Is psychology pseudoscience?

Is psychology pseudoscience?

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This is a discussion on Is psychology pseudoscience? within the General Psychology forums, part of the Topics of Interest category; isn't psychology a pseudoscience ruined by bias and defended by argumentum ad populum? something can be a labeled a mental ...

  1. #1

    Is psychology pseudoscience?

    isn't psychology a pseudoscience ruined by bias and defended by argumentum ad populum?

    something can be a labeled a mental disorder one day and not the next

    Freud was absolutely insane

    so an insane persons opinion of insane people
    is that worth anything?
    crazitaco thanked this post.

  2. #2

    You are referring specifically to clinical psychology and/or psychiatry, and yes, there is a big component of those diagnoses and the way they are defined that is subjective because they're observation-based (in the sense of not being empirical the way other fields of medicine are).

    I think it's improving with a lot of neuroscientific findings being integrated into clinical practice, but since it's a newer field and we've always had lacking technology to look at the brain the way we do other organs (on top of it being so much more complicated to study)...this led to a field with much more freedom to speculate than others in medicine. It's also easier to say that "well this drug might work because it blocks this receptor for a neurotransmitter which has been associated with schizophrenia" than to say "well we really don't know much about schizophrenia, so, sorry but my ability to help you is minimal". I do think a lot of psychiatrists are afraid to say they (or the meds they prescribe) can't really do much.

    Anyway, pseudoscience refers to something not based on the scientific method (though perceived to be). The DSM (current and past editions) are not based on scientific method, so yes in a way they are pseudoscience. However, I'm not sure if they're believed to be scientific in the first place. At least not the way other manuals like ICD are. IMO psychiatry isn't sufficiently evidence-based to be classified strictly as medicine. It's much more similar to clinical psychology, but with the authority to prescribe medications.

    Thought you were asking about psychology on the research end, but that's a separate question.

  3. #3

    I think it's just more prone to stupidity because it's difficult to observe a phenomena and then have enough evidence to support it as a fact. There'll always be a way to interpret data and call out biases that can slow acceptance of ideas. There are some things in psychology that are well documented and accepted though. Some of it is bs and pure speculation but there's a lot of ideas supported by years of study.
    Crimson Ash thanked this post.

  4. #4

    Yeup it is,
    I recommand you to talk with endobiogenists, they will explain you how psychology is not THE science and also they may criticize Freud who occults an important part : heritage, (not talking about treasures and money) and thoughts emerge from not our brain (we are not our own god and cant resolve everything with psychanalyze) but... tadaaaaaa hormones :). Hormones are not a woman thing.
    you will realize how "perturbateurs endocriniens" play a big role
    that's biologically correct what spiritualities and religion call "passion" or "soul" (idk how to translate it )
    Even occidental philosophers used to talk abt this before : âme-raison and âme-passion (soul-reason and soul-passion)( i do not remember who? Descartes?)
    I forgot what I wanted to say lmao sososisidbsmapeijenziakeufnalz

  5. #5

    Lol, I swear I feel like every month or so someone HAS to make a thread on this same topic. It's like a part of PerC culture or something.

  6. #6

    Psychology isn't a science the same way physics and biology are, but that doesn't make it false. Psychologists manage to help millions of people through small and big problems, which means it is effective to a substantial degree.
    Also, Freud is pretty much considered obsolete and his theories have more of a historical significance than therapeutic, nowadays.
    Candy, Cephalonimbus and martinkunev thanked this post.

  7. #7

    I think to some small percentage degree, yes. But overall, no.

  8. #8

    I think it is the 'subjective analysis' bit which differentiates it from other fields of scientific inquiry ... I think in time, as neuro science makes more progress it will become more objective oriented.

  9. #9

    If you look to philosophy of science in regards to the demarcation of science, you'll find we're in a sad state where the methods people might use are rational in themselves, but the development of science seems kind of irrational.
    Popper's falsification is hardly accurate in describing how science in reality operates as much as people are still lagging behind hitched on his demarcation. Thomas Kuhn's paradigms didn't resolve it and Lakatos' attempt to synthesize the both with progressive/degenerative research programmes whilst giving a little wiggle room didn't really put it to bed either.
    And the whole debates about what demarcates a science from a non-science has pretty much died since attention to whether Marxism or Psychoanalysis were scientific has lost it's place for many. Scientists aren't all that concerned with philosophy in that they learn the tools of the trade so to speak in their specialty and just go to work.

    And to get into whether psychology (which has many different areas, research is different from clinical practice) is a science I think would have to return to those that inspire elements of it.
    In regards to experimentation, I think Wilhelm Wundt is the figure to look at who began positing the basis for how one could empirically investigate psychological states by having them correspond to physiological things under controlled circumstances.
    The difficulty with psychology I believe is that humans aren't like mechanical objects because of their subjectivity/consciousness and capacity for self-relexivity.
    I like Wittgenstein's points about conceptual confusion in psychology as leading to the many different schools.
    On the concluding page of what is now called ‘Part II’ of the Investigations, Wittgenstein wrote

    The confusion and barrenness of psychology is not to be explained by calling it a “young science”; its state is not comparable with that of physics, for instance, in its beginnings. (Rather with that of certain branches of mathematics. Set theory.) For in psychology there are experimental methods and conceptual confusion. (As in the other case, conceptual confusion and methods of proof.) The existence of the experimental method makes us think we have the means of solving the problems that trouble us; though problem and method pass one another by. (PI p. 232)
    Really the most scientific kind of psychology was Skinner's behaviouralism, but this was of course inadequate for investigating the really interest part that was our subjectivity. As such, I think what ever psychology should aim to be, it should not be compelled to meet the standards of natural sciences as it'd be reduced as seen with behaviouralism. And we don't wish to maintain the sort of scientism that takes the easy away out and simply rejects that which isn't clearly in the purview of the scientific method but more sloppy. As that's just ignoring the problem of our current limitations by saying it's outside the scope of science.
    What is required that we expand, substantively, what science constitutes in our investigation of the human subject. And there are simply limitations to how well we can deal with the complexity of it, which won't make it meaningless but make it more subject to inexactness.
    And I think part of the tension around psychology is even in our epistemologies we have excluded our subjectivity by positing the subject as a mirror reflection of objective reality and we still have little clue about it.
    So perhaps in conjunction with theorizing our subjectivity and it's development, we might also develop a better epistemology and come to accept certain things as more inclusive to what can be meaningfully investigated with some scientific rigor as expected for the complexity of the task.

    I think it's best to look at Freud the same way we might look at Aristotle. They were both wrong about a lot of things in retrospect, but their contribution none the less advanced our understanding and one should be wise to see the significance of their work. And I thank Freud for putting an emphasis on metapsychology in his willingness to theorize our consciousness.
    Freudian psychoanalysis - The Skeptic's Dictionary -
    There are some good things, however, which have resulted from the method of psychoanalysis developed by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) a century ago in Vienna. Freud should be considered one of our greatest benefactors if only because he pioneered the desire to understand those whose behavior and thoughts cross the boundaries of convention set by civilization and cultures. That it is no longer fashionable to condemn and ridicule those with behavioral or thought disorders is due in no small part to the tolerance promoted by psychoanalysis. Furthermore, whatever intolerance, ignorance, hypocrisy and prudishness remains regarding the understanding of our sexual natures and behaviors cannot be blamed on Freud. Psychoanalysts do Freud no honor by blindly adhering to the doctrines of their master in this or any other area. Finally, as psychiatrist Anthony Storr put it: "Freud's technique of listening to distressed people over long periods rather than giving them orders or advice has formed the foundation of most modern forms of psychotherapy, with benefits to both patients and practitioners" (Storr 1996, 120).
    Crimson Ash thanked this post.

  10. #10

    I regard as science whatever is capable at making predictions. Of course the line is a little blurry...

    In my opinion Mathematics is a science, even though some people say it's something else.
    Physics and Chemistry are sciences.
    Biology and Geology are somewhere close to the line but I still consider them sciences.

    For almost anything else you have (too much complexity and uncertainty) and (too little knowledge and ability to do experiments measuring the results) to make predictions.

    I wouldn't call psychology a pseudoscience. It's a different form of study that belongs in one group with things like economics and history.

    Just remembered this xkcd:


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