Toward a theory of understanding the psychology of the nuclear phenomenon: A personal search for comprehensive understanding

Robert W. Small (1988)

This dissertation is a theoretical investigation of the psychological understanding of the nuclear phenomenon, operating at two distinct levels: (1) a traditional level of presentation wherein the nuclear phenomenon is discussed from a variety of perspectives, these perspectives are integrated into a multi-dimensional/meta-level model, and the model is applied to the Strategic Defense Initiative; and (2) a personal, collaborative, and participatory level wherein a method of investigation directly involving the dissertation committee is documented. On the first level, the study hypothesizes that a multi-dimensional/meta-level model of psychological understanding offers a more comprehensive and clarifying understanding of the nuclear phenomenon than do the singular theoretical approaches (systemic, interactional, cognitive, and psychoanalytic). On the second level, the study hypothesizes that the participatory and collaborative approach leads to greater clarification and definition of the model and that this approach facilitates the comprehension of highly complex issues. The results of the study suggest that while the multi-dimensional/meta-level model offers a more comprehensive understanding, paradoxically, clarification is both impaired and improved by the application of the model. The properties of the model and the usefulness of the participatory and collaborative method are discussed, along with their implications for future investigation of the nuclear phenomenon. The collaborative and participatory process of model development offers a hopeful parallel to the problems engendered by the nuclear phenomenon: the solution seems best sought from a "both/and" perspective (joining together individuals with diverse theoretical viewpoints by allowing a more inclusive model to develop) as opposed to an "either/or" perspective (dichotomizing and polarizing viewpoints by rigid adherence to a singular viewpoint). Implications of the findings are discussed in terms of the role psychologists can assume in addressing the nuclear phenomenon.