The mind of a nation : a philosophical and historical critique of psychology in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University

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Massey University
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In this thesis the development of the discipline of academic psychology in New Zealand is explored both as a history and as an intellectual framework. The key tasks of this thesis are outlined, and the problems associated with writing a history are discussed. The methodology is explained as consisting of archival research, surveying and face-to-face interviewing. There follows an examination of the intellectual development of psychology, from the time of the Ancient Greeks to the present day, where the analytical focus is the fundamental dichotomy of mind-body and, as a subset, human consciousness. This focus is important to this thesis because the researcher regards consciousness as the major variable in the evolution of psychology. Chapter three deals more specifically with the mind-body issue and consciousness, and provides an intellectual framework within which the historical developments of psychology on these shores can be considered. Chapter four deals with academic psychology in New Zealand, from its earliest times when Otago University was founded, where it was taught as a subset of philosophy, to the point at which psychology gained autonomy as an independent discipline. This exposition includes the creation and development of the University of New Zealand. In this chapter, it is shown that while psychology was first taught at Otago in 1875, it gained its freedom last of all at that university. Other factors highlighted in this chapter include the involvement of the Presbyterian Church in the development of philosophy (hence psychology) at Otago, and the turbulence of those early years there, where no less than eight professors of philosophy came and went, by comparison with only the one at Victoria College. Chapter five begins at the point at which psychology gained its independence from philosophy, which varied in time across the then four university colleges. The first department to break free was at Victoria College (1950) and the last, Otago (1964). The roles of key personalities are explored, where these are supplemented by extracts from personal interviews. The way in which courses and programmes within each department of psychology developed is also examined. In particular, the output of graduate theses (Doctoral and Masterate) are analysed, across the decades of existence of each department, in terms of subdisciplines and gender. Of interest is the finding of a marked gender reversal effect, which occurred around the late 1970s to the early 1980s, in which theses produced by female graduates outstripped those produced by males. This chapter also reports the findings of a survey of New Zealand psychology academics conducted by the researcher, using a mailed-out questionnaire. The findings include a participant profile and views on a variety of variables such as philosophical stance and theoretical orientation. The final chapter includes comparisons across the six university departments of psychology with attempts at explaining some of the key findings, a brief look at the non-university providers of psychology at the degree level, a consideration of some new directions for academic psychology in this country and, finally, a revisiting of the topic of consciousness which ran as a thread through the thesis.
Psychology, New Zealand, History, Higher education