The definitions behind 'science' are a lot more hazy than most people - who have been schooled on the 'biology, chemistry, physics' curriculum - assume. "Science" originally just referred to a body of knowledge. In our day, disciplines are very regimented and organised: you're either a chemist, or a biologist, or a historian, or an economist, or whatever. But that is only a (relatively) recent development. In ye olden dayes, everything was seen much more pantheistically. So Isaac Newton didn't see any contradiction between his work as a mathematician and physicist, and his work as an alchemist. The very word "scientist" again only came into use 19th century; before that, scientists were known as natural philosophers. We nowadays have a view that says that science and philosophy are very distinct disciplines, but that clearly hasn't been the case for most of history.
There are two frequently used modern day definitions as to what "science is". One of them is that science utilises the scientific method, as developed in the seventeenth century. But to my mind, that's not a very helpful definition. For instance, paleontology is seen as a science, whereas archeology - which uses pretty much the same methodology, for the same ends - isn't. So another common definition of science is that it is the study of the solely natural world. And by that definition, I guess, psychology wouldn't be seen as a science.
Paul Feyerbarend taught the concept of Epistemological Anarchism, which advocates the view that there is no such thing as inherent "science", which is the view the I would subscribe to. And that's the view that I would subscribe to. So as to whether psychology is a science, I would say that it is and it isn't. But more to the point, it really doesn't matter.
Thanks for all the opinions guys, I myself take Pyschology at college and am planning on taking it as my degree. This is why i find it annoying when stupid people who consider themselves 'real scientists' give me abuse because pyschologys not a real science. I just need clarification to what others though
I think 'psychology' is too broad to call it anything. Psychology encompasses a whole range of disciplines, and it is one of those degrees that people tend to follow on with a masters in more specific study. Much like politics or something, it can either be broad and theoretical or brutally empirical.
(Original post by oElectronic)
Well if you do A2 psychology for Edexcel you actually have to discuss whether psychology is a science or not as a part of the exam. I personally think it is only a social science, but not a 'proper' science. Don't really see how you can compare it to the likes of chemistry and so on.
But here's some explanations that I've learnt in lessons for it being a science aswell as not being a science:
You have to try and be as objective as possible when it comes to research and experiments to avoid affecting results. However there are aspects of psychology that are almost entirely subjective ie. the psychodynamic approach in psychology which is mostly Freud's work. But there's also the idea of creating a hypothesis and doing experiments to prove the hypothesis is correct and to provide evidence, which would prove it to be scientific.
Some aspects of psychology actually involve science. Biological psychology looks into how the brain works and how it affects our behaviour, how neurotransmitters affect our behaviour like dopamine with schizophrenia, gambling & other addictive behaviours etc. But then you could easily say once again that the psychodynamic approach ignores this kind of thing, aswell as the social approach etc. But there are others that involve a bit of science but not entirely composed of it, like criminological psychology.
You can kind of see how you can say one thing but it's easily counteracted, which is why no one has actually decided whether it's a 'real' science or not. It's still being debated today, but at the moment it's classified as a social science, which I think is right.
That's the problem with A level science. They exclusively teach you theories which are over 50 years old. Freud is not modern Psychology and the psychodynamic approach has changed. Psychology is constantly moving towards a more objective basis. The definition of science is "knowledge attained through study or practice," or "knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method." and this is exactly what Psychology does.
(Original post by Neel-k94)
I think it is studied as a science, but technically it isn't a science as many things in psychology don't show the same result every time (which, I think, is a major part in the "definition" of science).
The definition of science is uncovering truths using the scientific method. Human behaviour has so many factors and is unpredictable. Of course people will have different results. Psychology is quite a young science in its modern day nature - it would be like biology in its early days. Scientists would use all kinds of weird stuff to try and heal patients, such as bleeding people. I expect Psychology will one day reach the stage some of the sciences are currently at.