The Systemicity Principle in Modern Psychology

The Systemicity Principle in Modern Psychology

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2008.0008

Barabanshchikov, V.A. Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia


The article reveals the subject-matter of the systemacity (consistency) principle in psychology and some forms of its realization. Basic statements of the original version of the system approach by major Russian psychologist and science institutor Boris F. Lomov are considered. The state and the tendencies of development of system approach in the modern period are discussed.

Themes: Cognitive psychology

Pages: 120-135

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2008.0008

Keywords: cognitive studies

The systemicity principle regards phenomena as a single whole, the individual properties of which cannot be deducted from their fragments or parts. The entire approach is dominated by the logic of homogeneity, synthesis, mutual transfers and mutual inclusions.

The idea of the systemic nature of psychological phenomena is increasingly regarded as the final conclusion about our knowledge of psychology. As part of the global interconnection of events of the material world psychological phenomena demonstrate the unique entirety of all varied features typical of living creatures. Together, they form "functional organism" allowing animals (human beings) to flexibly orientate themselves in permanently changing milieu (the world), communicate, and act in it. In different respects the psychic reveals itself as a reflection of reality and as its attitude to it, as a brain function and a conduct moderator, as activity and communication, the natural and the social, conscious and unconscious. Having emerged as a phenomenon of life, the psychic reaches the apex of creativity, self-consciousness, and spirituality. Psychology objectively presents itself as a multidimensional, hierarchic and developing whole, or an organic system, whose functional components stem from common root and are ontologically indivisible.

The high differentiation rate of psychological knowledge and related methodological and theoretical disunion of research are two other reasons why we should turn to the systemic idea. It is this trend that has created the problem of coherency of psychology, that is, its continued existence as an integral science. Extremely varied approaches to psychological studies (with corresponding variety of principles, concepts, research methods and empirical data) add urgency to the problem of the subject of psychology and its method.

This makes the question of the methods by which varied psychological knowledge can be united and conceptual syntheses of a higher order can be achieved a priority.

Finally, we should not ignore the fact that psychology is consistently used to address problems arising in all social spheres (management of collectives, business management, management in the services sphere, education, health protection, politics, etc.). Psychology is rapidly developing into a sphere of professional practical activities that formulates its own norms and principles, conceptual apparatus, methods, and tasks. This is gradually creating the foundation of the scientific-practical trend of a systemic approach encompassing, on the one hand, the identification of psychological problems in different spheres of human activities and, on the other, the application of psychological knowledge to real life.

We all know that efforts to introduce, in a direct way, the concepts of human psychology and conduct in various practical spheres have been confronted with insurmountable difficulties. We should obviously develop a conceptual apparatus and corresponding methodology making it possible to adjust scholarly knowledge to real life and concrete human activities. To do this we should subject to systemic analysis the practical sphere, the "real object", the methods of its correlation with the theoretical model and the ties that exist between psychology and other disciplines.

This means that the systemicity principle in psychology reflects its current state and the general trend of its development. Converting this principle into psychological "material" is a separate problem or, rather a tree of problems, that requires concerted efforts for their solution.

It should be said that like any other high-level methodology the systemic approach is not designed to solve psychological problems proper- its function is to build up the science's objective content. Efficiency of this approach depends on the extent to which this content is adequate to the investigated reality.

Systemic Approach: General Description

Generally speaking, the systemic approach is understood as a methodological trend elaborating means of cognition and construction of objects with complex organizations. Historically, this approach opposes the mechanistic methodology that studies individual and, as a rule, immutable, elements of reality that obey classical mechanics. As distinct from cases in which parts are loosely connected, the system is a qualitative whole, or a sum-total with integral properties. "In a certain sense the systemic approach is itself a methodological instalment used to study integration or, rather, integrated objects and integral relationships and interactions" (Kuzmin, 1980).

Certain prerequisites of systemic thinking (for example, in the form of irre-ducibility of whole to sum of its parts, the concept of hierarchy, etc.) appeared in philosophy and science relatively long ago while their transformation into a methodological principle took some time needed to accumulate empirical data and develop the conceptual apparatus of corresponding problems. Within the logic of cognition the object under study is at first scrutinized individually, all by itself. Its quality is merely registered; its properties are deduced from the object itself while different objects are externally compared. At a higher stage of cognition the object is described as part of a certain whole the laws of existence of which determine the object's existence. The whole, or a system is the core of the object's generic property, which is not obvious outside or without the system. Since in real life any object belongs to more than one system it betrays varied qualitative definitions and turns out to be multidimensional. Finally, there is the highest step, on which the object is reproduced in knowledge as a single whole, in the entirety of its ties and connections. It is at this stage that the supreme gnostical synthesis is performed as ascension from the abstract to the theoretically concrete picture of a real object. This means the broadest possible vision of reality that suggests that the sum-total of systems, varied associations, ties and relations of all types should be used together with the emphasis on the genetic or historically concrete research methods.

From this point of view, human knowledge grows more systemic while it becomes more elaborate and profound. The systemic approach includes means of analysis (such as objectivation/identification of systems, specification of the integration mechanisms or differentiation between the levels, planes and dimensions of the phenomena under study) and synthesis (various aspects of knowledge are brought together into a single whole) while the increasing number of sections and dimensions reveal reality in its specific integrity.

As a scientific methodology of a general nature the systemic approach was brought to the fore in the 1960s by the scientific and technological revolution. Its widely known form that Ludwig Bertalanffy called the General Systems Theory (GST) was intended to look for universal regularities of complex objects and integrate varied scientific knowledge. Researchers wanted to know how the systems and mechanisms of their functioning were organized, that is, how they balanced the environment (Blauberg, Yudin, 1974; Sadovsky, 1974). It was in this form that systemic approach reached

Western psychology, notably American, and spread not only to the applied fields of the Human Factors type but also to psychology's general theoretical core. GST ideas and attitudes were applied to the studies of behavior (B. Skinner), personality (G. Allport), processes of cognition (U. Neisser), the organization and dynamics of social groups, and other phenomena. To some extent this methodological move had been prepared by the magnificent achievements of Gestalt psychology and the Kurt Lewin School, which demonstrated that the idea about psychic phenomena and behavior as systems opened up wide horizons to anybody involved in their studies (Lewin, 1951; Koffka, 1935).

In many respects the history of psychology is a history of quests for alternatives of the atomistic, or in fact a-systemic, idea about the nature of psyche and behavior. It was the empirical psychology of consciousness and classical behaviorism that realized it in the most consistent way. They postulated the existence of original elements (sensory impressions and responses) brought together by external ties (associations) and argued that psyche was determined by rigid causal relationships. This gave rise to reductionism (physiological, logical, sociological, cybernetic, and information), jeopardized psychology's specific subject matter and created a crisis of psychology's methodological foundations. As a matter of fact, the systemic approach to the subject of psychological cognition was intended (mainly, unconsciously) to overcome this crisis. The criterion of scientific knowledge was associated not so much with the analytical as with the synthetic, integral approach that introduced the psychic into the system of man's associations and relations and emphasized that the whole was independent in relation to its components. The following Soviet and Russian scholars did a lot to reveal the psyche's systems nature: B. Ananyev, V. Bekhterev, L. Vygotsky, A. Luria, V. Merlin, S. Rubinshtein, B. Teplov, A. Ukhtomsky, and others. R Anokhin, A. Leontyev, N. Bernshtein, and their colleagues are closely associated with systemic analysis of behavior and activity.

As distinct from the GST theoreticians, Boris Lomov (Lomov, 1984) emphasized the specific nature and variety of manifestations of integral components of psyche and their dependence on the sphere of being, and organizational and development levels. Lomov supplemented the mono-systemic idea of the nature of integrities and its emphasis on components and structure with a polysystemic view by identifying the objective criteria of integral qualities and properties. He used specific empirical material to demonstrate that when introduced into varied systems of relationships a human being (his psyche and behavior) revealed qualities absent in other systems. Since there are several all-inclusive (macro-) systems psychological phenomena always act as "qualitative nodes" of sorts.

Boris Lomov applied the systemic principle to psychology as a whole as the main regulator of psychological research. He was one of the first to turn attention to the way science's subject field was organized; he tried to move away from its external homogeneity and, consequently, from a "head-on collision" of theories, conceptions, and methods. In his works he presented the subject field of psychology as a multidimensional, multi-level and flexible entity. This methodology brought psychology to a novel strategy of cognition. It was no longer enough to justify, confirm or disprove any given conception, data, etc. - it was also necessary to pinpoint their place in very complicated system of knowledge, identify their "hypostases" or forms of their manifestations, and identify numerous ways of their interconnections and mutual transfers. The age of classical theories that claimed that any psychic phenomena could be explained in terms of one scholarly field was coming to an end.

Psychological studies of the second half of the 19th century suggest the conclusion that it was not time or fashion that brought the ideas of systemicity to the forefront: the systemic approach offered the widest possible ideas about the phenomena under study and the possibility of understanding the concrete logic of mutual transfers and mutual inclusions; it also made it possible to construct integrative knowledge that not only profoundly reflected the very essence of investigated phenomena (their heterogeneity, fluency, and non-disjunctive nature). It was also perfectly suited to dealing with practical tasks. While revealing the insufficiency (narrow, one-sided, and limited nature) of the conceptual basis and traditional study methods the systemic approach creates prerequisites for formulating more adequate theoretical constructs, explanatory principles and methods of organization of knowledge. The systemic approach formulates problems in the most precise way and map out a strategy for its solution; it suggests that psychologists should treat the psyche as a differentiated whole, identify the variety of its ties and related planes, levels, and dimensions. More than that: it creates broadest possible and multi-dimensional picture of psychological phenomena. We should bear in mind, however, something that stems from the very nature of the systemic approach as part of dialectics: it cannot provide an exhaustive methodological description of psychological studies and presupposes methodological orientations of a different nature. The systemic approach is most efficient when filled with concrete psychological content.

Development Trends

Today two tasks serve as reference points of the development of the systemic approach in psychology: (1) psychology needs an object based on the systemicity principle and (2) it needs a systemic method of cognizing psychological phenomena. The development level of systemic research as a whole is determined by the degree of completeness and effectiveness reached while dealing with these tasks. Strictly speaking, studying the integral components of psyche or of their derivatives and identifying their content, structure, functioning modes, hierarchy, etc. Is the rule rather than a rule. The following objects can be classed among these components: the behavioral act (P. Anokhin), the dominant (A. Ukhtomsky), Gestalt (K. Koffka), a psychological system (L. Vygotsky), integral individuality (V. Merlin), intellect (J. Piaget), the cognitive sphere (D. Norman), the perceptual cycle (U. Neisser), etc. The current stage of psychological studies has moved emergence and development of integral structures to the forefront together with their organization (structure and levels) and functioning. In this way it differs from the previous stages. The genetic trend of the systemic approach emerged as a dominating one that studied the following aspects as the key ones: specific mechanisms of the emergence of entities, the correlation between the stages and development levels, its types, criteria, the correlation between the actual and potential in psychological development, etc. (Barabanschikov, 1990; 1997; 2000; 2002; 2003).

It is common knowledge that the psychological development problem with its profound general psychological content is a central one in psychology. Indeed, the integral entities alone found at a cross of the system of determinants are able to develop. Therefore the system's law-governed movement (changing of its composition, structure and means of determination of the psyche and its components) is the reverse side of the development of psyche. In this condition development becomes an organic whole, i.e. a system. This makes it possible to realize a differentiated approach to certain fundamental psychological problems and concentrate on those dimensions of the determination processes that are not always identified: their dynamic and non-linear nature and mediacy. In this respect psychology is connected with synergetics (I. Prigogine, H. Haken).

It is not uncommon for psychologists engaged in psychic development studies to try to identify a certain universal determinant responsible for the process and ensuring the transfer of a new formation from one stage to another. In fact, the picture is more complicated than that: any development

result (be it cognitive, personal or operational) achieved at any stage becomes part of the overall determination of the psychic to play the role of internal factors, prerequisites or mediating links in relation to the results of the next stage. This creates a different situation making it possible to move to another level of psychic development. In fact, the dynamics of stages (phases and steps) of psychic development reflects the movement of the entire determinant system that is constantly being specified in the process and, therefore, can never be completely predicted.

Integral formations emerge, function and are transformed in the course of a development process of a certain overall system whose properties belong to them, too. From this it follows that the development of integral formations can be understood only in the context of the development laws of the original system (base). Since both the subject and object of psychic activity are included in various systems of relationships development assumes a polysystemic character that expresses the unity of the discrete and continuous, reproductive and productive, actual and potential, necessary and chance ensured by a certain correlation (measure) of the types of determinants. We can identify the micro-, meso- and macro organizational levels in it, qualitatively different steps or stages, and changeability of the main base and key determinants.

From the point of view of the systemic approach psychic development is not merely multisided - it is multi-variant. All sorts of psychic formations (properties, functions) are unequally developed within any single process -they have "trajectories" of their own. A new system (quality) may result from the integration or differentiation of integral formations (their functions). It turns out that contradictions among the dimensions, organizational levels, properties or functions of one and the same whole serve as the development source. Psychic development is a polymorphic process that includes progressive and regressive qualitative changes, the possibility of stagnation and dead ends. It is not only the birth of new forms but also transformation or destruction of inefficient forms of human psychic organization and conduct. The development source and ways, means, and forms of its realization are of a systemic nature.

Contemporary research accentuates the foundations of integration and homogeneity of psychological phenomena, the trend being closely associated with stronger subjective approach to psychic analysis (S. Rubinshtein, D. Uznadze, K. Abulkhanova-Slavskaya, A. Brushlinsky). According to it both psychic processes and activity (or behavior, communication, game) are studied in relation to those to whom they belong. Scholars have established that even the simplest psychological act is an act of a specific subject of life and is included in the total context of its development. The subject plays the role of a linchpin, or an integrating link, that unites all sorts of manifestations (components, modalities) of psyche and its organizational level. From this it follows that an analysis of the subject makes it possible to identify the mechanism of the emergence and development of entities; it turns out to be an internal moment of systemic psychological studies. It is obvious that in the context of the systemic approach the subject should be treated as a differentiated, multi-dimensional whole (system).

From the point of view of ontology, (specifically) understood subject reflects the foundation of the varied relationships between man and reality. Having entered into these relationships, an individual not merely obeys reality but also embodies himself in it. While realizing different relationships the same individual becomes the subject of varied manifestations of life, including perception, thinking, emotions, communication, and activity and realizes corresponding functional potentials (properties, qualities, roles, etc.). As a subject a human being can manage his own resources and build up his relations with reality on this basis. The following are the key descriptions of the subject of life: activity, self-determination, self-regulation, and self-perfection (Abulkhanova, 2002; Brushlinsky, 2000).

An analysis of the subject insistently draws attention to another reality -the object of life activities. More often than not it is identified either with an empirical object (thing or event) or with stimulation. This interpretation divorces, from the very beginning, the individual (or group) from the conditions in which he/it exists and develops. History has taught us that no logical stratagems can ensure their inner unity. An object, or a sum-total of circumstances of the individual's life and activities is a functional whole that embraces not only the elements (properties, things, events) and relations of the environment but also the subject of vital activities and incorporates them into a system. Psychology has a special term for this unity between man and his environment - "situation," or "world" (Lewin, 1951; Magnusson, 1981; Rubinstein, 1973). As distinct from the environment in all its forms, the object-situation (object-world) is contradictory and paradoxical: while comprising the subject it is also opposed to it; living conditions are one of its sides, the other being formed by their reflection of the individual included in the situation. Situation (world) is one of the most complicated systems of determinants of the subject's activity and a result of such activity. Outside an analysis of the object (that presupposes identification of its elements, structure, norms and rules as well as organizational levels, dynamics, etc.) it is impossible to either grasp the content of psychological reflexion or describe the subject and forms of his activity. Concepts of the object are actively used within the frameworks of praxeological and environmental (ecological) approaches in psychology, yet the problem of the object as a system has not been resolved.

The situation is made up of varied elements of the environment (physico-geographical, ecological or social) as an entity correlated with the subject's interests, requirements, and possibilities. The individual and elements of his environment are equally active: the elements can be hostile (opposing the subject or interfering with his activities), friendly (helping the subject to realize his intentions) or neutral. Accordingly, the methods of dealing with the situation prove to be varied ranging from struggle to cooperation or coexistence.

Human life is made of situations in which man is involved from his birth and in which he not only realizes himself but also develops. The situations are highly varied as far as their content, means of resolution, their role in individual development and life are concerned. They have both real and virtual organization means, they may belong to various spheres of human existence, they may be interrupted of a sudden or remain irresolvable in principle. Situations are rarely "unalloyed," more likely than not they are entanglements of events of various levels, times of life, contents and meanings. Each situation presupposes that the subject takes a special position in relation to it, corresponding experience, and ways and means of dealing with it. One cannot but marvel at man's universality and flexibility and his ability to consistently and fairly successfully deal with the burden of numerous troubles.

A situation is the "atmosphere" of the subject that fills his life with specific content and meaning. Therefore, an analysis of any psychological phenomenon should inevitably transcend its limits to enter the comprehensive whole in which it appears and develops. Activities, communication, games and studies are all means of resolving the situations some of which recur regularly following measured course of life while others may change radically and call for novel approaches and original solutions.

Both the subject and the object of life activities are organically interconnected and are components of the same fragment of existence, or event of life, that comprises psychic phenomena together with the conditions in which they exist and develop. This system may have different contents, organizational methods, scales (micro-, meso-, macro-) and it follows certain development logic. Basically, this is the ontological foundation of the psychic as a system. The concept of event makes it possible to formulate the key descriptions of psychic phenomena - integrity and development - by fitting them into the natural flow of life. It seems that psychology should study the laws of movement of these systems, their development, mutual transfers, coordinations and transformations as one of its priorities (Barabanshchikov, 2002).

For a long time the ontology of psychic phenomena was treated as a problem of secondary importance to be studied by adjacent disciplines -physiology, sociology, and informatics. Psychologists were more interested in the gnoseological aspect - in the mechanisms and ways that reflected reality in the human psyche. Today it is becoming increasingly clear that psychological knowledge remains incomplete in principle and very limited from practical point of view if it does not take account of the methods of existence of psychic phenomena. Turning to the ontological paradigm is an indispensable condition of the development of a systemic-genetic concept of psyche.

This approach reveals any psychological phenomenon in several contexts and should be studied accordingly. First, in the context of a definite fragment of existence, to which any given individual or a group belongs, that is, in the context of a situation. This offers the foundations of objective content and dynamics of the studied phenomenon. Second, within the framework of the subject of a definite form of activity. The phenomenon is studied within the sum-total of internal conditions of its existence that form an entity with varied models (motivational-evaluative, cognitive, dispositional, reflexive, and others). Third, within the modality of the psychic, to which the studied phenomenon directly belongs. It registers the specifics and unique nature of the phenomenon that is either a side or a moment of unimodal entity. In this way, in each of the contexts the scholar deals with different (even if interconnected) integral formations while the real nature of the phenomenon is reconstructed through a synthesis of all sorts of "projections".

The above suggests the main requirements for the systemic method of psychological research: (a) awareness of the integral (systemic) properties of studied reality and (b) the possibility of internal synthesis (linking) of the studied plane (dimension) with other planes (dimensions) of the object of cognition.

Seen from this position, far from every investigation of even systemic moduses of the psychic turns out to be systemic. For example, the classical procedure of studying the micro-genesis of a sensual image (Lange, 1893; Krugh, Smith, 1970) cannot be unconditionally related to the systemic methods because it takes the studied phenomenon out of the context of the subject's real life activity and limits itself to an artificially detached fragment (even if a very important one) of an integral perceptive process. It investigates the micro-development of a sensual image "from scratch" as if nothing happened to the perceptive subject before that; the process ends with the appearance of a certain stable (mature) state. What happens to the image (and to the subject of perception) later when it has completed its functional role is a mystery. From the point of view of the systemic approach the micro-genesis of perception should be investigated as a system that includes a complete cycle of life activity of a sensual image: its emergence, development, functioning, and transformation which requires more adequate theoretical ideas and methods (Barabanshchikov, 2002).

The methodological description of study as a systemic one connected, in the first place, with the way the scientific problem is formulated and, therefore, with its subjective content. Everything depends on whether it is regarded as an integral formation or not. In empirical studies a systems object always presents itself to the researcher in its mediated form. The recording of the object's observed properties is inevitably completed with a concept of its systemic organization and development, something that requires special methodological efforts.

Depending on the specific task, each object can be studied as a systemic and non-systemic one. For example, to identify personality traits we may limit ourselves to traditional psychoanalytical methods; if we want to bring out the structure of the same traits, we shall need systemic ideas. It should be said that the use of traditional (non-systemic) means of studies does not mean that we have revived something outdated and ineffective. They can effectively be applied when we need to describe a complex object and investigate its parts (properties, functions, abilities, processes, etc.). Historically, this task appeared in science at an early stage and has still preserved its importance.

Today, the range of systems technologies of psychological science and practice is still very modest while its further development is a far from simple research task. The main problem is: any phenomenon should be studied without losing (cutting short) its systemic (integral) qualities that should be taken into account together with its ties with the phenomena of the subject's life and activities, the integral nature of their existence in time, and its multi­level organization. This condition presupposes that we should elaborate conceptual schemes to be able to integrate empirical data and research methods and concepts belonging to different scientific paradigms. Their appearance will open new roads in the subject's theoretical expanse.

At the present development stage of psychological science and practice the systems-genesis of psyche and its varied manifestations look most attractive and most promising. Movement in this direction makes it possible to tie closer together psychic processes, properties and states with the subject's characteristics, accentuate the procedural side and emphasize the aspects of studies leading to integration of psychological knowledge.

Research Prospects

While recognizing the obvious achievements of the psychological science, practice, and education of the last century it is hard to share the view that mankind is entering "psy-zoic era" or that the 21st century will become the "century of psychology". Today, Vladimir Vernadsky's comments are still a metaphor even thought warming up the psychologists' pride and research zeal. Much should be done to fill the elegant formula with profound scholarly and practical content.

Normally, centuries got their names from the branch of science in which fundamental discoveries were made and fundamental laws leading to new methods of thinking affecting social life were formulated. From this point of view the 21st century is rather "the age of biology and information technologies," the branches that have already reached the threshold of important achievements and radical changes. Today we can all expect that both will considerably affect psychology by creating prerequisites of future fundamental discoveries. More than that, psychology will be able to effectively demonstrate its scholarly and practical potential inside biology and informatics by dealing with their tasks. It is in these sciences that the systemic approach is widely applied.

We should not underestimate the overall impact the physical sciences exert on the development of psychology. Physics as a cultural phenomenon as well as a field of positive knowledge creates and maintains an atmosphere of scientific cognition, determines our ideas about the predestination of sciences and shapes the epoch's philosophical climate. The physical method of cognition reflects the most important features of the contemporary style of thinking that remains unshakeable despite the progressively increasing volumes of sociocultural knowledge and general humanitarization of life.

Psychology widens and deepens its inter-disciplinary ties; this is one of the mightiest factors of its development. This also applies to the humanities in their quest of the object and methods and they regularly plunge into crises. Religion (especially in the practical sphere), art and literature, the vehicles of an integral idea of man, that have outstripped the academic science and social practice based on it when it comes to revealing the individual's inner world and the methods of influencing him exert a considerable, but not decisive influence on psychology. Man as represented in art and literature is an ideal and the ultimate aim, a reminder, or sometimes a reproach to scientific psychology and rational cognition as a whole. Great expectations are associated with the development of psychology's practice (psycho-practice) trying to take into account the integrity of human individuality.The role of psychological knowledge in post-industrial society to which mankind is moving will steadily increase while the pace of differentiation of psychological science will not slow down at the very least. The progressing globalization of social life (economics, politics, finances, communications, health services, etc.) is bound to assert a systemic mode of thinking and attitude to reality.

Today few people are bold enough to predict the fates of scientific trends or even schools. We can only discuss the most general requirements for the science of the 21st century and the conditions under which they can be fulfilled. The logic of previous development suggests that the future belongs to those trends that, while revealing certain properties, ties and relations of the psychic will be able to achieve a synthesis of multidimensional knowledge, overcome one-sid-edness (monocentrism) in dealing with their subjects. The future belongs to system-oriented multi-paradigmatic psychology.

The profound meaning of the methodological crises typical of psychology stems from psychology's inability to create a unified conceptual system covering the qualitatively diverse causes of psychological phenomena. The methodological and theoretical dissociation of research multiplied by the high differentiation rates and heterochronic development of psychological knowledge serve as fertile soil not only for reductionism and eclectics but also for sham scientific ideas about psyche and man as a whole. Confrontation between the natural scientific and humanitarian (sociocultural) paradigms is the extreme manifestation of disunity in psychology. From this it follows that the problem of overcoming the crisis is, to a great extent, related to methods of integrating varied knowledge, their mutual transfers and mutual inclusions.

Although a solution to the problem of coherency in psychology largely depends on an accepted type of rationality, there is every reason to expect that the "logic of integrity" will develop and strengthen its positions. The principles of mutual inclusion and complementarity are of special interest in this respect.

Mutual inclusion of psychological phenomena is the reverse side of their interconnection. The unity of man's inner world turns out to be mutual inclusion of psychological processes, properties, and states. This does not presuppose chaos and random inclusions but their organization within and on the "territory" of a local entity. This organization is a sine qua non of the emergence and development of any specific psychological phenomena. Accordingly, any psychological formation is of a dual nature: it reflects at one and the same time an aspect of psyche (image or concept) and psyche as such that makes its existence possible. A concrete modality of the psychic rests on all other modalities, it engulfs them and spreads its influence onto them. The whole is enclosed in its part. The principle "The origin of all things existent", yet itself formulated by Anaximander that has attracted the attention of contemporary physics is very promising for psychology as well.

From this point of view psychic phenomena cannot but be regarded as manifestations of integral formations (entities, molar units) included in the context of life. It is under this condition that they acquire support both in the external and internal world of man, express forms and manifestations, and the origin of existence. This, in turn, opens the possibility of their effective study, formation, diagnostics, and correction.

Today, the "logic of integrity" cannot exist without the "logic of complementarity". The complementarity principle in its wide sense (Niels Bohr) presupposes a diversity of not only phenomena but also the foundations of the psychic. I have in mind different dimensions of the very essence of phenomena irreducible in the general case to the contradiction of the sides. This means that the identified sides are fairly independent yet not disunited. From this follows the latest non-classical cognitive norme that accepts an alternative description of an object in relation to any of its theories. Since theory is expected to produce an integral idea of an object, its cognitive value as an integrity and as a theory is always limited. This is obvious not only in contemporary physics (Heisenberg, 1974) but also in mathematics whose subject is gradually being recognized as multidimensional (Kline, 1980).

The idea of the multi-dimensional nature of the psychic offers a new idea about the relationships between alternative trends and paradigms. Confrontation retreats to give way to a dialogue, a new understanding of the truth and a new type of thinking that reveals the relationships between various dimensions of the psychic. This offers the possibility of creating a different methodological culture and professional psychological methods. "Unity in diversity" is a fundamental requirement of the cognition of developing integrities (organic systems) with highly complicated organizations that play the role of the principle of cooperation, mutual understanding and ties among scholarly traditions, theory and practice, the present and future of psychology.

The systemicity ideas introduced in psychological thought and the new tasks, subject content and methods of psychological cognition rooted in these ideas were an important achievement of 20th-century philosophy and science. Being planted in a favorable environment, they inevitably developed further. There is every reason to believe that in the 21 st century the systemic approach will spread to the special and applied fields of psychology. Studies of complex (interdisciplinary) objects will produce the greatest effect. The arsenal of logical-methodological instruments of systemic studies will widen and become richer. Systemic ideas will play a more important role in elaborating the strategy and practice of psychological science. At the same time, in general psychological terms the autonomy (but not effectiveness!) of the systemic approach will be more and more limited by the subject content of the science merging with it. "The logic of an organic system" will be more frequently presented as a mechanism of organization, development and functioning of human psyche and behavior.


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To cite this article: Barabanshchikov, Vladimir A. (2008). The Systemicity Principle in Modern Psychology. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 1, 120-135

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