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Dudley Dowell
eastern
psychology
Wed, Dec 31, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Is Western psychology 'dropping the ball' when it comes to an acceptance or integration of Eastern psychological insights?


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Bo Bennett, PhD
Host, Doctor of Social Psychology

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Host, Doctor of Social Psychology

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

I am the host of this show :) For my complete bio, please see http://www.bobennett.com.
PrintWed, Dec 31, 2014 - 12:00 AM
Many people do believe that "Eastern psychology" is more holistic in its integration of the mind and body. For example, more physical aliments are associated with mental causes. The science of psychology is very rigorous in using the scientific method to provide support for claims. Many Eastern gurus attempt to ride the coat-tail of psychology by blending their unsupported metaphysical claims with established psychological findings. These are not psychologists who follow the scientific method—they are the Eastern equivalent of Tony Robbins (I like Tony, but he does not practice psychology).

Science is about discovery in the natural world. Claims that can be tested, are tested. Much of what is believed to be "Eastern psychology" is more like Eastern philosophy or metaphysics. If there is a therapy that can demonstrate significant measurable results, Eastern, Western, Northern, or Southern, it will be subsumed into the scientific literature—science does not discriminate based on geographical location. Philosophies can be great, but they are not psychology, and it is important we do not confuse the two.

If there is a "Eastern psychological insight" how do we decide if we should incorporate this into "Western" psychology? As researchers, licensed professionals, and/or doctors, wouldn't you agree that before integrating a practice it should be tested, and sufficient evidence for the efficacy of the practice be found? This is science in a nutshell.

I have read conspiracy theories that big bad Western medicine is suppressing the ancient wisdom of the East, or fallacies suggesting that because it is old, it must be good (i.e., argument from age, appeal to ancient wisdom). I have NO problem with Eastern ideas as long as the ideas prove to be effective and useful, and the ONLY way to determine that is through the scientific method—not through personal testimonies, anecdotes, or "spiritual insights." If you have a spiritual insight or your gods tell you something that you feel will be helpful to the field of psychology, test it, and publish the results, but don't complain when people like me ask for evidence of the effectiveness of a treatment, or when people like me insist that we maintain the integrity of psychology by testing its claims and theories.

Many Eastern ideas HAVE been integrated after enough evidence has demonstrated them to be effective (i.e., meditation, mindfulness). Other "insights" have been tested and not supported by evidence (i.e., petitionary prayer). Other "insights" are simply untestable and NOT part of psychology (i.e., Karma, reincarnation). If we are "dropping the ball" anywhere it would be in our dismissal of testable Eastern ideas to the extent that we don't even bother testing them—but given the number of Eastern researchers in the West, I can't imagine that being the case.
Bo Bennett, PhD
My Latest Book: https://www.uncomfortable-ideas.com
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