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  • Created on: 16-06-12 15:56
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Psychology as Science
a) What is meant by a science? (3m)
b) Discuss the status of psychology as a Science? (22m)
A science consists of various elements, including: theories and hypothesis, prediction and
falsifiability, as well as using scientific methodology and providing understanding. For a discipline to
be classed as a science there needs to be an agreement about the subject matter being studied, the
main assumptions, the method of study and clear terminology. Kuhn (1962) used the term paradigm
to describe this and stated science progresses from having no paradigm through to sharing a
paradigm to be paradigm shift.
One argument against the notion that psychology is a science comes from Kuhn who argues that
psychology has no accepted paradigm because there are so many conflicting approaches within the
subject. For example, if we take causes of aggression, Biological psychologist suggest the behaviour
is inherited through the passing on of aggressive genes, or due to an increase in testosterone levels
in the body. Behaviourist psychologists on the other hand suggest aggression is learnt though
observation and imitation of aggressive behaviour of unconscious desires, whereas cognitive
psychologists suggest aggression is caused by irrational thoughts. This is problem as psychologists
may claim their discoveries as face and this could be problematic. For example, claiming CBT is an
effective treatment will make people use the therapy which may not be true in cases.
However one weakness it that psychology may have yet to identify it own paradigm, i.e. it's a pre
science. This should not detract from the use of scientific methods in psychology.
One argument that favours psychology as a science is that psychology shares similar goals with
science and uses scientific method in much of it research. For example, Pavlov's dogs aimed to see if
the dogs could learn to association a new response to a stimulus. Therefore, as most psychologists
create theories that can be falsified using controlled experiments, psychology should be considered
However one weakness is that not all psychological approaches use the scientific methods to
conduct research. There is also the question of whether simply using a scientific method makes
psychology a science. Miller (1983) suggests psychologists who use the tool of science are simply
`dressing up' and that psychology is a pseudoscience.
A further argument against the idea that psychology is a science is that psychology is a science is that
psychology is not always objective and controlled in its approach to research. Some psychologist
claim to measure behaviour can be objectively. For example, the biological approach, behaviourist
approach and the cognitive approach all favour the objective method of laboratory experiments as
their main technique for testing behaviour. However the extent to which these methods are truly
objective can be questioned due to issues such as researcher bias and demand characteristics.
One weakness is that the same can be said for hard science. Heisenburg (1927) argued that it is not
possible to measure a subatomic particle without altering behaviour. The uncertainty principle is
similar in many ways to the idea of experimenter.

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Another argument in favour of the status of psychology as a science is that the key features if science
is that theories should provide a clear understanding of human behaviour. For example, the biological
approach has given great insight into the cause of life altering disorders such as schizophrenia and
depression by creating clear and testable theories on chemical imbalances and genetic faults i.e.
increase in dopamine levels appear to exist in schizophrenics and twin studies reveal a genetic
pre-disposition for unipolar depression.…read more


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