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Schouborg, Gary (2000).

"Dynamically Integrating Psychology:

Harmonizing the Ensemble of Science and Poetic Imagination".


Dynamically Integrating Psychology:

Harmonizing the Ensemble

of Science and Poetic Imagination


Gary Schouborg



Three forces––theory, practice, and economics––seek in their different ways to unify the welter of specialties called psychology. Three facts allow them at least to accommodate one another: (1) two fundamental human needs are for knowledge and expressiveness; (2) knowledge is social in a sense that (3) makes it inversely related to expressiveness. Through knowledge, we predict and control events. Through expressiveness, we relate to reality in emotionally satisfying ways. Psychology has wisely evolved into a universe of approaches, each responding to some aspect of these two protean needs and running along a continuum from science (high knowledge, low expressiveness) to poetic imagination (low knowledge, high expressiveness). This continuum provides a single perspective from which to understand psychology theoretically, assess the value and effectiveness of psychological practice, and effectively address economic realities.




Ever since psychology emerged as a distinct discipline in the late nineteenth century, its relationship to science has been controversial (Koch, 1976). From the start elements of theory, practice, and, increasingly, economics have urged that psychology be scientific. The popular tendency to associate what is unscientific with what is unsophisticated, unintelligent, incompetent, even irrational has increased the pressure. In reaction, psychologists are generally aghast at the thought of being perceived as unscientific. Though they seem to differ little among themselves in their horror, they vary considerably in their practical responses, which lie along a continuum. At one end are those researchers who either limit themselves to psychophysiology or approach behavior at a very general level in order to use methods that are as similar as possible to those of the physical sciences. In either case, the relationship of their findings to distinctively human meaning and value is remote. At the other end of the continuum are those practitioners who have little taste for science and who pride themselves on being artists of the soul, employing methods that bear little resemblance to those of the physical sciences. Yet they often defend their work as scientific rather than risk being condemned as unscientific, with its usually pejorative connotations.


Were reality simpler, researchers and practitioners toward the ends of the continuum could live in peace within their own specialties. The researchers could enjoy their scientific inquiry unconcerned with how it might apply to distinctively human reality. The practitioners could enjoy their more intuitive work unconcerned with whether they were being scientific. Unfortunately for both parties, pressures of theory, practice, and economics nudge them toward the middle––where the Boulder conference of 1949 initially directed clinical psychologists to go: the scientist-practitioner (Baker and Benjamin, 2000).


Pressures of theory and practice combine from opposite directions to prod narrowly empirical researchers and a-scientific practitioners to worry about psychology's relationship to science. On the one hand, theoretical pressures demand that psychological research be tested by reality, while pressures of practice urge that that reality be fully human and therefore involve meaning and value. Together, the two urge psychological theory to be not only testable, but relevant to human concerns. On the other hand, pressures of practice demand that no important human concern be excluded by draconian methodologies, while theoretical pressures urge that psychological practice be tested by reality, so that practitioners' intuitions function before a discerning audience. Together, the two urge psychological practice to be not only relevant to human reality, but testable.


Economic pressures aid and abet theoretical and practice-related demands by tying funding to both research and practice that cost-effectively enhance human living. Politicians without a taste for pure research increasingly withhold funding from it when not clearly linked to human concerns. The same politicians, as well as insurance executives, increasingly refuse funding to practitioners whom they do not perceive as scientific. Economic pressures therefore prod the extreme forms of research and practice to the middle, where psychologists try to meld science with human relevance.


The 1950 Boulder conference nudges practitioners toward the middle by recommending graduate training standards that value research in the development of clinicians and counselors (Belar, 2000). The Boulder model does not intend research to be merely a means for training; in actual practice, the psychologist is to be both researcher and practitioner (Baker and Benjamin, 2000). Unfortunately, after graduation few practitioners read the research literature, let alone conduct research (Nathan, 2000). An obvious reason is that they have little time for research or even reading due the demands of their practice. A further obstacle to research is that, unlike academics, few practitioners are incented to do it. However, the explanations of time and incentive both assume that research and practice are separate activities between which individuals must divide their time. Belar insists that the Boulder model points to the integration of science and practice, not merely their coexistence within each psychologist. She therefore attributes the lack of research-practitioners to lack of integration, which in turn is due to poor implementation of the Boulder model, not to deficiencies in the model itself. One obstacle to integration is the medical model that dominates research. The model reduces psychological concerns to the brain while ignoring social-learning theory (Albee, 2000), emphasizes disease over growth and development (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), and, most fundamentally, tells us little about what is uniquely human: meaning and value (Rabasca, 2000). The medical model's domination thus tends to split research off from much of psychological practice, so that it is no wonder that few psychologists combine both research and practice in their lives. The same factors also apply to those psychiatrists who, in spite of their medical training, are more committed to psychological (e.g., psychoanalytic) than to medical frameworks.


How can one integrate science and practice? Belar points to their mutual influence: innovations in practice feed research, which in turn influences practice. Yet she admits that there is no consensus on how this happens, pointing only to the educational aim of using research to develop critical thinking, which can then be applied to practice. Peterson (2000) suggests that we can better express the desired integration by the phrase scientific practitioner rather than scientist-practitioner. Yet he does not indicate any substantive consequences of this change in language: differences in the behaviors and methodologies between scientific practitioner and scientist-practitioner. Perhaps he would agree with Stricker (2000) that the goal is for psychologists to develop the scientific attitudes of skepticism and curiosity applied to practice as well as to research.


The preceding accounts of integration suffer three major limitations. First, they are vague. Second, the notions of critical thinking, skepticism, and curiosity fail to distinguish adequately between science on the one hand and philosophy as well as other non-scientific disciplines on the other. Third, because of their vagueness, the accounts fail to identify an inherent tension among psychological specialties that defies systematic, conceptual integration. As the following will show, the only integration possible is a dynamic, dialectical one within the individual psychologist: the satisfaction of two fundamental, complementary, and mutually irreducible needs, for knowledge and for expressiveness. By extension, this integration works its way along a cooperative, dialectical path through the psychological community.


The path toward integration is to understand four things:


(1) Two fundamental human needs are for knowledge (to understand ourselves and our environment so as predict and control events) and for expressiveness (to relate to our environment in emotionally satisfying ways)

(2) Knowledge is inherently social in a sense that makes science high, and poetic imagination low, in achieving knowledge

(3) An inverse relationship between knowledge and expressiveness makes poetic imagination high, and science low, in expressiveness

(4) Psychology has wisely evolved into a universe of approaches, each responding to some aspect of these two protean needs and running along a continuum from science (high knowledge, low expressiveness) to poetic imagination (low knowledge, high expressiveness)


This continuum provides a single perspective from which to understand psychology theoretically, assess the value and effectiveness of psychological practice, and effectively address economic realities.




To understand the continuum from science (high knowledge, low expressiveness) to poetic imagination (low knowledge, high expressiveness), we must begin with three facts. First, the term science comes from the Latin scire, to know. Second, the word knowledge expresses a briar patch of meanings, causing considerable confusion in discussing the scientific nature of psychology. Third, knowledge is inherently social, in a way that makes it inversely related to expressiveness.


Fact 1. The term science comes from the Latin scire, to know. Science is concerned with attaining knowledge, in the sense of generating justifiable assertions about reality. We'll see below that expressiveness is concerned with relating to reality in emotionally satisfying ways, not with achieving knowledge. The denial that expressiveness is concerned with knowledge may strike some readers as counterintuitive. However, the seeming implausibility is due only to the many meanings of knowledge, which we need to sort out.


Fact 2. There are three kinds of knowledge that are key to discussing the scientific nature of psychology. The first kind, and the primary focus of this article, is any justifiable assertion about reality. For convenience I will hereafter refer to it simply as knowledge and refer to the generic use of the term as knowledge-genus. Knowledge is therefore one kind of knowledge-genus. Two significantly different kinds of knowledge-genus are acquaintance (e.g., knowing-a what red looks like or what silk feels like) and skill (e.g., knowing-s how to ride a bike or how to establish rapport). As we'll see, expressiveness involves acquaintance and skill rather than knowledge.


Fact 3. Knowledge is inherently social in a way that makes it inversely related to expressiveness. We achieve knowledge at the expense of expressiveness and vice versa. Focusing on this inherently social character of knowledge is key to understanding the continuum from science to poetic imagination. For it allows us to understand science more broadly than we do currently, inclined as we are to identify it with quantitative methods and controlled experiments. Science requires only that the meanings involved and the means of verification be socially accessible––i.e., that one scientist be able to understand another's assertion and test its truth. (For convenience, I will employ truth in the most general possible sense. You may replace the term with validity, acceptability, usefulness, or some other concept of your epistemological persuasion. It makes no difference for my argument.) Clearly, the quantitative methods and controlled experiments usually associated with science are especially socially accessible. But other methods may be as well. At least, we cannot rule that possibility out a priori.


Knowledge is inherently social. When you sincerely tell me that you believe something, you are only reporting your own psychological state. However, when you tell me you know, you are going beyond that to asserting that you have justifiable grounds for your belief. Accordingly, knowledge involves an assertion, which is a kind of promissory note to others. When you claim to know something, you are implying that you have sound reasons for believing as you do, reasons that others can understand and assess to determine whether you merely believe or really know. Readers who find this account of knowledge unobjectionable may wish to skip the following subsection. It provides further philosophical detail, perhaps telling them more than they really care to know about the issue at this time.


* * *


To say that knowledge is inherently social is to deny that there is ever absolutely private knowledge, where others are not implicated in any way. To see that others are necessarily implicated in knowledge, however relatively private it might be, consider two examples.


If I'm alone on a desert island, I might know things no one else knows, e.g., that I swam in the blue lagoon this morning. Such knowledge is relatively private, since in fact I'm the only one who knows. However, it is not absolutely private, in the sense of being private under all possible conditions. In principle others could know about my swimming as well, if they were on the island with me. All they would need is to understand the meaning of the proposition, "I swam in the blue lagoon this morning," and to have been in a position to have seen me swimming. My knowledge is therefore not absolutely private, but socially accessible. The language employed is already social, learned from a culture in which I was raised, and therefore accessible to others; and the required observations are easily made by anyone else under certain conditions.


A different kind of relatively private knowledge is Einstein's initial grasp of relativity. Although surrounded by colleagues with access to his claims, he alone understood his theory and could assess the truth of certain aspects of it. (He had to wait for experimental physicists to verify its empirical implications; but he could by himself derive and assess the mathematics of the theory itself, along with the physical implications.) Nevertheless, others could and eventually did come to understand and assess relativity theory. So Einstein's knowledge was never absolutely private. It was more private than my knowledge on the desert island only in terms of ease of understanding and assessment. The language involved (mathematics) was esoteric compared to my ordinary English on the desert island; yet it was still social, learned by Einstein from the scientific community in which he was raised, and therefore accessible to other physicists. And the empirical observations necessary to verify his theory were observable by others, even if only by a very few specialists.


In fact, even when you are communicating only with yourself, telling yourself that you know, there is no absolutely private knowledge. For even knowledge possessed by only one person requires two distinct functions: assertion by a witness (e.g., I swam in the lagoon this morning) and assessment by a critic (e.g., my belief that I swam in the lagoon this morning is true or false). If the meaning involved does not remain stable across both functions, there is no way for the critic to understand the witness in order to determine if the assertion is really true. There is no way for you yourself to tell the difference between what you merely believe (as reported by your witness function) and what you really know (as assessed by your critic function). Knowledge is therefore inherently social because it necessarily involves communication between two personal functions, witness and critic. It is incidental whether they reside in different individuals or within just one.


Note. The thesis that knowledge is inherently social is a strong claim; a weaker version is that some, but not all, knowledge is social. This subsection makes the stronger case in order to show as clearly as possible the relationship between knowledge and social accessibility. However, those readers who do not believe that I have made my case should note that only the weaker claim is necessary to provide a useful, unifying perspective for psychology. For the whole point of unification is to provide communication and credibility across specialties and to the outside world. Only knowledge that is social can do that. By definition, absolutely private knowledge cannot even be communicated to others, let alone establish its credibility in their eyes. Therefore, social accessibility remains the key not only to identifying what legitimately counts as scientific, but to unifying psychological specialties as well.


* * *


Science has its good name because it has been very successful in developing methodologies that are socially accessible and that therefore make knowledge possible. One scientist can make sense out of another's claim and can follow and assess the other's reasons for making it. Psychology more than any other discipline (or, more accurately, family of disciplines) has a social accessibility that lies along a continuum. At the high end are the most obviously scientific: specialties such as neuroscience and psychophysiology. At the low end are the most problematically scientific: expressive psychologies such as humanistic, existential, phenomenological, psychoanalytic, and transpersonal.


Expressive psychologies are problematically scientific in terms of reputation, inherent ambiguity, and credibility. Rightly or wrongly, many perceive expressive psychologies as unscientific, making their reputation as science problematic. Furthermore, as we'll see in the next section, their very strength of expressiveness undermines their scientific status by making them inherently ambiguous. The subsequent section will show how science gains credibility, presenting serious challenges for expressive psychologies to do so as well. The section after that will discuss how expressive psychologies might establish their scientific credentials by their results.




Were knowledge all that human beings need from life, the more expressive psychologies would have by now withered away in favor of the more scientific ones. However, besides understanding, predicting, and controlling (all functions of knowledge), human beings also need to relate to events in emotionally satisfying ways (expressiveness). Since knowledge and expressiveness are inversely related, science cannot satisfy both needs. Expressive psychologies will not go away, however problematic they may be as science.


Expressiveness is dynamic communication. When I tell someone that I love her, I not only communicate a fact; I change, however slightly, how I feel about her. When I read poetry, contemplate a painting or photograph, listen to music, watch a drama, laugh at comedy, meditate, or pray, I am enriching the way I relate to others and to myself. (I include prayer, because religious studies and practices are toward the expressive end of the continuum.)


Scientists create social accessibility by developing idealized models, with unambiguous terms, in order to explain and predict events (Hardcastle, 1996). The distance between model and reality in the physical sciences is relatively small, because physical reality is relatively simple compared to human reality. Therefore, the physical sciences have achieved significant consensus about the nature of their subject and the means for studying it. They have also achieved considerable success in predicting events and applying their knowledge to human uses. Consensus and success have fed on each other in an interactive spiral of progress. Research can progress, not just evolve, because science is cumulative. To the extent that scientists can refine ambiguity from their terms, they can add unambiguously defined data to unambiguously defined data, and develop, assess, and improve theories accordingly.


Unfortunately, in creating abstract models psychologists lose the richness of human experience. However, as they move toward expressiveness to capture that richness, they increase ambiguity, so that one psychologist's data is not commensurate with another's, and cannot be added to it. Instead, there is a kind of progress within the individual researcher, but not scientific progress in the field itself. To use Koch's example (Koch, 1976), a reader of Plato, Shakespeare, and Durrell will find that their views of love enrich one another, but are not additive. There is no ruler with which to compare their different approaches. As a result, love has a distinctive meaning for each author, with shading that cannot be fully articulated and compared. Their views on love are not commensurate with one another. Readers find their own understanding and experience of love enriched by the three authors; but although some of those same readers can communicate their understanding and experience admirably, they remain unable to do so completely and unambiguously. Their ability to build on and assess one another's understanding is correspondingly limited. Their understanding of the authors' views on love may be sensitive, intelligent, sophisticated, profound, enriching, and even constantly developing; but it is not scientific.


It is critical to understand that in denying that the readers' views are scientific, I am not denying that the readers have knowledge-genus. They certainly do, but it is acquaintance (knowledgea) or skill (knowledges), not scientific knowledge. Readers of Plato, Shakespeare, and Durrell may find that their growing understanding enriches their experience of love (knowledgea), thereby increasing their ability to relate to others (knowledges). However, there is no cumulative body of unambiguous assertions that the community of readers can understand and agree upon (scientific knowledge). Similarly, psychological practitioners' knowledge-genus of themselves and their clients is growing all the time. But such knowledge-genus involves either acquaintance or skill, not science. For example, practitioners become increasingly adept at establishing rapport; but this implies nothing about their scientific knowledge of rapport, any more than knowing-s how to ride a bike requires any scientific knowledge of the physics involved.


The challenge for psychologists toward the more expressive end of the continuum is therefore the following. Theoretically, they must frankly acknowledge the degree to which they are not scientists, while demonstrating the sensitive, intelligent, sophisticated, profound, enriching, and developing quality of their work. Regarding their practice, they must emphasize the distinctive relevance of their work to the richness of human experience in which their clients actually function, while addressing the need for reliable evaluation methods to discern the adept from the inept practitioner and from the charlatan. Economically, they must insist on the relevance of their work to the deepest human needs, while addressing economic limits by distinguishing urgent from elective therapies. In short, they must establish their credibility, to which we now turn.


Credibility, Inside Out


Scientific credibility works its way through society like ripples on a pond. At the center (C1) are the relatively few specialists who are directly acquainted with one another's work, can understand it, and can assess its worth. At the next remove (C2) are those in the same specialty who are unacquainted with a particular work but who could understand and assess it if they were. Then there are those in other specialties (C3) who cannot really understand everything involved, but who nevertheless have good reason to trust the work to the degree that it is similar to their own. Next come non-scientists (C4) who to varying degrees have some understanding of scientific method and its general credibility. Finally, come those who have no understanding of scientific method (C5) but who have experienced its wonders. It is hard to fly in an airplane, watch TV, or use a cell phone and maintain that scientists are charlatans. One is inclined to think they're doing something right.


At the widest circle of credibility, laypersons with no understanding of scientific method (C5), there are no psychological equivalents of the airplane, TV, or cell phone. Consider emotional maturity as one example of psychological product or achievement. After more than a century of expressive psychology, the psychological progress of the human race is not nearly as obvious as technical progress. No one would seriously argue that we are technologically no better off in the year 2000 than we were in 1900. Yet there are serious social commentators who argue that we have not just failed to progress emotionally, but that we are worse off today than we were 100 years ago, that with contemporary complexity we have become more frenetic, with less a solid sense of ourselves, than we were. However, others would point to real progress in improved race relations, less demonizing of the mentally ill, greater understanding of the plight of unwed mothers, increased awareness of family and societal influences on the individual, and on and on. My point is not that one view or the other is correct, but that the very fact of the debate shows that psychological progress is not anywhere near as clear as technical progress, so that psychology does not enjoy the (C5) credibility of the physical sciences. The lack of clear progress is not due to psychologists' incompetence, but to the complexity of the all-too-human issues involved. Because of its complexity, raising emotional maturity is not only difficult to do but difficult to identify even when successful. Consequently, expressive psychologists have not yet achieved the public (and therefore political) credibility enjoyed by the physical sciences.


In the next, smaller circle of credibility (C4) are non-psychologists who to various degrees understand scientific and psychological methods. Perhaps for this group above all is the lack of unity of psychological theory, research methodology, and practice a scandal. Since there is no single psychology for them to believe in, the members of this circle mirror the diversity found within psychology itself. For example, the scientifically inclined may honor neuroscience but disparage humanistic psychology as unscientific; the humanistically inclined may honor humanistic psychology and disparage neuroscience as mechanistic.


What about psychologists in different specialties (C3)? Here, lack of credibility is the most intense of all. Here is precisely where those employing the more quantitative methodologies disparage those who do not for being unscientific, and those who are more humanistic disparage the more quantitatively oriented for reducing human beings to machines. It is to reduce the conflict in this circle that this article is primarily concerned.


Among psychologists within the same specialty who are not directly acquainted with one another's work (C2), there is no particular problem of credibility except that which derives from problems in the inner circle itself, where psychologists within the same specialty are familiar with one another's work and can assess its validity (C1). Unfortunately, even here expressive psychologies have not yet found consensus, even on their methodology let alone their findings. Phenomenology, which is arguably at the root of all expressive psychologies, is neither an identifiable method nor set of methods. Over the past hundred years, phenomenological coteries have sprung up like wild flowers, with little in common except the original impulse to be faithful to subjective experience (Honderich, 1995). Many phenomenologists argue that this impulse makes them the real scientists, since they study the subjective conditions involved in doing science, conditions of which most scientists are unaware. However, at least one phenomenologist argues that even this ostensibly common aim of being faithful to subjective experience is an illusion, since the vast bulk of phenomenological studies are about phenomenological texts rather than actual subjective experience (Varela and Shear, 1999). Be that as it may, there is a more fundamental difficulty. Phenomenological reflection, even of the most sophisticated and systematic sort, is not itself scientific until it achieves social accessibility. Until phenomenologists create a reliable consensus about their own methodology, so that they can understand one another unambiguously and thus assess the truth of their claims, they cannot plausibly call their discipline scientific.


Unfortunately, the challenges that expressive psychologists face in reaching consensus about methodology are daunting, because of the inherent ambiguity that we have discussed. Admittedly, there seems no way to say a priori that expressive psychologies cannot be scientific. Even if we could establish that methods such as quantitative measurement, controlled experiment, or statistical studies will never be adequate to achieve the aims of expressive psychologies, it would not necessarily follow that expressive psychologies are unscientific. For we have seen that the essence of science is not any particular method, but social accessibility. Certainly, quantitative measurement, controlled experiment, and statistical studies have been famously successful in achieving that. But perhaps expressive psychologists can develop other socially accessible methodologies, ones that are faithful to the richness of human experience. However, we should be aware of the inherent difficulty: reducing ambiguity seems necessary to achieve social accessibility; abstraction seems necessary to reduce ambiguity; and the more the abstraction, the greater the distance from actual human experience. Inherent ambiguity is therefore a daunting, perhaps invincible, challenge to making expressive psychologies scientific.




Consider the worst case scenario, where the language, methods, and theories of expressive psychologies are not in any way scientific. Psychologists may still be able to evaluate scientifically how well expressive methods can alleviate suffering and promote well-being. For a specialty's scientific character is logically independent of its practical effectiveness. Their relationship is an empirical one. Under certain conditions, it may be that the more scientific a specialty, the more effective it is; but under other conditions, there may be no correlation between scientific character and effectiveness at all. Therefore, even if expressive psychologies turn out to be completely non-scientific, they may still be effective in alleviating suffering and promoting well-being. In fact, it is possible that they could be more effective than scientific psychologies. Only empirical study will determine where the truth lies.


Clues of how to proceed already exist in empirical studies of one of the most intangible and ambiguous of expressive psychologies: religious studies and practices (Pargament, 1997; Hood and others, 1996). I call them expressive psychologies because they are concerned with the most personal, conceptually complex, and emotionally rich of human experiences. Almost by definition, they have been considered non-scientific; but that view has been based on the narrow account of science that we have rejected above. In terms of social accessibility, we have yet to determine just how scientific religious studies and practices might really be.


In any case, empirical studies have to date usefully bypassed the question of either the scientific character or the truth of religious beliefs. They have focused instead on results that are revealed by such things as reports of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, as well as correlations of particular religious beliefs, practices, styles, and communities with measures of mental health and dysfunction. Similarly, even in the extreme case where expressive psychologies are non-scientific, psychologists can still determine results that are revealed by such things as reports of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, as well as correlations of particular psychological beliefs, practices, styles, and communities with measures of mental health and dysfunction.


There may be limits to how much a study of results can help the credibility of expressive psychologies. The obvious limit is the precision of a specialty's own language. Narrowly focused therapies can precisely define a targeted result such as to stop smoking, and determine their effectiveness with corresponding precision. In contrast, expressive psychologies, with their inherently ambiguous language of complex conscious experience, have a harder time unambiguously defining a targeted result such as to alleviate one's unease with living. They have a proportionately difficult time in identifying results. However, the difficulty pertains primarily to targeted results, which are defined in the ambiguous language of the expressive specialty, but not to untargeted side-effects, which can possibly be unambiguously defined. It is not inconceivable, for example, that we are unable to determine the effectiveness of an expressive therapy in relieving clients' unease in living, but that we find that the clients serendipitously happen to stop smoking. Even if we are left with no explanation for this result, we could nevertheless encourage clients to undergo the therapy to gain the benefit of the untargeted result. Similarly, we know that many religious practices correlate with some measures of mental and physical health, even though believers do not engage in the practices for that reason (Pargament, 1997; Hood and others, 1996).


At least two strategies are therefore possible for identifying the results of expressive therapies. First, liberated from the straight-jacket assumption that science must necessarily employ the methods of the physical sciences, expressive psychologies might discover new ways to at least reduce uncertainty concerning their effectiveness in producing targeted results. Second, research can attempt to identify by-products that can be unambiguously defined and that are correlated with the practice of certain expressive psychologies.


The limits in determining effectiveness have economic consequences. Both private insurance and government funding sources create economic pressures on expressive psychologists not only to address problems effectively, but to identify those that are urgent. Since the economic pie is limited, psychologists must cooperate with funding sources to set treatment priorities. The problem is that the same factors that make it difficult to establish effectiveness also make it difficult to establish urgency. For example, the very precision that allows psychologists to relatively clearly define a drinking problem also allows them to determine the effectiveness of therapies in curing it, and to identify the effect of the drinking on work performance as well. Consequently, psychologists can relatively clearly establish that a drinking problem is urgent because it causes unemployment. In contrast, the very difficulty of defining an individual's unease with living also makes it difficult to determine the effectiveness of treatments for it, and to identify the effect of the unease on work performance as well. Consequently, the urgency of an individual's unease with living is proportionately difficult to identify. Expressive psychologists risk having funding sources categorize such cases as "luxury" problems not subject to reimbursement. Nevertheless, the point made just above applies here as well. Well-defined, but untargeted results may flow from expressive therapies. And if those results address real problems, then the expressive therapies could be recommended for helping with urgent concerns.




The aim of science is knowledge, which is socially accessible. Science progresses because it develops unambiguous language that it can forge into unequivocal claims, so that one scientist can understand, assess, and add to the work of another. This social accessibility, not quantitative method, is at the conceptual core of science. Certainly, quantitative methods have contributed dramatically to the social accessibility that has made the physical sciences successful. Nevertheless, it is an empirical question, yet to be fully answered, as to how necessary quantitative methods are to achieve social accessibility.


Psychology does not just share the goal of knowledge with the physical sciences; it has the additional goal of expressiveness, helping human beings relate to reality in emotionally satisfying ways. Because of these two aims, psychology has evolved into a welter of specialties that sometimes complement and sometimes compete with one another. Those that emphasize knowledge tend to imitate the methods of the physical sciences; those specialties that emphasize expressiveness tend to resemble the poetic imagination of literature. Unfortunately, knowledge and expressiveness are inversely related. Knowledge requires unambiguous meaning, which scientists achieve by abstracting from the richness of human experience. Expressiveness requires faithfulness to that richness, which is filled with ambiguity. Therefore, unifying psychology under a single method or single coherent set of methods is at least daunting, if not impossible.


The framework offered here––seeing psychology through the lens of both social accessibility and the inverse relationship of knowledge and expressiveness––has three key benefits. It prevents scientists, politicians, and insurance executives from dismissing expressive psychologies out of hand as unscientific. Conversely, it prevents expressive psychologists from making unsupportable and confusing claims of being scientific. Positively, it opens the door to understanding precisely what counts as science so that we can assess expressive psychologies' scientific character as well as effectiveness in alleviating suffering and promoting well-being. Together, these three benefits allow us to develop a sliding scale of reliability for psychological explanation, prediction, and effectiveness, so that trustees of both public and private funds can optimally distribute their finite resources.


Finally, by identifying the inverse relationship between knowledge and expressiveness as the source of psychology's balkanization, the proposed framework also points to the individual psychologist as the source of integration. For individual psychologists, in common with all other human beings, are the ones who need both knowledge and expressiveness, and who feel within themselves both the conflict between the two and the desire to resolve it into some coherent, satisfying whole. Even if the inverse relationship between knowledge and expressiveness is conceptually or theoretically unresolvable, individuals can achieve a dynamic, experiential integration. It is substantially no different from the life task of integrating all one's needs that one cannot satisfy simultaneously. It requires individuals' wisdom in identifying their needs and placing them in some satisfying prioritization. This individual wisdom may then ripple through the psychological community. By first acknowledging their own need for expressiveness, scientific psychologists can then accept and appreciate what expressive psychologists are doing. By first acknowledging their own need for knowledge, expressive psychologists can then accept and appreciate what scientific psychologists are doing. Each party can understand that the other legitimately differs in its priorities but is nevertheless addressing real needs shared by both sides. Just as the price of liberty is eternal vigilance on the part of citizens, as Jefferson taught us, so the price of integrating the psychological specialties is eternal self-awareness and mutual understanding on the part of psychologists.




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Gary Schouborg is a partner of GaryNini.com, which provides Life Coaching. He is currently constructing a naturalistic, developmental theory of enlightenment. He is indebted to Frank Briganti for comments on earlier drafts of this article.