Science is an intellectual and practical activity that encompasses the systematic study of universe and all of its components through observation and experiment. The word psychology would be roughly translated as to the study of soul or spirit. People who associate science with the experiments conducted in labs, cannot bring themselves to believe that the study of soul to be a branch of science. Psychology was a part of philosophy and biology in earlier days, but it has emerged as a science only 19th century. It was the efforts of Rene Descartes, Wilhelm Wundt and other scientists which established psychology as an independent branch of science. What connects psychology to science? Here are four formidable arguments that securely establish the connection between psychology and science.
Psychology is considered to be science, because it empirically observes human/animal behavior, studies it in order to gain insight, describes and explains the behavior and constructs hypothesis from the collected data. The process has all the elements, features and characteristics of science; since the procedure takes place with systematic techniques and findings of observations. Like any other field of science, theories of psychology are based on investigation, experiments, observation and conclusions based on facts collected. The results of a research are published in academic journals, shared in conferences and reviews are sought from fellow scientists over the findings. Hence we can say research and study of psychology has every characteristic of science.
Psychologists do not rely on their own views or emotions when dealing with behaviors and mental processes of humans/animals. The conclusions, diagnosis and criteria for diagnosis are developed through scientific methods of research and experiments. The process of arriving at truth is a systematic process where initially the problem in behavior or mental process is conceptualized or identified. Psychologists study biological procedure and working of human brain to understand the behaviors displayed. They also collect data regarding the influence of surrounding on the behavior. Later several experiments are conducted to collect data and find a solution or explanation to the identified problem on hand. The data collected is scrutinized and analyzed by the researchers. Finally conclusions are drawn on the basis of critical and evaluation of the scientists, statistics and findings of the data collected. The whole process is very similar to any scientific project undertaken in different fields of sciences.
Psychologists possess all the attitudes required to make them scientists. All the psychological research is results of curiosity, critical thinking, skepticism, objectivity and thirst for knowledge on part of scientists involved. Psychologists do not believe in sweeping and simplistic claims on the nature of personality and intelligence, but they take up the challenge of finding and explaining the truth. In order to arrive at a conclusion psychologists use animal models, typically rats, to study the neural, genetic, and cellular mechanisms that underlie specific behaviors such as learning and memory and fear responses or when it is possible they investigate the neural correlates of psychological processes in humans using neural imaging tools, and neuropsychologists conduct psychological assessments to determine, specific aspects and extent of cognitive deficit caused by brain damage or disease. Psychologists usually facilitate further improvements of their own theories and conclusions by sharing details about their research and its drawbacks with the scientific community.
1. Answering the critics
Often the arguments against psychology as a field of science is based on the criteria that it does not have clearly defined terminology, cannot be considered quantifiable, the experiments are not conducted in highly controlled conditions, absence of reproducibility, no stable predictability and testability of the findings. What we have note here that, psychology is study of humans and not atoms, electrons or minerals which are stable. Human behavior and response are unique to each individual and every situation is different as well. Hence, the flexibility in the field of psychology should be overlooked and it should be accepted as a science. Besides providing solutions to psychotic and neurotic problems of people, psychology has found intriguing clues to changes in behavior of people like the bystander effect, aggressiveness, games people play in relationships, and many more. Considering the social condition of the world today, we can agree that we need psychology whether it is science or not a science more than any other field.