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12 December 2022

Psychological amnesia

by Rachel Shu

Status: Stub
Meaningfulness: representative of this blog

It sometimes happens that one mathematician is given credit for a thing that another discovered, but this is rare, and usually they are nearly contemporaries of each other.

On the other hand, modern psychology seems to want to slap the names of its laureates on all wisdom. Kahneman and Tversky are sometimes credited, especially by overworked journalists facing deadlines, with the surprising discovery that humans have biases; “Maslow’s hierarchy” is the name we commonly give to an observation that appears regularly in classical texts. (One instance, from Guan Zhong: “When people are fed and clothed, they can then know honor and shame; when the granaries are full, they can then know etiquette.” I believe I have seen it in Roman authors although where I cannot remember.)

I can’t deny that each of their lives’ works were great additions to human knowledge. Credit should also be given to Kahneman, Tversky, and Maslow for the specific forms of their arguments, which later discourse in the field uses as a common reference point. Still, the net effect on our culture, not necessarily the fault of psychologists themselves, is that we might attribute the entirety of our accurate knowledge of the human mind to the modern era and modern methods.

tags: psychology, - classics

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