Is Psychology a science?

Is Psychology a science?

Psychology is considered a science, sharing traits both with the natural sciences (eg, neuro-psychology) and the social sciences (eg, social psychology). This is, at least, a simple answer to the question.

In reality, the answer is not that simple. Psychology is a discipline comprising a combination of knowledge and practices, with a particular focus on behavior and the mind. Some of this knowledge and practices is based on science, some of it is not. For example:

  • Certain psychological processes have been researched and replicated, which make such knowledge scientific.
  • Other psychological processes have been studied empirically but not replicated, which make such knowledge quasi-scientific.
  • Finally, some other psychological processes are largely untested, which make such knowledge pseudo-scientific.

On the other hand, the applied end of psychology provides some technologies, including procedures, therapies, tips, and so on (eg, clinical psychology). Some of these technologies are based on scientific or quasi-scientific knowledge (eg, medical and cognitive therapies for depression), while other technologies are based on pseudoscientific knowledge (eg, psychoanalysis).

In summary. To the question whether Psychology is a science, the answer is 'it depends'. It is a discipline with a combination of scientific (including quasi-scientific) and pseudoscientific knowledge and practices. Depending on which field of psychology you look at, it may be more or less scientific or, even, utterly non-scientific.

Want to know more?

Scientific American blogs - Is psychology a “real” science? Does it really matter?
Jogalekar's blog entry on the meaning of science for fields such as Psychology. - Is Psychology a Science?
Lutus's take on why clinical psychology is not a science.

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