Re: What Is Psychology?

From: Elizabeth Cole (
Date: Wed Oct 15 1997 - 16:40:49 BST

The most often given definition of psychology is "the scientific study
of beheviour and mental processes". Essentially psychology is the
study of the mind. However, as the mind is a non-physical entity, in
order to try and understand it the products of the mind such as the
actions and feelings of humans and animals must be studied and also the

Beatty says there are different schools of thought to what the
relationship betwwen the non-physical mind and the physical brain is.
Dualists believe that the mind and brain are "sepeate and distinct
entities". Meanwhile pluralists assert the there are more than two
"separte and distinct realities" present. However, Monists believe that
the mind and brain are the same thing. This is in line with the
psychoneural identity hypothesis which states "mental events are the
process of a physical functioning brain", therefore to effectively
study the mind, the functioning of the brain must also be understood.

Psychology lies within the field of Science as nothing is proved in
psychology. It is merely a collection of evidence which support
particular theories. However, unlike in maths , these theories can be

Psychology is however, different from other sciences. Firstly as
psychology deals with the mind it cannot be directly observed unlike
other scientific processes. Some psychological experiments also differ
from other sciences. Roth says "scientific research methods are always
unbiased and objective" but this cannot always be the case in
psychology. For example, Roth carries on to say that research
techniques depending on introspection techniques such as interviewing
are hichly subjective, as although the subject may say they feel
something you can't be sure if this is really the case. This also
brings up the case of free will as in theory the participent can choose
how to react to particular things. Therefore, as the subjects of study
are supposedly unpredictable, repeated experiments under the same
conditions may not produce the same results unlike in other sciences.

The issue of ethics is also much more important in psychology than in
other sciences as the subjects are living beings. Therefore research
must be carried out in a way that won't damage the patients physical or
psychological state. For example the old technique of brain lesioning
to learn more about the brain is being reduced in favour of
non-intrusive techniques such as EEGs and the artificial activation of
nerve cells in the brain.

Therfore, although psychology is a science there are certain factors
that set it apart from the more traditional sciences such as physics
and chemistry.

Beatty J. Principles of Behevioural Neuroscience, Brown &

Roth I. Introduction to Psychology, The Open University

Elizabeth Cole

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:24:19 GMT