The Psychology of Persons: An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Again)
A recurrent theme in the history of psychology has been the failure of psychologists to focus their inquiries on the activity of persons in worldly context. In introspective, cognitive, and biological psychologies, thoughts, cognitive processes and structures, and/or patterns of neurophysiological activation have commanded the attention of investigators. In functional and behavioral psychologies, the “stripped-down” behaviors and reactions of research subjects in highly structured, narrowly construed, and mostly acultural, ahistorical contexts have prevailed as focal phenomena of interest. Much psychoanalytic, humanistic, phenomenological, and existentialist work in psychology has tended to elevate the inner experiences, struggles, and tensions of persons over their activity in the everyday contexts and circumstances of their lives. Even evolutionary psychologists, who might be expected to place considerable emphasis on the worldly activity of persons, tend mostly to retreat to a combination of narrative speculation and mathematical modeling. In short, psychological inquiry and practice mostly have been dominated by some combination of interior focus and/or environmental restriction and simplification. Of equal significance is a strongly dualistic tendency evident in most psychological theory and research that treats persons as separate from, and more or less over and against, the world in which they reside and act.