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Psychology - is it a science or not. The ultimate debate thread Watch

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    (Original post by DannyYYYY)
    The title 'Dr.' shows the individual is an expert in their field and have obtained a doctorate degree. The typical doctor is a doctor of medicine (M.D.) but there are also doctors of philosophy (PhD) and psychology (PsychD).

    A clinical psychologist goes through a three year doctorate of clinical psychology (ClinPsychD) where they're given extensive and in-depth training on mental disorders and how to treat them. They usually work for the NHS and are classed as doctors. Whilst there is a debate on whether they should 'diagnose' mental disorders, they're trained how to and what methods to use. Clinical neuropsychologists and psychiatrists are very similar in that they both look at the physical brain as the cause of disorders. As someone who hopes to enter neuropsychology as a career, I personally agree with the ability to diagnose and treat mental illness. However, I can sympathise with the debate on whether mental disorders should be formally diagnosed.
    This also highlights my earlier point about the mind/brain dichotomy. If they are examining the brain, and conclude that a person has a brain disease, why do we need the diagnosis of a mental disorder? Psychology (generally) says the mind is the brain, yet cannot help but advocate dualism by making a distinction between the mind (a mental disorder, schizophrenia, depression) and a brain disease (dementia). It can't have it both ways. Either the mind exists independently of the brain (doubtful) or it doesn't. Therefore 'mental illness' is a brain disease, yet it has never been shown to be. This to me, represents a deep confusion at the core of psychology.

    These views, as I said are largely influenced by Thomas Szasz, I recommend reading his works.
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    I would say so. My friend does Psychology and is going to do it at uni and he tells me stuff on it. Seems really interesting is isn't anything close to stuff like English although there is quite a bit of essay writing. I'd so it's more like economics.
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    (Original post by Zen-Ali)
    I implore you to hearken to the great mind that is Feynman.
    I watched it. He was pretty much belittling psychology and psychologists throughout. He practically insulted biology too.

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    (Original post by paultheotherone)
    I did ok (First), but I certainly realise I am still ignorant and have a lot to learn. I am in no way claiming to be an expert and am willing to change my mind.

    Is it as scientific as medicine in the context of practical application? Say we looked at the fusiform face area using fMRI, you couldn't, unless there was a blatant ablation, say that a person has prosopagnosia WITHOUT subjectively assessing them (asking/testing them do you have problems recognising faces). I realise this is what a lot of psychology is, assessing subjectivity, but fMRI in this case is a bit redundant in that the person has already told us they can't recognise faces, and fMRI alone can't confirm this (unless there is a lesion). We then can't attempt to 'fix' this problem without using behavioural strategies which the person possibly already incorporates anyway, so apart from intellectual curiosity, fMRI hasn't been that helpful in either diagnosis (I use the term very loosely) or what can be done to help the individual. I have been speaking to one of my lecturers on this same topic, and he pointed out that "fMRI is done by a physicist, sonographer and a radiologist (medic)."
    What is the role of a psychologist in this, other than to philosophise about the results (basically, be a philosopher) teach it, and inevitably suggest more research needs to be conducted if writing a scientific paper. If there was a brain lesion, this becomes the neurologist's (not the neuroscientists') department. In medicine, practical application to an affected organ/illness can be subjected to intervention that deems necessary the examination of said organ/body in the first place. To me, this is simply not true of fMRI. Again, I am not intending to challenge its merits as an intellectual pursuit and realise it is a very young science, but question its standing in a practical context to other sciences which validates the research (and therefore the money spent-of course this is political) conducted in these areas to a higher degree.

    Apologies if this is not making sense, and I am quite prepared to be schooled in this area.

    Neuroscience (I think) rests on the premise that this is what we found after an act has occurred. It can't predict anything to any degree of certainty that the other sciences can, because of its laws are based on human will.

    One of the main problems I came across during my degree is the bestowment of the title Dr after the requisite study period. Some psychologists, not all, seem to think this is akin to becoming a medical doctor. It is not, and does not give such a person to make diagnoses based on Likert scales, questionnaires and non objective physical tests. (I'm now talking about the social construction of certain disorders in psychology). Medical doctors, as far as I know, arrive at the confirmation of an illness using different criteria from psychologists (certainly not questionnaires, or scales) and are impersonal diagnoses. Social sciences (oxymoron?) is not a medical diagnosis but a measure of what is socially acceptable during the time period which as we know, changes. Thus the label(diagnosis) given by a social scientist to a person can actually be very damaging itself, and essentially one cannot prove one is now not 'disordered' as there was no objective criteria for demonstrating this in the first place. Thus, if we are comparing social science to medical science, there is an obvious demarcation in the methods and diagnoses both use. These views are largely based on Thomas Szasz's writings, and whilst linked to fMRI research, are different to the objections I spoke of above regarding that method.

    The mind/brain dichotomy is something I will have to cogitate on before posting, but is to me, a largely linguistic problem and also a physical problem. If mental events are just ephenomenalism (non-physical), does that not present a problem for physicalism?

    Sorry if this is incoherent or nonsensical.
    I'm no expert either, as I am only starting my neuroscience masters in September... but will try and add to the discussion with what I know. Also happy to be schooled.

    That was quite long, so highlighted what I felt your main points were to make my reply a little easier.

    Firstly you talk about the redundancy of the fMRI in that you suggest it only shows what you already know. The technique provides a biomarker for a multitude of diseases, particularly neurodegeneration and physically attained lesions. The EEG is the best marker for seizures (or likelihood of seizures); as well as being a marker for many other diseases such as schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, etc.

    You could use neuroimaging techniques to recognise these deficits by looking at the lesions that the patient has, which can then lead to testing the deficits. I don't see why it is superfluous or pointless as a diagnostic technique.
    It is by far the best technique to show us how the brain works, which is so damn complicated; such as using SPECT (I think) amongst other new techniques.

    You mention that psychometrics are subjective; I don't think that is the case? They are rather objective; based on rigid procedure and scoring... and aren't arbitrary at all in responses.

    It is mentioned also about uncertainty due to 'will' and you seem to dichotomise mind and brain. They are completely the same thing. If you lesion your frontal areas you will get associated higher function deficits. Many parts of the brain, as you know, have been identified as responsible for specific functions. Neuroimaging is certainly very predictive of behavioral deficits when looking at neurobiological and physiological markers.

    I didn't get the first statement about the physicians, which I emboldened.

    fMRI can predict things, such as early onset dementia and its progression, and the progression of similar neurological diseases (I think). I'm really not too sure of what you mean about fMRI not being predictive... its meant rather to elucidate the damage that is already there, and also in research to elucidate brain areas and their functions. From that you can predict future behavior though, and develop prognoses. It is far from useless practically.

    A psychologist is a 'dr' that is able to determine if someone has a mental illness or not, which will either have a mental or neurophysiological or structural basis. What you are thinking of in the instance of psychologist is the socially derived 'personality disorders' which are deemed unfavourable, and are detrimental to normal functioning within society.
    Psychologists have significant roles in identifying schizophrenia, depression, ADD/ADHD... and other disorders with a neurological, rather than mental aetiology.
    Their diagnoses is often on the basis of psychometric tests, imaging, and sympomatology... as is that of a medical doctor.

    You mention the lack of criteria. The DSM (now 5th edition) shows all the mental disorders and their symptoms to allow diagnosis. Most of them have biological aetiology, just like diseases of the body.

    I'm not sure... if you are suggesting diseases of the brain only have a basis in the mind... rather than the body... and so are subjective.
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    (Original post by paultheotherone)
    This also highlights my earlier point about the mind/brain dichotomy. If they are examining the brain, and conclude that a person has a brain disease, why do we need the diagnosis of a mental disorder? Psychology (generally) says the mind is the brain, yet cannot help but advocate dualism by making a distinction between the mind (a mental disorder, schizophrenia, depression) and a brain disease (dementia). It can't have it both ways. Either the mind exists independently of the brain (doubtful) or it doesn't. Therefore 'mental illness' is a brain disease, yet it has never been shown to be. This to me, represents a deep confusion at the core of psychology.

    These views, as I said are largely influenced by Thomas Szasz, I recommend reading his works.
    Realistically... there is no mind or soul and all that BS (independent of the brain).
    Most psychological disorders have a neurobiological basis and are indeed a brain disease.
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    It seems that psychology is rather misunderstood :P
    Damn you A level teachings!
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    (Original post by hellodave5)
    Realistically... there is no mind or soul and all that BS.
    Most psychological disorders have a neurobiological basis and are indeed a brain disease.
    It's not yet fully understood what causes mental illness; although I do agree it most likely has a biological basis. It's quite disconcerting that mental illness and developmental disorders are still not yet fully explained, it's something that fascinates me on my psych course. With the brain being so complex, I'm not surprised something goes wrong now and then.
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    (Original post by DannyYYYY)
    It's not yet fully understood what causes mental illness; although I do agree it most likely has a biological basis. It's quite disconcerting that mental illness and developmental disorders are still not yet fully explained, it's something that fascinates me on my psych course. With the brain being so complex, I'm not surprised something goes wrong now and then.
    We do know the (at least basic) aetiology of most 'psychological' disorders (some moreso that others). Which ones are you referring to?
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    (Original post by paultheotherone)
    Psychology is not a hard science in my opinion, even James knew this. I have just finished a degree in it, and whilst I love studying it, and I am hoping to do a master's in it, one should not be afraid to criticise it and its methods.

    It is impossible to prognosticate human behaviour, to any worthwhile degree. Even the Libet studies in which movement was predicted before it occurred in consciousness have in my opinion, limited application.

    fMRI is also, when thought about properly, practically useless. What can be done with these studies afterwards? You can't go and manipulate someone's brain ethically to the degree that it would have any effect. The public and possibly a lot of students see areas of the brain light up (and not understanding that these are significant bold signals/contrasts), believe oh that is why such a person did this, or is different from a person who can do that. But since the techniques rely on physics, the uncertainty principle cannot be overlooked here. What are you measuring under fMRI, the task itself, or THE state of actually being under fMRI. Areas of the brain have been found to be active in dead salmon under an fMRI task, due to confounding type one errors! Also, It is always post hoc, there seem to be no psychophysical laws, and although psychologists claim they have solved the brain/mind dichotomy, it is not as clear cut.

    Psychology is interesting, intellectually stimulating, but VERY much subjective and not as watertight as other sciences such as chemistry, physics or biology. The confidence placed in techniques such as fMRI are in my opinion, at a distinct disparity with the practical application of what is actually done with the research afterwards. It is seemingly in vogue at the moment hence why it is so popular and receives a lot of funding.

    This is of course, just my opinion.

    Yeah, I agree to an extent, these are all familiar issues of psychology which every academic is likely to agree with, but not to the same extent obviously.

    I think firstly, you have to compare the age of Psychology as a science compared to the other sciences, it's a very modern science (in terms of it's stricter application of the scientific method). And because of that it's methods are rapidly evolving because there's a lot of need for improvement basically. Does that make it less of a science? I don't think so, it just means it's advancing very quickly.


    And I was going to mention the fMRI issue in my earlier post, but I don't really think of it as a limitation. Firstly, fMRI is never solely used to support a theory, it's often used in conjunction with other methods, such as neuropsychology (lesion studies in brain damaged patients or induced in animals), and combined fMRI-TMS studies. And I will say, I'm not familiar with fMRI research at all, but I do remember my tutor saying how massively fMRI has advanced since the 1990s, he use to run fMRI studies but now he says he's more or less clueless. I wonder if those dead salmon studies were recent or not?

    I think psychology obviously has massive hurdles that creates skepticism but I have no doubt in my mind that in a few decades it's advancement will be incredible.
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    (Original post by hellodave5)
    We do know the (at least basic) aetiology of most 'psychological' disorders (some moreso that others). Which ones are you referring to?
    I only know of a few. The cause of schizophrenia (according to the RC of Psychiatrists) is not fully known yet. They know what it probably is but I don't think there's one cause we can point to and say 'yep, that causes schizophrenia'. Same goes for bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

    Like I said, I personally think they do probably have a neuro-biological cause but I'll save that for my career. :rolleyes:
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    (Original post by hellodave5)
    We do know the (at least basic) aetiology of most 'psychological' disorders (some moreso that others). Which ones are you referring to?
    Well what would be the aetiology of depression? To me depression is a normal reaction to bad life circumstances, ie, it is the circumstances of one's life. Say I wake up tomorrow and all my family are dead. I will be depressed. Will I have an 'illness' or a 'disease'? Or am I just the victim of the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune?

    I couldn't be 'cured' unless that event hadn't happened. Yes I could take drugs, prescribed or otherwise to make me feel better, but I could do that now.

    Is fMRI necessary to diagnose Alzheimer's rather than MRI alone?


    I am going to do a master's in fMRI too (probably). Where are you doing yours and what are you areas of interest?
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    (Original post by paultheotherone)
    Well what would be the aetiology of depression? To me depression is a normal reaction to bad life circumstances, ie, it is the circumstances of one's life. Say I wake up tomorrow and all my family are dead. I will be depressed. Will I have an 'illness' or a 'disease'? Or am I just the victim of the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune?

    I couldn't be 'cured' unless that event hadn't happened. Yes I could take drugs, prescribed or otherwise to make me feel better, but I could do that now.
    Clinically, a distinction is made between responses to grief-inducing situations and actual depression. Look up depression in ICD-10.

    Is fMRI necessary to diagnose Alzheimer's rather than MRI alone?
    Imaging modalities are of very limited use in the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The diagnosis is usually made clinically with memory assessments, et c.
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    (Original post by DannyYYYY)
    I only know of a few. The cause of schizophrenia (according to the RC of Psychiatrists) is not fully known yet. They know what it probably is but I don't think there's one cause we can point to and say 'yep, that causes schizophrenia'. Same goes for bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

    Like I said, I personally think they do probably have a neuro-biological cause but I'll save that for my career. :rolleyes:
    Schizophrenia: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14744221
    You're right... not a whole load is known about this one. I don't think that the term schizophrenia is suitable for all of the different sub-categories (such a broad disease).

    Bipolar disorder: http://link.springer.com/article/10....:1010929402770
    Reasonable amount of knowledge, more so than schizo.

    Narcissistic personality disorder: Just a personality disorder... doesn't this equate practically to just being a real douche?
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    (Original post by paultheotherone)
    Well what would be the aetiology of depression? To me depression is a normal reaction to bad life circumstances, ie, it is the circumstances of one's life. Say I wake up tomorrow and all my family are dead. I will be depressed. Will I have an 'illness' or a 'disease'? Or am I just the victim of the slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune?

    I couldn't be 'cured' unless that event hadn't happened. Yes I could take drugs, prescribed or otherwise to make me feel better, but I could do that now.

    Is fMRI necessary to diagnose Alzheimer's rather than MRI alone?


    I am going to do a master's in fMRI too (probably). Where are you doing yours and what are you areas of interest?
    Depression is very much neurobiological; completely different to grieving.

    Sweet. Well got my 1st in Psychology from SH so thought id stay with them to do neuroscience; as I already know them and happy there (lovely campus). After hoping to do a PhD at Sheff Uni, Nottingham Uni, or somewhere nice like Edinburgh . Was thinking about grad entry medicine too, sounds interesting (though bit pricey).
    Areas of interest... probably don't know enough as of yet to have a large specific interest :P just generally interesting. I do find EEG quite appealing, though messy to use (damn gel!). Would like to learn more about computational modelling, as little idea how that works currently.
    Main interest is in the clinical application of c neuroscience though
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    (Original post by DannyYYYY)
    I only know of a few. The cause of schizophrenia (according to the RC of Psychiatrists) is not fully known yet. They know what it probably is but I don't think there's one cause we can point to and say 'yep, that causes schizophrenia'. Same goes for bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

    Like I said, I personally think they do probably have a neuro-biological cause but I'll save that for my career. :rolleyes:
    DSM used to class homosexuality and masturbation as mental illnesses.

    Recent additions include 'intermittent explosive disorder' perhaps formerly known as jealousy.

    One of Kraeplins' original criterion for judging someone as having schizophrenia/dementia praecox was that 'the schizophrenic tends to take longer to get going at a party' (see reconstructing schizophrenia).

    ADHD appeared in 1987 (DSM III-R) as a construct, and its 'aetiology' has been looked for ever since.

    I don't mean to traduce you at all, but when you say you will save it for your career, is that not just a continuation of what others have for years tried to do and it never comes to fruition?
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    (Original post by hellodave5)
    Narcissistic personality disorder: Just a personality disorder... doesn't this equate practically to just being a real douche?
    Basically.. yes. :hmmm: I can't imagine what it'd be like in the presence of a severe narcissist.

    Are you hoping to go in to clinical neuropsych or something different?
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    (Original post by paultheotherone)
    DSM used to class homosexuality and masturbation as mental illnesses.

    Recent additions include 'intermittent explosive disorder' perhaps formerly known as jealousy.

    One of Kraeplins' original criterion for judging someone as having schizophrenia/dementia praecox was that 'the schizophrenic tends to take longer to get going at a party' (see reconstructing schizophrenia).

    ADHD appeared in 1987 (DSM III-R) as a construct, and its 'aetiology' has been looked for ever since.

    I don't mean to traduce you at all, but when you say you will save it for your career, is that not just a continuation of what others have for years tried to do and it never comes to fruition?
    Touché. I know the history (and current developments) on the diagnoses and treatment of mental illness is sketchy.

    I'm not sure what you mean by your last point. I'm hoping to enter clinical neuropsych and treat patients. I don't expect do be doing groundbreaking research or discover a cure (although a cure would be fantastic).
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    (Original post by DannyYYYY)
    Basically.. yes. :hmmm: I can't imagine what it'd be like in the presence of a severe narcissist.

    Are you hoping to go in to clinical neuropsych or something different?
    Aye, maybe... I need to look more into the specifics of available roles. Would be happy with clinical neuropsychology, or as a cognitive neuroscience researcher in a clinical context.

    I think I would like something hands on though... would probably hate pure research. Would like to work in a hospital/clinical setting.
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    (Original post by paultheotherone)
    This also highlights my earlier point about the mind/brain dichotomy. If they are examining the brain, and conclude that a person has a brain disease, why do we need the diagnosis of a mental disorder? Psychology (generally) says the mind is the brain, yet cannot help but advocate dualism by making a distinction between the mind (a mental disorder, schizophrenia, depression) and a brain disease (dementia). It can't have it both ways. Either the mind exists independently of the brain (doubtful) or it doesn't. Therefore 'mental illness' is a brain disease, yet it has never been shown to be. This to me, represents a deep confusion at the core of psychology.

    These views, as I said are largely influenced by Thomas Szasz, I recommend reading his works.
    Dementia and schizophrenia are seen as different because dementia has a much more physical aetiology, in that simply put, it's physical damage of the brain. Whereas schizophrenia's aetiology is a hell of a lot more complicated and less 'physical'.

    I honestly don't see your point, Psychology recognises this. Differences in behaviour is not always (but can be) the result of direct differences in physical structures of the brain, but as you know there's also a lot more to it than that! Yes the mind is the brain, but it's also more than that, just as the brain is also more than just our mind (it's involvement in more primitive functions).
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    Nope. I think it wasn't considered a science by positivists ( Vienna Circle something ) and then Popper established the criteria to determine whether a certain discipline is a science or not. According to this principle , which I guess it is still widely adopted , science can be falsified . Which means a set of theories of a certain discipline , let's say math , can be proved wrong. This is why he ruled out psychology, because its claim of knowing the inner processes of humans was absolute.
 
 
 
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