Psychology as a science.

  • Created by: georgina
  • Created on: 13-05-13 14:31

What is meant by the term 'science'?

Science aims to gain knowledge through objective investigation it uses measurable variables to discover natural laws in order to predict and control the world.

There are two types hard science and soft science, hard science is seen as the more scientific approach referring to physics, chemistry and astronomy, soft sciences are psychology, sociology and ecology.

 e.g.   Asch used a lab experiment to investigate conformity. He controlled variables and  ensured that it was as scientific as possible.

 Gardner & Gardnerused strict criteria to ensure that they measured the acquisition of language objectively.

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Empirical Evidence

-strengthens credibility of psychology as a true science,

e.g. The use of MRI scans to define specific areas of the brain for particular behaviours -Sheline found depressed women have a reduced hippocampus- a part of the brain linked to memory and levels of cortisol.

-however this could be a problem for evolutionary theories,

e.g.concepts such as fear of dangerous animals is passed down generations- BLM

-there is some evidence to support this...

e.g. Cook and Mineka who found that monkey who were shown a video of a monkey acting fearful of a toy snake, imitated this behaviour however did not when done with a flower.

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Shares similar goals

using similar goals to other sciences

most models create an hypothesis and can be falsified and well controlled experiments can be done to test these.


just because its falsifiable and you can conduct experiments does not mean that this is proof of their discoveries.

therefore it can be seen as a pseudoscience

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Demand Characteristics

Psychologist claim that behaviour can be measured objectively like the measurement of objects

The subject matter of a psychological study is a human and they can easily influence the outcome of an experiment

e.g. BLM- males may want to seem less afraid due to social desirability as they feel that they should not feel the way they do so answer in a way that is not valid.

can argue that natural experiments deal with demand characteristics however then we have the issue of reliabilityas it is diffucult to exactly replicate a study

e.g. Rosenhan as the DSM has changed

Langer & Rodins participants are all dead now so that set of individuals can not be retested.

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Kuhn claims that psychology can be a science if it commits to one paradigm however psychology has many e.g. psychodynamic, humanistic, evolutionary...

no single paradigm = no unifying paradigm

psychology also tends to shift paradigms according to the current fashion

If psychologist believed their findings were fact when they weren't this could be dangerous as we would believe that a treatment was working when it wasn't.

Even is psychology is not classed a science due to it not have a unifying paradigm, it does not mean that we can't use the scientific method in areas of research 

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Psychology can be regarded like a science as it uses reductionism to explore behaviour by reducing complex phenomena to simple variables in order to study causal relationships. This refers to the "lower levels" of psychology e.g. physiological, gentic.. a.k.a. hard science.

e.g. Schizophrenia can be explained in terms of family interventions where the family are blamed for the disorder, reducing the complexity of schizophrenia to one explanation

This can be a problem as it overlooks the "higher levels" which are not scientific but take a more holistic approach of human behaviour.

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