Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #09 (Psych as Science)


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In short: When considering whether parts of psychology are pseudoscientific, it is worth remembering that psychology as a whole conforms to scientific assumptions much better than many other fields commonly considered (without dispute) to be 'sciences'.

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Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #09 (Psych as Science)

  1. 1. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of @b_m_hughes
  2. 2. Are psychologistspseudoscientific?
  3. 3. Question:Is psychology a science?
  4. 4. Reminder: What is science?Science = “any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world andits phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematicexperimentation” (Encyclopaedia Britannica)Science = “1. the systematic observation of natural events and conditions in orderto discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on thesefacts. 2. the organized body of knowledge that is derived from such observationsand that can be verified or tested by further investigation”(Academic Press Dict. of Science &Technology) Features of Principle Features of Practice Science Science Valorises falsifiability Publication of data Peer review Accuracy in measurement Argument “ad rem” Unproven as false = unproven Empirical evidence Emphasis on refutation Appeals to reductionism Prioritization of parsimony Acceptance of paradigms Burden on claimant, not critic Shared endeavour
  5. 5. Examples of PseudoscienceThe unsubtle…Flat-earth theoriesUFO-ologyAstrologyClairvoyanceTelepathyExtrasensory perception [ESP]Psychokinesis “The facts are simple. The earth isQuantum healing flat”Crystal therapy
  6. 6. Examples of Pseudoscience…and the subtle?Biological reductionism ingender researchAssumptions of “normality”Folk assumptions inmainstream psychology(e.g., social support theory)Nurture (as opposed tonature)Psychoanalysis?Psychotherapy as a whole?
  7. 7. HOT! NOT! Physics Chemistry PsychologyEmpirical Yes Yes YesfalsifiabilityParsimony of Yes Yes Most of the timetheoryExperimental Yes Yes To an extentcontrolMeasurement Yes Yes Kind ofaccuracyFacilitates Yes Yes A bitprediction
  8. 8. HOT! NOT! Psychology Meteorology AstrophysicsEmpirical Yes Yes Kind offalsifiabilityParsimony of Most of the time Not really YestheoryExperimental To an extent No NocontrolMeasurement Kind of Kind of Within limitsaccuracyFacilitates A bit A bit Who knows?prediction
  9. 9. HOT! NOT! Psychology Palaeontology BotanyEmpirical Yes No NofalsifiabilityParsimony of Most of the time Hard to say Not a prioritytheoryExperimental To an extent No NocontrolMeasurement Patchy track Kind of Within limitsaccuracy recordFacilitates A bit Not a priority Not a priorityprediction
  10. 10. HOT! NOT! Psychology UFOlogy AstrologyEmpirical Yes Absolutely none Absolutely nonefalsifiabilityParsimony of The antithesis of Most of the time Not at alltheory parsimonyExperimental To an extent Err, nope No attemptcontrolMeasurement Track record of Kind of Not a priorityaccuracy utter failureFacilitates A bit Not a priority Afraid not!prediction
  11. 11. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of @b_m_hughes