Critically evaluate the statement’psychology is a science’Psychology is usually characterized as’scientific’ study of human behaviour and cognitive processes. Any science musthave theories, and indeed test them.
This includes making specific predictionsabout behaviour under certain specified conditions, for instance, predictingthat by combining the sight of a rat with the sound of an iron bar bangingbehind his head, a small child will learn to fear the rat, as is the case ofLittle Albert (Fridlund AJ, 2012). Also, empiricalmethods are used in scientific fields to collect data, relevant to the theoriesbeing tested, as is the case in many psychological experiments, for example theuse of brain scanning in Dement and Kleitman’s 1957 study (Dement, 1957). Science is intended to be objective andfair. It ought to be free of qualities and find the certainties about what itis considering.
Objective, value-free study is not easy, because the scientisthas views and biases, and social or different issues are maybe criticalelements. Some say that a truly objective study is not possible, and that ascientific approach to the study of people is not desirable. Definitions of psychology have changedduring its lifetime, largely reflecting the influence and contributions of itsmajor theoretical approaches or orientations. Kline argued that the differentapproaches within the field of psychology should be seen as self-containeddisciplines, as well as different facets of the same discipline.
He argued thata field of study can only be legitimately considered a science if a majority ofits workers subscribe to a common, global perspective or ‘paradigm’ (Kline, 1998). According to Kuhn, a philosopher of science,this means that psychology is ‘pre-paradigmatic’, it lacks a paradigm, withoutwhich it is still in a state of ‘pre-science’. Whether psychology has, or everhad, paradigm is hotly debated. Others believe that psychology has alreadyundergone two revolutions, and is now in a stage of normal science, withcognitive psychology the current paradigm. A third view, which represents ablend of the first two, is that psychology currently, and simultaneously, has anumber of paradigms.
The issue of psychology as a science iscloudy. On the one hand, psychology is a science. The subject matter isbehaviour, including mental aspects of behaviour such as memory, and thesubject matter is divided up for study. Variables are measured, and carefullycontrolled to a point. Laboratories are often used in an effort to improvecontrols – controls are as thorough as possible, so that general laws aboutbehaviour can be built. On the other hand, psychology can beviewed not as a science, as it does not aim at scientific principles to measurethe whole world. In many areas of psychology there is no attempt to generalisefrom some human behaviour to all human behaviour.
The socialrepresentation theory focuses on interactions, and the humanistic theory focuseson self-actualisation and the individual’s experiences and actions. Where thereis focus on interactions between people, and on the individual’s experiences,scientific methods are not useful. Non-scientific methods include case-studiesand unstructured interviews.
If a method in not scientific, it aims for goodvalidity, in-depth material about someone or a small group, qualitative dataand a richness of data that is not found by isolating variables, as in manypsychological studies.Psychology as a separate field of studygrew out of several other disciplines, both scientific (such as physiology) andnon-scientific (in particular philosophy). For much of its life as anindependent discipline, and through what some call revolutions and paradigmshifts, it has taken the natural sciences as its model. Ultimately, whatever aparticular science may claim to have discovered about the phenomena it studies,scientific activity remains just one aspect of human behaviour. I feel thatpsychology should be viewed as a science, even if it does not concur withtraditional scientific specifications.Is Psychology a Science?Berezowargues that psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for afield to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology,quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibilityand, finally, predictability and testability (Berezow, 2012).
Smedslundbelieves psychology in its current sense should be abandoneddueto four reasons: 1. Irreversibility (every experience changes a person). 2.Infinitenumber of determinants (a behaviour can have many influences). 3. Pseudo-empiricism(psychology tests obvious hypotheses). 4.
Social interactivity (individualdifferences are ignored to focus on the average) (J., 2016). Thereare some researchers in other fields that insist psychology is not asciencedespite following the hypothetico-deductive model (Godfrey-Smith, 2003). They argue thatpsychology should give up pretending it is a science and justfocuson what is available to study.When Wundt, a physiologist by training,took the position that the centuries-long philosophical disputes about thenature of mind needed to be set aside and replaced by the approaches favouredby the natural sciences, he asked: Why can’t the study of mind be based on observation?Just as physics observes the events of the physical world, why shouldn’tpsychology observe the events of the mental world (Wundt, 1897)?These were good questions and theemphasis on observation was a positive step, but Wundt and his followers werehandicapped by the methodology they chose to use and by their lack ofappreciation of the whole of science. They were right about the importance ofobservation and could have moved mental science forward if they had not beenstymied by their reliance on the technique of introspection, a form ofdisciplined, self-observation aimed at looking at mental activity (Silverman, 2011).Wundt and his student E. B.
Titchener(at Cornell University) were interested in analysing mental experiences intotheir elemental components as well as in finding out how these elementscombine, they did not have a well-ordered, systematic position in which theirobservations tended to produce hypotheses or call up new questions. Even ifintrospection provided data, they needed something more to give their findingsthe kind of structure that had the potential to lead to more knowledge (Silverman, 2011). Immanuel Kant argued in 1781 thatthe human mind imposes order on the sensations it receives, so did thetriumvirate of Gestalt psychology. Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and WolfgangKöhler take the position that the brain organizes incoming stimuli into wholes,or “gestalts” (Wertheimer, 1950). With thispreconception as their guide, they set out to find ways to demonstrate how theprinciple of organization affects perception. While they did perform something likeexperiments, the observations they sought to make were primarily designed to demonstratethe worth of their ideas.
It was not science, but it did keep alive a viewpointabout what the mind does that would provide a basis for the development a fewdecades later of cognitive psychology. The quest to understand the mysteriesof the mind continued in Europe and it extended beyond the researchlaboratories. It found its way into the clinical setting where, in 1895, SigmundFreud set out to develop the elaborate theory of psychoanalysis (Breuer, 1895). Although Freud was a clinician, he had beenwell trained in the principles of scientific research and knew the value ofobservation. However, he also felt that standard observation would not suffice;he could not limit his inquiries to the kind of evidenceappropriate for physics or chemistry, orfor that matter to laboratory psychology.
And, unlike Wundt, he did not focuson objectivity. Instead, he sought to find ways to analyse subjective material (Silverman, 2011). To accomplish thisgoal, Freud made the therapy setting his laboratory by seeing to it that thesituation was unstructured as possible. He encouraged his patients to say anyand all things that came to mind without attempting to restrain or censor theirthoughts. The reliance on this “free-association” technique, combinedwith his idea that dreams could also be very revealing, gave Freud the special toolshe felt he needed (Silverman, 2011). The fact that the information providedby free-association and dream interpretation was not constrained by thestandards of observation used in natural science did not bother Freud.
As hesaw it, he was delving into the mysteries of the unconscious and he felt freeto interpret this material rather than taking it at face value. If others wouldnot accept this approach, that was their problem, not his (Silverman, 2011). Psychology is complicated. There aremany influences behind people’s behaviour. There are arguments on either sidefor whether psychology is a science or not. Regardless of this argument,psychology has produced insights into important problems and will be able tooffer solutions to important problems in the future.
Psychology is stillrelatively young and human behaviour is complex.Even as the dangers of mind’s manymeanings are still present and the temptations to invent ad hoc explanatoryconcepts lie in waiting, we can acknowledge that Wundt’s original goal isbecoming more reachable. It now appears that the increasing cooperation betweenneuroscience and psychology is leading toward the moment when psychologists andneuroscientists (as partners) should be able to observe mental events. As thisbegins to happen, there will be no further need to worry about the role ofscience in psychology (Silverman, 2011).