- Having agreed to deliver a Herbert Spencer Lecture on how psychology had affected common sense about man or had itself been affected by that common sense — thinking then that it would make an amusing summer's interlude of historical writing — I soon discovered it would not go so easily. For, once I had started on the inevitable first notes, it was plain to me that I was not embarked at all on a summer of intellectual history but on a much thornier enterprise, partly philosophical, partly psychological, and only trivially historical — trival in the sense that it was no surprise that, in the later nineteenth century, psychology had modelled itself on those successful natural-science neighbours in whose district it had decided to build its mansion, and had suffered the consequences thereafter.
- I can recall my early dark thoughts. Little question, to begin with, that the most powerful impact on common sense had come from Freud. Yet Freud was and is peripheral to and grossly atypical of academic psychology, so much so, indeed, that apart from providing cautionary methodological tales with which to warn the unwary undergraduate, his work is not even covered in the Oxford syllabus.
- Or take it another way; has psychology affected issues of public concern on which it could reasonably be expected to have a bearing, say, economics? Here, surely, is a powerful mode of thought and of policymaking that treats psychological matters like risk, preference, and delayed gratification in saving and investment. It even proposes notions like utility through which the values and probabilities of outcomes are assumed to combine to determine choice. Yet though economics had, in the lifetime of official psychology, been through the revolutions of Marshall, of Keynes, of Schumpeter, and of Morgenstern and von Neumann, there is not a trace of any influence exerted by psychologists.
Herbert Spencer Lecture
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