I am pleased to report my friend and colleague Harriet Cobb nominated A New Unified Theory of Psychology for the Division 1, Society of General Psychology William James Book Award. I wanted to share the nomination letter here…
“It is with great pleasure that I write to nominate Gregg Henriques’ just-released book, A New Unified Theory of Psychology (Springer, 2011; see http://www.unifiedtheoryofpsychology.com), for the William James Book Award given by the Society for General Psychology. In direct accordance with the award criteria, the book offers a comprehensive vision of the field that cuts across the many disparate domains, while also examining and clarifying psychology’s relationship to the three great branches of learning, the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. The book is filled with incisive analyses of the philosophical problems that have plagued the field since its inception, including the divide between the mentalists and the behaviorists, the tensions between modern and postmodern epistemologies, and the relationship between the science and the profession, and offers up a bold new vision for how to move forward.
“The book is well-crafted and artfully written, taking the reader along with Henriques in his intellectual journey from psychotherapy integration to the unification of psychology. Divided into four parts, Part I skillfully uses Saxes’ parable of the blind men and the elephant to get readers aware of the problem of fragmentation and excited about the possibility of “seeing the Elephant”. In the subsequent chapter called “The Problem of Psychology”, Henriques highlights the philosophical conundrums that have prevented the Elephant from being seen up to this point and articulates why the field has resisted effective definition and theoretical unification, but also connects to each of the three great branches of learning more than any other discipline.
“In Part II, Henriques rolls out his approach in four chapters, each of which describes—in an elegant and accessible manner—a piece of the unified theory. Chapter three describes Behavioral Investment Theory, a formulation that links Skinner’s conception of behavioral selection to cognitive neuroscience built on an evolutionary foundation. Chapter four provides the most extensive treatment to date of The Influence Matrix, a model of human social motivation and emotion built on Behavioral Investment Theory that assimilates and integrates many disparate lines of research, including attachment and psychodynamic theory, and research on personality traits, parenting styles, agency and communion, and self-esteem. Chapter five describes in detail the Justification Hypothesis, which Henriques describes as the original insight that ultimately led to the unified theory. The Justification Hypothesis connects human language, self-consciousness and culture together by arguing that the evolution of language created the problem of social justification, and this problem in turn resulted in the emergence of justification systems, which functionally organize human culture and self-conscious thought. Finally, chapter six provides an overview of the Tree of Knowledge System and offers a poignant contrast between his vision of the unity of knowledge with E. O. Wilson’s Consilience.
“Part III of the book returns to the original questions that sparked Henriques’ initial inquiry and in chapter seven he spells out his answer to the question “What is psychology?” offering a compelling argument that although psychology can be conceptually unified, it nonetheless needs to be conceptualized as three separate branches, which he labels basic psychology, human psychology, and professional psychology. Coming full circle, chapter eight lays of a novel and helpful unified approach to conceptualizing people in psychotherapy, which Henriques effectively demonstrates how it connects to the key insights of the major approaches taken (i.e., behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, and psychodynamic). Finally, Part IV takes an even broader view, offering an inspirational hope and vision for why the unified theory can provide the academy at large with a scientific humanistic philosophy.
“A New Unified Theory of Psychology is a truly outstanding intellectual achievement that offers a creative synthesis of theory and fact from disparate areas and lays out a unifying framework that has the potential to fundamentally change the field in the decades to come. As such, I believe it deserves your strongest consideration for the 2012 William James Award. Thank you very much for your time.”
Harriet Clare Cobb, EdD
Professor of Psychology