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Travis Liladhar

Nov. 4, 2014
Psych 4012 KMA
Midterm Paper

The question “Is Psychology a science?” has definitely been under heavy scrutiny over the
decades and posed as a controversial question. The main reason behind this is that psychology isn’t easily
comparable to the accepted sciences of today such as biology and physics which raises the question
“What is a science?”. Under reasonable universal assumptions, one could agree that science is generally
defined as a testable method that can be falsified by new evidence that creates reasonable explanations to
unknown things in reality. These explanations rely on evidence that strongly suggest the validity of the
claims that can be disproven yet be retested to arrive at the same conclusions. Professor O’Brien raised
the question if psychology falls under this category and if there is anything that makes psychology a
separate science, if one at all.
Professor O’Brien first tackled this question by giving us the history of psychology, specifically
the origin of experimental psychology by Wilhelm Wundt who opened the first psychology lab in 1879.
This even is regarded as the hallmark of psychology as a separate science as Wundt applied experimental
methods to study consciousness and mental processes, hoping to provide explanations. Wundt followed
“inductive reasoning” in which explanations require strong evidence for the validity of the conclusion.
This type of reasoning isn’t that scientific for use today as it can be rendered useless by mere observations
(the premise that all swans are white is rendered useless by the existence of one black swan). Today, the
model most commonly used in the scientific method is the hypothetico-deductive model which suggests
that theories about reality create hypotheses which can be proven or falsified by observations/experiment.
When the hypothetico-deductive model is applied to psychology it can be viewed as a science however it

“what does it mean for psychology to be a science?” means that psychology provides reasons for the behavior of humans. He explained that one of the earliest ways to provide explanations came through the origins of Greek Mythology. “The truth is that psychological statements which describe human behavior or which report results tested research can be scientific. through empirical methods that can be proven or disproven with quantitative evidence.falls under scrutiny due to the fact that we don’t know a great deal about the brain’s mechanistic processes to provide explanations. abnormalities etc. whereas top down is schema driven.”. abnormal behavior etc. mental processes. or driven by past experiences and knowledge.e emotions. chemistry and even anthropology when it comes to abnormal psychology. processes of the brain. This is supported by a statement by Sigmund Koch in the 1950s where he states. location and experiences (i. which is influential to psychology today (Oedipus complex). they were models that provided answers to questions that were once explained through religion. However. It allows for theories of psychology to be tested under controlled experimental environments however it can deviate into opinions. The professor explained how scientific models first came to be. and psychology addresses issues that are very impressionable by one’s culture. the question. Based upon the history and evolution of thinking and scientific processes that the professor has outlined. as much of psychology is dependent on biology. This is what separates psychology from other sciences as it’s a collection of . when there is a move from describing human behavior to explaining it. The professor then introduced a concept called Tabula Rasa which means “blank slate” in Latin that states that one’s knowledge is built by experiences and perceptions of things around them which is why arguing if psychology is a science or not is controversial as it addresses issues that aren’t concrete and universal for everyone unlike physics and chemistry that prove things that are always constant. there is also a move from science to opinion. This leads to questions of perception such as bottom up (Francis Bacon) vs top down (Immanuel Kant) where bottom up is data driven where explanations are driven by perceptions of the senses.). This led to metatheories which is a theory that relies on another subject’s theory. there isn’t a central theme that unifies research.

hence I believe psychology is a science however a clear set of content needs to be established as the DSM keeps changing each year and the number of abnormal behaviors is increasing. Professor O’Brien has provided us with a history of how psychology relates to the definitions of science and how thinking has evolved accordingly thus far. structure of the mind. the same can be said about claims in psychology which is why they have to be tested in the first place. . Whereas the laws of gravity are under no question yet cannot be observed according to Professor O’Brien. However I believe in order to address these issues fully. reaction times etc. because if anything of that sort exists within the field of psychology then work based around that can be accepted as valid science. what makes psychology a separate science was the contributions of Wilhelm Wundt who successfully separated psychology from philosophy and further separated it from biology through narrowing the scope of what he was testing through experimental processes (consciousness. Professor O’Brien would need to speak upon what concrete truths of psychology can be whole fully accept as completely valid with absolute certainty. It’s different from other sciences because it has evidence that suggests correlation to other things but hardly ever has absolute certainty of an explanation. One can say that psychology is a budding science that can be a valid science in the future because as of right now it’s like having mathematical equations but unable to derive the proofs.descriptions of human behavior but we do not know enough at the moment to provide valid explanations of these descriptions. One can conclude that psychology fits this definition but lacks a few key things to be relatively accepted as a hard science such as raw proven explanations that backs up the descriptions psychology can produce about the mind and human behavior. However.).

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