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Reasons why psychology is claimed to be a science

-psychology has a long, respectful past and uses the scientific method
-> science is defined by its method rather than by its subject matter
-scientific method has not let psychologists down
-relationships to other sciences


Reasons why psychologists keep on using the scientific method

-systematicity and cumulativeness of knowledge
-use of well-defined methods
-knowledge is revisable
-comparison with pseudoscience
-acceptable progress so far


Reasons why psychology is not seen as a science

-little overlap between stereotypical view of a scientist and the stereotypical view of a psychologist


The hermeneutic alternative

-the task of the psychologist is to interpret and understand person on basis of their personal and socio-cultural history
-understanding a person involves not so much knowing how the person functions but what the person thinks, believes, feels, wants

-> they think that experimental approach overlooked essential skills practitioners need for their profession


Wilhelm Dilthey

-German historian and philosopher
-one of the first to criticize psychology’s turn to natural sciences
-thought that psychology is a Geisteswissenschaft and not a Naturwissenschaft


4 elements of Dilthey’s approach

1) psychology should be content-based
2) subject matter -> human experience in its totality
3) a persons life was embedded in a context
4) appropriate method for psychology: understanding


Dilthey - 3 Levels of understanding

1) elementary forms: solve simple problems of life
2) empathy: re-experiencing someone else’s experience
3) hermeneutic: observed person can be better understood than oneself


Critique of scientific psychology

-neglect of individual differences
-research method governs research question
-psychology has been confined too long to white western males
-scientific claims of objectivity and universal validity are exaggerated


Humanistic psychology

-Rogers & Maslow: founders
-> reaction against Psychoanalysis and behaviorism
-stresses that people are human, inherently positive, endowed with free will and living within a socio-cultural context



-founder humanistic psychology
-> stressed need for a new type of science, which was not exclusively based on Descartes mechanistic view



-promoted therapy:
-client centered approach
-therapist should try to understand client, but without interpretation
-emphasized empathic form of understanding
-> sharing clients experiences
-combined hermeneutic with natural science approach


Logical positivism

-movement in first half of 20th century
-philosophy should focus on verification instead of metaphysics

-Movement found prominence with publication of 1929 manifesto of Vienna circle


Conclusions of Vienna circle (4)

1) truth is divided into two types: empirical truths and logical truths

2) empirical truths make claims about world and are established through empirical verification (observation + experiment)

3) logical truths are based on deductive logic and are influenced by linguistic conventions

4) statements not belonging to one of the categories above are meaningless


Science proceeded a cycle (logical positivism)

-observation -> induction -> verification



-a proposition is meaningful, only if it can be verified as true or false
-proposition is scientific only if it can be verified through objective, value-free observation


problems with verification criterion (5)

1) verification does not solve induction problem -> according tp rules of logic, inductive reasoning does not lead to conclusions guaranteed to be true
2) scientific theories are full of variables that cannot be observed directly
3) there are no criteria that unambiguously define ‘observable’
4) sometimes things are not observable until we know how to search for them
5) verifiable observations do not guarantee correct understanding


Popper - falsification instead of verification

-falsification important for science
-understanding that the human observation is not theory-independent made deep impression on Popper


What distinguishes science and non-science?

-science is falsifiable



-view within philosophy of science
-statements are only scientific if they can be falsified empirically
-it is impossible to prove truth of inductive conclusion, but it is possible to prove falseness of it -> counterexample is needed
-falsifiable if it rules out range of outcomes


hypothetical-deductive method - Popper

-on basis of observation, induction and educate guessing -> theory pf phenomenon is formulated
-correctness of theory is evaluated by formulation of testable prediction (=hypothesis) on basis of deductive reasoning
-precision is then put to falsification test -> provides new observational data for further theorizing

-observation -> inductive reasoning -> interpretation -> deductive reasoning -> hypothesis -> test


Implications of Poppers proposals

- popper was the first philosopher to accept scientific explanations could be wrong even if they seemed in line with collected evidence
- science is best seen as process of trial and error
-falsification goes against human intuition (confirmation bias)


Problems with Popper’s approach

1) replacing falsified theories by alternatives as soon as they are contradicted by empirical observations -> does not agree with scientific practice and would seem too radical

2) researcher try to modify existing theory so that it can account for contradictory finding (ad hoc modification)

3) according to Popper, modifications are acceptable as long as they do not make theory less falsifiable

4) problem: researchers often propose modification they do not test and that are not taken up by other researchers


Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996)

-agreed with Popper about priority of theory over observation
-structure of scientific revolutions -> no linear but like a cycle
-major shifts in scientific understanding

-> pre science -> normal science -> crisis -> revolution -> new normal science -> new crises
-> never ending cycle



Pre science

-researchers have collection of facts, observations and models to explain these facts
-not yet a general theory integrating different findings within overall framework
-no agreement yet bout precise research methods to be used


Normal science

-researchers start using common theoretical framework to investigate different facts (=paradigm)
-this paradigm determines which facts should be examined, how this should be done and what types of explanations are allowed
-modification of theory in light of contradictory findings must stay within paradigm

-> otherwise finding is an unexplained anomaly
-> anomalies trigger crisis



-scientists are more open to alternatives



-because of scientific revolutions, scientific progress is not steady and cumulative
-during revolution, progress is very fast and at end of period of normal science