Classical psychology must be built anew

Psychology has been deeply influenced in the early last century by behaviourism. This reductionist school claimed to explain psychic functioning through conditioning made in childhood. For the most jingoists, even languages were only a set of automations acquired by chance and memorized through rewards: receiving a caress or a smile from its mother when he articulates a syllable. This simplistic philosophy lost credit since the discovery of genes and the revival of beliefs in heredity.

Lot of psychologists committed themselves into behaviourist treatments. Some intended to “cure” sexual deviations (including homosexuality until the 70) thanks to a reward-punishment system. In the USA, an electric choc was meant to normalize the deviant subject when an emotion was arising when faced to a picture of a same-sex person. Behavioural methods are still applied nowadays for instance, for obsessional phobias, in the idea that mere deconditioning is enough to operate the cure.

There is no doubt that conditioning plays an essential role in the mind’s structuration. But the nonsense is to deduce from the inexistence of innate impulses of limited plasticity because of their being genetically programmed. The debate between the innate and the acquired was closed since a few renowned ethologist showed the two aspects form a whole: learning is somehow, scheduled in the genetic.

Middle of the last century was marked by cognitivism, which we an see as an avatar of behaviourism. Psychic functioning would then amount to a purely intellectual information process, emotions being relegated to the background, if not completely occulated, and replaced by the term of motivation. Including emotions was of course necessary, and was done a few … fifty years later.

Cognitivism, associated with neuropsychology, permitted however important advances regards to the knowledge of cerebral mechanisms. Numerous underlying the different sensory perceptions were brought out. Cerebral regions implied in the various behaviours are now better known, thanks to fMRI(functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), that allows to see in real time activated regions.

We realize the complexity of cerebral functioning; the simplistic idea of the pioneers’ time : “one cerebral center equals to one psychic function” had to be abandoned in favour of a much more elaborated representation. We know also that all new learnings result in new connexions between neurons, changing the brain on an anatomical level. News fibbers develop especially during childhood and are then almost irreversible.

Yet these advances are all within a reductionist view of psychic functioning. We still do not know what consciousness is. The unconscious itself is largely neglected, and not addressed in psychology courses. Even less is said of paranormal phenomena and the existence of a transcendent dimension (Jung yet mentioned it long ago under the name of “Collective Unconscious”).

Evolutionary Ecopsychology’s discoveries allow to understand why ESP is block in 99% people. They portend how the latter should accompany normal psychic life. Thus are set new standards, which could force the psychology revise its positions and integrate its step-child: parapsychology. Alas, it is without doubts not for tomorrow …