TED Conversations

Ariel Ramirez

Frustrated psychologist,

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What is your take on what 'Psychology' is 'supposed' to be?

My field of study, if indeed it can be called that, has a rather, I would say 'confused' identity. As with any science that is relatively young, the only way to study something that we have little idea of, is to study what everyone else's opinion about it. On the objective cliff, the cognitivists, behaviorists, and experimentalists may maintain that we should treat it with cold calculation, critical reasoning, and impersonal analysis. On the subjective side of the cliff, we have the existentialists, humanists, and empathists that stand by the notion that we should look at it with an understanding and encouraging eye, that we as humans are far from 'robotic' machinations. There are, many other cliffs mind you, about as many as the perspectives that cast down an eye on the largely unknown abomination of a study that is psychology, with many claiming to be an expert of the same field, but of differing understanding. Even some people who have no background on the science can claim to be an expert in his/her own right. As such I ask, what IS 'Psychology'? What is this black void we all like to gaze upon but no one seems to be in complete agreement as to what it is. Like the blind men and the elephant.
Note: Please no copy and paste textbook definitions. In this science, as you read more books on it the more confusing it gets, at the same time everything would start to seem like a deja vu. Same concept again and again but no agreement, fascinating...

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    Mar 1 2014: Hi, Ariel!

    All the sciences and wanna-be sciences are merging these daze, and for two good reasons: 90% of scientists who ever lived are alive today and the Internet.

    Now, deeply ponder how the very recent 1/16/2014 confirmation of the Hameroff/Penrose Model of Quantum Consciousness in links below will play out in the next decade or so. It will most certainly be a very strong unifying factor for all the arts and sciences I can think of!

    What the Hameroff/Penrose Model of Consciousness is, as explained by Stuart Hameroff:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEATDhaZyVA

    1/16/2014 Confirmation of Hameroff/Penrose Model of Consciousness

    http://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/discovery-of-quantum-vibrations-in-microtubules-inside-brain-neurons-corroborates-controversial-20-year-old-theory-of-consciousness
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      Mar 2 2014: FASCINATING! :D Now whats left is to turn into a system to be able to apply to the different branches of psychology. I will be studying this thanks!
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    Mar 2 2014: Hello Ariel,
    Life is the experience of life - so my take on psychology is that one possibility for what it is "supposed" to be is to study subjective human experience - and offer ideas as to how any individual's subjective experience of their own life can be improved.
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      Mar 3 2014: fair point and on all intends and purposes, i think you hit the jackpot on how the knowledge of psychology should be used. thanks for your input sir!
  • Mar 2 2014: But isn't psychology related to complex emotions? Does those organisms with primitive to non-existent nervous systems experience complex emotions? So probably psychology is more relevant where there is an array of emotions and not just basic emotions. Because when we talk about complex emotions like pain, anger etc, things like society, habitat, relationships are also covered. Please correct me if i'm wrong.
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      Mar 2 2014: Emotions I would say, is just a part of the study. Generally, I would think of Psychology as the 'why' we behave, emotions being one cause, or some would argue, an effect.
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          Mar 2 2014: Super-hacker wise, if they want to hack me they will. Its an imminent threat but it would be of no use to lose sleep on. unless you have secrets or other stuff you'd like to protect. I cherish ideas more than anything. I don't judge anyone's ideas by their values systems and such, but on objective merit. I read a lot of 'anti-christian' material but I've never found myself offended. I could say that my true religion is Critical-thinking and I want a world where everyone can have a free exchange of ideas as TED advocates. My reasons for believing in a 'God' are purely my own and I hope that it doesn't get in the way of exchanging thoughts. I'll send you an email now, and I hope you judge my ideas on merit not on belief. Cheers!
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          Mar 2 2014: Whoa wait, i can't send it here. I tried copy and pasting my paper but the equations are not showing properly. we'll have to find another way. how would you attach documents here?
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      Mar 3 2014: Hello Sumukh,
      You are right about emotions.
      As in my comment above, what we call "life" is actually our experience of our lives. And that "experience" is in the language of emotions - whatever the external conditions might be.
      In our primitive past people acted on their emotions directly; if they were angry with someone, they hit out at them. Then as we developed more as humans we realised (became more conscious) that this did not help us survive well as individuals, nor get along together well collectively. So emotions were suppressed and became more and more repressed over the centuries, getting more and more of a "bad press". This reached the extent (in the West) where people who expressed their emotions more freely were labeled as "unstable".
      Nowadays in the 21st century it is time to look again at emotions and understand them more deeply. They are messengers, telling us something important about our inner world (our beliefs, images, intellectual constructs, our soul and the state of our inspiration, etc).
      If you ask people what they really want, many will say "inner peace" - an emotional state of mind where the Will is clear, the soul can breathe freely, and the mind generally is unconflicted - thereby reducing the experience of fear, guilt, shame, stress, the need to impress others, etc.
      So well said, psychology should definitely be looking deeply at the role of emotions in our everyday lives.
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    Mar 2 2014: Ariel-

    The first email you send to anyone via TED has a 1000 character limit and you cannot attach files, and i doubt that images can be sent either. But this is for the first time email only.

    Once I get your first brief email, I can reply with attachments, photos (not many) and long messages, then you can reply with attachments, etc. too. I guess TED doesn't want strangers blogging another TEDster without being invited to do so by that person. I have sent out 2-3 emails via TED that the recipients have chosen not to answer, which is their right to do, of course.

    Again 1000 character limit, no images and no attachments.
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      Mar 3 2014: ok, so ill send you my abstract then we can then exchange notes after. i've read about penrose and hameroff's hypothesis. I will reserve my opinion as of now but objective wise, isn't it alarming that none of Hameroff's hypothesis as gained from their theory has been proven right? only one resercher, a gentleman from japan had made conclusions that MAY be in support of Orch OR but nothing conclusive. I'm still reading the back and forth banter between penrose and hameroff vs their critics.
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    Mar 1 2014: Psychology is the study of the brain and what makes it function.
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      Mar 2 2014: I would reply the same thing as I had with Sumukh Bharadwaj. Just replace 'brain' with 'mind'. On a similar note. What could be the difference between the brain and the mind? people seem to refer to different things when they use those words.
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        Mar 2 2014: Hi again, Ariel-

        My 40 years of self-taught brain studies have convinced me that brain is mind and thus mind is a physical, and perhaps quantum physical phenomenon. Click on my name/profile and read my abstract to see where I am coming from. If you email me via TED I can send my full illustrated paper in a WORD attachment to you.
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          Mar 2 2014: Yes, I do not doubt that myself. I'm just pointing out why Psychology is not a unified understanding, but opinion based.
          How do you email via TED? i'm sorry I'm new :) you could just send it here.
          On another note, I have my own paper as well, on my own theory. Its not finished and the copy that i'll be sending you is due for many revisions. I just want to see what you have to say. You may judge it as it is, as if it is the final product. Thanks so much!
  • Mar 1 2014: Psychology is the study of the working of mind. Psychology is an art as much as it is science.
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      Mar 2 2014: Maybe, maybe. :) Now, how would we define the 'working mind'? There is a field like animal psychology that studies the behavior of some small animals that have a simple, to non-existent nervous systems. Do they have a 'working mind' if we are not sure if they have a 'mind' at all? I'm not saying this to shoot you down. I'm just showing how much of a mess psychology is.
      • Mar 2 2014: But isn't psychology related to complex emotions? Does those organisms with primitive to non-existent nervous systems experience complex emotions? So probably psychology is more relevant where there is an array of emotions and not just basic emotions. Because when we talk about complex emotions like pain, anger etc, things like society, habitat, relationships are also covered. Please correct me if i'm wrong.
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    Mar 1 2014: .
    By common sense, psychology is the study of data processing in our brain.
    The data consist of instinctive data and pre-instinctive data.
    Each person has his/her own unique data.
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      Mar 2 2014: Now that my good sir, is your THEORY! :) Some psychologists would argue against the notion that 'consciousness' and 'emotions' are just forms of data processing. Your notion of instinctive data and pre-instinctive data is yourself alone. I'm not saying its wrong. But I'm saying that your 'common sense' of what psychology is, is different than the common sense of many other people. Just look at the other comments for example.
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        Mar 2 2014: .
        Yes, you are right.
        I use the well-proved true of them.
  • Feb 28 2014: I suppose its a science whose purpose is the study of the inner workings of the mind. Unfortunately, its so horrendously inaccurate (by the standards set up by its exact brethren like physics and chemistry anyway), that it belongs in the same category as economics and sociology in the sense that its only a science in the broad definition of the word.

    The field of biology may one day overtake it and absorb it completely as our understanding of the brain improves and things start being properly modeled, but that day is nowhere in the foreseeable future.
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      Mar 2 2014: Horrendous yes, but inaccurate, I would have to disagree. It's just you you see. I would like to draw an analogy on physics hundreds of years ago where the behavior of physical objects are attributed to 'natural states' or unseen things like 'ether' and 'phlogiston'. We are measuring accurate things but we just don't know how to interpret such measurements because we still do not have a universal well accepted theory.
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    Feb 28 2014: Isn't psychology the study of human behavior from various angles?

    I don't think psychology as a field has any monopoly on people who feel expert in the field without any rigorous training in it. That attribute is not, I think, a defining characteristic. As we all naturally develop a "theory of mind" that allows us each of us to make judgments of what people are trying to do, why, and what they might be expected to do in reaction to this or that action, everyone is in a sense a lay psychologist. But it is also true that because we observe our world and consider our place in it, everyone is a lay philosopher. There are lots of people too who might consider themselves experts in physics, or financial planning, or string theory, or religion, or almost any other topic because they have read about it, listened to videos, and thought about it to their satisfaction, and their friends may trust their opinions in these areas as well.

    If you have a degree in psychology, you are well acquainted with the various theories those who have thought deeply about the subject have put forward, where agreements are and where theories diverge, and are also probably acquainted with lots of empirical work on large samples, rather than the limited anecdotes from which lay impressions derive. You probably know not only what the mainstream best information is about the important sub-fields in which you have specialized (like perception, motivation, personality,or abnormal psych) but also where the frontiers of the subfield- the very unanswered question- are. You probably had to study a methods course that allows you to evaluate evidence rigorously.
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      Mar 2 2014: Fair points my good sir!
      I'm only trying to see what other's opinions are on where I should put the fence around the field when the field never seems to stop! For example, your definition of psychology alone. Its not Incorrect but some psychologists would argue that its not at whole correct either. Psychology could not be isolated to human behavior with the simple fact that there is such a field as animal psychology. And you statement on 'various angles' is in my opinion, where the problem starts!. Yes there are 'lay' scientists of every field but the mad thing is, lay psychologists seem to have more power than his contemporaries! Why? Because a study has shown that people can have to up to 80% accuracy in diagnosing and predicting human behavior in optimal circumstances! Imagine that! In other fields you have to do some prior readings before you could even THINK of giving an opinion, but in psychology, you don't have to! And that's not all! All is good if you give an opinion about a science in its, let's say 'language'. But in psychology its different. Other scientists of wholly other fields are enforcing their field's view point on psychology! like this! http://www.jgore.org/files/PhysicalPsych.htm you don't see a psychologist trying to apply Freud's defense mechanisms of physics do you? Its just fascinating that psychology is such a mess that everyone is trying to pitch in... which is good... and bad....
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        Mar 2 2014: Being a brain is mind guy, Ariel, I would suggest that psychology is the much lesser brother of more hard-science psychiatry, which will certainly explode when Hameroff/Penrose discoveries really take hold. Psychology will probably vanish in the next 50 years, perhaps being accorded the new name of "Applied Psychiatry."

        If brain scientists were honest, they would cease to call it neurology, since glial cells and astrocytes, once considered lowly support cells for neurons, actually run the show, designing/laying neural pathways and activating/directing the actions of nuerons once they are in place!

        My Right Brain Trust chat group friend Darold Treffert, a retired clinical psychiatrist who studied autistic savants for 50 years, has stated that until brain science can embrace remarkable savant behavior, any theories re the brain will never be complete. Darold was consultant for the movie, "Rainman," which was very loosely based on Darold's late friend and patient Kim Peek, a mega-savant who was a genius in 15 fields.

        He and I both thought that genetic/ancestral memory via DNA/RNA was responsible for many unlearned savant behaviors, but methinks Hameroff/Penrose will explain as many or more of those behaviors, with its "slippery time/space" applications, since they have shown that Extra Sensory Perception is no such thing - they have discovered a real sixth sense in our noggins! All senses are variations of the basic sense of touch, with various molecules, photons and sub-atomic particles impacting our body's sensory organs. This is why mind is brain, Ariel!

        Here is Darold's "Islands of Genius" abstract. Until two years ago, when Darold fully retired, the Wisconsin medical Society, of which Darold is a past president of, had a huge, flat-out incredible "Islands of Genius" website with dozens of videos of the many savants Darold studied and many lectures and articles.

        https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/_WMS/savant/pdf/resources/articles/savant_article.pdf
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          Mar 2 2014: Now that's where we differ my good sir! :) Let's just see how it plays out. As I understand it, isn't psychiatry more focused on treatment? I think psychology could survive by the mere fact that not everyone is mentally ill. oh yeah could you tell me your email, so I could send you my paper, if you like :D you gave me a lot to read sir thanks! :D
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        Mar 2 2014: We hear at least as many false claims about quantum physics from those who have little or no formal training in that field. You should take anything you read on the internet about science with a grain of salt. There is lots of salesmanship going on for pseudoscience, for example.

        Here is a TED talk about one susceptible area: http://www.ted.com/talks/molly_crockett_beware_neuro_bunk.html

        People will naturally have more instinct for the behavioral sciences than they do for areas disconnected from human experience. But the anecdotes of human experiences untempered by formal methods often lead to systematically biased conclusions that your learned methods will help you avoid..

        If you are a student of psychology, I would focus on the rigors your discipline can offer. Because there are not simply laws with few variables, it will take longer for that field to reach maturity than fields in which measurements are easier to make and relationships among variables easier to untangle.