In Support of Multidisciplinary Models: Part 1 I Oxford Open Learning

In Support of Multidisciplinary Models: Part 1

Someone once asked a group of top scientists and researchers why the chicken crossed the road to reach an attractive rooster. The evolutionary biologist said “because her ancestors out-competed their rivals by responding to romantic bids, despite danger”. A sage psychologist disagreed. He claimed angrily that it was necessary to consider the principles of behaviourism to understand the chicken. A vet claimed that she had just had surgery which had improved her circulation, and it was undoubtedly due to the increased blood flow. Such is the way of the multidisciplinary.

Valid Debate

Clearly, you could keep going ad-nauseum. The point is that all of the scientists have a valid point. Aristotle created one of the earliest systems of classification, and formed part of the method of seeing the world we now know as “Science”. The world is immensely complicated, however, so it was necessary to further classify into many different sciences, each with its own specialists. As is the way with humans, we then proceeded to forget that these classifications of different sciences were, in fact, imaginary and made for our own convenience. Undeniably, classifications are very useful to us indeed. If you wanted to answer the chicken question from every conceivable perspective, you would be drowned in possibilities.

Do We Have a Multidisciplinary Nature?

This dividing up of continuums can be seen throughout the human experience. With language there is a phenomenon called “allophony”. This is effectively having multiple spoken sounds for one letter. If you say “little”, for example, the first “L” is not the same as the second (which is a “dark L”, in phonetics). English speakers will often not register this, whereas a speaker of a different language would be able to easily. Similarly, if there is a name for a colour in one culture (a random point on the ultraviolet spectrum), those people will struggle to differentiate it from different tones of the same colour. People from other cultures with distinct names for those shades will identify them easily. These examples effectively demonstrate the way that the human brain leans naturally towards segmentation and classification.

One of the main problems is that the disciplinary approach stifles cooperation and growth. Often, psychologists and psychiatrists will angrily disagree about how we should interpret human behaviour. Without dialogue though, it will stay as just another blinkered squabble. These issues can be found throughout the sciences, as well as many other disciplines.


So effectively, we are dealing with a human limitation, our need to classify to understand, and our forgetfulness that this is a man-made construct. The challenge of the next scientific paradigm will be to knock down many of these walls and, at least attempt to, see things from a multidisciplinary perspective.

In Part 2, I will explore some possible ways that we can create more of a multidisciplinary society and begin to move away from the old models of thought that have taken us a long way, but in many cases have outgrown their use.

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Hi, my name's Phil. I am a Content Writer and Producer. My background is a mixture of education, social media and management. I've spent a lot of my career working in Latin America and Spain, and I have a love for languages and education. I also have my own blogsite:

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