Re: What Is Psychology?

From: Joanne Hallett (
Date: Wed Oct 15 1997 - 12:18:49 BST

The concept of the human mind is a very complex and mysterious
phenomena, and theorists have debated with this issue since the
beginnings of recorded history. From Beatty's 'Principles of
Behavioural Neurosciences' (1995), it is thought that the human brain
is the organ of the human mind and in itself, biologists have
discovered over the years that it is a very complex organ. It is also
widely accepted that the human mind controls various important aspects
of human thought and behaviour such as beliefs, emotions and thoughts.

The issue of the mind provokes many unanswered questions; how does the
mind actually work and how is it possible that it controls our emotions
and thoughts? Various theories and hypotheses as to the explanation of
the mind in relation to the brain have been proposed in an attempt to
unravel the mystery behind the phenomena. Beatty states that these
include dualist theories which say that the relationship between the
mind and the brain is separate; and that the two entities are totoally
different to each other. On the other hand, the monistic theory
believes that the mind and brain are basically the same thing.

The aspect of the mind can also be argued from two viewpoints;
philosophers believe that mental and brain processes are the same,
whereas in contrast, physiologists believe that without the functioning
of a brain, the mind cannot exist. So, are the mind and brain
connected? By studying the mind, psychologists search for the unique
explanation of both mental and physical behaviour.

In attempting to answer the critical question 'What is the mind?' the
majority of theorists rely upon the Scientific Method. They adapt to
observational techniques and experimental testing in order to learn
about the mind. This empirical information creates the starting blocks
upon which constructive knowledge of the mind can be gained. Beatty
(1995) states that "Science is primarily an empirical undertaking". It
is also a methodical and distinctive approach to problem solving as it
employs the use of evidence to support a proposed theory and uses
objective techniques (observation, experimentation, evaluation) to
either support or disprove the initial theory.

Many scientists, including psychologists believe that Science can give
us 100% certainty. They are encouraged in this belief by the theory of
Scientific Method which was put forward by Francis Bacon (16th
Century). He believed that to be scientific, a psychologist needs to be
objective and to use control. He proposed the idea of induction where
one gathers the information required in research and then devises a
theory to explain the data. However, in Psychology, inductive methods
are very rarely used but this tends to be the case fot Science in

Therefore, the question is whether Psychology can be classed as a
Science. Karl Popper (1972) believes you can classify Psychology as a
science as in the field ofPsychology, researchers try to refute 'old'
theories and do not attempt to prove them correct, thus it is a
science. However, Kuhn (1972) states that as Psychology has no global
paradigm it is still a pre-science.

Perhaps it is fair to conclude by adding that in general, Psychology
claims to be a Science- the science of mind and behaviour. It is
evident that from the various techniques used in studying the existence
of the mind, psychologists do use scientific techniques as they
emphasise objectivity.

References: Beatty,J. Principles of behavioural neurosciences. 1995.
Publisher- Brown and Benchmark.

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