In order to answer this question it is important to understand thedefinitions of both psychology and science. The word ‘psychology’ comesfrom the Greek ‘psyche’ (or soul) and ‘logos’ (or study), which came to beknown as the ‘study of the soul’.
The American Heritage Dictionary definespsychology as:1. the science dealing with the mind and with mental and emotionalprocesses2. the science of human and animal behavior. In its pure definition the dictionary has provided us with a clue to theanswer, it describes science as:1.
systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, etc. 2. a branch of knowledge, esp. one that systematizes facts, principles, andmethods3. skill or techniqueIn order to prove this claim we have to look at whether or not psychologycan fill this definition above. Scientific study is a valid way of coming to an understanding of life, andcan be very useful in every area of life.
Science develops theories basedon what is observed. It examines each theory with rigorous and scrupuloustests to see if it describes reality. The scientific method works well inobserving and recording physical data and in reaching conclusions whicheither confirm or nullify a theory. During the mid-19th century, scholars (although at that time probablytermed philosophers) wanted to study human nature with the aim of applyingthe scientific method to observe, record, and treat human behavior that wasdeemed as unnatural. They believed that if people could be studied in ascientific manner, there would be a greater accuracy in understandingpresent behavior, in predicting future behavior, and, most controversially,in altering behavior through scientific intervention.
There are many areas of psychology, each attempting to explain behaviorfrom slightly different perspectives;Social psychology is concerned with the effects of social situations onhuman behavior. Personality theorists study individual behavior. Comparative psychologists study animal behaviors across the range ofspeciesPhysiological psychologists are concerned with the biological basis ofbehavior. Developmental psychologists study principles and processes responsible forchange throughout life. Cognitive psychologists investigate memory, thought, problem solving, andthe psychological aspects of learning. Analysis of behavior studies the conditions under which a behavior can belearned and the situations that cause that behavior to occur.
Learning is an area of psychology exploring how new behaviors are learnedand maintained. Clinical psychologists study ways to help individuals and groups ofindividuals change their behavior. Industrial and organizational psychologists are concerned with the physicaland social aspects of people’s work environments as they affect workoutput. Community psychologists use scientific methods to study and solve socialproblems. As Western describes, the psychological paradigm is a collection ofassumptions used to make sense of a subject area or experience, this can beapplied to psychology itself. Psychology lacks one unified paradigm buthas four perspectives that search for its understanding;The pyschodynamic perspective believes that behavior is a result ofunconscious processes, personal motivation and early childhood experiences.
It’s most famous advocate was Sigmund Freud. Its method of datacollection rely heavily on interpreting discussion, dreams and fantasies,actions, case studies and a limited amount of experimentation. The behaviorist perspective believes that behavior is learned and selectedby environmental consequences. Its method of data collection reliesheavily on experimentation conducted in the scientific laboratory where thefactors studied can be controlled; or it may take place in a real lifesetting where more natural behavior is studied and far more variablesexist. The cognitive perspective believes that behavior is a result of informationprocessing, storage in the brain, transformation and the retrieval ofinformation. The methods of data collection used are again experimentationbut with much use of computer modeling.
The evolutionary perspective believes that psychological processes echo theevolutionary processes of natural selection. Its method of data collectionincludes the deduction of explanations for behavior, and comparisonsbetween species and cultures. It also involves a limited amount ofexperimentation. Of these four perspectives all lend common similarities to the traditionalsciences.
All have elements of controlled experimentation, as does physicsor chemistry. Cognitive perspectives use computer modeling, as doesmathematics. There are similarities, but there are also differences to anyother sciences, such as the study of dreams and fantasies. The methods of experimentation and research in psychology is completed on ascientific basis. Psychological experimental research would involve themanipulation of a situation to examine the way in which the subjects of anexperiment react, in order to observe cause and effect. The experimentermanipulates independent variables and the subjects responses would provethe dependant variables.
By measuring the subjects responses, theexperimenter can tell if the manipulation has