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Topics: Scientific method, Theory, Science Pages: 5 (1842 words) Published: December 10, 2012
Psychology is an integral part of our modern society, and its influence is quite widespread. Many important decisions, which are made in our society, can be based on psychology - decisions which affect the lives of many people. This is why it is important to determine whether or not psychology is a science. The answer to the question if psychology is a science is not a simple 'yes' or 'no' – it depends on the area of psychological study, on the theory used within an area, and often on the way the researcher chooses to study a phenomenon ( Makunda, 1997). It also depends on what is meant by 'scientific' – for the philosopher of science Karl Popper, for instance, the most important criterion was what he called 'falsifiability'. There are also other criteria of science, which I am going to present in this essay. I will examine different psychological theories in the light of different aspects of scientific endeavour.  Defining science is not an easy task. There are many different concepts of science. According to Webster (1992) science is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena, through objective means. Put it simply scientists conduct experiments and observations to collect data about world and to explain these facts. Chalmers (1999) states that science is something visible, touchable, hearable, rather than opinions or beliefs. Davies says that: “Science is a structure based upon facts”(as cited in Chalmers, 1999, p. 1). The American Heritage Science Dictionary appears to encompass the general consensus, and defines science as: “The investigation of natural phenomena through observation, theoretical explanation, and experimentation, or the knowledge produced by such investigation. Science makes use of the scientific method, which includes the careful observation of natural phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis, the conducting of one or more experiments to test the hypothesis, and the drawing of a conclusion that confirms or modifies the hypothesis.” Therefore, it seems that for a field to be considered a science, it must utilise observation and experimentation to confirm or falsify a hypothesis.  There are several aims of science – description, prediction, understanding, and control . Science provides objective descriptions of phenomena which allow the development of predictions. Predictions add support and credibility to the knowledge obtained in the description phase, which in turn allows for understanding of the cause and effect of the phenomena. Once understanding of the cause of a phenomenon is accurate, control is possible(Malim, Birch &ump; Wadeley, 1992). Many would argue that for psychology to be called science it needs to display all these characteristics of science. Does psychology display all these? Therefore, can it be called a science?  The word psychology comes from the Greek words – psyche, meaning soul and word logos, meaning study. Thus, a basic definition of psychology could be: the study of soul. However it is broadly agreed that psychology is the study of mind and behaviour. According to Clark and Miller (1970) psychology is: “the scientific study of behaviour. Its subject matter includes behavioural processes that are observable, such as gestures, speech and physiological changes, and processes that can only be inferred, such as thoughts and dreams (as cited in Gross, 2005). Definition of psychology have changed over years, mainly influenced by different approaches within its field. Kline (1998) argued that these approaches within the psychology should be perceived as separate disciplines. He states that a field of study can only be considered a science if researchers agree with a common, global perspective or ‘paradigm’. According to Kuhn (1996) psychology is not a science because it does not fit in with the 'normal science' paradigm, which is a set of assumptions, concepts, values and practices that affect the way...
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