psychology by nuhman10


									Psychology is a science that studies human behaviour and the cognitive
processes of the mind. It is the topic of many discussions and debates whether
psychology actually qualifies as a science. As will further be discussed, the
profession has developed tremendously well as a science and follows many
facets of the scientific method, therefore, should definitely be classed a science.
There are many arguments that support this theory, as well as many that oppose
of it. With sufficient evidence, it is shown that psychology is a science and it is
used to develop theories about human perception and thinking. However, the
focus of psychology has not always been thought of as scientific. Over the past
century psychology has flourished from an art into a science and it has taken
many years for it to develop into how it is known today, as a modern science.

The term science is used to define a body of knowledge that has been derived
from the systematic application of the scientific method. The scientific method is
a system of investigating a subject or phenomena, in this case the human
psyche, following methods and procedures, focusing on basic principles and
general laws of science. (Penguin, 2001) Research can be undertaken using
various methods including experiments, questionnaires and observational
studies. The main objective of scientific research is to explain, describe and
predict certain aspects of a phenomenon. Often, in psychological research, the
purpose of a study is to discover causal factors of a particular area of interest in
order to understand why certain things occur, such as why do some children
develop differently to others? Or why are particular people more susceptible to
develop mental illnesses? Once an investigative study has been undertaken, the
researcher is required to compile the findings of the study and report on it. The
study then moves towards the difficult task of presenting the data in a manner
that convincingly conveys the information, in order to prevent skepticism and
provide credible, plausible empirical research. (Sue, S, 1999)

In the modern psychological profession, the main focus has not only been to
promote human welfare, with the practice of clinical psychologists, but also to
advance as a science and despite many intellectual battles and differentiating
opinions along the way, it has become quite successive as a scientific discipline.
The founder of psychology was a German Professor, William Wundt (1832-
1920). He first brought psychology into light as an independent scientific
discipline, concentrating on the consciousness. He stated that it should be a
science, based on the fields of physics and chemistry, this way it would still keep
its focus on the mind, but would use scientific methods in order to study it.
Wundt opened the first research laboratory for psychology in Germany in 1879.
This began a new era for psychology with many students studying underneath
Wundt, following his principles, which led to the opening of more laboratories,
many of which were in America.

Throughout the rise of the profession there have been endless debates on what
the focus of the scientific psychology should be. Edward Titchener, a former
student of Wundt‟s, believed that it should study the elements of the
consciousness such as sensations and feelings, this school of thought came to
be known as structuralism.       This form of study undertook the method of
introspection, which involves observing the subject in various conditions and
using visual stimuli, optical illusions and other types of probes during the study.
The participant would then give an explanation of their experiences during the
study in order to be analysed. (Weiten, W) The argument against this approach,
known as functionalism, was led by the work of an American Scholar, William
James. Functionalists believed that psychology should focus on the functions of
consciousness instead of its structure. This approach was found to be more
successful then that of structuralism and led to the emergence of behaviourism
and applied psychology, two dominating schools of thought which changed the
path of psychology.

Behaviourists stated that psychology should only focus on observable behaviour.
This approach was directed by John B Watson (1878-1958), who believed that
scientific psychology should change its focus completely to study behaviour that
can only be observed directly. Watson believed that this approach would provide
the most credible, exact and more so, verifiable data. This brought the debate of
“nature versus nurture” to view, and Watson argued that the surrounding
environment was more dominate then that of heredity. The opposing opinion was
that of Gestalt psychology and this brought the focus of psychology back to the
study of the conscious. The opinion of Gestalt psychologists was that the focus
should remain on the conscious experience and was mainly concerned with
perception. The work of Sigmund Freud focused the unconscious and mental
disorders.   He believed that unconscious thoughts influenced a person‟s
behaviour without them knowing it.            Freud used a technique called
psychoanalytic theory, which emphasise is on explaining personality and mental
disorders through the unconsciousness.        Psychoanalytic theory followed the
belief that people were influenced greatly by there sexual urges, many people of
this era found this to be controversial, sex was not a topic that was to be spoken
about openly.    Despite this, Freud‟s popularity grew and the psychoanalytic
theory became well known throughout the field of psychology. (Weiten, W)

Behaviourism returned in the 1950‟s with the argument that the focus should
continue to be on observable behaviour.         B F Skinner (1904-1990), used
laboratory experimentation methods with animals to prove that behaviour was
governed by external stimuli. Some of his most famous experiments included
training animals to perform behaviours that they normally wouldn‟t do, such as,
teaching pigeons to play ping pong. These experiments were used in his
argument to prove that people are controlled by their environment and their
actions are not the result of conscious decisions. The argument against this
brought about a new school of thought called humanism. Humanists believed
that the study of animals was irrelevant to the study of human psychology and
they argued that the focus should be based on humans themselves. The debate
has not stopped there, psychology took a turn, once again, back to its original
focus of the mind. Cognitive research has followed the thought that it is crucial to
study the mind to help understand behaviour and is the most dominant form of
the psychological discipline today.

For something to be scientific there is a requirement for something to study.
Many argue that psychology, the study of the psyche, can not be studied
physically and therefore is not a science. Arguments that the consciousness
does not contain sufficient qualities that can be studied scientifically have been
proven wrong by the existence of many successful scientific studies that have
been undertaken, such as, experiments on the mental development of children,
the effectiveness of education and studies on behavioural differences between
the sexes.   To study the cognitive processes of the mind, methods such as
electrical stimulation and scientific studies on the brain functions are used, for
example, through scientific research on the brain it has been found that the right
and left half of the brain handle different mental tasks. Modern psychology has
proven that people, their thoughts and cognitive processes can be studied
scientifically and despite the many debates and changes to the subject matter of
the psychology discipline, the focus of scientific research remained. Psychology
continued to use the application of experiments and controlled situations to
undertake studies and continues to provide further understanding and predictions
of particular areas of interest. This was successful with the use of experiments,
questionnaires and psychological testing. These methods are also used to
investigate the cognitive processes of the human mind and provide sufficient data
in order to present reputable empirical research.

As shown, there are many experimental procedures undertaken during the study
of psychology. Often, due to ethical reasons certain studies cannot be carried
out. In this case, an investigative method called psychometrics is used. The
term psychometrics is used when two variables of a study are carefully observed.
This method of study allows psychologists to introduce other methods of
researching techniques, such as psychological testing and questionnaires, which
produce reliable and sufficient scientific data made possible with the use of
statistics. The statistical method is used to provide quantitative data on
observations of a population of study that occur outside of the laboratory.
Statistics help to strengthen the legitimacy of the data that is produced from
psychological studies.     The use of statistics has extended the study of
psychology from focusing directly on one individual at a time to concentrating on
the characteristics of a population. A „population‟ is a group of people used to
represent the entire population of a study. To make this possible, the hypothetical
population is used and all the participants undertake the same investigative
procedures during the study, from this statistics are collected and a mean, or
average, is sought from the data and used as an overall result for the study at

Despite the forever changing debates on what the focus should be on, from the
beginning of the scientific discipline of psychology, it has always used and
applied methodological investigations to its studies in order to provide scientific
evidence of its findings. Laboratory experimentation is used where possible to
establish and produce credible knowledge during studies and closely follows the
examples set by other experimental sciences. Whilst in many cases of
psychological research the focus is on naturally occurring issues and important
concerns of everyday life.      Within this area of the psychological scientific
discipline it has developed its own investigative style and experimental
techniques but still follows scientific methodologies and laws that are different in
some ways to that of the traditional sciences, which mainly concentrate on
artificial objects that are produced such as chemical elements, but still qualify as
scientific. Psychology is successful as a science as it draws on a hypothesis, it
uses valuable researching techniques and methods such as experiments,
questionnaires and data collecting. Once it has found the appropriate information
the data is then analyzed and concluded by reporting of the new found findings.

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