Psychology as a science

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Introduction, scientific research and goals

  • Psychology is often described as 'the science of behaviour and experience'. Method used to gain scientif knowledge is known as the scientific method. However, there is a debate whether psychology can be seen as a true science.
  • Psychology aims to have scientific research. People demand proof for claims - e.g. men mroe aggressive than women and ECT cures depression. Due to this early psychologists created a science of psychology in order to produce variable knowledge to distinct from commensense.
  • Psychology shares goeals of all other sciences and uses the SM. Many psychologists createmodels that can be flasified and tested in controlled environments. 
  • However, debate of whether using the SM turns psychology into a science. Miller (1983) suggests psychologists who attempt to be scientists are doing no more than 'dressing up'. Claimed that it would be best to describe psychology as a psuedoscience. However many psychologys claim that their discoveries are fact.
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Levels, paradigm and objectivity.

  • Psychology a science on some levels. Levels explanation comes from the idea of reductionism. Argued that lower levels fo psychology are scientific, e.g. genetics and behaviourist explanations. But higher more complex levels of psychology are not scientific, e.g. psychological and social expanations - require more holistic view of human behvaiour.
  • However, if lower levels are taken in isolation then the meaning of behaviour may be overlooked, leading to fundamental errors of understadning. E.g. prescribing ritalin to hyperactive children because their behaviour is considered biological in origin may miss the real causes of the behaviour (e.g. family or emotional problems).
  • Kuhn (1962) claimed psychology is not a scinece as there is no single paradigm. Other sciences, e.g. biology, has a unified set of assumptions whereas psychology had a number of paradigms or approaches (biological, ocgnitive, behaviourist). Kuhn suggested psychology was a pre-science. This is an issue as psychologists may claim their discoveries are fact when they may not be. E.g. if people are led to believe that cognitive-behaviour therapies work, they will use them, but such therapies may be no better than just having somone to talk to.
  • Psychology lacks objectivity and control. The object of the study reacts to the researcher and this leads to problems such as experimenter bias and demand characteristics which compromise validity. However, similar has happened to other sciences. Heisenberg (19227) - not possible to measure a subatomic particle without altering its behaviour in doing the experiment.
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