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Psychology as a Science

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Describe and Discuss the historical development of psychology as a science. According to Russell & Jarvis(2003: 469) "the word 'science' comes from the Latin word 'scire', meaning 'to know'"; thus it is the knowledge of specific study. Psychology was defined by Atkinson et al. (2000: 3, cited by Mestre. et al. 2002: 811) as the "scientific study of behaviour and mental processes". Psychology has been universally recognised as a science since the late 1800's when James (1890, cited by Gross 1999: 3) stated that 'Psychology is the Science of Mental Life". Though many praise the study of psychology for it's findings and achievements there will always be those who are sceptical of these findings and whether or not they can be seen as 'solid'. Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) is widely seen as the 'founding father' of 'new psychology', in which we mean psychology as a separate scientific discipline, rather than it had been previously; a part of philosophy. Wundt created 'structuralism', this is the study of the mind by breaking all chains of thought down in to such things as images, feelings and sensations, for example, if one were to think of chocolate, one may picture the bar, have a feeling of desire for the bar which may produce the sensation of hunger. By studying the conscious mind using introspection he would record the results of his studies, these would be performed under controlled conditions, by which we mean no outside interferences or influences. ...read more.


this does not give us an image of what someone is thinking it does provide us with information as to which different triggers the varying reactions which until recently we have not been able to understand, obviously, this provides us with clear findings. Until the 1950s, Behaviourism dominated psychological experimentation as psychologists such as John Watson believed that only observable behaviour should be investigated if psychology wished to be considered an objective science. Thus, though psychology may not have directly effected the advances in technology the benefit it has seen from these advances are clear, it is now possible for psychologists to view the workings of the brain through the advances in other areas of science, therefore this can only inflate psychology's status as a separate scientific discipline. Despite the arguments for psychology to be considered a science there are, of course, those that believe it should not. Those who are against the idea of psychology as a science believe there are many issues surrounding areas of psychology and the methods of investigation it carries out, one area of concern is that of sampling; random, stratified, opportunity, self-selecting/volunteer. The first in the above list, random sampling, is very rarely used, or at least it is very rare that it can be considered 'true'; "true random sampling only occurs when every member of a target population has an equal chance of being selected" (Hill, 2009: 35), this is rarely the case as in a large target audience, in order for everyone to have an ...read more.


The study of psychology is intangible, the majority of existing findings can list both the advantages and limitations of studies. Until recently, many of the research findings could not be directly observed, however due to advances in medical technology it is now possible to view the effects of studies; researchers are now able to map the brain and observe how different stimulus effect different parts of the brain and how different behaviours are triggered. Though it is evident that certain aspects of psychology have gained more authority as a separate scientific discipline there will always be some aspects of psychology which are looked down upon as 'softer' studies, such as the humanistic approach, there is no doubt that psychology as a whole has developed to a huge degree since Wundt first introduced Structuralism. There will always be two sides regarding the argument of whether or not psychology should be considered a science, which is a debate that will continue for years to come, however as more advances are made in both technology and methods of study and research psychology will build a stronger case for being considered a science and those in the more obvious scientific Worlds, such as biology, physics and chemistry will have to pay attention to it. "So, is psychology a science? If we adopt a broad, modern view of nature and philosophy of science, then psychology in all it's manifestations is unquestionably a science. However, many psychologists prefer to adhere to a more old-fashioned view of what science means, and according to this more traditionalist school of thought only come approaches to psychology can be called science. ...read more.

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