2012-04-27—PSYCHOLOGY’S PRETENSIONS

Psychology is a ‘wannabe’ science. Ever since it tried to usurp the territory occupied by philosophy, it has claimed to be a science.  The status associated with being a science has given psychology (and the other social sciences) more credibility in the public’s mind than deserved, just as the lab coat worn by some actor in a commercial helps gives the product more credibility. But is it really a science?  Or is it just wearing the lab coat?  It is classed as a “soft science” as opposed to the “hard sciences” such as physics or chemistry or biology.  Only fairly recently has a significant part of what is called ‘psychology’ actually achieved the status of ‘hard’ science, because it actually is the hard science of biology; i.e., neuroscience.  Is the rest, the ‘soft’ part, just bogus?

IS PSYCHOLOGY REALLY A SCIENCE?
Here is the case for denying it that status.

IS PSYCHOLOGY ABOUT TO COME UNDONE?
There are two necessary criteria for a finding to be considered scientifically sound: validity and reliability.  Validity is defined as actually measuring what you think—or you claim—you are measuring.  (Certainly the validity of alleged tests for intelligence or personality traits is questionable.)  Reliability is consistent replication of the results of the measurement.  So how is psychology doing in the replication department?

IS PSYCHOLOGY TAKEN SERIOUSLY BY ‘HARD’ SCIENTISTS?
Are the ‘soft’ sciences just pseudosciences?  Here is what is probably not an uncommon view of social science by Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics and often considered Einstein’s equal in scientific brilliance.

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