Lauer-Berthoff, "Counterstatement" and "Response"

Janice. "Response to Ann E. Berthoff, ‘The Problem of Problem Solving.’" CCC 23.2 (1972):

Berthoff, Ann E.
"Response to Janice Lauer, ‘Counterstatement.’" CCC 23.5 (1972):

Lauer’s "Heuristics
and Composition"
Berthoff’s "The
Problem of Problem Solving"

Lauer’s counterstatement to Berthoff ends with a call for tolerance
and pluralism. She contends that we must be patient with the "recent
and exploratory
" development of
heuristics from psychology, rather than waiting for a grand, penultimate conclusion from what is a heterogeneous field (more varied, she argues,
than Berthoff has given credit for, as it includes "behaviorists, gestaltists,
factor-analysts, information theorists
, and so on).Lauer responds
sharply to Berthoff’s willingness to pile on her own dichotomies, such as
where she sets psychology apart from creativity, where she opposes problem
solving learning to knowing, and where she values articles in Teacher
above three dozen articles in psychology journals. Berthoff’s dismissal of
psychology and "the technicians", according to Lauer, depends on lumping them
all together and characterizing their collective work, varied though it is, as
reductive and short-sighted–of relatively little value to rhetoric and
composition: "Instead [Berthoff’s] quarrels rest on the false assumption that
psychology has one contribution to make
, a contribution which she
identifies with an overly narrow conception of problem solving" (209).

Lauer discusses the way Berthoff reframes Lauer’s primary point about
heuristics, instead calling it "problem-solving." This shift is cause for
some concern, although Lauer agrees with much of Berthoff’s commentary,
especially on matters of "creative problem solving", only objecting to
Lauer’s criticism and polemical approach. Lauer even goes so far as to
write off Berthoff’s conflation of "science" and "technology" to be a non
sequitur. Lauer acknowledges the source of alarm pervasive among humanists
who feel threatened by the sciences, but we should be more patient, Lauer
argues, before rejecting the possibility that psychology has anything to offer
composition (210).


Berthoff answers yet again as she contends that the argument she has with
Lauer’s approach (and initial recommendations for reading heuristics through
psychology) is non-trivial. One concern she has is that some psychologists
tend to "reduce and limit the operation of imagination" (414). That is, in the
pursuit of data, the reduce mentation to only "quantifiable results."
Psychology, in and of itself, Berthoff argues, does not care to get at the
complexities of meaning-making
, particularly where information-processing
theories reign. She invokes Susanne K. Langer’s work as a few among many
resources, such as the "notebooks and journals of artists and thinkers" that
might help us "learn anew the sources and modes of the creative imagination"
(415). Berthoff would have teachers assume their own expertise on
creativity and imagination, rather than turning to technicians of mind whose
approaches to language and meaning are too limiting. She introduces two
statements on method and creativity that capture what she fears would be
compromised in the over-use of psychological models:

Herman Melville: "There are some enterprises in which a careful
is the true method."
Alfred North Whitehead: "There is a state of imaginative, muddled suspense
which precedes any successful inductive generalization" (415).

"I believe that speculation taking these two wise sayings as a point of
departure could lead us to understand, for instance, why the Formal Outline
is properly the last step and not the first in composing; why it is so useful to
keep options open, to keep freedom of choice alive, especially at first, by
writing phrases, images, sets of oppositions, by thoughtful doodling instead of
depending on the concoction of topic sentences; why it is that ‘pre-writing’ is
so painful for those who have nor learned the uses of chaos; how it is
that naming and re-naming, developing analogies and metaphors can lead us to
discover ‘the shape of content’; it could help us to understand what Paul Klee
means when he notes: ‘I begin with chaos; it is the most natural start. In so
doing, I feel at rest because I may, at first, be chaos myself’" (415).

Finally, Berhoff asserts the fruitful pursuit of "speculation" before
arguing for a frame of reference for heuristics that "exercises the means by
which we come to discover and to understand" (415)