To get the answer of the question ‘Whether Psychology is a science?‘, we need to understand ‘what is psychology?’ & ‘what is science?‘. We need to understand whether there are similarities in these two subjects / discipline. If there are, what are they?. If not, what are they?
Let us begin with understanding of psychology.
What is psychology?
The word psychology has Greek roots; meaning study of the psyche (i.e “breath, spirit, soul”) and logos means “science or study of” or “research“.
Earlier, Psychology is ‘the science of mind’, then it became ‘the science of consciousness’(by Wilhelm Wundt); study of unconscious(by Sigmund Freud) ; ‘a science of behavior’ (by John Watson), and finally ‘The study of human behaviour and mental processes.’
Psychology study mental processes, experience, and behaviour of Individual, dyadic (two person) group, and organizational. They also have biological as well as social bases.
What are definitions of psychology?
According to some psychologist, researches and experts like
- William James (1890) defined psychology as “the science of mental life, both of its phenomena and their conditions”.
- John B. Watson (1913) defined psychology as “the acquisition of information useful to the control of behavior”.
- Ciccarelli & Meyer,2006 defined psychology as “the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. “
- Rathus, (2008) defined psychology as “the science that studies behavior and mental processes.”
- American Psychological Association (APA) defined, “Psychology is a multifaceted discipline and includes many sub-fields of study such areas as human development, sports, health, clinical, social behavior and cognitive processes.”
So, basically psychology studies, the nervous system, sensation and perception, learning and memory, intelligence, language and thinking, growth and development, motivation and emotion, personality, stress, psychological disorders, ways of treating those disorders, sexual behavior, and the behavior of people in social settings such as groups and organizations.
What is Science ?
Science is defined as a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.
According to Britannica, science is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation.
According to Berkerley, University of California, Science is both a body of knowledge and a process.
Whether Psychology is a science?’
Psychology is a science because
- Scientific Method/ tools – Modern psychology has developed the application of the scientific method for psychological phenomenon. For example EEG, fMRI, Observations, Experiments (Zeigarnik effect, stroop effect), etc.
- Objectivity – Science places a great deal of emphasis on objectivity which can be obtained if there is consensus on the definition of a concept and how it can be measured. Psychology use Standardized tests like– NEO FFI, MBTI, APPTITUDE TEST like SAT, GRE etc.
- Hypothetico-Deductive Model of Descartes- It suggests that scientific advancement can take place if you have a theory to explain a Concept /Phenomenon. Psychology has lot of theories (BIG FIVE Model, Motivation Theories) like any other sciences.
- The Hypothesis Testing– like any other science subject (physics, biology, etc.) Psychology do focus on hypothesis testing to find fact to generalize.
- Empirical Data- Psychology do collect data empirically by using different sampling methods like any other.
- Research – Like any other science subject, Psychology focuses on research and uses statistical tools & research methodology.
Psychology is not a science because
- No absolute zero – psychological phenomenon /concepts can not have absolute zero like other science subjects will have.
- Subjectivity– there is much scope for subjectivity in psychology.
On the above points discussed for the question ‘Whether psychology is science or not?’ can be conclude in considering Psychology as science subject/ discipline with the limitations. Similar to sciences subjects, psychology too has exceptions. Psychology as a subject tilted towards science more than arts; as it focus more on studying psychological phenomenon / concepts by using scientific methods for empirical data collection to test theories and hypothesis.