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What is Psychology: Science Or Art

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What is psychology, what is science, is psychology considered science or art? We can easily answer the first two questions but to decide whether psychology is science or art has been a never-ending debate. Psychology has earned its place when Wilhelm Wundt set up the first lab that performed scientific data collection. Psychology is defined as the study of the human mind and behaviour. But whether it is considered scientifically studied or not is still an open debate till today. Science on the other hand is defined as knowledge which is obtained through empirical results. Therefore, a question like whether psychology theories are able to be studied objectively by empirical result or not is yet to have a definite answer. To defend my point of debate that psychology is considered fusion of science and art, I will start my analytical essay from both sides.

Wilson (2012) debated in one of his articles; “Stop bullying the ‘soft’ sciences’ that most scientists do not recognise psychology as real science. He even stated that the debate has grown into another serious level when the U.S House of Representative voted to stop the National Science Foundation from funding political science research. This idea is even backed by an opinion writer that any research in social sciences do not deserve funding by the National Science Foundation. Charles Lane quoted, “unlike hypotheses in the hard sciences, hypotheses about society usually can’t be proven or disproven by experimentation.” He further mentioned, all these critics resented him so much because he defended that credit must be given to social scientists who contributed so much for the benefit of people in so many ways. He listed out social problems such as depression, child abuse and teenage pregnancy which have benefited or been reduced thanks to the research disciplines developed by research psychologists. He defended that social psychological experiments have been able to test and verify the effectiveness of some social programs that were conducted in schools. Wilson (2012) concluded that social science is not perfect due to the complexity of human behaviour. But undeniably people benefited from psychological experimental studies including those who only believe in pure science.

Psychologist Timothy D. Wilson’s article was counteracted with another article on the next day; “Why psychology isn’t science” by Alex B. Berezow. He mentioned that to be qualified as science, it must have the five basic requirements; (1) Clearly defined terminology, (2) Quantifiability, (3) Highly controlled experimental conditions, (4) Reproducibility, and (5) Predictability and testability. Berezow gave example such as how to define happiness and how to measure already failed completely and impossible to achieve the other three. Berezow (2012) argued there is no reliable prediction made about human behaviour. To claim psychology as a science is an attempt to redefine science, therefore comes the risk that science can no longer claim to have empirical analysis of the natural world. Berezow (2015) quoted “while psychology uses the scientific method in its experiments, limitations inherent to the field of psychology (such as difficulty in properly defining terms and quantifying data) may forever prevent it from joining the ranks of the hard sciences.”

Science is mentioned by Henriques (2016) as “science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence”. But Henriques (2016) breaks the definition of science down into four elements: 1) the scientific mindset; 2) the scientific method; 3) the knowledge system of science and 4) science as a rhetorical label. He further claimed the fourth as the one which defines whether psychology is science or not. The first point is to explain to have make assumptions based on empirical evidence and have open mind set to possible natural, logic, and objectives causes and scepticism to tradition and supernatural interference. The second point is about the research methodology that we learned based on third point; the knowledge resources where the scientist can further their scientific inquiry such as the chemical formulation from the Periodic table. It is stated that culturally we see science as a rhetorical value. He mentioned Bezerow quoted real scientists have the right to defend their turf. While on the other hand, defenders of psychology as science say even though the research methodology of human behaviour is complex, psychology deserves to be credited as part of science. Henriques (2016) mentioned academic psychologist too focused on empirical experiments indirectly placed themselves as qualified scientists. Henriques (2016) claimed he saw that the reasons of scepticism are not found in the methods or mindset of psychologist, not because human behaviour is complex. The reasons he saw lie in the body of scientific knowledge as apparently there is a missing clear conceptual core where every mainstream psychologist can agree on. Paul Meehl (1978) quoted “it is simply a sad fact that in soft psychology theories rise and decline, come and go, more as a function of baffled boredom than anything else; and the enterprise shows a disturbing absence of that cumulative character that is so impressive in disciplines like astronomy, molecular biology, and genetics.” He concluded that psychology is science if it is defined by the scientific methods and valuable research into the mind and behaviour of human and animal. However, psychology is not a real science because it does not have a clear and cumulative base of knowledge resources.

To summarize, to label psychology as art or science has unresolved points of view. My verdict is psychology falls between true science and art. Psychology is a wide discipline which I see as an interdisciplinary discussion. In short, psychology contributes to both science and art; psychology studies help to solve social problems, medical, educational and criminal cases etc. To elaborate further, Gestalt Psychology has contributed to understand how we perceive the aesthetic of art. Behavioural psychologists, John B. Watson and Skinner, have contributed in behavioural therapy and training to solve behavioural problems. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis contributed to personality studies and mental illness. Jean Piaget’s cognitive development contributed to the educational field of how children learn and many more. Psychology is about the study of the human mind and behaviour. It deserves to stand alone as a unique field which requires crossover or interlink with other disciplines. “Psychology can improve its leadership in interdisciplinary enterprises but only if its teaching programmes emphasize both basic training in psychological theory and methodology and bridge gaps with other disciplines (e.g., with the biomedical disciplines in psychobiology, with sociology and political science in social psychology, with management and technology programs in industrial-organisational psychology, with computer science, mathematics, and statistics in computational neuroscience, and with psychiatry in clinical and personality psychology). Our challenge is to build appropriate interdisciplinary training into the curriculum of psychology programmes, while still maintaining the strong, traditional basis of Psychology.”

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