Monday 22 April 2024

Psychology Lectures

Clive James, Unreliable Memoirs (London: Picador, 1981), p. 134:

Psychology was taught by a faculty composed exclusively of mechanists, behaviourists and logical positivists. They would have made Pavlov sound like a mystic had he been foolish enough to show up. He must have heard about how boring they were, since he never appeared, but it was not for want of having his name invoked. The whole faculty salivated en masse at the mere mention of him. As so often happens, dogmatic contempt for the very idea of the human soul was accompanied by limitless belief in the quantifiability of human personality. On the one hand we were informed that there was no ghost in the machine. On the other we were taught how to administer tests which would measure whether children were well adjusted. But quite a lot of solid information was embedded in the pulp. Since there was nothing I did not write down and memorise, the real information was still there years later when all the theoretical blubber surrounding it had rotted away. A synapse, after all, remains a synapse, even after some clod was tried to convince you that Michelangelo’s talent can be explained in terms of the number and intensity of electrical impulses travelling across it. Or do I mean a ganglion?