From Our Readers
To the Editors of the Crimson:
The February 7 Crimson article on the decision of the Department of Psychology and Social Relations to change its name to Psychology is misleading in one important way. The Department of Social Relations was an inter-disciplinary department that combined all of sociology with cultural anthropology plus some of cognitive psychology and all of personality, social, and development psychology. I believe it was always the only such department in the world and in its time it was magnificent. In deciding to change the department's name, the intention is simply to recognize the fact that we no longer have members who are sociologists or anthropologists. Standard departments of psychology all over the world include personality, psychopathology, social, cognitive, and developmental psychology, and, today, since we now have the same composition there is no reason not to use the standard title.
However, The Crimson made the change of name sound like a flight from the central subject matter of psychology to computers and biology. The opposition of content to tools and approaches is largely empty because personality, social, and developmental psychology all use computers and get as much out of biology as they can. I do not, of course, mean to suggest that there are no contemporary trends, mainly an increased interest in the study of cognitive processes, but obviously cognitive processes have developmental, social, and personalistic aspects. I do not think that our department will ever be tempted to make a general withdrawal from what David Reisman once aptly characterized as the "juicy" problems of psychology. That is, in fact, one of the mistakes we sought to remedy in 1972 by putting together the psychology in Memorial Hall with the varieties from Social Relations. Even what Professor Reisman characterizes as our past considerable commitment to the "murky" survives--at least in my work. The pictures accompanying the article suggest a depressing but improbable future for our discipline in which Dr. Frankenstein would continue to mix up the brains below stairs while reports were rapped out on word processors above stairs. The suggestion that the work of Professor Emeritus Henry Murray had something to do with the pop psychology of the movies is ignorant and insulting to one of the great psychologists of this century. Roger Brown Lindsley Professor of Psychology