Psychology, Science or Pseudoscience

Psychology has always been a controversial discipline since its approaches are considered unreliable. Despite skepticism towards psychology, it fits the basic criteria of a science. Defining if psychology is a science or not, attention must be paid to two main factors: Popper’s criterion of science (its falsifiability) and the research method of psychology. Psychology is a science since it meets Popper’s principle of falsifiability and psychologists apply the scientific method in their researches.

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Karl Popper is a famous philosopher who contributed a lot towards the issue of demarcation. He argues, that the basic criterion, which defines science from pseudoscience is its falsifiability. It means that if the theory can be refuted, then it can be called scientific. Of course, psychoanalysis, which is believed to be the “father” of psychology, is a pseudoscience. But despite the fact, psychoanalysis fails to pass Popper’s test on falsifiability, psychological theories can be falsifiable. Psychologists work with sensitive matter and all their claims can easily be refuted even by empirical data. Wigboldus provides the similar idea, saying that since psychology works with people who are prone to change, many of its theories are controversial as well. Psychology is a modern science and there are still many contradictions in its theories, which means the constant process of their improvement (which is also the purpose of falsifiability). As seen, it is quite easy to find contradictions in psychological theories (mostly because it deals with processes in human mind, which are unpredictable), which makes psychology falsifiable.

Many of contemporary researchers, such as Davies consider psychology to be a science without referring to Popper’s criterion. The matter is that psychologists use scientific reasoning and scientific methods in their researches. For example, the predictions that psychologists make can be verified by experiments. That distinguishes psychology from religion or astrology, for example, in which no specific connection between cause and effect can be proved. Also, any psychological research requires scientific method to be used. It means that a researcher must analyze information and collect data to prove his (her) theory and to make possible predictions. In other words, technically, psychology is a science like physics or mathematics since it is not based on the groundless predictions, but on the scientific research and data analysis. Therefore, since it is possible to test psychological hypotheses by experiments and the scientific method is used in psychology, it is fair enough to consider psychology a science.

In conclusion, psychology is a science since its theories can be falsifiable and are based on scientific research instead of simple predictions. Karl Popper suggests the principle of falsifiability to differ science from pseudoscience. In psychology, even evidence-based data can provide results that would call the theory into question and psychologists will need to improve such theory. Since it is quite easy to find the weaknesses of psychological theories, they fit Popper’s criterion of falsifiability. Besides, all psychological theories can be tested by experiments and psychologists use the scientific method (they collect and analyze data to prove their hypotheses and provide predictions). That is why psychology can be defined as a science.