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Essay on Is Psychology a Science?

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The British Psychological Society states that ‘Psychology is the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour’ (BPS). In this essay I will be discussing what is actually meant by this and whether psychology fits into both the traditional views of a science, as well as more contemporary perspectives. It is widely suggested that Psychology is a “coalition of specialities” meaning it is multi-disciplinary (Hewstone, Fincham and Foster 2005, page 4). I will therefore examine whether it could be considered wrong to think that all parts of the discipline should neatly fit into one view of a scientific approach.
In order to be considered a science, Psychology must consequently adhere to using a scientific method. If this were, as usual, taken to mean the accumulation of knowledge through systematic observation or experimentation, Psychology would likely not have an issue in being recognised, however traditional views of a science mean most areas, with the exception of Behaviourism, would not be considered a science in their own right.
In terms of a traditional science, one key point is empiricism: a reliance on observations of behaviours instead of our logical reasoning, to further aid explanations of why humans act in certain ways (Valentine, 1992:5). In this way Psychology could be considered a science as psychologists are constantly monitoring behaviours some may perceive as common sense, for example Milgram’s study into obedience (1974). However, for an outcome of any observation to be correct, we must have faith in how it was measured. Two further questions arise from this in relation to Psychology as a scientific measure: whether Psychology doe’s mis-measure, and secondly whether, as some propose, Psychology is ordinari...


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...en Goldachre. (2011). The statistical error that just keeps on coming. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/. Last accessed 10/12/2011.

Hergenhahn, B.R. (2009). Social and Theoretical Psychology: Conceptual and Historical Issues 1. An introduction to the History of Psychology. 1 (1), p1-28.

Hewstone, M. Fincham, F. and Foster, J (2005). Psychology. Oxford: The British Psychological Society, and Blackwell Publishing. P3-23.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioural study of obedience. Journal of abnormal and social Psychology. 67 (4), p371-8.

Oppenheimer, R. (1956). Analogy in science. American Psychologist, 1 (11), p127-136.

The British Psychological Society. (2010). Promoting excellence in Psychology. Available: http://www.bps.org.uk/. Last accessed 10/12/2011.

Valenine, E.R. (1992). Psychology as a science. Conceptual issues in Psychology. 2nd (1), p1-7.


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