Do you believe that research into the relationship between brain physiology and behavior will eventually render all other personality theories obsolete?
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Well, that's a very interesting question. At present, brain neurology research is focusing on socially relevant functions. I'm sure there are many fields of brain research I am unfamiliar with, but this one area I am slightly acquainted with. The emphases of the studies I'm thinking of are on how to address some of our most demanding socio-cultural problems.
For example, research on trauma induced fear has identified two means of erasing newly implanted traumatic fear memories: one method uses extinction, one uses propranolol. Another group of studies focuses on memory enhancement and extension: chocolate, green tea and red wine (for those of legal drinking age) provide the flavonoid epicatechin that facilitates enhancement and extension.
These groups of researchers are addressing current socio-cultural needs: post-traumatic war syndrome and Alzhiemer's disease. With this in mind, relevant to these sub-fields, it seems to me that personality related neuro-science will be further down in the queue of relevance--unless it is seen as critical to our education crisis--so I suspect there will be no immediate elimination of the need for personality paradigm theory.
I see no reason to think that our knowledge of the brain and its functioning will necessarily cause us to abandon all personality theories. What we learn may provide a basis for some and negate others. For example, there may be some physiological basis for Freud's id in the amygdala and for the superego in the executive functioning portion of the brain. Or, it is possible that certain receptors cannot be engaged until basic human needs are met, reinforcing Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Jung's archetypes could very well be the result of our brain's need to impose structure on our experiences, the reason we make stories of our experiences, often archetypally. Up until quite recently, we have only been able to hypothesize about what goes on in our brains, but that does not mean that all hypotheses will be proven incorrect.
This question puts me in mind of physics. The macro level of physics and micro level of physics have yet to be merged into a universal physical theory. The same is possible in the realm of behavior theory, cognitive science and brain physiology.
We may maintain behavior theories as macro level explanations of personality and behavior while also having a deep, micro-level physiological understanding of the brain.
If scientific research does this, it will not be in our lifetimes. Think about how hard it is for scientists to understand fairly straightforward physical processes. There are all sorts of debates about how, exactly (duration, frequency, etc.) we need to exercise to benefit our health. There are all sorts of debates about what, exactly, makes us gain weight and how we can best lose weight. These issues are rather simple compared to issues of how our personalities come to be as they are. If we cannot solve the easy questions, it seems very unlikely that we will be able to solve the hard questions in the foreseeable future.
What an excellent question to consider. I personally think that, even with all the advancements in understanding brain physiology, we will still need non-physiologic theories to explain some phenomena. The brain is so incredibly complex that I believe chaos theory, and specifically the Butterfly Effect, dictates that simple chemistry will never explain it all.
Consider how much we have learned to explain through genetics -and yet, identical twins are still so different in many ways. Will physiology provide better prediction methods than genetics? I doubt it.
Rather than becoming obsolete, I think that some of our theories will morph into more sophisticated ones as we get more information. I believe this has been the case with Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. He thought some people were better at thinking in certain ways than others. The theory all the rage a decade ago, but I do not think the idea is completely gone. Rather, we have a more sophisticated view of intelligence and its role in learning.
The fundamental criticism of MI theory is the belief by scholars that each of the seven multiple intelligences is in fact a cognitive style rather than a stand-alone construct …(Indiana.edu)
In the end, we realize we actually know very little about the brain, intelligence, and personality. Yet as we learn more we do not completely abandon old ideas, we just re-interpret them to incorporate what we learn.
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