Sunday, April 17

Psychologists v's writers: on understanding the human condition.

"Everywhere I go, I find that a poet has been there before me." - Sigmund Freud

Image: Last Minute Pencil Jar by Magic Madzik

So who really does a better job of understanding human nature: psychologists or writers?

You might expect a psychologist to have a unique insight into human nature, one that would allow them to write great novels if they chose to do so.  Well, one American researcher did just that.  Moreno (2006) not only took the leap into fiction, but directly challenged other writers to do the same.  He says:

"This article invites psychologists to apply their knowledge of human behavior and facility with the written word to the modern novel. Steps for starting are itemized as is other information pertinent to persisting in the face of opposition and resistance."

Noam Shpancer is another Psychologist who is also a novelist - read an interview here by social psychologist Susan Perry, herself also a writer.  Such examples suggest that that a crossover between the fields could be on the increase.  I haven't come across a great number of examples, but it would be unfair to expect it - most psychologists already work a demanding, full-time job.  And it's probably even less likely that a creative writer will suddenly publish a Psychology paper!

Scientific articles - a specialist form of writing

Many psychologists have made greats insights through scientific research - see this classic Psyblog post for some of the most exciting findings about human behaviour in the history of the subject.

Meanwhile, in the interests of determining which group offers the better insights into the human condition, I'd invite nominations for the two squads: Team Psychologist and Team Poet.

Moreno, J.K. (2006). The psychologist as novelist. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37, 210-214.

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