Discuss the Extent to Which Psychology Is a Science Essay Sample
Science is a discipline in which we objectively obtain data and organise them into theories. All sciences follow a process when investigating anything scientific. First of all, inductive reasoning takes place whereby the investigator focuses on the science/concept and the general aspects around it. Secondly, a generalisation is made about the concept being investigated and hypotheses are formed. Next, deductive reasoning takes place whereby the subject matter is tested and is either verified or falsified. Taking all this into account, a science is generally characterised by the fact that it is supposed to our objectiveness and the variables we are investigating can be testable among others (peer reviewing etc).
A second argument that could be used as either for or against psychology as a science is the process of manipulating variables. In normal sciences, for example, chemistry and physics, variables are obviously established when carrying out research e.g. voltage, amps and grams etc. However, when psychologists investigate areas, they cannot establish such things. For example, if they are looking at stress, they may find indirect variables, such as sweat, but they cannot firmly say that this is a direct variable linked to stressful situations. This in turn poses complications when regarding psychology as a science as it is more difficult to establish cause and effect.
However, to some extent, psychology can establish causality. In the behavioural, biological and cognitive approaches, lab experiments are often used and so they can establish causality in their highly controlled conditions. Although, psychodynamic theorists raise problems when they are investigating as they mainly use case studies and focus on aspects such as the ‘unconscious mind’. This means causality cannot be properly established even when lab experiments are used. Lab experiments lack ecological validity and can create demand characteristics (whereby the participants think they know how the investigator wants them to act, and acts accordingly). Psychology is full of theory which attempts to explain certain occurrences for example there are several theories for the causation of Schizophrenia, one is that it comes from a biological causation in the same way that a physical illness would another theory is the dopamine hypothesis. Problems arise when trying to test these hypotheses as to carry out a scientific test the thing being tested needs to be observable and behaviours such as motivation are hypothetical constructs, which cannot be observed. Some theories are not falsifiable such as Freud’s dream theory and this casts doubt on the classification of psychology as a science.
Another argument that can be used to show whether psychology is a science is its use of theory. Major sciences have paradigms, which are general theories that consist of many smaller theories, such as physic’s theory of relativity. However, Psychology lacks a paradigm as there is no common goal or perspective as there are five different approaches (e.g. biological, psychodynamic, cognitive etc), which interpret information and devise hypotheses differently. Thomas Kuhn (1962) claimed that psychology is a ‘pre-science’. By this he meant that psychology does not have paradigms as it contains different levels of explanations and so it cannot be assumed to be a science.
Overall, there are both arguments for and against psychology as a science. However, on the whole, the type of experiment used to investigate such variables will establish, to a certain extent, whether psychology is a science. As science is defined as ‘objectively obtaining data and organising it into theories’, I believe that psychologists, on the whole, maybe with the exceptions of psychodynamic and certain cognitive theorists, can establish this.