Why (British?) experimental psychologists hate psychoanalysis(?)

From Whittle (1999, p. 240; I’m remaining silent on my opinion here—I just found the paragraph made me grin.)

The British are notoriously distrustful of theory. Newton was even, famously, distrustful of “hypotheses.” Theory is continental. We think of it as Germanic, and heavy. We think of Hegel and Heidegger. Brits who get entangled in it, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge or R. D. Laing, become incoherent substance abusers with marital problems. Psychoanalysis is full of theory. It has to be, because it is so distrustful of the surface. It could still choose to use the minimum necessary, but it does the opposite. It effervesces with theory, so infectiously that books of theory now bombard us from Paris, New Haven, Indiana, it sometimes seems from everywhere where there is a feminist modern-language academic. This weight of theory is a major reason why experimental psychologists, who are the most deeply British-Empiricist culture that there is, cannot get on with psychoanalysis. How could they possibly? How could people whose habit of mind is to ask of every statement that might have empirical content whether (1) it is statistically significant, and (2), more interestingly, whether there might not be another simpler explanation, possibly stomach these outpourings of prose, of sentence upon sentence of uncertain epistemological status?


Whittle, P. (1999). Experimental Psychology and Psychoanalysis: What We Can Learn from a Century of Misunderstanding. Neuropsychoanalysis, 1, 233-245.


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