked like and were selected because they looked (and acted) like Britney Spears, BINGO, we got the fixins' for an EP theory!

In this century, I predict that EP will explain just about everything about human behavior, and an EP account of Britney appreciation (which obviously cannot be traced to learning or intelligence) will make psychological science complete.

An Evolutionary Explanation for Britney appreciation will be at hand!

2. Behaviorism dies, again.

As a major school of psychology, behaviorism has been refuted more often than evolution by Reverend Bob, pastor of your local Free Will Baptist Church. So far behaviorism has been refuted by humanistic psychologists, cognitive scientists, evolutionary psychologists, and Dr. Phil. It will in the coming years be refuted again by the same folks, but this time the Rotarians and Boy Scouts will join in. Of course no one will actually understand what behaviorism is, but that's a minor point.

3. Academic psychology journals will continue to be written in incomprehensible language on trivial topics, and will remain available in the attic of the local state university library, located only 300 miles from you, and open only on tuesday.

Got a research project? Want to find out why Aunt Emma is acting nuts? Unfortunately there's no WebMD for psychology. We do of course have lots of learned academic journals on psychology, and they even have a presence on the web. but that presence is more like an upcoming movie page with teasers of movies now showing. Problem is, these are movies you don't understand, don't want to see or pay for, and are playing only at a theater not near you. So where do we get our wisdom? Where else but pathetic sources like Dr. Phil or Dr. Mezmer, who will continue to perversely influence the field until they dominate psychology as we know it.

Library Tower at Babel State University

4. Psychology ideas go al la carte.

In times past, meals were complete affairs, and contained all the major food groups from veggies to meat neatly apportioned on the food tray. Psychology, and most certainly psychology education used to be that way, when you got equal parts brain and behavioral science with your feel good metaphors. Now, in these high paced times, psychological concepts are not ingested as entrees that accompany other ideas that are less palatable (think of neuroscience as broccoli here), but rather as entire meals in themselves. So instead of fast food, we have fast facts, and self contained concepts like flow, meditation, self esteem, and intrinsic motivation are pre-packaged for your consumption like a day old burrito. So, as the fast food nation morphs a diet of high minded ideas to fit psychological happy meal packaging (where you get a simple idea and a toy), a deep understanding of the human condition will be replaced with the metaphor du jour. When you think of it it makes you hypnotically flow with intrinsic self-esteem!

5. 'Half-ass' breakthrough concepts in psychology will continue to be developed, moving the field exactly nowhere.

Science is ultimately a pragmatic discipline, and if the equations you use to design rockets or electric sockets are too complicated to use or don't work well, you end with up blown space missions and blown fuses. Thus, without knowledge of an accurate and working theory of mechanics or electricity, your future as an aeronautical or electrical engineer is to say the least limited.

Consider though that if working rockets or sockets could be designed to work (although not with anything near precision), even if your knowledge of math was no greater than 'Big Bird' on the children's TV show 'Sesame Street', then you've got in a nutshell the pragmatic and imprecise discipline of psychology.

Unlike their contraptions that have to work precisely right the first time, humans are far more accepting of imprecision in their lives, when just muddling through is enough. So we put up with economic, educational, and political systems that are but a notch above Sesame Street in sophistication. Where else but in psychology can you find such high falutin' and half digested concepts like flow, intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, co-dependency, etc. that have no more practical or explanatory power than the common sense nostrums your mother handed out? Still, it does sell books which gullible people will continue to buy in this century and beyond.

Requirements of the field:
In physics, big brains; in psychology bird brains.

6. Psychology will embrace silly syllables as never before.

It will be exciting to look forward to whole new sets of syllables that will bestow the comfortable illusion that our understanding of the human condition is actually getting somewhere, when we're actually only renaming things. In the last century we've seen nativism morph into sociobiology and then into evolutionary psychology. Similarly, peak experience became flow, humanistic psychology became 'self-determination theory', and a candid advice from your best buddy became psychotherapy.

Using the power of metaphor, one can look forward to even more polysyllabic leaps of faith and logic. As mankind further merges virtually with its cell phones, PDA's, video games, and major appliances, new terms like gamer's block, internet addiction, repititive sex disorder, and surrender to the matrix (requires blue pill, of course) will enter the psychological lexicon. But by that time we will all have turned into floor lamps.

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