Date of Award

Winter 2005

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

William R Woodward


Between 1970 and 2000 scientists from three interdisciplinary programs---evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and chaos theory---contributed to changing U.S. psychology's disciplinary boundaries. These interdisciplinary scientists brought about this change through their conceptual, material, and social practices. Psychologists used "boundary-work" as a means to control the influx of these various practices. Boundary-work connotes activities that promote scientists' epistemic authority in society. Boundary-work also serves to demarcate a science's particular collection of knowledge from other collections. Through their boundary-work activities, various psychologists resisted some of the practices of these interdisciplinary scientists while making accommodations for other types of practices. These resistances and accommodations illustrate the ways in which psychologists conveyed their epistemic authority and demarcated their discipline's boundaries between these three decades.

The purpose of my dissertation is to describe psychologists' boundary-work in reaction to the introduction of these interdisciplinary programs' practices between 1970 and 2000. First, I present an overview of psychology's complex disciplinary boundaries. I then use the history of psychology and sociology of scientific knowledge literature to describe the nature of boundary-work activities. Next, I present the foundational components and a brief history of each interdisciplinary program. Fourth, I outline each program's conceptual, material, and social practices. Lastly, I discuss psychologists' resistances and accommodations to each interdisciplinary program's practices with reference to how they affected psychology's disciplinary boundaries.

My results indicate that certain psychologists most often resisted evolutionary psychologists', cognitive scientists', and chaos theorists' conceptual practices. Psychologists' resistances seemed ineffective in preventing these conceptual practices from entering the discipline and did not stop other psychologists from using them. Accommodations occurred for all types of practices for all three programs, indicating that psychology's disciplinary boundaries are relatively permeable. I argue that psychologists made accommodations for these practices to increase their epistemic authority within the scientific community and throughout society. Finally, I discuss the advantages of writing psychology's history through an examination of psychologists' boundary-work.