Immerse Education Essay Competition 2021: Is Psychology a Science?

Four highly motivated Grade 10 students spent a portion of their Christmas holiday writing submissions for the Immerse Education Essay Competition in the hope of winning a 100% scholarship to attend a summer course at Cambridge University in the UK.  The competition is a challenging one: entrants must pick one question from a list of eighteen controversial topics and have only 500 words to defend their answer.  Essays must be fully referenced with footnotes and bibliography.  While we all have our fingers crossed for their success, we are quite simply hugely proud of them for taking the initiative to enter this competition – well done!

Here is one of the entrants essays from LIS:

Is Psychology a Science?

Science has a long history, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. It found its roots in simple discoveries explaining the world around us; first theories were set up, some were proven correct, some dismissed. Whether a field qualifies as  a ‘science’, in particular the human sciences, has always caused heated discussions among experts. One of these is Psychology, the study of mind and behaviour. Science is defined as: “the careful study of the structure and behaviour of the physical world, especially by watching, measuring and doing experiments, and the development of theories to describe the results of these activities”. With the definition in mind, this essay will analyze if Psychology qualifies as science.

Many people accept the meson fields, such as Biology, Physics and Chemistry, as sciences, because they have existed for long, investigating theories which can be proven by experiments that reliably produce invariable results. Allocating Psychology as a scientific subject is complex, as it investigates behaviour, emotion and cognition of human beings, which is known to change and vary from person to person. Humans do not react as predictably as molecules do, yet respond to a stimulus, causing slightly different observations. In addition, Psychology is an interdisciplinary mélange of several fields – the natural sciences, the humanities and the social sciences, different for example to Mathematics with its very own core of knowledge. Therefore, many people confuse Psychology with bordering subjects that apply its principles, yet are not of as much scientific value as the subject itself, such as psychotherapy, psychiatry or psychoanalysis.

However, a subject does not reach its scientific status for what it studies, but for how it studies it. Contrary to public opinion and just like the above mentioned sciences, Psychology strictly uses the empirical method of observation by systematically observing, measuring and setting up hypotheses to match the data created. This method follows experimental procedures and allows researchers to accumulate knowledge. Experimental Psychology, which was established at the end of the 19. century through Wilhelm Wundt and Gustav Fechner in Leipzig/Germany as an academic discipline, therefore classifies as science, unlike strands of its applied knowledge – fields that do not work with only the empirical methods of research, but allow psychological practitioners to enhance the lives of others.

Psychological research occasionally depends on the time that the psychologists find themselves in. They need to take in consideration the Zeitgeist of generations, which are bound to change in perspective over time. Occurrences or important historical events might influence the way people’s minds are shaped, therefore influencing the information collected by researchers. In addition, Psychology is a relatively new field developing to grow further as people are recognizing its importance. In the past it was sometimes seen as forgery. However, this dependency on and person should not shatter the scientific value of Psychology, since it shows how the field is adaptable and will prevail in the future.

In summary, Psychology should be referred to as a science. Its philosophical roots, yet empirical and experimental approaches leave no room for discussion about its status. Differing from the meson fields of  science, Psychology shows development in the human horizon of knowledge, which can only be widened further through overall inclusion of different fields to the scientific world.

Laura F.

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