Adler's theory, like that of Freud produced many concepts that do not easily lend themselves to either verification or falsification. For example, although research has consistently shown a relationship between early childhood recollections and a person's present style of life (Clark, 2002), these results do not verify Adler's notion that present style of life shapes one's early recollections. An alternate, causal explanation is also possible; that is, early experiences may cause present style of life. Thus, one of Adler's most important concepts—the assumption that present style of life determines early memories rather than vice versa—is difficult either to verify or falsify.
Another function of a useful theory is to generate research, and on tins criterion we rate Adler's theory above average. Much of the research suggested by
94 Part II Psychodynamic Theories individual psychology lias investigated early recollections, social interest, and style of life. Arthur J. Clark (2002) for example, cites evidence showing that early recollections relate to myriad personality factors, including dimensions or personality clinical disorders, vocational choice, explanatory style, and psychotherapy processes and outcomes, hi addition, Adler's theory lias encouraged researchers to construct several social hiterest scales, for example, the Social hiterest Scale (Crandall, 1975, 1981), the Social Interest Index (Greever, Tseng, & Friedland, 1973), and the Sulli-man Scale of Social Interest (Sulliman, 1973). Research activity on these scales and on birth order, early recollections, and style of life gives Adlerian theory a moderate to high rating on its ability to generate research.
How well does Adlerian theory organize knowledge into a meaningful framework? In general, individual psychology is sufficiently broad to encompass possible explanations for much of what is known about human behavior and development. Even seemingly self-defeating and inconsistent behaviors can be fit into the framework of striving for superiority. Adler's practical view of life's problems allows us to rate his theory high on its ability to make sense out of what we know about human behavior.
We also rate Adlerian theory high on its ability to guide action. The theory serves the psychotherapist, the teacher, and the parent with guidelines for the solution to practical problems hi a variety of settings. Adlerian practitioners gather information through reports on birth order, dreams, early recollections, childhood difficulties, and physical deficiencies. They then use this information to understand a person's style of life and to apply those specific techniques that will both increase that person's individual responsibility and broaden his or her freedom of choice.
Is individual psychology internally consistent? Does it include a set of operationally defined terms? Although Adlerian theory is a model for self-consistency, it suffers from a lack of precise operational definitions. Terms such as goal of superiority and creative power have no scientific definition. Nowhere in Adler's works are they operationally defined, and the potential researcher will look in vain for precise definitions that lend themselves to rigorous study. The term creative power is an especially illusory one. Just what is this magical force that takes the raw materials of heredity and environment and molds a unique personality? How does the creative power transform itself hito specific actions or operations needed by the scientist to carry out an investigation? Unfortunately, hidividual psychology is somewhat philosophical—even moralistic—and does not provide answers to these questions.
The concept of creative power is a very appealing one. Probably most people prefer to believe that they are composed of something more than the interactions of heredity and environment. Many people intuitively feel that they have some agent (soul, ego, self, creative power) within them that allows them to make choices and to create their style of life. As inviting as it is, however, the concept of creative power is simply a fiction and cannot be scientifically studied. Due to lack of operational definitions, therefore, we rate individual psychology low on internal consistency.
The final criterion of a useful theory is simplicity, or parsimony. On this standard we rate hidividual psychology about average. Although Adler's awkward and unorganized writings distract from the theory's rathig on parsimony, the work of Ansbacher and Ansbacher (Adler, 1956, 1964) has made individual psychology more parsimonious.
Chapter 3 Adler: Individual Psychology 95
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