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Is psychology really a science?

There are many factors which explain why psychology is a science but then there are many conflicting factors also. This essay outlines some of the points of each side of the argument and the conclusion is based upon my opinion from research.

Science comes from the Latin word scientia from scire, which means “to know”. It is a term used in its broadest sense to denote systematic knowledge into any field but usually applied to the organization of objectively verifiable sense. The field that contributed most to the development of scientific psychology was physiology—the study of the functions of the various organ systems of the body. The German physiologist Johannes M?ller tried to relate sensory experience both to events in the nervous system and to events in the organism’s physical environment. The first true exponents of experimental psychology were the German physicist Gustav Theodor Fechner and the German physiologist Wilhelm Wundt. Fechner developed experimental methods for measuring sensations in terms of the physical magnitude of the stimuli producing them. Wundt, who in Leipzig, Germany, in 1879 founded the first laboratory of experimental psychology, trained students from around the world in the new science.

This experimental tradition rested on the assumption that the basic mechanisms and units of behaviour could be identified, in a way analogous to the physical sciences. Human beings, however, are essentially individuals, differing from each other in important ways. The scientific measurement of individual differences (psychometrics) can be said to take as its starting point the work of Francis Galton, in particular his book Hereditary Genius (1869). He also showed how, in principle, the origins of these differences could be traced to the relative effects of heredity and environment. In both psychology and science data is gathered and then conclusions follow on from this but science deals with facts, psychology deals with significance. Both conduct experiments to test theory, for example, a hypothesis is put forward and then an experiment is set up to test if such is true or not. Then again, science deals with invariant subject matter whereas people are all different. Both determine statistical significance and try to be objective in their own rights. When it comes to the nature versus nurture debate both psychology and science examine each of these and continue to conjure up new points and factors which argue each side of the debate. You could also argue that when it comes to science, there is a very visible line drawn between which is the effect of nature and which of nurture. Descartes argued that the bodies of people are like clockwork machines, but that their minds (or souls) are separate and unique. He maintained that minds have certain inborn, or innate, ideas and that these ideas are crucial in organizing people’s experiencing of the world. Hobbes and Locke, on the other hand, stressed the role of experience as the source of human knowledge. Locke believed that all information about the physical world comes through the senses and that all correct ideas can be traced to the sensory information on which they are based.

When it comes to science, efforts to systematize knowledge can be traced back to prehistoric times, 30,000b.c – 9,000 b.c, during the last ice age, through the designs that Palaeolithic people painted on the walls of caves, through numerical records that were carved in bone or stone, and through artefacts surviving from Neolithic civilizations. The oldest written records of protoscientific investigations come from Mesopotamian cultures; 3500 BC to the 6th century BC. Science has had 32,000 years of discovery and appreciation whereas the roots of modern psychological theory are found in the 17th century in the works of the French philosopher Ren? Descartes and the British philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Psychology is still pretty far behind in terms of deciding which aspects of human nature arise due to the effects of nature or nurture. In saying this, using the expression ‘far behind’ leads me to think of sciences progress and where it was three hundred years after it was founded. Psychology is a relatively new discovery and with all things, knowledge comes with experience, trial and time. Psychology shares many characteristics in terms of subject with science and if they were both discovered at the same time I imagine that they would be head to head in how much was discovered and therefore there would be no need for a debate such as this one.

From writing this essay I have come to a clear conclusion of my opinion that yes, psychology is a science, it is only in its early stages of discovery and has yet to flourish and blossom into something so great as to what we live and swear by today as science.

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