Will Psychology Ever Have a Grand, Unifying Theory?
In a critical review of Warren W. Tryon’s book Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychotherapy: Network Principles for a Unified Theory, James Schmidt argues that “Global theories, like the end of the rainbow, are mirages: Although they appear very real and inviting at a distance, as you draw closer they pixelate into nothing” (last paragraph).
When I was a graduate student, I spent considerable time studying the work of Yale psychologist Clark Hull who attempted to develop an overarching theory that would explain learning, motivation, and all of human behavior. Hull expressed his ideas in complicated mathematical formulas like this one:
sEr = V x D x K x J x sHr - sIr - Ir - sOr - sLr
Graduate students today may learn about Hull in a History and Systems class, but his work is not taken seriously as an overarching theory of human behavior.
Many of my professors at the University of Hawaii went on to develop elaborate theories that attempted to unify psychology; these luminaries include Raymond Cattell (Dreger, 1982), Art Staats (Spiegler, 1998), Roland Tharp (Salzinger, 2012), and Ian Evans (Arnkoff, 2014). However, we still don’t have a generally accepted unifying theory of human behavior or even of psychotherapy. Will we ever?
By Warren W. Tryon
PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(52)