SI Psy a Science Essay

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Is Psychology a Science?

In order to answer this question it is important to understand the
definitions of both psychology and science. The word 'psychology' comes
from the Greek 'psyche' (or soul) and 'logos' (or study), which came to be
known as the 'study of the soul'. The American Heritage Dictionary
defines psychology as:

1. the science dealing with the mind and with mental and
emotional processes 2. the science of human and animal behavior.

In its pure definition the dictionary has provided us with a clue to the
answer, it describes science as:

1. systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, etc. 2. a
branch of knowledge, esp. one that systematizes facts,
principles, and methods 3. skill or technique

In order to prove this claim we have to look at whether or not psychology
can fill this definition above.

Scientific study is a valid way of coming to an understanding of life, and
can be very useful in every area of life. Science develops theories based
on what is observed. It examines each theory with rigorous and scrupulous
tests to see if it describes reality. The scientific method works well in
observing and recording physical data and in reaching conclusions which
either confirm or nullify a theory.

During the mid-19th century, scholars (although at that time probably
termed philosophers) wanted to study human nature with the aim of applying
the scientific method to observe, record, and treat human behavior that
was deemed as unnatural. They believed that if people could be studied in
a scientific manner, there would be a greater accuracy in understanding
present behavior, in predicting future behavior, and, most controversially,
in altering behavior through scientific intervention.

There are many areas of psychology, each attempting to explain behavior
from slightly different perspectives;

Social psychology is concerned with the effects of social situations on
human behavior. Personality theorists study individual behavior.
Comparative psychologists study animal behaviors across the range of
species Physiological psychologists are concerned with the biological
basis of behavior. Developmental psychologists study principles and
processes responsible for change throughout life. Cognitive psychologists
investigate memory, thought, problem solving, and the psychological
aspects of learning. Analysis of behavior studies the conditions under
which a behavior can be learned and the situations that cause that
behavior to occur. Learning is an area of psychology exploring how new
behaviors are learned and maintained. Clinical psychologists study ways to
help individuals and groups of individuals change their behavior.
Industrial and organizational psychologists are concerned with the
physical and social aspects of people's work environments as they affect
work output. Community psychologists use scientific methods to study and
solve social problems.

As Western describes, the psychological paradigm is a collection of
assumptions used to make sense of a subject area or experience, this can
be applied to psychology itself. Psychology lacks one unified paradigm
but has four perspectives that search for its understanding;

The pyschodynamic perspective believes that behavior is a result of
unconscious processes, personal motivation and early childhood experiences.
It's most famous advocate was Sigmund Freud. Its method of data
collection 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 selected
by environmental consequences. Its method of data collection relies
heavily on experimentation conducted in the scientific laboratory where
the factors studied can be controlled; or it may take place in a real
life setting where more natural behavior is studied and far more variables

The cognitive perspective believes that behavior is a result of
information processing, storage in the brain, transformation and the
retrieval of information. The methods of data collection used are again
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