From discrete actors to goal-directed actions: Toward a process-based methodology for psychology

Philosophical Psychology 18 (3):353 – 382 (2005)
Abstract
Studying social phenomena is often assumed to be inherently different from studying natural science phenomena. In psychology, this assumption has led to a division of the field into social and experimental domains. The same kind of division has carried over into ecological psychology, despite the fact that Gibson clearly intended his theory for both social and natural phenomena. In this paper, we argue that the social/natural science dichotomy can be derived from a distinction between hermeneutics and science that is deeply rooted in the atomistic, structuralist ontological tradition. We show that, from a process-based perspective, the central questions of hermeneutics (action of an individual within a context of possible actions), ecological psychology (behavior of an organism in an ecological niche) and physics (motion of a particle in a field) share a similar structure. Building on these ideas, we propose a common, process-based methodology for psychology that integrates field theory with insights from quantum mechanics to accommodate traditionally problematic concepts in natural science such as teleology and values. To demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, empirical findings on the paradigmatic problem of prospective control (such as gaze control in automobile driving in relation to perceptual tuning) are presented.
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