Another problem with assigning the tag of revolution to cognitive psychology is its relation to preceding paradigms. In other words, cognitive psychology did not spring out of a lacuna within the academic discipline. To the contrary, upon its emergence, it competed for space with the already established behavioural psychology. In this sense, cognitive psychology is a ‘counter-revolution’ and does not fully fit the description of Kuhn’s. There is also a lack of consensus over the adequacy of the term ‘revolution’, for there were no “cataclysmic events, leaders, or radicalisms” attached to the cognitive movement. (Watrin & Darwich, 2012, p.273) Mandler hits the nail on the head when he states that
“the well-documented cognitive ‘revolution’ was, to a large extent, an evolving return to attitudes and trends that were present before the advent of behaviourism and that were alive and well outside of the United States, where behaviourism had not developed any coherent support” (Watrin & Darwich, 2012, p.273)
Such being the case, cognitive psychology was not only not a revolution, but more accurately it was a reactionary movement. However, if cognitive psychology could not be granted the status of a revolution on Kuhn’s scientific paradigmatic terms, there were other academic currents that give credence to the claim. For example, by the 1950s, it had become clear that behaviourism as the basis of psychology cannot succeed. As Noam Chomsky noted, “defining psychology as the science of behaviour was like defining physics as the science of meter reading. If scientific psychology were to succeed, mentalistic concepts would have to integrate and explain the behavioural data.” (Miller, 2003, p.142) Hence a vacuum was created within psychology to find a new conceptual framework. It was this void that cognitive science offered to fulfil. Although ‘mind’ had never really disappeared from social or clinical psychology, its relevance was losing ground especially in the United States. Hence the revival of the centrality of ‘mentalism’ to psychology is a testament to the strong overhaul awaiting the discipline. Disillusioned by B. F. Skinner’s rather rigid behaviourism and the somewhat obtuse psychophysics of S.S. Stevens, people like Miller, Chomsky, O’Donohue, Goodman, etc turned to social psychology. This was an important turn of events, for it formally created the Centre for Cognitive Studies at Harvard. (White, 1999, p.197) The participation of the Carnegie Corporation of New York added prestige to the fledgling scientific movement. There were similar developments across the Atlantic at the Cambridge University, where, Sir Frederic Bartlett’s work on memory and thinking was creating excitement. The success of these initiatives toward a new direction in science, though not adding up to be termed a revolution, was significant in that it created bright young graduates, who would go on to become important psychologists towards the end of the century.
In conclusion, falling short of a revolution in the Kuhnian sense, the birth of cognitive psychology was a cornerstone scientific event in its own right. Cognitive psychology has thus opened up unchartered areas for scientific inquiry. But in the absence of clarity and consensus even with the community of psychologists, various theories compete and contradict for legitimacy. At the moment there are more questions than answers to some of the key questions pertaining to research in this domain. In this context, it is pretentious to claim of any well-articulated paradigmatic shift in psychological discourse. So, scientific revolution in the Kuhnian sense is not a concrete fact.