“My approach to teaching psychology begins with treating the ways of thinking that motivate different kinds of psychological inquiry as the most important discoveries students can make.”— Collin Barnes
Additional Faculty Information for Collin Barnes
B.S. in Psychology, John Brown University
M.S. in Social-Personality Psychology, University of Oklahoma
Ph.D. in Social-Personality Psychology, University of Oklahoma
Michael Polanyi Society
Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
My love for psychology, and particularly social psychology, was born from a fascination with the way that abstract notions such as motivation and personality can be quantified in measurement procedures. I was likewise enchanted by the ingenuity of professionals who created controlled laboratory situations that approximated real-world events for the purpose of testing hypotheses. Today, however, my fascination with psychology revolves around questions about the discipline’s philosophical and historical roots and how the aspirations of science are expressed differently by early, influential figures in the field. I believe that the philosopher-scientist model exemplified by these early thinkers needs to be recovered.
My approach to teaching psychology begins with treating the ways of thinking that motivate different kinds of psychological inquiry as the most important discoveries students can make. I show how John B. Watson’s desire for strict objectivity compelled him to eschew the mind as only a word and reduce all psychology to behavior. I highlight in the writings of Wolfgang Kohler his insistence that naïve observation is the entry point for psychological investigation and that direct experience can be the object of legitimate scientific study. I underline Carl Jung’s conviction that psychical and societal life are properly understood as manifestations of our primordial past and that the psyche, as an autonomous reality, cannot be understood in strictly biological terms.
The consequences of such ideas for how we see ourselves is enormous. By considering them openly, my aim is for students to see how every method of inquiry has a particular epistemology as its starting point. Where our questions take us depends on the direction our epistemology is pointing. Beyond this, I want students to appreciate the permeability of disciplinary boundaries and the crucial role of liberal learning in forming this appreciation. By showing students my own labors to liberally educate myself, I hope to inspire them to do the same.