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Wortelmetaforen in de Psychologie


Pieter A. Vroon

Transitorium 2 Heidelberglaan 2 NL-3584 CS Utrecht, NL
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[Root Metaphors in Psychology]


In view of the limited accessibility of mental life by means of introspection, psychology has frequently made use of technological metaphors to investigate these processes. This research program was inspired by the scientific revolution and the root metaphor “the world is a machine”. It implies that stimuli in the environment are described in physical terms, and that enriching processes take place in the mind. Recently, however, this fruitful approach is being questioned by, for example, ideas about naive explanations in psychology and by the Gibsonian movement in perception. It is argued that several fields of psychology show a development reminiscent of the Aristotelian tradition and the ancient root metaphor “the world is a humanlike organism”. Examples are that the meaning of stimuli is once again projected in the environment and less attention is paid to internal processes and stage models of mental functioning. Apart from that, there is a revival of other root metaphors such as contextualism and realism. This simultaneous use of hardly compatible world views describes an important part of psychology's current theoretical disunity. Psychology does possibly not optimize the accumulation of knowledge, since it either favours a complex, enriching mind or a complex, enriched environment.

How to Cite: Vroon, P.A., 1986. Wortelmetaforen in de Psychologie. Psychologica Belgica, 26(1), pp.61–76. DOI:
Published on 01 Jan 1986.
Peer Reviewed


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