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Theorious Theories: A Theory About Theories

Statistically, if there is one example there are others. For instance, if one child cries when a dog growls, somewhere another one will, too. After this, what comes into play are known as continua, sum amounts, thresholds and such: How loud does the child cry? How long does it cry? How much aversion to dogs does he or she retain into the future? The concept of continua is closely related to the statistical concept of the "standard", "normal", or "bell-shaped" distribution.

All statistical findings imply that at the ends of the continuum lie the extreme cases, while toward the middle of the continuum lie the average ones. There are almost always more average examples than there are extreme ones, as the bell curve flattens out into homogeneity. Returning to the dog and child example, only very few children will come away from the experience with either no fear of dogs or absolute terror of them. Instead, most children will develop feelings between these two extremes, clustered around the mean.

In order to come up with a theory of something, you must first have an idea about, or scheme for interpreting, the subject matter. Observation is often the first step. So now. If you want to study human behavior, who's the closest person you have available for an in-depth study? You are! Know thyself.

Even though there are many different theories of human behavior, they are all related in a fundamental way through their sharing of the same object of study, people. I believe that the normal distribution can be a bridgeway between the different theories. Is it possible to turn concepts into z scores? To some extent, yes. For example, the two closely related concepts of mind structures and ego states compare quite nicely. Sigmund Freud's concepts of the Id, Ego and Superego can be seen as corresponding roughly to the Child, Adult and Parental ego states of Eric Berne.


Theoretical Efficiency:

In science, there's always debate over the appropriateness and efficacy of studying the healthy vs. unhealthy examples. In other words: is it more useful to study a system in good working order, or to study one with problems in order to learn about it? In my opinion, both approaches are adaquate, they'll just bring us different information. Consider a book like Lashley (1963); studying a problematic or damaged system can fill an entire volume with useful information. Personally, during my life I've had much more opportunity to study systems that were anything but normal and "in good working order", as opposed to those that ran well. For that reason, I am typically drawn more to studying the different...the exception...the struggling. Hence, my theoretical interests in psychopathy and psychotherapy iatrogenics (my thesis advisor wrote chapter 3 of this book).

It's been my experience that keeping things as simple as possible is the way to go. If you wish to talk about biology, you have to consider lots of support information surrounding cell biology; bio-technical stuff. But, to make a theory about people, I try to impose as little as possible on peoples' (perceived) free will, opting instead for simple description of what's observed as opposed to lengthy, cerebral, theoretical assignments of workings, etc. Do you shave with Occam's Razor, too?


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