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Is Psychology a Science?

is psychology a science debate essay

Psychology can be considered as a social science since it primarily involves the scientific study of cognitive processes, behaviors, and experiences. Because psychologists use some therapeutic techniques, many people tend to believe that psychology is not a science. However, there is evidence of psychology being a science: it builds and organizes knowledge through a scientific study of behaviors and mental functions. This paper explains the pros and cons of psychology as a science and provides the reasons why psychology should be considered a science.

The Advantages of Psychology

First, through the scientific knowledge, psychologists analyze the relationship between behavior and brain function as well as between the environment and behavior. Psychology as a science utilizes empirical methods, which are useful in collecting and interpreting research data, to comprehend and solve the most challenging problems in the society. Besides, psychologists use various scientific methods, which include askng questions, formulating theories, and then conducting in-depth field or laboratory experiments (Henriques, 2016). Thus, psychology as a science is important since it applies the research findings to formulate evidence-based strategies, which are instrumental in solving problems and improving lives.

The second advantage is that psychology as science reveals different and better ways for human beings to live and thrive in a complex world. Mostly, psychologists work as health care practitioners, whose central role is to examine the behavioral and mental function and individuals’ well-being. Apparently, the application of psychological research can help minimize the economic burden of disease on the society and government since people can learn how to make practical choices to enhance their health and well-being (Harre, 2016). Consequently, the significant discoveries in the educational assessments have helped students to learn their incapacities. Moreover, psychological science plays a vital role in promoting justice in courts since the judges can understand the motivation of criminals.

The third significant advantage of psychology as a science is the use of different scientific approaches. In particular, psychoanalysis is a psychological approach that plays a vital role in understanding behavior. Moreover, cognitive psychology adopts a scientific approach to un-examinable psychological processes by involving specific models and carrying out experiments with behavior (Harre, 2016). Through experimental psychology, educators are now able to understand how learners think, process, and remember which contributes to designing efficient teaching methods. Another approach in scientific psychology is behaviorism, which encompasses different theories of learning and utilizes some simple principles to explain a huge variety of behaviors from moral development to language acquisition (Henriques, 2016). Through this approach, psychologists are can explain different human behaviors and thus, are able to draw conclusions.

The Disadvantages of Psychology

The first drawback is connected to psychology presuming that there are particular regulations of human behavior . Thus, science adopts both reductionist and deterministic methodology, which psychology fails to consider (Henriques, 2016). Consequently, overt behavior in science is empirically examinable and can be measured, thus allowing psychologists to record their findings and agree on the observations.

The second limitation of psychology as a science is that psychological explanations are usually limited to a particular time and place whereas scientific laws are generalized. Moreover, psychology cannot be applied to a social space since behavior often varies under different circumstances. These factors together with particular differences make the research findings dependable on certain conditions (McLeod, 2008). Another disadvantage of psychology as a science is based on the scientific approaches that are used. For example, psychoanalysis has been criticized for describing behavior only after the event and not being able to predict what may happen. Consequently, this scientific psychological approach has been criticized for being falsifiable. Apparently, the psychoanalysis approach in psychology has been criticized as being more of a religion than a science.

The next limitation of psychology is the impossibility of objectivity. Since humans study humans, it is difficult to explore the conduct of individuals in an impartial fashion. Besides, regarding the overall philosophy of science, it becomes difficult to be objective because people are subjective from a theoretical point of view. In this case, the observer and the observed are considered as part of the same species, which leads to the problems of reflectivity (McLeod, 2008). Moreover, psychology as a science comprises of several paradigms that make it a pre-science till it becomes more unified.

Apart from the lack of objectivity in psychology, testability becomes a problem because the subject matter is unobservable. For instance, psychologists are not able to observe someone’s memory. Thus, the subject matter cannot be precisely measured, which limits the effectiveness of psychology as a science. Moreover, there are many variables that affect human behavior, and it may not be easy for psychologists to consider all these variables. Apparently, it becomes difficult to control them, which in turn contributes to the ineffectiveness of psychology as a science. Another shortcoming of psychology as a science is the fact that it does focus on scientific principles to analyze the whole world (McLeod, 2008). In many fields of psychology, there are few attempts to simplify and generalize particular human behaviors to a single behavior pattern.

The Arguments for Psychology Being a Science

The main argument why psychology should be regarded as a science is that it utilizes empirical approach. According to the concept of empiricism , the source of knowledge comes from senses. This perception opposes the notion that knowledge could be acquired through the power of logical argument and reason. Apparently, empiricism is the concept that all knowledge can be based on because it comes from experience. Consequently, the nature of psychology as a science can be considered on two significant levels. The first level deals with theory and the foundation of hypotheses while the second is based on the definite empirical methods of inquiry (McLeod, 2008).

The second argument concerns the empirical research: the key empirical technique of inquiry in science is research, which in most cases, psychology utilizes as well as experiments to draw conclusions. Psychologists have also argued that psychology should be handled as a science since there are alternatives to empiricism. These options may include argument, rational research, and belief. As a result, a humanistic approach purports that objective reality is not essential compared to a person’s personal insight and a special understanding of the world.

Third, psychology can be considered as a science because it fulfills the conditions of the concept of science. The most obvious one is that it uses systematic and objective methods. It also analyzes the cause-and-effect relations in order to create universal laws that govern human behavior. Besides, the findings of psychological experiments can be verified, thus justifying it as a science. However, it is vital to point out that psychology cannot be compared to natural sciences, such as chemistry, physics, or biology (Harre, 2016).

The Arguments against Psychology Being a Science

The first major argument against psychology being a science is psychology dealing solely with behaviors and mental processes. In this case, behavior and dynamics are unlike the aspects of natural sciences. The laws of physical sciences do not apply to the laws in psychology because the cognitive processes that are studied in psychology are abstract and are always in a state of ever-changing interactions. Therefore, from this perspective, psychology cannot be considered a science.

Second, psychology is a social science that entails the study of human behavior and natural occurrences after keen observations. Psychologists then make their suppositions regarding a particular human behavior, such as people’s response to traumatic images. It is different from what is normally considered science. Researchers examine real concepts based on previous assumptions. After proposing hypotheses, psychological researchers utilize another scientific approach to test their hypotheses empirically. Consequently, the psychologists include variables and controls.

Third, psychological researches lack objectivity, which is vital for preventing biases within the study. From the experiments, the psychologists decide whether to accept or reject hypotheses (Harre, 2016). Afterward, the researchers would do additional tests to enhance the validity of the assumptions. Thus, it is clear that psychology lacks key practical approaches that make it a science.

Position Regarding Psychology as a Science

It is evident that the primary factor that distinguishes psychology as a science is the testing of theories. These approaches allow researchers or psychologists to establish a specific and testable hypothesis. In this case, the pursuit of scientific knowledge is facilitated through the development of a correct hypothesis from a theory. Notably, there are various areas of psychology that describe behavior but from somewhat different perspectives. One of this areas is social psychology, which attempts to explain the effects of social institutions on individuals behavior. There is also developmental psychology, which is based on the study of processes and principles that bring about change in life.

To conclude, psychology is considered a science mainly because it utilizes scientific research. On the other hand, the main arguments against psychology being a science include it being occupied solely with behavior and mental processes and not substantial matters. In addition, psychological research involves empirical methodology but lacks objectivity. Nevertheless, it is evident that there are various pros and cons of psychology as a science. The major advantage is that psychology as a science utilizes empirical methods, which are useful in collecting and interpreting research data. Thus, psychology is aimed at understanding better and solving the most challenging problems in the society.

Harre, R. (2016). Hybrid psychology as a human science. Theory & Psychology , 26 (5), 632-646.

Henriques, G. (2016). The “Is psychology a science?” debate. Psychology Today . Retrieved from

McLeod, S. (2008). Psychology as a science. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from

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A Discussion of Whether Psychology is a Science

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Published: Dec 16, 2021

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Works Cited

  • Bunge, M. (2009). Is psychology a unified science? Cognitive Systems Research, 10(2), 162-176.
  • Craver, C. F. (2007). Explaining the brain: Mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience. Oxford University Press.
  • Fuchs, T., & Mahr, A. (2019). Psychology as science: The theoretical framework of psychology as a natural science. In The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy (pp. 38-53). Routledge.
  • Gergen, K. J. (2015). The science of psychology as methodologically embodied skepticism. In The Oxford Handbook of the History of Psychology: Global Perspectives (pp. 225-242). Oxford University Press.
  • Kuhn, T. S. (2012). The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
  • Lambert, A. J. (2013). Toward a positive psychology of religion: Belief science in the postmodern era. Journal of Humanistic Psychology , 53(2), 195-215.
  • Popper, K. R. (2002). The logic of scientific discovery. Routledge.
  • Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
  • Thagard, P. (2012). The cognitive science of science: Explanation, discovery, and conceptual change. MIT Press.
  • Wundt, W. (1897). Outlines of Psychology. Wilhelm Engelmann.

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is psychology a science debate essay


Is Psychology a Science? Essay

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Should Psychology Be Considered As A Science?

There is much debate as to whether Psychology can be regarded as a ‘science’. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology (Coleman, 2009) Psychology can be defined as the ‘scientific study of human behaviour and cognitive processes.’ Science is generally defined as the ‘systematic way or method of obtaining knowledge’ (Merriam-Webster, 2008). When we think of science, we think of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Psychology is often thought of as just ‘common sense’, however many of the perspectives in Psychology such as Biological, Behaviourist and Cognitive assert that they are scientific. There are other perspectives in Psychology such as Psychodynamic theory and Humanist which are considered to be non-scientific.

Psychology and the Media Essay

Psychology can be presented by the media in forms such as magazine or newspaper articles, and the most popular today is through commercials watched on TV. Psychology is presented in a form of science today compared to what it was viewed as in the late 1800s and onto the 1900s. It is more of a science nature because viewers have to think about the meaning of the article or commercial to understand the message that is being presented. Then, psychology was viewed as a form or common sense. Psychology was never really looked at as a science but rather as philosophy in the 1980s. The public was often confused with the subject of psychology because it was always

Argumentative Essay: Is Psychology A Science?

There has been an ongoing debate on whether psychology is indeed scientific, although recent, psychology is now considered a science. This is because it uses scientific methodology in researching, devising treatments and measuring the outcomes. These methods include collecting and analysing data and concluding their findings in order to identify whether the research or treatment adequality solves the problem. Scientific studies must be replicable, this means the if repeated exactly the same, the results should produce an identical outcome. Replicability can be increased by ruling out any alternatives that may not have originally been thought of. Objectivity in science is the idea that scientist, in an attempt to get the best results, must first

Essay about History of Psychology

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Psychology as a Science: Jaegwon Kim's Argument and Why it is Faulty

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In Kim’s 1992 publication he argued that is mental properties are multiply realized then they essentially cannot be casual properties and therefore, they cannot be scientific. From this notion, he cannot allow there to be psychological laws nor can there be any kind of psychological theory either. Kim think that we can anticipate that there are many distinct and local psych theories. There will be several psychologies, one for human, one for aliens, one for elephants and so on. He concludes that it is impossible to have one psychological theory that reins over all species. Kim substantiates that only laws of physics can be universally applied to everything. He also states that economics, biology, chemistry and sociology will fall prey to the same faults as psychology does. It seems that to respond to Kim we must consider a multitude of scientific and philosophical issues.

Essay about The Use of the Scientific Method in Psychology

This essay examines the advantages and disadvantages of using a method primarily for gathering research on human subjects that can be examined for later use. It will give a basic outline of the methods of investigation, their uses and their suitability. I will also look at the scientific method as a whole and examine the criticisms of this method using the writings of Hume and Popper.

Su Psy1001 Week 3 Assignment 2 Define Psychology

Psychology is a science that is normally subjected to an argument. There is also criticism of psychology has not been around long enough to develop a standard, or had established a system of ideas that has been accepted by most specialists in the public, and also lacks the important characteristics of a science. Psychology has roots in other fields including the non-scientific disciplines such as philosophy, which makes it even harder to classify it with the traditional science such as biology and chemistry.

The Theoretical Approaches Of Psychology

Psychology is the scientific “study of the mind” (Gross, 2015) and behaviour, which includes the study of humans and animals. There are various approaches in modern psychology. A theoretical approach is a perspective which is someone’s view about human behaviour, there can be many different theories within an approach, however they all piece together the same assumptions. (McLeod, 2007). A theory is an attempt by theorists to try to explain behaviour. Theories are not facts but can be verified by testing. Theories can then be evaluated which I aim to achieve through this essay, where I will briefly explain the theoretical approaches in psychology and aim to focus on an analysis of each perspective which consists of the psychodynamic,

Jenna Chang's Argument Analysis

Early on, the social science, including psychology cannot be consider scientific, with an argument that it is social. This was proven wrong, as Jared Diamond (1987) poses the disparity of soft science, including the domain of social science, and hard science, including the domain of natural sciences. To sum up, the two uses varying level of operationalization – thus making the field of social science scientific.

Stanovich How To Think Straight About Psychology Summary

Many centuries have passed and a majority of the public still rejects the belief that psychology is not a science, however, there are many points made in How to Think Straight about Psychology that supports the idea that psychology is, in fact, a science. It first begins with the problem that Freud created; ultimately making theories with no science-based evidence which I think made the science and subject of psychology begin with a bad start. Stanovich explains in this chapter that, because there are multiple fields of psychology, it doesn’t make much sense to put them all in the same category. The public was not clearly seeing one important characteristic of psychology that made it a science: “the main search for psychologists was to completely understand human behavior by using the methods of science.” (p. 2) I am convinced that, because psychologists were

The excerpt from “How to Think Straight about Psychology” by Keith E. Stanovich discusses many things about misconceptions and ideas that people have about psychology. One of the major points Stanovich made in this excerpt was the fact that psychology is such a broad subject that it's hard to find a common ground between all the different kinds of psychology. The one thing that does bring them all together is the fact that they all use the “scientific method to understand behavior.” (p 18) In this excerpt Stanovich refutes some folk wisdom's that have been associated with psychology. An example of some would be “opposites always attract” and “children bring happiness to their parents.” He speaks of the importance of replication for the scientific process and about how many people are drawn to psychology because of how it refutes things people once thought were “common sense.”

Psychology as a Science: Jaegwon Kim's Argument and Why It Is Flawed

Jaegwon Kim thinks that multiple realizability of mental properties would bring about the conclusion that psychology is most likely not a science. Several functionalists, specially, Fodor, take up the opposing stance to Kim, supporting that the multiple realizability of mental states is one of the reasons why psychology is an autonomous and justifiable science. Essentially, Kim think that in order for mental states to be multiply realizable then psychology must be fundamentally broken; with human psychology encompassing properties realized for humans and alien psychology encompassing those mental states realized in the alien way etc. I will demonstrate that even if one supports and allows the principles behind Kim’s argument they do not result in his final conclusion of psychology failing to be a science. By attacking his principle of Casual Individuation of Kinds I will show that Kim has failed to find the correct conclusion. Furthermore, I will consider a possible objection that Kim might have to my stance and give a short rebuttle. I will conclude by explicating Jerry Fodor’s account of what is Kim’s essential problem is. By showing that Kim’s conclusion fails it will entail that Fodor’s conclusion is more viable in reality.

Psychology As A Modern Science

Authored by Keith E. Stanovich, How to Think Straight About Psychology is a known work of the psychology world which was published in 1986. Beginning courses in psychology use his text frequently. Stanovich primary purpose for writing the text is to bring attention to his observation that the public’s understanding of psychology is different from psychology as a modern science. Psychology as a modern science explains the underlying functions that shape human attitudes and behavior. To the people who misunderstand this, the field of psychology is not a real science, but a pseudo-science instead. How to Think Straight About Psychology describes people’s several false impressions of psychology and it gives its readers a factual understanding of the field as a modern and scientific psychology while explaining how this science works.

Cartesian Dualism And Transhumanism : Theories Within Their Time Contexts

But the basis for psychology is predominantly objective and mimic natural sciences. Descartes attempted to keep his methods purely scientific, which has only strengthened the argument that purely quantitative, empirical methods are the best way to discover information. This is damaging to psychology and other social sciences, as some things are better understood and represented with other methods. Psychology is still stuck within this dogma, something that can be traced back to Descartes’ dualism.

Similarities Between Psychology And Other Sciences

Is psychology a science? How does it differ from the traditional sciences? How is it similar?

Related Topics

  • Scientific method

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What is the 'psychology as a science' debate and can you explain it?

The debate over whether psychology is a science has been ongoing since the discipline emerged in the late 19th century. At its core, the debate revolves around whether psychology can be considered a true science in the same sense as physics, chemistry, and biology.

Those who argue that psychology is a science point to the use of the scientific method in psychological research, which involves formulating hypotheses, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions based on empirical evidence. They also note that psychology draws on many of the same statistical and methodological tools as other sciences.

On the other hand, critics of the idea that psychology is a science argue that human behavior and mental processes are too complex to be studied using traditional scientific methods. They argue that the subjective nature of mental states makes it difficult to quantify and measure them in the same way as physical phenomena. Additionally, they point out that many psychological studies rely on self-report measures, which may not be reliable indicators of internal mental states.

Ultimately, the debate over whether psychology is a science is likely to continue, as different individuals and schools of thought have different criteria for what constitutes a science. However, it’s worth noting that psychology has made many important scientific contributions, including the development of influential theories of human behavior and the identification of evidence-based treatments for mental health conditions.

The “psychology as a science” debate is an ongoing discussion over whether psychology can be considered a true science in the same sense as physics, chemistry, and biology.

Critics argue that human behavior and mental processes are too complex to be studied using traditional scientific methods, and that the subjective nature of mental states makes it difficult to quantify and measure them in the same way as physical phenomena.

Supporters of psychology as a science point to the use of the scientific method in psychological research, which involves formulating hypotheses, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions based on empirical evidence.

The scientific status of psychology has important implications for the validity of psychological theories and the development of evidence-based treatments for mental health conditions.

Yes, some argue that psychology can be considered both a science and an art, as it involves both the application of scientific principles and the development of personal and creative skills in working with individuals and communities.

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“Is Psychology a Science?”

is psychology a science debate essay

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Psychology: Is Psychology As A Science?

is psychology a science debate essay

Show More There is considerable research carried out by many theorists over centuries regarding the question as to whether psychology is a science. According to some traditional views of science there is involvement working in a laboratory, conducting experiments, wearing a white coat, safety goggles and looking though microscopes to examine organisms. William Wunt, was one of the first people to recognize experimental psychology noted psychology as a science apart from biology and philosophy. He was the first to ever person to call himself a psychologist and recognized as the father of experimental psychology. In 1879, it was Wundt who founded the first official laboratory for psychological research at the University of Leipzig. In order to judge whether …show more content… The study of psychology determines it as the scientific study of the mind, behaviour, how we think, feel and act independently and with other human beings. Maslow (2013) concurs that psychology is the science of the mind. However since the beginning of psychological study many mainstream scientists struggle to accept the concept of psychology as a science. Those opposed to the notion of psychology as a science highlight ethical considerations as a weakness in its approach. Schneider et al (2014) suggests in the study of human beings, there are strict boundaries on what types of studies are permitted. As an example, if you want to know whether removing specific brain tissue results in behavioural changes, you cannot perform the study on humans. You have to perform it on animals and try to transpose the result to humans. Furthermore Bartol and Bartol (2014) suggest limitations concerning overall lax standards and as a result, the field of psychology is constantly changing definition. Adding that studies are regularly published that would never meet the criteria of more stringent science research. Facilitated communication also is an area which many theorists question the validity of psychological research, as practitioners have been accused of unintentionally cueing the facilitated person, so the results of tests …show more content… Similarities between science and psychology stated by Keller and Skoenfeld (2014) include a definable subject matter, theory construction, hypothesis testing and empirical methods. All four of these attributes of science are similar to psychology, and how the subject investigates into the analysis of why humans think and act in the way they do. Like Science, observation is a necessary element of psychology the three main aspects include controlled, natural and participant observations. Controlled are likely to be carried out in a psychology laboratory. Natural involves analysing the impulsive behaviour of participants in natural surroundings. Participant observations involve the researcher joining in and becoming part of the group they are studying to get a deeper insight into their lives. Continuing with the theme of observation, a scientist conducts an experiment and proceeds to observe a chemical reaction, therefore examining change in pattern to which concludes a result. This information can improve knowledge, ideas and health and furthermore humans rely on science. Some elements of psychology are considered scientific or biological although the subject of psychology is defined more with other

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Free Is Psychology a Science? Essay Sample

The debate as to whether psychology is considered a science has drawn considerable attention since the inception of the discipline of psychology during the second half of the 19th century. Some have even stated that psychology is more than science. Other scholars have stated the debate is complicated because both psychology and science are multifaceted, and complex constructs; thus, a dichotomous approach to the issue involving yes and no answer to the issue is insufficient. This paper argues that psychology is not a science. To support this argument, the key elements of science are discussed, after which it is demonstrated that psychology fails to meet the criteria of a scientific discipline.

Attributes of Science

Redding outlined the key features associated with science, which include empirical evidence, objectivity, control, testing of hypothesis, replication, and predictability. Empirical evidence represents the data gathered using experiment or observation. Empirical evidence is not reliant on belief or argument; rather, observations and experiments are conducted cautiously and reported with sufficient detail to enable other investigators to repeat and validate the work. The objectivity criterion requires researchers to remain independent of their research, which demands that they should be wholly unbiased in their studies to ensure that the knowledge gained is not influenced by personal experiences and feelings. The control criteria requires the researcher to control all extraneous variables to be able to ascertain the cause and effect relationships. Hypothesis refers to a statement developed by a researcher prior to conducting an investigation to show the predicted outcomes based on existing theory. Replication denotes the degree to which a specific method can be replicated to ascertain whether the findings are consistent. The criterion of predictability requires scientists to have the ability to predict future behavioral patterns by relying on the findings reported in research.


Psychology as not a Science

Whereas psychology has been frequently defined as the “scientific” study of mind processes and behavior, the raw data that psychologists rely on human behavior to illustrate the functioning of human brain. The fundamental criticism that scientists level against psychologists as being their peers is the fact that the discipline of psychology lacks direct observations. Mind represent the actions of brains. There are practical limitations when trying to observe the human mind and its functioning since the mind is an inaccessible aspect of nature. This implies that true physical evidence regarding the mind cannot be collected. As a result, practitioners in other scientific disciplines such as anatomy and medicine do not consider psychology to be in the same level as far as the merits of science are concerned.

Secondly, psychology is not considered a science because it does not satisfy the key requirements of scientific fields including a terminology that is clearly defined; experimental conditions that are extremely controlled; reproducibility/replication; quantifiability; and testability and predictability. A notable example indicating why psychology fails to meet this key requirements of science is happiness research. There are no exact definitions of happiness. The definition of happiness various between individuals and cultures. Additionally, it is extremely problematic to measure happiness. Psychologists cannot utilize a microscope or a ruler; thus, they rely in an arbitrary scale to measure ambiguous constructs in an attempt to achieve quantifiability. Failing to satisfy the requirements of quantifiability and clear terminology (needed to achieve scientific rigor) makes it nearly impossible for the psychological research on happiness to meet the requirements of extremely controlled experiments, testability and predictability, and replication. For instance, it is not possible for an experiment to report consistent findings using vague and unquantifiable terms. Additionally, it is impossible to reliably predict the behavior of humans. Meaningful predictions is a key tenet of science; however, psychology performs dismally in this aspect. Other limitations that arise when psychology is considered a science include problems applying a reductionist and deterministic approach in human behavior; inability to generalize psychological explanations since they are limited to particular places and times; and that objectivity is impossible when studying the behavior of humans.

To be reasonable, not all research in psychology is weak. Some scientifically rigorous research has been conducted in psychology and has been able to provide crucial insights; however, it is erroneous to state that it is science. Instead, psychologists are aiming at redefining science. When science is redefined, it ceases to be an empirical assessment of the physical world, which is a dangerous precedent since anything can merit to be considered science, which threatens the influence of science in provide unique explanations for truth. Various authors agree that redefining science to a level that it does not rely on time-tested criteria like predictability and testability is a dangerous trend. As a result, some authors have argued that psychology should not be classified as science, but instead be viewed as an alternative to science, just like belief, argument, and rational research. This means that psychology is in the same class as the humanistic approach that places considerable emphasis on the subjective conscious and advocates for rejecting science on grounds that objective reality is of less importance when compared to an individual’s subjective understanding and perception of the world. Consequently, some have proposed that psychology should cease using scientific methods in understanding and explaining human behavior since it is dehumanizing and cannot be effectively used to explore the richness associated with conscious experience.

It is evident that psychology fails to satisfy the requirements of a scientific discipline including empirical evidence, objectivity, control, testing of hypothesis, replication, and predictability. Even though psychology utilizes scientific methods, the subject of psychology (human behavior) cannot be studied scientifically. The rules of science are fundamentally inapplicable in the subjective nature of psychology. This has resulted in the proposition that psychology should cease using scientific methods, and instead focus on using humanistic and subjective approaches. Overall, psychology cannot be deemed a scientific discipline.

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Is Psychology a Science?

The British Psychological Society states that ‘Psychology is the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour’ (BPS). In this essay I will be discussing what is actually meant by this and whether psychology fits into both the traditional views of a science, as well as more contemporary perspectives. It is widely suggested that Psychology is a “coalition of specialities” meaning it is multi-disciplinary (Hewstone, Fincham and Foster 2005, page 4). I will therefore examine whether it could be considered wrong to think that all parts of the discipline should neatly fit into one view of a scientific approach. In order to be considered a science, Psychology must consequently adhere to using a scientific method. If this were, as usual, taken to mean the accumulation of knowledge through systematic observation or experimentation, Psychology would likely not have an issue in being recognised, however traditional views of a science mean most areas, with the exception of Behaviourism, would not be considered a science in their own right. In terms of a traditional science, one key point is empiricism: a reliance on observations of behaviours instead of our logical reasoning, to further aid explanations of why humans act in certain ways (Valentine, 1992:5). In this way Psychology could be considered a science as psychologists are constantly monitoring behaviours some may perceive as common sense, for example Milgram’s study into obedience (1974). However, for an outcome of any observation to be correct, we must have faith in how it was measured. Two further questions arise from this in relation to Psychology as a scientific measure: whether Psychology doe’s mis-measure, and secondly whether, as some propose, Psychology is ordinari... ... middle of paper ... ...en Goldachre. (2011). The statistical error that just keeps on coming. Available: Last accessed 10/12/2011. Hergenhahn, B.R. (2009). Social and Theoretical Psychology: Conceptual and Historical Issues 1. An introduction to the History of Psychology. 1 (1), p1-28. Hewstone, M. Fincham, F. and Foster, J (2005). Psychology. Oxford: The British Psychological Society, and Blackwell Publishing. P3-23. Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioural study of obedience. Journal of abnormal and social Psychology. 67 (4), p371-8. Oppenheimer, R. (1956). Analogy in science. American Psychologist, 1 (11), p127-136. The British Psychological Society. (2010). Promoting excellence in Psychology. Available: Last accessed 10/12/2011. Valenine, E.R. (1992). Psychology as a science. Conceptual issues in Psychology. 2nd (1), p1-7.

In this essay, the author

  • Argues that psychologists are constantly monitoring behaviours that some may perceive as common sense, but for an outcome to be correct, we must have faith in how it was measured.
  • Explains that psychology is a "coalition of specialities", meaning it is multi-disciplinary, and examines whether all parts of the discipline should neatly fit into one view.
  • Explains that metaphysical, theoretical, and methodological assumptions were customarily associated with a science.
  • Explains ben goldachre's the statistical error that just keeps on coming. hergenhahn, b.r., fincham, and foster, j.

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A child Called It by Dave Pelzer

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As Fodor states in his 1997 papers conclusion one must not only attack the generalizations but also the evidence, predictions and then the generalizations don’t actually yield true results. As he simply states, “You have to actually do the science,” (Fodor, 1997. p.162). Once you do this you can clearly see that mental states can be multiply realized in so far that results are logically confirmed. Through examples and explicating why Kim’s conclusion is a fallacy I have shown that Fodor’s conclusion that psychology is a science is valid.

Grey's Anatomy and Notions of Truth

The development of psychology like all other sciences started with great minds debating unknown topics and searching for unknown answers. Early philosophers and psychologists such as Sir Francis Bacon and Charles Darwin took a scientific approach to psychology by introducing the ideas of measurement and biology into the way an indi...

Psychology: Common Sense Terms

In 2003, Cardwell et al (and others) wrote an ‘up to date’ version, and defined Psychology as ‘Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes (the mind) and psychologists are interested in every aspect of behaviour and every type of mental process’ this also focuses on the Behavioural perspective like the definition by John B. Watson, but it also states that psychologists are interested in ‘every type of mental processes’, which covers every other approach to Psychology, and this is where the two definitions differ, but it also gives a greater understanding to what Psychology covers as a whole.

Wilhelm Wuundt And B. Skinner's Differences: The Birth Of Psychology

The birth of psychology was in December of 1879, at Germanys University of Leipzig (Myers, 2014, p.2). In 1960, Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Titchener defines psychology as “the science of mental health” (Myers, 2014, p.4). However, two provocative American psychologists, John Watson and B.F Skinner, redefined psychology in 1920. They redefined psychology as “the scientific study of observable behavior” (Myers, 2014, p.4). The problem arose when psychologists realized people could not observe feeling or thought so they needed to come up with a new definition for psychology. We define psychology today as “the science of behavior and mental processes” (Myers, 2014, p.4). Psychology includes many subfields such as human development, social behavior,

Psychology and William Wundt

William Wundt conceived psychology as a science that could be experimented. His work majored on the concept of voluntarism as a way of coming into terms with psychological problems. Wundt’s ideas of understanding psychological problems explored mental disorders and abnormal behavior, religious beliefs, and pronouncement of the damaged parts of the brain. Through his experiments, he was able to distinguish psychology as a distinct science from other topics. He believed that analyzing consciousness as an individual’s subjective experience of the mind and the world, should inform scientific psychology (Rieber, 2001).

Behaviourist and Biological Approach to Typical Behavior

Psychology comprises of two words originally used by the ‘Greeks’, ‘psyche’, defining the mind, soul or spirit and lastly ‘logos’ being study. Both words define together the ‘study of the mind’. Psychology perspectives evaluate the normal and abnormal behaviour and how persons’ deal with different concepts of issues and problems. Psychology theories’ are based on ‘common sense’, but its scientific structure, everything needs to be evaluated and tested, therefore, promoting different psychological theories’.

What´s Social Psychology?

Social psychology is a scientific-based study which is used to examine and explain how an individual’s thoughts and feelings affect their behaviour within a society; how the members socially interact, including their motives; and what influences these members have on each other. This essay will endeavour to introduce the key psychologists, their theories and the idiographic research they conducted. In particular, it will focus on the features and definition of conformity and the investigations into the views on conformity. Furthermore, it aims to critically analyse and reveal a correlation in the results and conclusions in respect to the current comprehension of human social behaviour.

Greek and Roman Influence in Psychology

Hothersall, David. (1995). History of Psychology. 4th ed. McGraw Hill Co: New York, New York.

Presently, because of the hybrid heritage, psychology is not thought over as one of the social sciences such as sociology, economic science, government science, and cultural anthropology. Psychology is viewed as an ally to the natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, laws of nature, and mathematics (Thornton, 2009). Psychology is also seen as humanities, which are philosophy, human speeches, music and art. Most psychologists join forces on research and other conceptions with intellectuals and scientists in distinctive fields. This adds to the diversity of interests, which can be seen in the modern psychology department.

Structuralism and Functionalism of Psychology

Psychology formerly integrated with the subject philosophy; these two formerly considered as one. Philosophy was the center of all learning but many academicians focus more on mathematics, physics, and biology. By the late 1800s, many philosophers created their own disciplines and the era of modern psychology slowly emerged. They soon began calling themselves psychologist. Authors have varying opinion about the founding fathers of the said science; some traces its roots as far as Aristotle and Plato (Benjafield 1996). Other authors believe that modern psychology started at the introduction of experimental psychology and for this reason, several experimental psychologist were also named the father of psychology including, Wilhelm Wundt and Gustav Fechner (Matson, 2009). However, one thing is for sure about psychology – it originated in Europe and introduced in the United States sometime in the late 1880s. Prior to this period, psychology crosses the realms of the paranormal because many practitioners at that time engaged themselves in psychic healing and spiritual quest. They were known as pseudo-psychologists and they were particularly popular in Germany. At the onset of modern psychology in the United State, the discipline focused more on the academics. American psychologists at that time put more emphasis on teaching rather than engaging themselves in research. It was at this period when several schools of thoughts emerged to explain behavior, cognition, and consciousness. In this paper, two of the earliest school of thoughts will be discussed. These are Structuralism and Functionalism. These two will be compared and contrasted.

Key Perspectives of Psychology

The term psychology has many meanings to different people, even to those who work within the psychological field. The word psychology derives from two Greek roots; 'psyche' refers to 'soul' or 'mind' and logo refers to 'the study of'. A more update definition of the word psychology can be found from Atkinson, et al (1991) “The scientific study of behaviours and mental processes.” However on Google Definitions the definition of psychology is “the mental characteristics and attitudes of a person” [accessed 16 September 2011], which gives somewhat of a contradiction. In this assignment I will be outlining and evaluating four key psychological perspectives. The psychological perspectives I have chosen are the behavioural approach, biological approach, cognitive approach and the psychodynamic approach.

Wilhelm Wundt Contribution To Psychology

Claiming the title of 'Psychologist' Wundt showed that psychology had its own right to be labelled as a scientific discipline separate from those of physiology and philosophy. This was done via 'Voluntarism' the school of thought associated with Wundt and also through 'Introspection'.

Fooling People In Psychology

I have always had an interest in psychology and the idea of evaluating people and their actions. That being said, I have never thought of it as a science. There are examples of people who fool someone in this profession into believing that have some type of disorder, or, that they are basically normal, when the opposite is true. If it were a true science, would you not be able to test them against a constant and know this?

History of Psychology

The word Psychology comes from two Greek words: Psyche and Logos. The term ?psychology? used early on described the study of the spirit. It was in the 18th century when psychology gained its literal meaning: The study of behaviour. In studies today psychology is defined as the scientific and systematic study of human and animal behaviour. The term psychology has a long history but the psychology as an independent discipline is fairly new.

More about Is Psychology a Science?

Is Psychology a True Science? Essay

There is reasonable doubt as to the classification of psychology as a science in the minds of the lay person. This is mostly as a result of the overly simplified and logical manner in which psychology and indeed psychologists are represented by popular media.

As such, psychology is seen to be more of a subjective human-oriented art as opposed to an objective and exact science. This paper shall set out to make a case for psychology as a science. The arguments made by people who do not accept the status of psychology as a science shall also be presented and their due merits evaluated.

Science is defined as knowledge which emanates from factual evidence. This being the case, there are certain features which are fundamental to all sciences and they make up the scientific methods. They include the collecting of quantitative data under controlled conditions, objectivity as opposed to subjectivity and an establishment of general laws and theories after experimentation. An interesting consideration is that this laws apply universally and as such, there is the element of repeatability.

Proponents of psychology as a science contend that psychology uses the stated scientific methods to study both human and non-human behaviors in various settings. Studies such as the genetic theory of IQ involve carefully controlled scientific experiments which are not only objective but are also high reliable and verifiable.

As with other scientific experiment findings, psychology results are produced and made open to the public domain for the interest of furthering science. The findings are also presented over for peer review to ensure their critical analysis. This is in line with the requirements set forth for scientific findings.

There exist theories in the psychology field which have been proven time and time again. This is a concept that is common to science whereby prediction of future events can be made by derivations obtained from experimentation.

An example is the behaviourist theory of operant conditioning which proposes that behavior is learned through reinforcement. Since this theory is objective and quantifiable one can from this theory make predictions about learning. The concept of generalization which is core to science is therefore exhibited in psychology as well.

On the other hand the seeming lack of objectivity in most psychological endevour is advanced as the most common argument advanced by opponents of psychology as a science. This claim is affirmed by the labeling theory of schizophrenia which proposes that schizophrenia is not caused so much by biological factors but rather, diagnosis of the disease is a result of subjective factors. This is because the social construct and reality will play a big role in the diagnosis process therefore presenting psychology as a hugely subjective art.

Science requires that there by measurable concepts meaning that the phenomena should not only be perceivable through our senses but also quantifiable as data. Psychology fails in this count since unobservable behaviour such as feelings play a pivotal role in psychology. This is contrary to the methods of science which dictate that all data must be quantifiable.

This paper set out to reinforce the notion that psychology is a science. In light of the arguments presented in this paper, it can be stated that to some extent, those who propose that psychology is not a science are right in that psychology can never be an exact science given the dynamic nature of the human subject which psychology sets out to examine.

However, most of the other attributes of psychology reinforce the claim that psychology is indeed a fully-fledged science deserving the same merits as physics or any of the other “accepted” sciences. This being the case, we can authoritatively state that psychology is indeed a true science.

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Is Psychology a Science

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Is psychology a science? Discuss using evidence from the five approaches.

To answer this question I feel it is important to understand the definitions of psychology and science. I will start with definitions of the terms psychology and science and will briefly review the methods of psychology. I will outline the behaviourist approach, the psychoanalytical approach, the cognitive approach, the humanistic approach and the biological approach. In order to confirm whether psychology can fulfil the definition of science I will outline the five approaches and use evidence from the approaches to support my findings.

There are numerous definitions for the word psychology, Benson (1998: 5) describes the discipline of psychology as ‘the scientific study of the mind and behaviour of humans and animals’ whereas Hayes (1998: 1) identifies psychology as ‘the study of the mind, the study of behaviour, the study of human information processing’, and the study of ‘why human beings act as they do’. The two descriptions highlight how definitions differ although it is widely agreed that psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour.

As with psychology there a various definitions for the term science, however they all appear to be based on creating theories or explanations which rely on evidence. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia (2005) includes a number of definitions, firstly stating that science is the ‘study of the physical world and its manifestations, by using observation and experiment’, secondly describing science as ‘something studied or performed methodically’ and finally as ‘any activity that is the object of careful study or that is carried out according to a developed method’. In order to consider whether psychology fits the definition of science one must take into consideration that due to the nature of psychology, psychologists use research methods as well as experiments to identify the cause and effect. The two main aspects of methodology which Benson (1998: 11) identifies are ‘practical’ and ‘philosophical’.  

The behaviourist approach to psychology (founded by J.B. Watson in 1913) relies on direct observations of behavioural reactions and responses. Watson believed that observations were a key part of psychology as they could be witnessed by others and ‘were not open to subjective bias and distortion’ (Hayes, 1998: 3). Behaviourists believe that humans and animals learn behaviour in accordance with their environment, either by stimulus response association or through reinforcement.

Two key contributors to the behaviourist approach were Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner with theory of classical conditioning and operant conditioning theory. Classical conditioning was first demonstrated by Ivan Pavlov in 1927 as he observed that critical association occurs when one environmental effect predicts the occurrence of another. An example of this is the classical study of how dogs in a laboratory were conditioned to salivate without food. Pavlov found that the dogs salivated when they saw feeding assistants coming with the vessel containing the food (Hayes, 1998). As Hayes (1998: 4) states ‘salivation should only have been a response to the food itself, Pavlov reasoned that the dogs must have learned that association’. Hayes (1998:4) also notes how Pavlov found that by ringing a bell each time the dogs were fed ‘a new association could be formed between stimuli and responses – even responses which were not automatic reflexes’. The research undertaken by Pavlov identified three influencing factors regarding conditioning which are contiguity, frequency and reinforcement.

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As the behaviourist approach developed the work of B. F. Skinner identified the theory of operant conditioning which is also known as ‘stimulus response associations through the method of learning’ (Hayes, 1998: 4). Skinner showed through experimenting with rats, that if the rat was rewarded for doing a certain action it would be more likely to repeat the action. Skinner believed the same method could be used to build new actions when done gradually, a process known as behaviour shaping or behaviour modification.

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The psychoanalytical approach focuses on how psychological problems could be understood and dates back to when Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) began his research. Freud used the term psychoanalysis to describe his techniques and theories in relation to finding and curing mental problems of his patients.

Not just concerned with mental disorders he also attempted to produce a set of theories to explain all human behaviour. According to Benson (1998: 48) Freud never achieved his goal of ‘One Grand Theory’ although there are some significant aspects to Freud’s theory. Firstly, the Conscious, Pre Conscious and Unconscious Mind, Freud describes this theory using the analogy of an iceberg. Benson (1998: 49) describes the Conscious as the top one seventh of the ice berg as ‘the awareness we have when we are awake’. The Pre Conscious or the boundary contains memories of dreams and Benson (1998: 49) refers to ‘slips of the tongue’ giving clues about thoughts and actions that appear in the Unconscious. The Unconscious is the remaining six sevenths of the iceberg and is explained by Benson (1998: 49) as ‘containing secret wishes and fears; traumatic memories of the past’. Freud believed that all thoughts in the Unconscious were completely hidden and inaccessible to us.  

A further theory of Freud’s was that of Id, Ego and Super Ego. Freud believed the mind was made up of three parts, the Id developed at birth as the pleasure principle. From the age of two the next part of the mind to develop is the Ego which is the reality principle. The Super Ego is developed from the age of three and is influenced by parents or guardians. Freud believed that the Id and Ego stages are selfish whereas Super Ego considers others.

Freud also developed a theory of Psychosexual Development, he described the five stages as Oral (0-2 years), Anal (2-3 years), Phallic (3-6 years), Latent (6-11 years) and Genital (11+ years).

Freud developed methods to unconsciously protect a person from having unpleasant thoughts. These are referred to as regression, repression, displacement and sublimation. Benson (1998: 58) describes regression as ‘going back to an earlier stage’, repression as ‘pushing down unwanted ideas to the unconscious and keeping them there’, displacement as diverting energy (libido) into another activity’ and sublimation as healthy displacement. Benson (1998: 58).

Freud’s evidence was based on the experiences he gained from sessions with his patients which he then wrote up as case studies. His theories have been adapted by analysts, therapists and psychiatrists such as Alder (1870-1937), Jung (1875-1961) and Erikson (1902-1994). Although Freud’s work has had a great effect on modern societies in psychology Freud is classed as highly controversial. Popper (1959) classed Freud’s work as unscientific as the theories were not falsifiable. He proposed that for a theory to be scientific it must be possible to show evidence that the theory is false. An example of this provided by Benson is Freud’s dream interpretation concept, as this could not be proved or disproved Popper argued the theory was not scientific as it could not be falsified (Benson, 1998).  

The cognitive approach has developed greatly since the work of Donald Broadbent during the 1950’s. The cognitive approach focuses on the way the brain processes information. As Heffernan (2000: 16) discussed ‘hypothetical

Constructs or models are used to develop knowledge and test predictions and psychological phenomena’. Cognitive psychologists use concepts from computer science to generate theories and computational models to account for the results of carefully controlled experiments designed to investigate cognitive capabilities and limitations. The main aim of cognitive psychology is to devise a unified, scientific theory of cognition.

The humanistic approach began with the work Abraham Maslow and

Carl Rogers. Humanistic psychologists focus on free will and personal choice and believe in the theory that every individual has the potential within them to achieve a greater level of functioning.

Maslow (1908 -1970) is often referred to as the founder of humanistic psychology with his belief that an individual strives to reach self actualisation as illustrated in his ‘hierarchy of needs’ theory. Author Thomas Heffernan describes the term self actualisation as:

the idea that people attempt to fulfil themselves

to their highest possible level of achievement

in their personal life, work life, etcetera    

(Heffernan, 2000: 10)

Although reaching self actualisation is Maslow’s belief he also believed that few individuals ever get there. However, Maslow did maintain that there were five classes of needs ascending to self actualisation as displayed in his hierarchy of needs diagram. He defined the lowest level of needs as physiological which according to Heffernan (2000: 11) are basic needs such as food and water and ‘once these needs are satisfied, she or he can strive to achieve their next class of needs’. The second level of needs is shown on the diagram as safety and refers to having a safe and secure childhood through to adulthood. The third need is that of love and belonging and Heffernan (2000: 11) refers to this need as ‘feeling that one belongs somewhere and loved by others’. The fourth need is esteem and is described by Heffernan (2000: 11) as ‘the need to be respected by others’. Heffernan (2000: 11) states that only when an individual reaches this level and fulfils their needs at this level does he or she ‘become self actualised’.

The biological approach is the only perspective in psychology that examines thoughts, emotions and behaviour from a medical point of view. Therefore, biological psychologists have developed a great understanding of how the nervous system operates, how the brain functions and how artificial stimulants can have an impact on physiology and thus impacting on behaviour. The biological approach believes that a person becomes ill (psychologically or medically) through disease, accident or because of genetic or physiological damage.

Charles Darwin’s work had a great influence on this approach and one development that emerged from Darwin was his theory of evolution, defined by Heffernan (2000: 7) as determining social behaviour by ‘biological factors and gene survival’. Although the biological approach has had a positive impact on conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety, other behavioural or cognitive factors can lead to psychopathology without a clear ‘biological determinant’ (Heffernan, 2000: 8)

The biomedical model of abnormality is an example of how the biological approach has had an impact on the study of humans. The following quote highlights the problem with such a restricted approach:

The biomedical approach assumes that abnormality is an illness that exists within the body, as opposed, for example, to the idea that society is the cause of abnormality. (Heffernan, 2000: 7)  

As the above quote highlights, the biological approach directs itself towards the nature side of the ‘nature–nurture’ debate and not the nurture side.  

To conclude I will summarise the five approaches, the psychoanalytical approach  believes that behaviour is a result of unconscious processes and early childhood experiences. Its methodology relies heavily on interpreting patient discussions, dreams and fantasies, case studies and little experimentation. The behaviourist approach believes that behaviour is learned and selected by environmental consequences. The research relies very much on laboratory experiments where the factors studied can be controlled. Data collection can also take place in an everyday environment where more natural behaviour is studied and far more variables exist. The cognitive approach believes that behaviour is a result of information processing, storage in the brain, transformation and the retrieval of information. The methods of collecting data are experimentation but with much use of computer modelling. The humanistic approach is concerned with person centred counselling whereas the biological approach is the only perspective in psychology that examines behaviour from a medical point of view. Of the five approaches discussed, each approach has similarities to the traditional sciences and all undertake controlled experiments not unlike the traditional sciences, for example the cognitive approach and the use of computer modelling.      

Although every psychological experiment and theory is evaluated with the same level of detail, the approaches do not go without being criticised. The cognitive approach was criticised in the early years because it heavily relied on laboratory experiments. However these days it contrasts well with the humanistic approach as research is undertaken in the laboratory and in field studies. It must be noted that humanistic psychology has in the past been criticised due to the fact that it cannot be tested via a scientific method. In comparison the behaviourist approach is often criticised as a study of humans as not enough emphasis is placed on the role of other factors when determining a person’s behaviour, such as the cognitive processes that can lead to a certain type of behaviour. The biological approach is criticised for not taking into account the fact that societal or environmental factors may cause illness that can affect behaviour. An example of this discussed by Heffernan (2000: 7) is that ‘behavioural and cognitive factors (such as direct negative experience or irrational thoughts) can lead to psychopathology, without any clear biological determinant’.

I feel I have shown sufficient evidence to confirm that psychology fulfils the definition of science. I believe each approach adds to the successful study of the psychology whether as an individual approach or combined approach. I have highlighted positive and negative aspects of each perspective and feel I have shown that psychologists use scientific methods in an attempt to predict, change and improve behaviour in addition to evaluating treatment strategies.


Hayes, N. (1998) Foundations of Psychology. An Introductory Text (Second Edition)

London: Routledge

Benson, N. (1998) Introducing Psychology.

Cambridge: Icon Books

Heffernan, T. (2000) A Student’s Guide to Studying Psychology (Second Edition)

London: Psychology Press Ltd.

Huffman, K. (2006) Living Psychology

London: Wiley & Son

Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia Standard Edition (2005)

Is Psychology a Science

Document Details

  • Word Count 2266
  • Page Count 11
  • Level University Degree
  • Subject Miscellaneous

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