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Researcher at the Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Tübingen


In my field, psychology, the greatest innovation has not been done yet. Psychology is still torn between social science and the science of the brain, while its task is to unite them. Psychology is still reminiscent of the Tower of Babel, whereas it should be the Great Translator. Psychology is still excluding, whereas it should be including, ‘Catholic’ in the original and successfully forgotten meaning of this Greek word.

The oppositions existing among psychologists deserve much more the title ‘Clash of Cultures’ than the opposition between Christianity and Islam. The Newspaper of the Association of German University Teachers recently published a report about a research group that studies various - psychological, cultural, historical, medical, neurobiological and chemical - aspects of human memory. ‘We can work together very well’, said one of the project leaders, ‘if we only strictly follow a simple rule: never talk about something really important!’

However, some positive movement can be seen in recent years, at least in the Anglo-American psychology (it would surely take time till these trends reach Germany!). Notably, the origin of these (still very weak) integrative trends between social science and the science of the brain appears to be in the domain of economic behaviour.  First, though economic behaviour is not rational, people who study it frequently are. Second, trade has always been an integrative factor mediating between peoples, races and cultures. Third, in the field of economic behaviour the social-cultural and the biological aspects of the human nature are intertwined probably stronger than in any other field (except, of course, sexual behaviour - but too many watchmen - and women - of political correctness stand on the road to its integrative research). Fourth, the last and perhaps the least, economic behaviour is the only domain in which a psychologist can, in principle, win a Nobel Prize. Therefore, the hope is not dead that some (years? decades?) later, another psychologist will give you a more optimistic answer.