Is Psychology a Science?

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In order to answer this question it is important to understand the
definitions of both psychology and science. The word ‘psychology’ comes
from the Greek ‘psyche’ (or soul) and ‘logos’ (or study), which came to be
known as the ‘study of the soul’. The American Heritage Dictionary defines
psychology as:
1. the science dealing with the mind and with mental and emotional
2. the science of human and animal behavior.

In its pure definition the dictionary has provided us with a clue to the
answer, it describes science as:
1. systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, etc.

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2. a branch of knowledge, esp. one that systematizes facts, principles, and
3. skill or technique
In order to prove this claim we have to look at whether or not psychology
can fill this definition above.

Scientific study is a valid way of coming to an understanding of life, and
can be very useful in every area of life. Science develops theories based
on what is observed. It examines each theory with rigorous and scrupulous
tests to see if it describes reality. The scientific method works well in
observing and recording physical data and in reaching conclusions which
either confirm or nullify a theory.
During the mid-19th century, scholars (although at that time probably
termed philosophers) wanted to study human nature with the aim of applying
the scientific method to observe, record, and treat human behavior that was
deemed as unnatural. They believed that if people could be studied in a
scientific manner, there would be a greater accuracy in understanding
present behavior, in predicting future behavior, and, most controversially,
in altering behavior through scientific intervention.
There are many areas of psychology, each attempting to explain behavior
from slightly different perspectives;
Social psychology is concerned with the effects of social situations on
human behavior.

Personality theorists study individual behavior.

Comparative psychologists study animal behaviors across the range of
Physiological psychologists are concerned with the biological basis of

Developmental psychologists study principles and processes responsible for
change throughout life.
Cognitive psychologists investigate memory, thought, problem solving, and
the psychological aspects of learning.
Analysis of behavior studies the conditions under which a behavior can be
learned and the situations that cause that behavior to occur.
Learning is an area of psychology exploring how new behaviors are learned
and maintained.
Clinical psychologists study ways to help individuals and groups of
individuals change their behavior.
Industrial and organizational psychologists are concerned with the physical
and social aspects of people’s work environments as they affect work
Community psychologists use scientific methods to study and solve social

As Western describes, the psychological paradigm is a collection of
assumptions used to make sense of a subject area or experience, this can be
applied to psychology itself. Psychology lacks one unified paradigm but
has four perspectives that search for its understanding;
The pyschodynamic perspective believes that behavior is a result of
unconscious processes, personal motivation and early childhood experiences.

It’s most famous advocate was Sigmund Freud. Its method of data
collection rely heavily on interpreting discussion, dreams and fantasies,
actions, case studies and a limited amount of experimentation.

The behaviorist perspective believes that behavior is learned and selected
by environmental consequences. Its method of data collection relies
heavily on experimentation conducted in the scientific laboratory where the
factors studied can be controlled; or it may take place in a real life
setting where more natural behavior is studied and far more variables

The cognitive perspective believes that behavior is a result of information
processing, storage in the brain, transformation and the retrieval of
information. The methods of data collection used are again experimentation
but with much use of computer modeling.

The evolutionary perspective believes that psychological processes echo the
evolutionary processes of natural selection. Its method of data collection
includes the deduction of explanations for behavior, and comparisons
between species and cultures. It also involves a limited amount of

Of these four perspectives all lend common similarities to the traditional
sciences. All have elements of controlled experimentation, as does physics
or chemistry. Cognitive perspectives use computer modeling, as does
mathematics. There are similarities, but there are also differences to any
other sciences, such as the study of dreams and fantasies.

The methods of experimentation and research in psychology is completed on a
scientific basis. Psychological experimental research would involve the
manipulation of a situation to examine the way in which the subjects of an
experiment react, in order to observe cause and effect. The experimenter
manipulates independent variables and the subjects responses would prove
the dependant variables. By measuring the subjects responses, the
experimenter can tell if the manipulation has


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