Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 18 August 2017

To begin with it was a joy to welcome Sue Kelly as a new member and we hope to see her again at our future meetings. Unfortunately the time of our meeting clashed with a local visit of the Sci-Tech group to the anaerobic digesters at the old Milford Maltings. We did, however, manage to attract at least one of that group’s devoted members to our meeting which is a morale booster as it suggests we are doing something right though of course we always aim for quality in our discourse as much as for numbers.

During our last meeting a question had been posed that often arises in people’s minds, particularly in relation to the perpetrators of very serious crimes, this being what is the difference between a mental illness and a psychopathic or any other type of personality disorder? This led on to a consideration of concepts such as: distress, insight, perceptions of reality, neurotic illness, psychotic illness, conscience and psychopathy. By way of illustration our discussion considered several examples of mental illness and psychopathic behaviour that related to these concepts.

We then moved on to considering further the more structured study material provided by the Wetherby groups and continued with its introductory material entitled, “What is Psychology?”. This offered through short videos and discussion prompts a potted history of the main ideas and schools of thought that have arisen over the brief 150 or so years of its history. Those mentioned were the: biological, psychodynamic [or psychoanalytic], behaviouristic, cognitive and humanistic traditions.

I think most students of psychology and professional practitioners of its various specialisms see important contributions to the field from all these traditions with the exception, however, of the psychodynamic tradition always associated with its founder Sigmund Freud. Almost all psychologists today are firmly convinced that psychology is a process of inquiry based on the scientific method as used by the natural sciences whether or not this is recognised by the population in general. Any so called psychological tradition that deviates from the rigorous tenets of this method is consequently regarded as being of little if any value. This led to a lengthy and profound discussion on what our members consider to be subjective art and objective science. It was agreed, however, that even objective scientific research in a civilised world should be constrained by ethical considerations and be guided by a generally accepted moral compass whatever the supposed benefits of it may be.

We then looked albeit briefly at these traditions in a little more detail and it’s clear that behaviourist conditioning ideas are still with us today in the form of the multi-billion pound advertising industry. Cognitive psychology has made great strides in recent years using MRI technology etc., developmental psychology has profoundly influenced our education system and social psychology has highlighted the importance of group expectations and norms in our now multi-cultural country.

We meet again on Friday the 15th September, 2017 and our topic will be the research methods used on psychology. I look forward to seeing everyone again then.

John Moore – Group Leader
Back to Top