Psychology is a science … or is it?

Gotta be honest, I didn’t know there was a burning question re: whether or not psychology qualifies as a science.

But, there’s been a flurry of editorials and op-eds over the past couple of weeks, set off by a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, who expressed resentment in an L.A. Times Op-Ed over the fact that most scientists don’t consider psychology a real science. He cast scientists as condescending bullies.

“There has long been snobbery in the sciences, with the ‘hard’ ones (physics, chemistry, biology) considering themselves to be more legitimate than the ‘soft’ ones (psychology, sociology).”

In a follow-up piece, also in the L.A. Times, it’s argued:

Psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous:

  1. clearly defined terminology,
  2. quantifiability,
  3. highly controlled experimental conditions,
  4. reproducibility and,
  5. predictability and testability.

The failure to meet the first two requirements of scientific rigor (clear terminology and quantifiability) makes it almost impossible for most psychology research to meet the other three.

How can an experiment be consistently reproducible or provide any useful predictions if the basic terms are vague and unquantifiable?

Making useful predictions is a vital part of the scientific process, but psychology has a dismal record in this regard.

To be fair, psychology research often yields interesting and important insights.

But to claim it is “science” is inaccurate.


Makes “marketing science” sound a bit oxymoronic.

Not good news for us marketers.

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2 Responses to “Psychology is a science … or is it?”

  1. John Carpenter Says:

    With the advent or quantum physics, normally considered a “hard science”, qualification 3, 4, and 5 cannot be met. Most of the “experimentation” is math. How do you test dark matter or even worse, dark energy? I bet that the closer to the cutting edge you get in almost any science the harder it is to meet all criteria. For those who doubt beware of the glass house factor here.

  2. Raihan Says:

    I’m agree with this comment – “Psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous:

    clearly defined terminology,
    highly controlled experimental conditions,
    reproducibility and,
    predictability and testability.”

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