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Is Psychology a Pseudo-Science?

  1. May 8, 2007 #1
    I remember someone telling me that they heard a physicist once say that psychology was a pseudo-science, but I don't remember who exactly it was that said this. Anyways, I was wondering if there's a consensus out there that supports this notion of psychology being a pseudo-science, and if so, why?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2007 #2
    are you sure it wasn't psychiatry?
  4. May 8, 2007 #3
    No, it was psychology as a whole.
  5. May 8, 2007 #4
    Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by pseudo-science. It shouldn't really need a consensus, it seems like a pretty straightforward question, is it scientific or is it some other form of academia?

    As far as my experience goes with psychology and science I think it's on about the same level as Biology, I think the general principles of observation are the same, especially in bio-psychology. I think if anything your physicist has an issue with how psychology extrapolates a lot more than most other sciences, but I think that's inevitable given that the discipline is so very new (didn't really exist a hundred years ago - was a branch of philosophy).

    Meh, I'm not a physicist, but I consider it just as legitimate as Physics, science or not.

    here's an interesting read
  6. May 8, 2007 #5
    It could be considered a pseudo-science unlike actual sciences that deal with material issues or things related to manipulation of material.

    When one is mentally deficient a psychologist can usually make diagnosis pending on their training and experience. I don't believe that through observation that a psychologist could ever truly diagnose chemical imbalances - for obvious reasons.
    Last edited: May 8, 2007
  7. May 8, 2007 #6


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    Umm yes, but the state of your mind pretty much affects "material issues", doesn't it? :biggrin:
  8. May 8, 2007 #7


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    If you're talking about "classical" psychology/psychiatry after Freud/Jung/Adler, yup, pseudo-science all right. If that. Freud, of course, had his weird obsessions with Oedipus and penis envy, but you should read some of the crap Jung came up with - synchronicity, archetypes, the collective unconscious. Mysticism, not science.

    Modern psychiatry, with an emphasis on pharmacy (drug treatment) and evidence based interventions (electroconvulsive therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy), etc. - pretty scientific. A neurophysiologic basis is sought whenever possible and treatments are evaluated with randomised controlled trials.

    Some modern practices are still pseudoscientific - the Rorscharch test, hypnotic "regression" therapy, etc. - but self-respecting psychiatrists don't generally pander to this crap.
  9. May 8, 2007 #8
    Some parts of psychology do not necessarily use scientific methodology. Clinical psychiatry on the other hand, does.
  10. May 8, 2007 #9
    many parts of psychology use scientific means. Most dealing with some type of bio-psych relationship(cell recordings, neuro imaging,animal brain studies etc).

    Even VR-type cognitive studies are somewhat scientific(have some sort of methodology).

    The only pseudo science probably is the one listed in curious's post.

    Being a student of both psychology nad physics...the only difference i see in psychological studies vs physics experiments is that psychological studies have to account for more complex phenomenon(unless u studying astro/geo), more factors and produce more control studies to eliminate certain criterias. Granted some of the result interpretations of some of these studies are rather flaky.
  11. May 8, 2007 #10

    I wish I had the year of the quote so we could put a frame of reference around it. Maybe this occured during the Freud/Jung/Adler period, and if so, then yeah I agree those works are pseudo-science. I, however, wouldn't agree with it if he was referring to modern psychology. Yeah, I really wish I had remembered the name of the physicist and the year the quote was made.
  12. May 9, 2007 #11
    the common misconception of Jung's Collective Unconscious is probably more like mysticism- but the actual idea is more properly understood by the very real science of evolutionary biology- the Collective Unconscious [as well as synchonicity/ archetypes/ subtle correspondences] is merely mystical sounding description for a very physical idea: that many of a human's foundational conscious structures are NOT learned structures built uniquely for each individual during child development as was generally accepted during Jung's time- instead his colorful conjecture essentially shows that our most primitive fears and ways of thinking about basic survival are hard-wired adaptations that our species cultivated in it's genome over it's evolutionary history- so that each human would essentially have the same copy of these unconscious ways of thinking hard-wired into them at birth- the other part of Jung's idea is that this kludged black-box of hard-wired neural processes that we all share is responsible in part for the nature of human myths and metaphysics- this is because the 'collective unconscious black-box' has priority flight-or-fight brut survivability programs: be scared of the dark- be scared of snakes- embrace the light of the sun- look for pure water/food/resources- stay away from violent humans- trust calm humans- etc- all of these millions of little algorithms that are hard-wired for each of us and tell us how to react to very basic survival scenarios provided the basis for morality and ethics as well as all the creative mythical symbologies primitive humans developed to organize and implement these core concepts-

    so there is nothing mystical about the collective unconscious in these terms- it is the folk interpretation that instead of each human possessing his own 'black-box' of adapted wiring that our 'souls' are connected in some kind of spiritual hyperspace in which the myths are real- and that we sometimes tap into it-

    [although from the computational neuroscience perspective replicated copies of neuro-structure are fundamentally equivalent to a 'connection' in a 'spiritual hyperspace'- when notions of classical space-time are put aside and the observable information of a quantum system is dealt with directly: take away these metaphors and you can replace both with one: separate human instances of 'software' running independently but accessing a common set of information from a 'database' stored in the 'shared hard drive' of the human genome- where the process of reproduction copies the same database into each new human- in the context of information it does not matter if separate agents are accessing a central file [spiritual hyperspace]- or if each agent has a copy of the file [evolutionary neuroscience]- these are equivalent! ]
    Last edited: May 9, 2007
  13. May 9, 2007 #12
    Are psychological results repeatedly verifiable?
  14. May 11, 2007 #13
    From what I've read on Jung his dream archetypes represent this mystic absolute of unconcious messages/insights which I think is a load of crap. But it seems like most of the psychological breakthroughs today in modern psychology seem a bit flaky, unless I'm not reading thoroughly through how the experiments were done.
  15. May 11, 2007 #14
    "Are psychological results repeatedly verifiable?"
    how do you think they discovered place cells and vision/audition specific cells in the brain? Ask all the researchers on this forum about their cell-recordings.

    Also alot of the VR experiments are verifiable...but sometimes with differetn interpretation. then again it depends on the group of people u use(skillset,class,culture etc,environment).
  16. May 11, 2007 #15
    well- Jung himself seemed to suffer from those misconceptions about his own idea- I think the central error is in not realizing that the collective is collective not from some mystical connection- but because we all have copies of the same 'BIOS'
  17. May 11, 2007 #16
    So are only the works of Freud-Jung etc. considered pseudo-science in the world of psychology, but modern day psychology isn't?
  18. May 11, 2007 #17


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    As a discipline, my impression of psychology is that it attempts to be scientific. They learn a scientific form of methodology and are experts in statistical analysis like it's nobody's business. What they study, though, is extremely difficult to model, and the real problem is that psychology as a whole field operates in the absence of a unifying theoretical framework, like evolution and cell theory in biology, relativity and quantum mechanics in physics, etc. This leads to inconsistent conclusions and a lot of reasoning that looks wish-washy from the outside. It's what Thomas Kuhn would have called a pre-paradigm science.
  19. May 11, 2007 #18
    So why don't they redo their methodology?
  20. May 13, 2007 #19


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    Why should they? What is wrong with a scientific methodology?

    A theory is just a way of interpreting some data. If there are multiple ways of interpreting the same data, and all are valid, useful, or meet whatever standards you have, what is the problem? :smile: Perhaps it should even be expected that, as the complexity of the data increases, so does the number of acceptable interpretations.
  21. May 13, 2007 #20
    I was referring to what loseyourname said about psychology using a scientific form of methodology. I'm assuming this means they don't use the actual scientific methodology, so that's why I asked the question about them redoing their methodology.
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