UNDERSTANDING THE INEXPLICABLE: THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIO-CYBERNETICS IN PSYCHOLOGY
Raven, J., University of Edinburgh, UK
It is a truism that well-intentioned action often has effects which differ markedly from those intended. Thus, at a societal level, the "educational" system breeds "trained incapacity", the legal system crime, and the "caring" system dependence. At an individual level, we commit endless actions which we know to be wrong: We contribute to the manufacture and marketing of junk foods, junk insurance, and junk education; we drive our cars and neglect our families. Contrary what is often assumed, what happens is heavily determined by a network of social forces which operate as an autopoietic system to negate the effects of common-sense, non systems- oriented, actions. Cybernetics is concerned with the study and design of guidance and control systems in animals and machines. It is therefore appropriate to describe the study of the hidden social forces which determine human behaviour as "socio-cybernetics". No serious student of psychology can afford to neglect these processes: They determine behaviour much more effectively than such things as attitudes and values. What this means is that it will be necessary to re-focus attention in psychology in a manner analogous to the way in which Newton re-focussed attention in physics away from the "animal spirits" once assumed to be responsible for movement to the external, if invisible, forces which act upon, and determine, the motion of bodies. These observations will be substantiated using findings from our half-century of research into the workings of the educational and political systems.