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Discuss whether psychology should be called a science. (12 marks)

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Discuss whether psychology should be called a science. (12 marks) Science is producing explanations for the natural world, whereas psychology is the science for humans and animals and producing explanations for their behaviour. However, sometimes psychology isn't seen as a science, as it relies heavily on research methods such as questionnaires, surveys and individual case studies to back up its theories. Also, psychologists are more interested in emotions, personality and thinking, which are hard to be measured. Therefore, it isn't seen as objective. Objectivity means that all sources of bias are minimized and that personal or subjective ideas are eliminated. Science implies that the facts will speak for themselves, even if they turn out to be different from what the investigator hoped ...read more.


Carrying on, science has to be observable. For example, in biology, the living world is studied. With psychology, behaviour and minds of humans and animals are studied. Most psychology approaches are observable; however the psychodynamic approach isn't as it concentrates on the mind, which is hard to observe. The methods of experimenting and research in psychology are completed on a scientific basis. Psychological experimental research usually involves the manipulation of a situation to examine the way in which the subjects of an experiment react, in order to observe cause and effect. The experimenter will manipulate independent variables and the subjects' responses would prove the dependant variables. ...read more.


This gives us confidence that the results are reliable and can be used to build up knowledge or a theory, which is vital in establishing a scientific theory. However, since many psychological aspects are based on unique investigations and studies, this isn't able to happen. Overall, most psychology is seen as a social science, giving explanations for behaviour. There are similarities and differences between science and psychology. The main difference between the two is that some approaches to psychology, such as the psychodynamic approach, are not scientific; this is mainly due to them being biased due to researcher intervention and having personal applications, in the form of dream analysis and case studies, for example. This can lead to psychology not being classified as a science. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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Response to the question

This essay boasts all the necessary building blocks for a fair response to the question, but a lack of clear augmentation and essay construction prevent the information being all that clear to someone who does not already study psychology. For ...

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Response to the question

This essay boasts all the necessary building blocks for a fair response to the question, but a lack of clear augmentation and essay construction prevent the information being all that clear to someone who does not already study psychology. For instance, sentences like this: "These [laboratory-based studies] are very controlled, therefore, researchers can't manipulate" are not clear in their suggestion of manipulations being ironed out. This is one of many similar issues because experiments conducted in laboratories of course can be manipulated - the independent variable is manipulated. I can see where the candidate is coming from, and they probably wanted to pick a word other than "bias" to help vary their answer a bit, but "manipulation" is a psychological term that cannot be thrown about lightly.

Elsewhere, it is nice to see a fairly balanced argument, concerning two main ideas of scientific classification - objectivity and replicability. Though in order to satisfy the question the candidate needs to mention all three scientific qualities - objectivity, replicability, and hypothesis. All scientific research must be predictable and allow researchers to hypothesise the results (the opposite of hypothesised studies being case studies, under the psychodynamic perspective and the humanistic approach, for example). As this is not explicitly stated in the answer, the candidate is limited only to a maximum of 8/12 marks (4 for each scientific quality).

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is fair. It is clear enough to a psychology student or teacher, but if explaining to a someone who is not so aware of psychology it may prove hard to understand. There is a sound understanding of what makes a science but implementing this with the scientific debate in psychology is where the marks are. It would also serve the candidate well to integrate their argument with other debates, to show the examiner they have a wide-spread knowledge of many areas of psychology. For instance, where they comment on the control of laboratory studies (it must be made aware to the candidate that the physiological and cognitive approaches are not the only two to utilise this design) they could comment on how the control aids replicability and objectivity in that if a study is highly controlled it can be replicated to look for reliability in the results if they are consistent. They could then link the objectivity to the quantitative/qualitative data debate, mentioning how numbers are universal standards and cannot be subject to researcher bias.

I would also like to see a bit more variation in the refutation of psychology as a science. The candidate always appears to opt for the psychodynamic perspective when addressing what doesn't make psychology a scientific practise, but there are other avenues rather than simply case studies. The candidate could talk about the lack of control in a field experiment (social approach), or the lack of hypotheses in the humanistic approach (see: Carl Rogers). This would help vary the answer and show the examiner that there is a greater knowledge of more areas of non-scientific psychological practise than simply the psychodynamic perspective.

Furthermore, I would like to see a few examples of studies given. Without empirical evidence from actual studies, the essay loses marks for it's analysis. Mentioning a few studies such as the case study of Little Hans by Freud or the laboratory study into eyewitness testimony by Loftus & Palmer would help increase the analysis and show the examiner the candidate knows how to implement psychological research into an answer discussing psychology's scientific merit.

As it stands, this candidate can expect to receive 6/12 marks for this essay (3 for comments on objectivity, 3 for comments on replicability and 0 for comments on hypothesis).

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication, from and English point of view is decent - not perfect, but at no point during the essay do readers find themselves losing track of what the candidate is trying to say. From a psychology perspective though, some of the language needs to be monitored carefully, as stated before - "manipulation" has actual psychology-orientated meanings and therefore to say laboratory experiments feature no manipulation from the researchers is erroneous. Elsewhere, there are no major issues to speak of, but do make sure you re-read all your work to ensure clarity in written expression, particularly in such a jargonised subject as psychology.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 15/07/2012

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