why is psychology not considered a science
In assessing psychology as non-science I am not dismissing its usefulness. While I have also claimed that
and are not sciences, it would be ludicrous of me to say that they are useless. Until we scientifically understand the material basis of the mind the brain, its billions of neurons, and the electrochemical processes that take place among them psychological and psychiatric therapies are our only hope of treating mental illness. Social investigators should not be offended if they are not called scientists. Many human endeavors are necessary and useful even though their practitioners are not labeled scientists. No musician, artist, or poet is expected to be called a scientist even though their discipline is indispensable for human intellect and pleasure. Psychology started as the discipline that studied the mind. , considered the father of psychology, created the field of experimental psychology in 1879 in a laboratory devoted exclusively to psychological research. that psychology is too young to be dismissed as a science.
After all, it has been only 135 years since Wundt created the field. So, let s compare the progress in physics in its first 135 years with that of psychology. One can argue that physics started with the publication of Newton s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in 1687. Add 135 years to this and you get 1822. I ll simply list some of the most important discoveries in physics that occurred prior to 1822: the universal gravitational constant was accurately measured, making it possible for physicists to weigh the earth and the sun. connection between electricity and magnetism was discovered and initial mathematical formulation of electromagnetic theory was made. Each new discovery is heavily dependent on some of the discoveries made earlier. Physics is an unbroken chain of discoveries, each link held tightly to the previous and next links. This cannot be said about psychology.
Wundt and his student believed in, which is based on the notion of introspection: self-reports of sensations, views, feelings, emotions, etc. No sooner had structuralism been created than another school of psychological thought came into being called, with the specific purpose of breaking the link to structuralism. There are now over thirty some of which advocate ideas which are 180 degrees away from some others! Some psychologists even admit that. This medley of contradictory even pseudo-scientific ideas in and of itself should prove that psychology is not a science. Nevertheless, as an exercise in the application of the list of the, I ll examine if psychology passes any of those characteristics. That's right. Psychology isn't science. Why can we definitively say that? Because psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability.
Happiness research is a great example of why psychology isn't science. How exactly should "happiness" be defined? The meaning of that word differs from person to person and especially between cultures. What makes Americans happy doesn't necessarily make Chinese people happy. How does one measure happiness? Psychologists can't use a ruler or a microscope, so they invent an arbitrary scale. Today, personally, I'm feeling about a 3. 7 out of 5. How about you? The failure to meet the first two requirements of scientific rigor (clear terminology and quantifiability) makes it almost impossible for happiness research to meet the other three. How can an experiment be consistently reproducible or provide any useful predictions if the basic terms are vague and unquantifiable? And when exactly has there ever been a reliable prediction made about human behavior? Making useful predictions is a vital part of the scientific process, but psychology has a dismal record in this regard.
Just ask a foreign policy or intelligence analyst. To be fair, not all psychology research is equally wishy-washy. Some research is far more scientifically rigorous. And the field often yields interesting and important insights. But to claim it is "science" is inaccurate. Actually, it's worse than that. It's an attempt to redefine science. Science, redefined, is no longer the empirical analysis of the natural world; instead, it is any topic that sprinkles a few numbers around. This is dangerous because, under such a loose definition, anything can qualify as science. And when anything qualifies as science, science can no longer claim to have a unique grasp on secular truth. That's why scientists dismiss psychologists. They're rightfully defending their intellectual turf. ALSO: Alex B. Berezow is the editor of, where this piece. He has a doctorate in microbiology.
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