Volume 11 · Number 3 · Pages 509–517
Cybernetic Foundations for Psychology

Bernard Scott

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Context: The field of psychology consists of many specialist domains of activity, which lack shared foundations. This means that the field as a whole lacks conceptual coherence. Problem: The aim of the article is to show how second-order cybernetics can provide both foundations and a unifying conceptual framework for psychology. Method: The field of psychology is overviewed. There is then a demonstration of how cybernetics can provide both foundations and a unifying conceptual framework. This entails defining some key cybernetics concepts and showing how they have already permeated the field, largely implicitly, and showing how, when made explicit, they can unify the field. Results: I show how concepts from second-order cybernetics can unify “process” and “person” approaches within psychology and can also unify individual psychology and social psychology, a unification that also builds conceptual bridges with sociology. Implications: The results are of value for bringing order to an otherwise inchoate field. They afford better communication between those working in the field, which is likely to give rise to new research questions and more effective ways of tackling them. Constructivist content: Central to the article is a reliance on concepts taken from the constructivist perspective of second-order cybernetics.

Key words: First-order cybernetics, second-order cybernetics, conceptual foundations, conceptual unification, system, self-organisation, control.


Scott B. (2016) Cybernetic foundations for psychology. Constructivist Foundations 11(3): 509–517. http://constructivist.info/11/3/509

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