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Is Psychology Really A Science?

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posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 03:29 PM
This debate comes up from time to time; some people may not even be aware of it. In another topic someone had brought it up and there was a friendly, ongoing discussion about it. It began to derail the OP so instead we can discuss it here.

Here's my argument:

Psychology, although making a lot of advancement, and still being relatively accurate, is still not quite totally scientific.

A lot of Psychology's conclusions are based on scientific studies, such as neurology and biology, absolutely! However, the vast majority of psychology is still pretty much based on educated-guess work. Psychology is kind of a "soft" science.

Heck the entire diagnostic manual of mental disorders consistently continues to resist integration with research findings, and a lot of the views within the DSM can still be argued that they exist only through societal views, rather than scientific ones. A good example being in what would determine a sexual orientation (Most people would not include Pedophilia, Necrophilia, or Beastiality as a sexual orientation, and sometimes they would be correct, however, there is a lot of evidence that shows some individuals are simply biologically tuned to those attractions just like Heterosexuality, Bisexuality, and Homosexuality).

The point is, it is not entirely accurate to claim that Psychology is definitely scientific, or definitely not scientific. It clearly shows that it has traits from both ends of the spectrum. It's just not exclusively one or the other yet (but definitely moving towards total Scientific reasoning)

(and from another post)

To be considered scientifically rigorous psychology would need clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability. In some studies it does have all 5 of these valuables, but in general it lacks some, if not many. I have no doubts that eventually it will progress to a stage where we can possess all 5 of these traits, but at the moment, I'm not so sure.

There just isn't any clear-cut way to scale specific things, like emotion. Take 'Happiness' for example. We can't really define it in it totally, nor do we have a reasonable scale to measure it. We may be able to measure specific chemical releases in the brain, but then that kind of sifts away from Psychology and enters into the realms of Neurology/Biology/Chemistry.

The same issues arise in many (but not all) of psychological phenomenon. Psychology is more of a subject area, where you can study it scientifically, but can also study it non-scientifically. Psychology, in many ways is qualitative research. Here's a good example:

Perhaps I want to find out what leads victims of serious domestic violence to drop a prosecution despite the abuser already being safely in jail, pending trial.

I could come up with a list of motivations I think might be plausible and then find a way of testing whether they are present, but essentially, no matter how rigorous my methods, the study still depends on what I think is plausible to begin with.(Source)

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 03:34 PM
The thing is, depending on the psychotic ailment, or mental instability, most of the time there is no fully comparable cases...

So it's hard to scrutinise under the scientific method.

There are similarities in certain cases, but each will differ so vastly it's hard to break that ground.

That's why we end up sectioned away from the public, doped up...
Because the science is lacking and certainly 99% focused on "nullifying medication" rather than a cure...

Also, some psychology/psychiatry is nothing but philosophy*slash*pseudo science disguised as "young science".

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 03:45 PM
a reply to: CharlieSpeirs

Yes, I completely agree. It seems like Psychology is moving in the right direction, though. Much less primitive and (at times) barbaric as it was in the 1900's and before. Hopefully in the near future we will have better ways at evaluating the psyche of individuals, and gathering more accurate information that's based off of clear measurements, rather than (in some cases) individual perspectives.

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 03:49 PM
cant say for sure.
let me ask tom cruise
after dont know about psychology.
he does

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 03:50 PM
Psychology is pseudo-science, no doubt about it...but it's the best we have till now but I don't think we will really find real "cures" with pills. Sorry Big pharma!

I'm looking towards trans-humanism to be a possible cure...of course not without it's problems and many years of experiments before achieving tangible goals. We need to understand the brain much more than we do now, maybe in the future, advanced virtual reality will be an indispensable tool to diagnose, treat and save people with mental instability.
edit on 6-7-2015 by theMediator because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 03:50 PM
a reply to: Ghost147

You're right.
It is improving a hell of a lot...
And when you look at the history of asylums like Bedlam...

You'd think we were talking about 5000 years ago rather than a recent history of psychological "treatment"...

I think what scares scientists the most with this subject, is that to go further, it undoubtably has to reach a stage of Eugenics...
Which I'm all for in a sense, but given its Nazi history, probably something they're trying to go around to reach the same destination.

Time will tell.

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 03:56 PM

originally posted by: CharlieSpeirs
I think what scares scientists the most with this subject, is that to go further, it undoubtably has to reach a stage of Eugenics...
Which I'm all for in a sense, but given its Nazi history, probably something they're trying to go around to reach the same destination.

I think we need to stop demonizing eugenics. Everything in life can be positive or negative, so is eugenics. Big scale eugenics is foolish at best but in small scale, I'm sure that some good could come out of it.

But, I understand how eugenics can be compared to pandoras box...once we open the box, will we understand when we have gone far enough?

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 04:00 PM
a reply to: theMediator

I agree.

And I think Pandora's box is the perfect metaphor for Eugenics.

Vaccinations are a mild form of Eugenics...
So we are part way there anyways.

I think the only difference we'll have with detractors is do you breed the perfect human...
Or take away the negative effects after birth...

& at the moment, I'm at a crossroad in my beliefs on that.
edit on 6-7-2015 by CharlieSpeirs because: (no reason given)

edit on 6-7-2015 by CharlieSpeirs because: Added an '

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 04:02 PM
My particular area was human development and group dynamics and in those sub-sets of Psychology there are many well designed studies that are quite robust. The are many research psychologists that design and carry out these studies and now with the internet bringing in more subjects, beyond college students, the 'ability to predict' has increased dramatically.

While you cannot predict the development (or behavior) of an individual you can predict probabilites - very much as is done in quantum mechanics and I doubt you would call that an 'unscientific' field.

I guess it all comes down to what you mean my scientific.

Family Systems has been informed by General Systems theory as have all other domains of knowledge.

The Newtonian - reductionist model is not valid any longer - Quantum Mechanics blew the X causes Y equation out of the water.

We are developing new methods to describe and predict our world and most, in my limited understanding, are comming to the conclusion that those things you can predict with 100% accuracy - 100% of the time are the exception in science rather then the rule.

Great topic.

edit on 6-7-2015 by FyreByrd because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 04:24 PM
a reply to: Ghost147


Thomas Szasz's Summary Statement and Manifesto
1 "Myth of mental illness." Mental illness is a metaphor (metaphorical disease). The word "disease" denotes a demonstrable biological process that affects the bodies of living organisms (plants, animals, and humans). The term "mental illness" refers to the undesirable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of persons. Classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying the whale as a fish. As the whale is not a fish, mental illness is not a disease. Individuals with brain diseases (bad brains) or kidney diseases (bad kidneys) are literally sick. Individuals with mental diseases (bad behaviors), like societies with economic diseases (bad fiscal policies), are metaphorically sick. The classification of (mis)behavior as illness provides an ideological justification for state-sponsored social control as medical treatment.

2 Separation of Psychiatry and the State. If we recognize that "mental illness" is a metaphor for disapproved thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we are compelled to recognize as well that the primary function of Psychiatry is to control thought, mood, and behavior. Hence, like Church and State, Psychiatry and the State ought to be separated by a "wall." At the same time, the State ought not to interfere with mental health practices between consenting adults. The role of psychiatrists and mental health experts with regard to law, the school system, and other organizations ought to be similar to the role of clergymen in those situations.

3 Presumption of competence. Because being accused of mental illness is similar to being accused of crime, we ought to presume that psychiatric "defendants" are mentally competent, just as we presume that criminal defendants are legally innocent. Individuals charged with criminal, civil, or interpersonal offenses ought never to be treated as incompetent solely on the basis of the opinion of mental health experts. Incompetence ought to be a judicial determination and the "accused" ought to have access to legal representation and a right to trial by jury.

4 Abolition of involuntary mental hospitalization. Involuntary mental hospitalization is imprisonment under the guise of treatment; it is a covert form of social control that subverts the rule of law. No one ought to be deprived of liberty except for a criminal offense, after a trial by jury guided by legal rules of evidence. No one ought to be detained against his will in a building called "hospital," or in any other medical institution, or on the basis of expert opinion. Medicine ought to be clearly distinguished and separated from penology, treatment from punishment, the hospital from the prison. No person ought to be detained involuntarily for a purpose other than punishment or in an institution other than one formally defined as a part of the state's criminal justice system.

5 Abolition of the insanity defense. Insanity is a legal concept involving the courtroom determination that a person is not capable of forming conscious intent and, therefore, cannot be held responsible for an otherwise criminal act. The opinions of experts about the "mental state" of defendants ought to be inadmissible in court, exactly as the opinions of experts about the "religious state" of defendants are inadmissible. No one ought to be excused of lawbreaking or any other offense on the basis of so-called expert opinion rendered by psychiatric or mental health experts. Excusing a person of responsibility for an otherwise criminal act on the basis of inability to form conscious intent is an act of legal mercy masquerading as an act of medical science. Being merciful or merciless toward lawbreakers is a moral and legal matter, unrelated to the actual or alleged expertise of medical and mental health professionals.

6 In 1798, Americans were confronted with the task of abolishing slavery, peacefully and without violating the rights of others. They refused to face that daunting task and we are still paying the price of their refusal. In 1998, we Americans are faced with the task of abolishing psychiatric slavery, peacefully and without violating the rights of others. We accept that task and are committed to working for its successful resolution. As Americans before us have eventually replaced involuntary servitude (chattel slavery) with contractual relations between employers and employees, we seek to replace involuntary psychiatry (psychiatric slavery) with contractual relations between care givers and clients.
Thomas Szasz March 1998

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 04:36 PM
a reply to: TheConstruKctionofLight

While I do follow his 'reasoning', he is beginning from an incorrect premise and has to 'redine' the word disease completely in order to make his case.


a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment.
any abnormal condition in a plant that interferes with its vital physiological processes, caused by pathogenic microorganisms, parasites, unfavorable environmental, genetic, or nutritional factors, etc.
any harmful, depraved, or morbid condition, as of the mind or society:
His fascination with executions is a disease.
decomposition of a material under special circumstances:
tin disease.

He could of course modify the term as in organic disease or structural disease but in doing so negates his whole manifesto.

The word disease actually mean dis-ease or not at ease and applies to physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or another potential cause of 'dis-ease'.

I get the point and to a certain extent agree with it. This approach tends to make the rounds every so often and is currently being thrown at the 'disease' model of addiction. I can think of no greater cause of disease then addiction.

Until someone comes up with a better argument and one that doesn't rest solely on changing the definition of a word in long time common usage, I'm happy to consider disease as any source of un-ease.
edit on 6-7-2015 by FyreByrd because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 07:12 PM
Psychology is exactly referred to as a "soft science".

This and other disciplines such as sociology and anthropology don't lend themselves to closed system reasoning, which "hard sciences" tend to.

Therefor all the different factors that come into play for a person's mental health (of which there are infinite) cannot be cataloged and accounted for in a measurable sense.
But it is a science that applies reason, testing, group data and experiments as well as incorporating hard science data from biologists and neurochemists to reach reasonable conclusions.

That the majority of the human mind is not designed to interact on the levels of reason and objectivity is not the discipline's fault, but is the reason why "fluffy sounding" techniques and interpretations (like subjective relativity of emotional states) are often used and gives the field the impression of being not strictly scientific.

Just my layman's take on the subject.

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 07:43 PM
a reply to: CharlieSpeirs

Define perfect first, and then explain to yourself how you arrived at that definition.

Then understand that your definition will conflict with someone else's.

So what happens when the people in power come up with a definition of perfect that doesn't jive with yours and maybe necessitates that you be removed somehow from the gene pool? And what if you don't like or have reason to suspect their reasoning on perfect?

Or do you blindly accept that someone with letters after their name is always and unquestionably fully qualified to tell you everything.

I mean, c'mon! I'd totally trust that guy if he told me you were unfit to breed ...

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 08:02 PM
a reply to: ketsuko

I used perfect loosely to fit the idea I was trying to convey.

Basically immune to all ailments, and all round healthy.

I think it's a bit silly to think I was being absolute when I said perfect.

I have schizophrenia, quite severe in fact...
I also have a great immune system and can go days without food and water...
But given the first, I've taken it upon myself not to breed.

No one needs to make that decision for me...

Unless a Eugenacist comes along in the next few years and can cure schizophrenia, I'll remain childless.

posted on Jul, 6 2015 @ 11:17 PM
a reply to: Ghost147

Freud was a charlatan. Most of psychology is based on his work. However, modern advancement in the sciences, as you indicate, has been deployed to success.

However, i argue that scientific psychology is actually called "psychiatry". Psychology is still just witch doctors throwing bones.

posted on Jul, 7 2015 @ 12:38 AM
a reply to: Ghost147

beat to the punch on Freud. Lol It started in Philosophy in my opinion looking at freud's concepts on simple psychology and being the father of psychoanalysis. Cant leave without some input.
edit on 7-7-2015 by Chronico because: Content already discussed.

posted on Jul, 7 2015 @ 03:05 AM
a reply to: bigfatfurrytexan

However, i argue that scientific psychology is actually called "psychiatry".

I was starting to wonder if psychology there was the same as here . I once asked my psychiatrist if they were any closer to understanding the human brain . He said the more they know the less they seem to know , he went on to add that he had buried 4 of his colleagues . This man was/is at the pointy end of his profession . Makes you wonder if psychiatrists are committing suicide what hope there is for the vast majority of those suffering from depression etc . I am going pretty good at the moment and have been for 5 years or so but i know a lot still aren't . So i guess to stay on topic , its a pill guessing game , it worked i my case but only after being the poster boy for the drug companies for a long time

posted on Jul, 7 2015 @ 08:21 AM
a reply to: Ghost147

Well the thing is we may NEVER get to an objective state with Psychology, because the workings of the mind are a VERY subjective thing. We can't quantify it because it is like trying to picture the totality of pi. It can't be done. There is always going to be a minute difference between people that may make them react differently.

But even though, I think that there is a legit attempt being made to use the scientific method as best as possible to obtain the best results. Though, maybe the scientific method itself is flawed and a new methodology needs to be invented to better understand the workings of the mind. Something that is a bit more flexible in the evidence department (but obviously not TOO flexible or anything), but just as rigorous in the testing department.

Also, it's not like the scientific method hasn't been utilized to discard faulty science or anything.

posted on Jul, 7 2015 @ 12:02 PM
Wow this is a terrific thread. There are purposes for therapists out there beyond just being a whipping boy for the "hard sciences."

IS psychology a hard science? no...not a bit. A soft science? Sure why not

The part that matters is the people being helped by therapists. Anyone who is stuck in the idea that Freud = therapy is WAY too far gone to give a biased opinion on therapy. Having been in therapy myself and being a therapist, I have seen up close and personally the vast differences that have been made in clients who are hurting. People come in all the time and leave with a much happier existence than if they never talked it through. Truth be told, a good portion of the therapy session is catharsis.

Now I know what people think. "well why pay when a friend could just sit and listen."

1. Your friend is a guarantee to be unbiased. HE/SHE is you friend! They will likely take your side every time or perhaps always take the opposing side. It is of course impossible to say that all of therapy is unbiased. The difference is when I meet you the first time, I know nothing of you other than a few short words on the phone. And this space and time can and will be for you and nobody but you. That's another problem with friends because...

2. Friends seem to often times be waiting for their turn to interject with advice or just their turn to talk. Therapist wok on the principles of silence. That is a victory for people who have lived long lives of pain/etc. Given time for themselves with nobody to interject their own crap is important.

3. Most friends don't have practice in milieu therapies, techniques, non-judgment, mechanisms for improvement or even a proper idea of what pathology truly looks like. Perhaps if people as a whole had an idea, we wouldn't be running around with people thinking it is fashionable to self-diagnose with PTSD, bipolar, or my personal favorite (sarcasm), Asperger. There are people who tell people this all the time. Did I miss the boat? Was there some point when having a true mental illness became fun? But even clients who don't met a criteria can find a damn good space to work through life issues in a therapeutic space.

The whole part that bothers me is the stigma of being helped by a professional. People just love to throw around how much they know about therapy and therapists and tell others "oh isn't a science...don't go do that...just get better by drinking water, and taking this supplement." It's hogwash plain and simple. No, despite who I am and what I do, I do NOT agree that everyone meets DSM-V criteria for mental illness. There I said it. But when you meet someone (or in my cases hundreds) of people who do meet that criteria, AND have seen what a pill and/or therapy has done for them, then maybe just maybe we can get past this bullcrap.

posted on Jul, 7 2015 @ 03:32 PM

originally posted by: bigfatfurrytexan
a reply to: Ghost147

Freud was a charlatan. Most of psychology is based on his work. However, modern advancement in the sciences, as you indicate, has been deployed to success.

However, i argue that scientific psychology is actually called "psychiatry". Psychology is still just witch doctors throwing bones.

The great granddaddy of propoganda Edward Bernays - was a psychologist. His science works very well thank you.

You are creating distinctions where there are actualy done.

There is no hard and fast LINE between so called Hard Sciences and Soft Sciences, it's a nineteeth century idea. There is no difference - all sciences are soft and wiggly and changeable this days. Get used to it.

Physics, the 'hardest of the hard sciences' can't predict or know anything (other then what they don't know) with any precision - it's all (and really always has been) just good guesses and the ability (the art) of being able to design 'experiments' that will validiate your results and theories. Any-thing that doesn't fit - gets 'normalized' away.

There is an excellent documentary (Particle Fever that illistrates this point wonderfully. Briefly there are two basic theories about the Higgs Boson (commonly knowsas "The God Particle") one is string theory , the other is a multiverse type theory (not scientist - but fascinated so my particulars may be wrong - watch the doc) each theory predicted different 'energy' signatures of the Higgs Bosson. When the results of the experiement were compiled the results fell close to the midpoint between the two predicted outcomes.

Are both theories correct/wrong? Did they find evidence of something entirely different? Have they found the Higgs? Are there non-accounted for varibles effecting the results?

In other words - there are no definitive answers to anything - the more we can observe, the better our theories get (in all sciences and ART but that's another topic) and the more questions we have.

There are thousands of people, among the very smartest people on the planet, working to find this 'simple' fact.

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