Psychology has been defined as the study of human behavior, or a science that deals with mental and emotional processes. The American Psychological Association (2010) defines it as a diverse subject which is grounded in science, having numerous applications in everyday life. Given that any discipline is subject to continuous growth, psychology was not initially termed as a science until the mid nineteenth century. It is therefore a young science compared to other natural sciences which have a long history, but it is growing rapidly.
Nevertheless, for it to be a science it must possess some scientific characteristics that describe every discipline termed as such. On the other hand, science is usually described as systematic knowledge derived from study and observation, or a branch of knowledge that systematizes facts, principles and methods. Since the purpose of this essay is to discuss psychology as a science, the integral part will give an insight into some of the characteristics of psychology that qualify it as a science.
Studies of Milar, & Fuchs, (2002) indicate that the discipline of psychology has its roots in Germany back in the mid nineteenth century. It resulted from the British and the continental philosophies of mind and advances of research in sensory physiology. Before then, it was only the philosophers who were in pursuit of know how related to the mind and some of its processes. However, a challenge emerged in the late eighteenth century declaring that it was not possible to study mind scientifically.
The challenge was eventually overcome in the nineteenth century after the emergence of a possibility of study of mind within the field of philosophy by adoption of experimental methods used to study the physiology of the senses. As a result, the new psychology came about and has continued to grow and develop. Psychologists have contributed greatly not only for the sake of its growth, but also with an aim of maintaining it as a scientific discipline through the employment of scientific methods.
Psychology contains some of the characteristics that are common with other sciences. For instance, biology is the study of the living things and physics is the study of the physical world. Similarly, psychology is basically the study of human behavior, a phenomenon that can be observed. Although a number of people argue that some branches of psychology study things that cannot be observed like fear, sciences equally study things such as gravity which cannot be seen and are still considered scientific.
The study method used is also very important. Any science utilizes scientific methods in its study. Simond (2008) indicates that since the mid nineteenth century, psychology has been applying scientific methods in the study of the full range of both human and non-human behavior. In addition, its application is scientifically based. Due to its diverse nature, there are many topics in psychology because it is very diverse, but systematic observation is incorporated in all the topics.
Objectivity which is a core characteristic of any scientific study, is well incorporated in most of the psychological studies. In any objective study, the researcher does not impose any ideas that may be biased or incorporate elements of his personal beliefs. In most of the psychological studies, psychologists may bring into play laboratory studies which are largely controlled such that they cannot be biased by the researcher’s beliefs. For quite sometime, physiological, cognitive and behavioral approaches have been using objective methods like laboratory experiments.
However, it has been argued that an objective and value free study is not actually possible because scientists usually have a preconceived notion and they consider other factors especially during the diagnosis of psychological problems (Simond, 2008). Psychology like other science makes use of theories to explain some psychological phenomena. For instance, there are several personality theories which explain the different personality types. In addition, there are theories that give details concerning the causes of a disorder like schizophrenia.
It bears noting that one of these theories explains that schizophrenia is caused by biological factors. Although there are some psychological theories which cannot be tested, some of these theories are found in other sciences are generally accepted. The research done by Lutus (2009) reveals that the role of each science is to develop reasonable explanations known as “theories describing realities”. Moreover, the justifications are supposed to be based on real evidence which is gathered and evaluated disregarding the feelings or passions of the researcher.
In addition, most of the psychological theories that have been tested fit in this category quite well. Although the discipline of psychology is still going through revolution, various studies affirm that psychologists have established various laws and principles which are universally acceptable. For instance, behavior is largely viewed as a product of consequences. Much as it may be argued that it is not very easy to have laws and principles in psychology without the influence of other factors, the same problem affects other natural sciences.
Considering the fact that psychology has developed some laws and principles and is still in the process of developing it can be affirmed that it is indeed a science. Simond (2008) states that, whether psychology has ever had paradigm is currently an issue that is raising a lot of debate. From a psychologist’s point of view, the subject had undergone through a number of revolutions such that psychology has had a number of paradigms. Moreover, psychology can be stated as being in a stage of a normal science as its current paradigm is cognitive approach.
A keen study of psychology illustrates that although there are some perspectives which may not be scientific, a majority of the outlooks fall under scientific perspectives. On the same note, behavioral, cognitive-developmental, cognitive and physiological approaches fall under scientific perspectives. It is only humanistic and psychodynamic approach which is thought to be slightly idiographic. The social approach is intermediate because it appreciates the role of science in psychology and still incorporates other sociological and environmental factors.
All factors put into consideration, the fact is that psychology is a science because it mostly employs scientific approaches. As stated by Simond ‘the issue of psychology as a science is cloudy’ (2008, Para 6). On one hand, it is a science that studies human behavior and all the aspects related to the same such as memory. In the process carrying out these studies, various variables are measured and controlled to a certain point. Laboratories are used to improve the controls and to make them as systematic as possible and as a result, general laws about behavior are formed or established.
On the other hand, psychology tends to partially deviate from the scientific perspectives since it does not aim at generalizing human behavior. In some instances, scientific methods are not useful especially where the focus is on individual differences and the experiences that people go through. In some cases, psychology utilizes some methods which are non-scientific such as the case studies as well as the unstructured interviews. Either way it is worth noting that, psychology developed from both scientific and non scientific disciplines which are physiology and philosophy respectively.
However, ever since psychology started operating independently, it has always taken the model of the natural sciences. Moreover, it has made numerous contributions in the scientific study of human behavior (Simond, 2008). As depicted by the findings of this paper, it is therefore possible that psychology can be viewed as a science in spite of the fact that it does not concur with some of the traditional scientific specifications. Since it follows the scientific methods which have helped to advance other natural sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology, it qualifies to be termed as a science.
In addition, psychology has so many characteristics that are still possessed by other sciences. It equally entails several theories, some of which have been developed in to testable hypothesis. Various laws and principles developed from the psychological studies have been generalized such that they can be applicable in different parts of the world. It however stands out that the issue of referring to psychology as a science is contentious but there is solid evidence to defend it. Word Count 1354 Bibliography: American Psychological Association.(2010).
About APA. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from http://www. apa. org/about/ Lutus, P. (2009). Is Psychology a Science? Retrieved June 4, 2010, from http://www. arachnoid. com/psychology/index. html Milar, K. , & Fuchs, A. (2002). Psychology as a Science. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from http://media. wiley. com/product_data/excerpt/01/04713832/0471383201. pdf Simond, M. (2008). Psychology – A Science As Well As an Art. Retrieved June 4, 2010, from http://ezinearticles. com/? Psychology-¬-¬-¬A-¬Science-¬As-¬Well-¬As-¬an-¬Art&id=961082