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This Is a Better Way to Understand Mental Behavior

Make the switch to UTOK and starting observing human mental behavior.

Key points

  • Mainstream empirical psychology divides the world into behaviors that we can see and mental processes we can infer.
  • The Unified Theory Of Knowledge shows why this is an error.
  • We can frame human mental behavior patterns as patterns of justification, investment, and influence.

Mainstream empirical psychology tells us we should divide the human world into behaviors that we see and mental processes that we infer. That is, if we were to take this clip from Seinfeld where Jerry asks George to help him make “the switch” (i.e., shift from dating one roommate to another), mainstream empirical psychology tells us we are watching behavior and that to understand the cause of those behaviors, we need to infer the unobservable processes in the “black box" of the mind.

The Unified Theory of Knowledge (UTOK) gives us a new and better approach to scientific psychology. It says what we are observing in this clip are human mental behavioral patterns. UTOK achieves this first by framing Jerry and George as human primates that are acting in the world. They are eating, walking, gesturing, and so forth. We can call these “primate mental behaviors.” Second, UTOK frames them as human persons that operate on the culture plane of existence. As human persons, they live in a sociocultural context and they talk and justify their actions to themselves and other people.

In addition, UTOK says that, as primates that are also persons, humans live in a world of social influence, such that they are navigating the interests, investments, and justifications of other humans. This means that when we watch this clip via the lens of UTOK’s glasses, what we see are two human persons engaged in a process of investment, influence, and justification. UTOK calls these “JII dynamics,” for justification, investment, and influence, and it tells us that human mental behavioral patterns are structurally and functionally organized into JII dynamics.

We can see this clearly in the clip. First, we can understand Jerry’s dilemma as a desire to switch his path of investment from one roommate to the other. Second, we can say that Jerry is concerned about the social influence dynamics that this switch will activate, and he wants to be in a position to avoid damaging consequences. Third, he invests in getting George to help him develop a plan that will allow this switch to happen. Finally, the two of them use logic and “theory of mind” (i.e., imagining how others will think and react) to develop a plan that potentially affords Jerry a justifiable course of action that will enable him to achieve his goal with the least amount of damage to his reputation.

The point is that UTOK gives us an entirely new way to approach scientific psychology. Rather than dividing the human world into behaviors we can observe, and black box mental processes we must infer, UTOK allows us to see patterns of human mental behavior as patterns of justification, investment, and influence that operate on the animal-mental and person-culture planes of existence. In so doing, UTOK allows us to make the switch from a flawed conception of psychology that is errantly based on the epistemology of science to a scientific psychology that is based on a coherent ontology of human mental behavior.