Is Psychology a Science?
In order to determine if psychology is a science or not it is important to understand what being a science means. The word comes from the Latin ‘scientia’ and refers to a system of acquiring knowledge. This is done by formulating theories through observation and experimentation of phenomena in the natural world. In the natural sciences all theories are be objective meaning free from researcher bias and contain variables which can be clearly stated. In psychology this is not always the case. Psychology is the study of the mind which is argued to be carried out in a scientific manner. There are many different approaches to the study of psychology and dependant on what approach is being taken will affect how scientific each study will be.
The concept of psychology can be traced back to ancient Greeks such as Plato and Aristotle with their questions concerning the physiology of the mind and can be seen throughout history. Other philosophers such as Rene Descartes can also be linked to the origins of psychology and it is ideas from these great minds that can be seen being used in psychological debates still waging today such as nature versus nurture. It was not until the 19th century that psychology was recognised as a separate discipline from physiology and philosophy. This is thanks to the work of Wilhelm Wundt whose book ‘Principles of Physiological Psychology’ was published in 1874 and who then went on to open the world’s first psychology laboratory in 1879 at a university in Germany. Wundt’s aim was to apply experimental methods to the investigation of the human consciousness and became famous for the use of introspection, a psychological process which is not held to the same scientific standard that psychological processes would be held at in more contemporary times.
After Wundt there were a few others who made contributions to the field of psychology although none of which made as much of an impact as Sigmund Freud and his