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Critical Review: Hornstein (1992) & Heather (1976)

Hornstein’s (1992) ‘The return of the repressed’ examines the effects and influences psychoanalysis had on experimental psychology. Psychologists went to countless efforts to defend their beliefs that psychology was the established science of the mind. However psychoanalysis bought a radically subjective approach in their explanations of the mind. The conflict between psychology and psychoanalysis in defining science caused much mayhem. Psychology renounced subjectivity as unscientific, whilst the analysts believed that method was not related to science. Psychoanalysis was essentially defining science through subjectivity. This meant looking into the unconscious and dealing with personal experience. In defence of this approach to studying the mind, psychologists began to restrict themselves to phenomenon that could only be studied objectively.

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As the battle continued the situation began to take a slightly different approach. Two well-known psychologists began incorporating psychoanalysis into their work. By relabelling and redefining terms, Watson and Skinner were able to discretely utilize psychoanalytical phenomenon with behaviourist theories.
Despite psychologist’s efforts to stop the spread of psychoanalysis, subjectivity seemed to creep in and take a place in psychology, eventually allowing for greater flexibility. With the realisation that the two fields shared basic assumptions, psychology began to incorporate parts of the theory. Hornstein concludes by suggesting that psychology has benefited from the development of psychoanalysis.

‘Positivism and Psychology’ written by Heather (1976) describes the main aspects of positivism and it’s effect on psychology. Positivism is accused of using science to dehumanise man and despite the evolution of psychology it still primarily mechanistic in its account of man. Therefore a collection of facts is not adequate to classify psychology as a science. According to Heather the facts must have meaning that reflect subjective experience. It is vital to acknowledge that whilst positivistic psychology uses science to reduce “man to a thing”, eliminating basically all that is human in him, we must not reject science. Instead we must endeavour to construct a proper science of psychology that is suitable and beneficial to mankind.

The article suggests three features that would assist in the creation of such a humanistic science. Firstly it will not be a psychology that can be reduced to physiology, it will be discrete from the physical science. Secondly it would be also be quite separate from the biological science of animal behaviour since the human condition is qualitatively different from other life forms. Lastly it would fundamentally be a social psychology concerned with man’s social nature as a basic characteristic of the species.

Throughout the two articles a recurring theme becomes apparent, that is, various efforts to examine psychology as a science. Both Hornstein and Heather’s articles focused on the fundamental question of subjectivity in science. In ‘The return of the Repressed’ we see how psychologists were formerly very reluctant to allow any subjectivity. Conversely the very foundation of psychoanalysis was based on personal experience, rather than meticulous methods and numbers. Once psychology began to embrace subjectivity it was able to expand in various fields that weren’t so objective. Hornstein gently advocates that psychology has gained advantage from psychoanalysis; therefore subjectivity is a key factor in creating a truly scientific approach to the mind.

In ‘Positivism and psychology’ we are can see that positive psychology is lacking in subjectiveness. According to positivists science comprises mostly of facts organised into a logically coherent system. However it is argued that science cannot function without the use of imagination. It is implied that we require this subjectivity in order to better understand what cannot be observed. In order to make a rational observation about behaviour, we should consider its meaning through subjective experience. Heather concludes by stating that a science of persons will be one that is truly reflective, thus also acknowledging the importance and need of subjectivity in psychology.

It is evident that both articles possess similar ideas about where psychology stands as a science of the mind, however their approaches are quite different.
Hornstein’s article draws much attention to the history of psychology. It periodically explains how psychology has evolved from the early 1890’s. It gives an account of how psychoanalysis entered the limelight and shows how psychology began to develop and change. On the other hand, Heather’s article doesn’t concentrate on the evolution of psychology to date. Instead is discusses problems with current definitions of psychology and science, predominantly positivistic.

To sum up, both articles enlighten the reader on various ways psychology can be defined as a science of the mind. Both Hornstein and Heather discuss the validity and need for subjectivity in psychology and whether it be including personal experience or adding meaning to facts rather than simply observing. Whilst Hornstein is more placid in her arguments and less opinionated, Heather is quite fervent with her idea of what a science of mankind should consist of and there is a strong encouragement for psychology to take a new direction.