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Is Psychology a real science?

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by CaptainNobody, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. CaptainNobody

    CaptainNobody Member

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    Science as we understand it today is a systematic organization that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of hypotheses and testable explanations about the observable world. Is there too much subjectivity in psychology to make it a formal science?

    Psychology often lacks the precision and rigorousness of other sciences, such as mathematics or physics. According the the L.A. Times:

     
  2. crossfire

    crossfire Antinomian feminist heretic freak ☿
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    Using those criteria, you can just as easily say Jane Goodall's fieldwork isn't "real science."
     
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  3. Gjallarhorn

    Gjallarhorn N'yog-Sothep

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    It's hard to be objective when dealing with something as complex as the human mind. Couple that with the board of ethics and you're not going to get many "objective" results that don't involve socially unacceptable action.
     
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  4. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Misanthropic Humanist

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    In my experience, it seems to be largely a matter of scientifically-minded people not going into the field of psychology, or studying psychology. There certainly doesn't seem to be any objective barrier to it becoming more scientific though.
     
  5. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Most of psychology isn't scientific, despite a strong political desire to be recognized as such.

    Some of it is, though. Mainly the behaviorist school.
     
  6. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    Those who think the social sciences lack precision and rigor haven't done much study of it. Either that, or they're conflating the popular version of these sciences with the actual science done by actual social scientists.

    The only place I'd note that the social sciences differ significantly is that their overarching theories tend to be non-falsifiable. That, and given the subjects, most studies are necessarily correlational rather than causatory because we do not allow the kinds of research that would allow causal demonstration on ethical grounds.
     
  7. Nehustan

    Nehustan Well-Known Member

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    I guess you're talking about social psychology, because biological psychology/neurobiology is a 'hard science'...
     
  8. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I agree with that.
     
  9. Nehustan

    Nehustan Well-Known Member

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    To be honest, so long as psychology adheres to the scientific method then it's science.

    Hypothesis>Observation>Falsifiable Theory.
     
  10. dust1n

    dust1n Zindīq

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    All sciences have innate problems... whether we are talking ethics or physics, we must continue to be as rigorous as we can when examining knowledge. Science has a long way to go, but that is sort of the beauty of it... science is "that way to go" and it will certainly outlive us and benefit the future, as long as stay we all rigorous in our assessments and understanding as much as possible.
     
  11. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    It's just guesswork. Might as well go to the craps table.
     
  12. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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  13. idav

    idav Being
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    Humans can be predictable for the most part. Of course there will be anamolies but most everything is testable one way or another even in complex social paradigms.
     
  14. CaptainNobody

    CaptainNobody Member

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    Even "practical" clinical psychology involves a lot of interpretation and guesswork, far beyond what one normally sees in say, physics or chemistry. For instance "personality testing" and "clinical interviews" are largely based on over-generalizations and speculation.
     
  15. LegionOnomaMoi

    LegionOnomaMoi Veteran Member
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    It isn't. For the best example: the oldest and most "science" science (physics) has, as one of its greatest achievements, demonstrated that the foundation of reality is unobservable.

    You treat psychology rather singularly. Psychologists work in fields like Human-Computer Interactions, computational intelligence, neuroscience, cognitive neuropsychology, social psychology, neurology, and a great deal more. I've been an ardent critic of many branches of psychology for some time, but that has nothing to do with the field. The same issues that caused such as stir with the hockey-stick graph are ubiquitous within social and behavioral sciences because it is too easy to feed data into some modelling or statistical package and obtain results (even if they're garbage).

    Psychiatry, on the other hand, performed one of the most successful hostile takeovers in business history. When the medical sciences barely recognized psychiatry as science, when insurance companies were pushing psychiatrists for some way of classifying what was a medical illness and what wasn't, and when therapists without medical training were claiming that, as psychiatry wasn't medicine, there was no reason for its privileged position, the DSM III came out of nowhere. Now, all mental disorders are distinct illnesses because psychiatrists said so. It's completely inaccurate, and it has successfully impeded scientific understanding of mental states, disorders, and diseases, but it did keep psychiatry in business.

    Are there a slew of studies published by psychologists that are employ bad methods to get corrupted data which is then subjected to improper statistical analysis? Yes. The same is true within psychiatry , economics, the many fields subsumed under climate science, cosmology, the many fields subsumed under sociology, behavioral genetics, and more.

    Mathematics is no longer really considered a science. For a very long time it was, and the ultimate goal was to come up with the axioms necessary to derive any and all mathematical statements. That was already ending by the time Gödel sealed the coffin. As for the other sciences, what are they? The two largest areas of research in physics are quantum physics and realistic physics, and they contradict one another. There is as yet no agreed unifying solution to them. While physicists have made tremendous progress dealing with non-biological systems, physicists working within the life sciences have not done the same. We have just recently been able to create full models of simple cells. Ecosystem models not only disagree from one another but what the methodology should be.

    The "end of reductionism", which had by the late 19th century at the latest become the approach to scientific issues, came to a grinding halt because of physics, and it was within physics that the first and most convincing arguments against the 19th century empirical reductionism as an adequate approach in and of itself may be found.

    If you are talking only about clinical psychology, then you should be talking about why psychiatry isn't a science.
     
    #15 LegionOnomaMoi, Jun 20, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
  16. StarryNightshade

    StarryNightshade Aspiring Progressive Orthodox Jew
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    As a psychology major I will say...probably not.

    While there is (for the most part) objectivity in Psychology; when dealing with something as complex as the human mind, some bias and subjectivity will emerge.
     
  17. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
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    Psychology in all forms is a hard science when practiced as such. But
    because it has a touchy feely element, its practice can be less so by some.
    I find research in it fascinating.
     
  18. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    Pysch major too...snap!

    Erm. I actually think it is a science. But I will admit to it being softer than some of the other sciences. I think of it like this;

    1) It's a bit more immature. Medical science, for comparison, involved a lot of...well...less than scientific activities in it's formative years. I think psychology can be fairly considered a less advanced science, in terms of it's evolution (for want of a better word)

    2) Ethics has a major impact on studies in many areas of psychology, particularly social and behavioral psychology. I was reading about how much the Black Plague assisted medical research due to the abundance of cadavers. We're unlikely to get a sudden influx of healthy minds to experiment and test.

    3) If scientific methods are being followed, it's a science. There can be badly performed experiments, and non-scientific research, but it doesn't change the overarching statement that it's a science.

    4) When I was teaching, I was given control of the science budget for the school, since I was considered a science major. Surely this is compelling?? Ahem...
     
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  19. StarryNightshade

    StarryNightshade Aspiring Progressive Orthodox Jew
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    Yep. Psych majors for the win! :D

    It's weird. At my school, Psychology is under a Bachelors in Art curriculum and not a Bachelors in Science.
     
  20. Penumbra

    Penumbra Veteran Member
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    Neuroscience is real science.

    Psychology has scientific elements to it, but as was described in the OP, it lacks a lot compared to hard sciences.
     
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