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The History Of Psychology Essay

2411 words - 10 pages

There are a number of important issues that have been debated throughout the history of Psychology. This essay will consider two key issues concerning the way Psychology is conducted and understood. These issues include the scientific status of Psychology and the ethical dilemma of how far should psychologists go in the pursuit of knowledge?

To decide whether psychology is a science, we first have to define a science. Science builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions of the universe. Science uses a particular methodology, which is objective and yields quantitative data. Data gathering uses a standardized approach and is gathered in controlled ...view middle of the document...

One example of a laboratory experiment was conducted by Solomon Asch (1951) who wanted to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform. Asch’s study was performed under controlled conditions. The IV was the number of actors that gave a wrong answer and the DV was the number of times the participant conformed to the majority view. Another example of a psychology experiment is Loftus and Palmer’s (1974) study into eyewitness testimonies. They aimed to show that leading questions could distort eyewitness testimony accounts. To test this Loftus and Palmer asked people to estimate the speed of motor vehicles using different forms of questions. Thus, the IV was the wording of the question and the DV was the speed reported by the participants.

However some parts of psychology do use less ‘scientific’ methods including case studies, discourse analysis and interviews. This does not make Psychological research less scientific as even with the natural sciences the experimental approach is not always achievable. Case studies are another way of collecting data in Psychology. Case studies are commonly used in psychology and most recognised were the ones carried out by Sigmund Freud. Freud's most famous case studies include Little Hans (1909) and The Rat Man (1909). Case studies can help create new ideas and can show how different aspects of a person's life are connected to each other. It could be argued that alternative methods that are used in Psychology may produce more significant data than the lab experiment alone.

Objectivity is a fundamental characteristic of any science. In Psychology it is difficult to remain completely objective when dealing with humans and human behaviour. Researchers cannot avoid being influenced by their own background, culture and beliefs. To avoid bias in psychological research, the double blind procedure is used. This is where the experimenter as well as the subjects is unaware where the independent variable is being implemented, so their expectations won't produce an effect. It can be said that natural scientists are equally as affected by factors that question their objectivity. Subjectivity guides everything from the choice of topic that one studies, to formulating hypotheses, to selecting methodologies, and interpreting data. Therefore, is any science completely objective? Objectivity is desirable even if not completely possible.

Just like the natural sciences, psychology also generates theories, which lead to a clear and testable hypothesis. Ivan Pavlov’s (1902) study into Classical Conditioning is a great example of a study with a clear and testable hypothesis. It was hypothesised that Pavlov’s dogs will be classically conditioned to have an increased amount of salivation to the sound of a bell when the sound of a bell has been combined with meat powder. Pavlov's discovery of classical conditioning remains one of the most significant in the history of...

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