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International Journal of Group Psychotherapy
ISSN: 0020-7284 (Print) 1943-2836 (Online) Journal homepage:
Fundamentals of Psychology: The Psychology of
Thinking Edited by Ernest Harms
Adolf G. Woltmann
To cite this article: Adolf G. Woltmann (1962) Fundamentals of Psychology: The Psychology of
Thinking Edited by Ernest Harms, International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 12:2, 262-263,
DOI: 10.1080/00207284.1962.11508266
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Published online: 29 Oct 2015.
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THINKING AND PSYCHOTHEHAPY: AN INQUIRY INTO THE PROCESSES OF COMMUNICATION. By Harley C. Shands. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960, 319 pp., $5.75.
By Peter II. Wolf}. Psychological Issues, Vol. II, No.1, Monograph 5.
New York: International Universities Press, 1960, 181 pp., $3.00.
by Ernest Harms. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol.
91, Art. 1, 1960, 158 pp., $3.00.
These three books examine carefully and comprehensively the phenomenon of thinking. Thinking is the prerequisite for language acquisition.
The ability to express and to share one's thoughts with others forms the
basis for communication. Communication is an indispensable tool for any
kind of therapy, whether individual or in a group setting.
The complex and many-sided aspects of thinking are tackled here in a
diversity of approaches. Shands, a psychoanalytically trained physician,
attempts to integrate the animal in man with man as a social being. It is
his thesis that such a harmonious balance requires combining knowledge
of neurophysiology with an understanding of sociology and the psychology
of language and thought. "At the simpler end, information moves in the
nervous system in the frequency of the nervous impulse, and at the more
complex end, information is transmitted in the linguistic code of the social
system." The first part of this thought-provoking book deals with the nature, implications, and interplay of the "internal instrument," the nervous
system. Shands skillfully correlates knowledge about the physiology of the
nervous system with the researches of Pavlov on the conditioned reflex,
with Piaget's studies in genetic epistemology, and with Wiener's nonbiological communication engineering (cybernetics). The second part concerns itself with a number of implications which the "internal instrument"
has for the "external instrument," the linguistic system. "Knowledge can
be established and communicated only through the skillful integration of
these two instruments with each other." This book should not be read hurriedly. Stanley Cobb, one of Shands' mentors, cautions the reader in the
Foreword that this book "... is so rich in high-level abstractions, that haste
would preclude digestion." The reviewer wholeheartedly agrees with him.
Wolff, a psychoanalytically trained physician, is also interested in a
synthesis, but of a different kind. He compares thc genetic epistemology of
Piaget with psychoanalytic theory. Specifically, he explores three postulates: (a) does Piaget provide data and concepts for those areas of mental functioning to which the psychoanalytic method so far has had little or
Downloaded by [Florida State University] at 14:32 28 October 2017
no access; (b) are the two theories incompatible in such a way as to cast
doubt on the psychoanalytic formulation regarding early development;
(c) are their methods, concepts and goals so different as to make pointless
any comparison or attempt at synthesis? Wolff's book studies very comprehensively Piaget's theory of the sensorimotor development which led to his
formulation of six stages, ranging from birth to the sixteenth month of life.
The observation data and Pia get's theoretical formulations are given at the
beginning of each stage. After a discussion of this material, there follows a
comparison between Piaget's formulation and the corresponding formulations of psychoanalysis. Adding to their content value is the fact that they
are printed side by side. Wolff comes to the conclusion that the findings of
sensorimotor theory are relevant for psychoanalytic theory. He hopes that
"important problems in development raised but not resolved by theoretical
reconstruction may be solved by direct observations and experimentation,
provided that the findings are interpreted in the light of a theory whose
basic premises are compatible with those of psychoanalysis."
The Psychology of Thinking is a collection of eleven papers which
were read in 1960 at a conference at the New York Academy of Science.
All of these papers, with the exception of Kurt Goldstein's treatise on
"Thinking and Speaking," represent the up-to-date point of view of academic psychology on this topic. The clinically oriented reader may want
to dismiss this book from the list of those publications he should read, without being aware of the fact that academic psychology has furnished him
with research findings and theories. The therapist works in a clinical setting. His goal, quoting Shands (p. 265), is to simplify human experience to
manageable proportions. This does not leave room for pure scientific research which may not be immediately applicable. Someone else has to experiment, collect data, and construct theories. It is for this reason that this
book is recommended as a valuable document for the enrichment of the
theoretical framework on "thinking."
New York, N. Y.
by Nathan \V. Ackerman, Frances L. Beatman, and Sanford N. Sherman. New York: Family Service Association of America, 1961, 159 pp., $4.00.
Workers in the fast-growing field of family research and family therapy must beware of being carried away by their own enthusiasm, which
could be as destructive as modern weed-killers, leading to pathological
growth, verbosity, unnecessary theories, and final collapse. Words and
verbiage are not proper substitutes for concepts, and the practical approach can go a long way before the need for theory and conceptual clarification becomes irresistible. The anxious research worker tends to speculate at times when he should interpret, and to form theories when he
should observe.
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