Radical Psychologists don’t view people as statistical artefacts. We see them as unique and individual.
Standard – read: non-radical – psychology stakes it’s theoretical claims on something called statistical significance. Non-radical psychologists test large groups of people comparing one group against another and then see how many people in that group changed in some way by computing complicated statistical models to “prove” statistical differences between the groups at a .05 probability level.
Sounds like fun, right?
If you’re like me you look at mathematical models of human behaviour and just despair. Sure they have their place (pharmacology trials come to mind, and sociological and anthropological studies) but when you’re making a statement about an individual you cannot use statistical averages to prove a point.
A p = 0.05 value is often reported in psychology journals as a sort of gold-standard confirmation. In actuality it’s a rejection of a null hypothesis (I know…right? but bare with me…) stating that you on average the result you see is NOT a random event. In simpler terms it means if you repeated an event 100 times it an outcome would occur 95 times or more.
The key word here is average. Radical psychologists don’t see people as statistical averages distributed on a bell curve. We see people as holistic individuals unique to the world.
This does not mean you can’t derive generalised principles about human behaviour, or make predictions about what people will do, but it does mean we can’t conjure an imaginary “average” person out of statistical thin air to prove a point.
A radical psychologist sees each person as a unique object, unique to their learning history, their genetics, and their environment. Rather than trying to work out what mysterious unknowable forces may or may not be going on inside the person we instead look to the world around them, to the places they shop, the beds they sleep in, the friends they keep, the people they love, the food they eat, the games they place etc…
By looking at these things we can tell more about a person than any group experiment could ever do.
That is the Radical Psychologists view of a person.