Is psychology a science?
Science is about establishing truths
Scientific research should be objective – independent of beliefs or opinions. So, the methods used should be empirical – based on experimental data, not just theory. The best way to make sure of this is to carry out an experiment that collects quantitative data and has strictly controlled variables. This means that you should be able to establish cause and effect.
However, it’s hard to make an experiment completely objective. Rosenthal and Frode (1963) showed this in an experiment on psychology undergraduates. They were told to train some rats to run a maze, and that some of the rats were genetically pre-disposed to be better at learning than others. Actually there was no difference between any of the rats, but the students’ results showed that the supposedly more intelligent rats did better in the maze task. This shows how researchers can bring their own biases and expectations to an experiment.
Scientific Theories Should Have Validity and Reliability
All scientific work must undergo peer review before it’s published – it’s sent to experts in the field (peers) so they can assess its quality. Poor research won’t pass peer review so it won’t get published. This helps to validate conclusions – it means published theories, data and conclusions are more trustworthy. Other scientists then read the published research and try to repeat it. This tests whether the theory is reliable. If it is, then the results should be replicated every time the experiment is done – this shows that the findings aren’t affected by time or place. If the replica experiments provide evidence to back it up, the theory is thought of as scientific “fact” (for now).
If new evidence comes to light that conflicts with the current evidence the theory is questioned again. More rounds of testing will be carried out to see with evidence, and so which theory, prevails.
Popper (1969) argued that theories should be falsifiable
Popper (1969) argues that theories are abstract, so it’s impossible to prove them right through empirical research. Instead he claimed that a theory is scientific if it’s falsifiable – if it can be proved wrong. So, every test of a theory should be an attempt to falsify it. If a theory is not falsifiable it is described as non-scientific. An example is Freud’s theory of schizophrenia as a defence mechanism; you can’t prove it wrong because it’s based on the unconscious mind.
Kuhn (1962) argued that a science should have a paradigm
To be a science, a subject should have some basic key assumptions…