Critically is to then determine whether psychology is a

Critically evaluate the statement ‘psychology is a
science’.

It
is crucial to first identify what a science is to then determine whether
psychology is a science or not. A ‘science’ is defined as the’systematic study
of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through
observation and experiment.'(Oxford DictionariesEnglish2010).  Since science is based on observation and
experiment rather than opinion and feelings for example, this makes itobjective
which some argue is not the same in psychology’s case. Objectivity is one of
the four principles that science is based on according to Gauch (2003), the
others are realism, truth and rationality (Gauch 2003). On the other hand, ‘psychology’
is defined as ‘the scientific study of the way the human mind works and how it
influences behaviour.'(Cambridge English Dictionary2018). Psychology is
comparatively new when compared to science as it is only a few hundreds of
years old (Danzinger 2013) whereas science can be traced back to as far as
Ancient Greece (Lilienfeld 2010). Regardless of the branch of psychology that a
Psychologist may specialise in, scientific methods are used to produce new
knowledge in the case of psychological researcher or existing research is used
by chartered psychologists for example to enable them to help others. The
statement ‘psychology is a science’ is one that has been debated for many years
now and remains debatable to date.

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A
main argument against Psychology being a science is the idea that it can
sometimes lack objectivity and lean more towards subjectivity. For a subject to
be classed as a science, its research must not contain any traces of bias from
the researcher (ITC). In addition, the researcher’s feelings and emotions must
not have an impact on the research in any way(Ratner2002). If a psychologist is
using a questionnaire to obtain research for example, but tailors the questions
so that they can only be answered in a certain way that will prove the
psychologist’s original hypothesis, surely, this cannot be classed as valid
data due to the questionnaire originally being of a highly subjective nature.
If it is possible for a researcher to do this, it can be argued to what extent
psychology can be labelled as a science as science is based on facts and
empirical evidence. Nonetheless, it is not fair to completely disregard that
lab experiments are used in some psychological research and are objective. This
is the case especially with biological and cognitive psychologists who use
controlled lab experiments to collect their data which ultimately leads to
unbiased findings and results. Therefore, to some extent it can be argued that
psychology is a science as it would not be fair to come to a general conclusion
that it is not as the scientific method is used in psychology and is a vital
part of mainstream psychological research (textbook 410)
which they can then go on to use to develop theories for example.

       Both scientists and psychologists construct
theories and most importantly, the theories must be able to be scientifically
tested. A psychologist must test a theory that is being developedby making
predictions that can be observed and empirically tested (Haig, 2005). Any
theory cannot be deemed as scientific unless the empirical method has been used
to test the hypothesis and then it has been verified (ITC).This
may seem like enough to some to make the assertion that psychology is a science
as the construction of a psychological theory must follow the same process as
any other scientific theory and can also be accepted or rejected like any other
scientific theory.(ITC)  However, the
humanistic approach can overshadow this as the subjective experiences of
individuals are taken into consideration (ITC)and
the approach suggests not to generalise any rules relating to the individuals
included in the study for example as every case is different. This is unfavourable
to the statement that ‘psychology is a science’ as for example, a scientific
theory that has been developed should be replicable which also proves its reliability
(ITC). If some psychologists choose to adopt the humanistic approach, the
significance of their theory can be challenged as if another psychologist was
to conduct the same research to try and verify the theory; the same results are
not likely to be obtained.

                Despite the humanistic approach being detrimental
to the statement that ‘psychology is a science, psychology is similar to the
hard sciences such as chemistry and biology. This is due to the use of empirical
evidence, which to some may be enough to conclude that psychology is a science.
On the other hand, it is argued that psychological research lacks precision in
the measurements that are used. (ITC BRINK). For instance, a psychologist conducting
research in order to find out what the cause of stress is, would find it harder
than a chemist would to find out for example how many moles of a substance is
needed to start off a reaction. This is due to scientists being able to use
variables that have already been established for example the ‘mole’, ‘metres’
and ‘kilograms’ which were revised and simplified in 1960 (Us-Metric
Association 2018). For psychologists, there are not simple established
variables like those that are related to the ‘hard’ sciences that could be used
to discover the cause of stress. Instead, psychologists may lean more towards
self report studies or looking out for physiological changes that are perceived
as being related to stress such as perspiration (Masaoka et al., 2007). This
can be argued to hold little to no significance as every individual is
different; not everyone will perspire when stressed so this cannot be used as a
direct variable without resulting in flawed data collection and findings. On the
other hand, it is unreasonable to disregard the fact that some of the
measurements used in psychology are reliable despite them not using standard measurements
like the sciences do. For example IQ tests are one of the most highly reliable
measures that are used in psychology and ‘can predict school grades at age 16
from measurement at age 11’ (Deary et al. 2007). Although this should not be
disregarded, it does not necessarily mean that psychology can be classed as a
science as the lack of established variables effect its causality.

              Causality can be argued for and against
psychology being a science. Similar to the sciences, some branches of
psychology establish a cause and effect relationship such as the cognitive and
behavioural approaches (ITC). In science the effect of the independent variable
on the dependent variable is normally apparent. This is due to most scientific
experiments being controlled laboratory experiments.(ITC) In psychology, as discussed
previously, cause and effect relationships can be established when taking a
cognitive or behavioural approach as these approaches mostly use controlled laboratory
experiments. However, again, as not every psychological approach may use
controlled experiments in which causality effects are clear to see this is
detrimental to the argument in support of the statement that ‘psychology is a
science. Freud (1914) theory of the unconscious further weakens the support of
the statement as his theory cannot be tested resulting in the absence of both
independent and dependent variables which ultimately results in the failure to
establish a cause and effect relationship. However, because not all
psychologists fail to establish cause and effect relationships, this supports
psychology being a science as some psychologists still follow this scientific
discipline.