Time, Space, and Number in Physics and Psychology
William R. Uttal
Professor of Psychology,
the University of Michigan (emeritus)
Professor of Engineering,
Arizona State University (emeritus)
200 pages / cloth / $32.95
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The crux of the debate between proponents of behavioral psychology and cognitive psychology focuses on the issue of accessibility. Cognitivists believe that mental mechanisms and processes are accessible, and that their inner workings can be inferred from experimental observations of behavior. Behaviorists, on the contrary, believe that mental processes and mechanisms are inaccessible, and that nothing important about them can be inferred from even the most cleverly designed empirical studies.
One argument that is repeatedly raised by cognitivists is that even though mental processes are not directly accessible, this should not be a barrier to unraveling the nature of the inner mental processes and mechanisms. Inference works for other sciences, such as physics, so why not psychology? If physics can work so successfully with their kind of inaccessibility to make enormous theoretical progress, then why not psychology?
As with most previous psychological debates, there is no "killer argument" that can provide an unambiguous resolution. In its absence, author William Uttal explores the differing properties of physical and psychological time, space, and mathematics before coming to the conclusion that there are major discrepancies between the properties of the respective subject matters that make the analogy of comparable inaccessibilities a false one.