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Is Psychology a Science?


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#1 Davy

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 11:41 AM

One of many interesting articles on Paul Lutus' site. I've always been fairly ambivalent about the field of Psychology, and always suspected the clinical side was more akin to religion than science. This article has only reinforced that opinion.
"What gets us into trouble isn't what we don't know, but what we know for sure that just ain't so!" - Mark Twain

#2 Brant Gaede

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 11:55 AM

I don't have to read the article. Nor do I have to read an article about psychiatry. If the wrong people get a hold of you, you're screwed.

--Brant
talk to someone important in your life honestly about things that are very personally important to you and only go to a recommended professional by those who have used him/her and be ready to immediately bail on bad vibrations and authority power trips particularly--this means stay away from psychiatrists unless pill-popping is your last resort: pill-popping requires trying different pills in different amounts with close monitoring and record keeping BY YOU and "last resort" is no fucking kidding!

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#3 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 01:11 PM

Here is a simple test. Does a psychological theory make quantitative testable predictions. Are its predictions specific enough to permit possible empirical falsification. If the answer is yes, it is science. If the answer is no, it is not science.

Ba'al Chatzaf
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#4 Peter Taylor

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 01:50 PM

Advertising would be varifiable scientific psychology.
Peter
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Peter Taylor

#5 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 04:13 PM

Advertising would be varifiable scientific psychology.

Peter,

Amen.

People in our neck of the woods are not too familiar with the sophistication of the testing and measurable successful predictions that have resulted from psychology for marketing and advertising, nor the extent of influence that marketing and advertising have on society.

The part I find creepy is that the bad guys on the leftie side, who have always been better at propaganda and other public manipulation skills than anybody outside of cults, are now using marketing studies for other ends than selling stuff.

The work, Nudge, by Cass Sunstein with Richard Thaler, gives a blueprint of how to "engineer compliance" of the public with government programs. (Sunstein is the USA Regulations Czar for Obama.) Sunstein and Thaler outright say in the book that they owe their theories and approach to the successful techniques and testing they observed in the business marketing and advertising world.

Michael

Know thyself...


#6 Selene

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 04:43 PM

Edward Bernays:

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society," Bernays argued. "Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. . . . In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."


This man is the darling of the OWS crowd as the following link indicates.

He got women to smoke in the 1920's, he is called the "Father of Public Relations," but he was a propagandist who set the table for advertising and manipulating the masses.
http://www.historyis...1/bernprop.html
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#7 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 05:13 PM

Adam,

I read the biography of Bernays a few months ago (The Father of Spin by Larry Tye). I learned more about propaganda and public relations from that bio than I did from all my work in producing artists and shows in Brazil.

I got interested in Bernays because Glenn Beck bashed him.

I intend to make a thorough study on a blog later of Propaganda, since it is in the public domain and is not too long. It will be interesting to take a passage, dissect it in light of more advanced works, and then wed it to current events. That's one of the projects I have in the works.

I might even do that from a political angle, but if I did, I would treat both liberals and conservatives the same way since they both do this stuff.

I believe it's important to educate folks on these matters so that their public decisions have a better chance of reflecting their true private intentions instead of manipulated ones.

btw - I don't think Bernays was evil like some people do (including Glenn). I think he was extremely competent and sometimes used his talents for good, and other times for despicable things. The important point is that his stuff works and, in the wrong hands, is a threat to the unaware.

Michael

Know thyself...


#8 Selene

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 06:54 PM

Michael:

Precisely.

The awareness of how persuasion occurs at a subconscious, conscious and biological [behavioralist] level is critical for a free society, free individuals and educating children.

This is why the actual definition of rhetoric as employed by Aristotle is still vibrant today. He spoke about rhetoric as being all the available means of persuasion in the given case.

Employing this art and techne as the basis for achieving the good because if both good and evil had the same tool to argue and persuade, the good would win out.

Now we have the biological/neural.lingual support to add to rhetorical skills in order to, as you explained, "... educate folks on these matters so that their public decisions have a better chance of reflecting their true private intentions instead of manipulated ones."

I have been dedicated to this position my whole life and now we have more scientific and technical awareness to employ towards the end of achieving freedom for individuals in our society.

Adam
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#9 Michael E. Marotta

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 09:34 PM

Here is a simple test. Does a psychological theory make quantitative testable predictions. Are its predictions specific enough to permit possible empirical falsification. If the answer is yes, it is science. If the answer is no, it is not science. Ba'al Chatzaf


I agree 100%! That said, humans are not billiard balls. Marriage for the Hottentots is not marriage for the Eskimos. And it can change over time -- especially if you tell them what you found while studying them. Call it the Heisenberg Action Principle: you can change a culture just by studying it.

This is an Urban Legend, but the moral is clear.

The psychology professor was a behavioralist. So, the class took it upon themselves to condition him. They slouched, looked around, and dozed, except when he touched the knot of his necktie. Then, they paid attention. Pretty soon, he lectured with his hand at his throat. When they told him what they did, it took a bit to break the habit, but he used free will to overcome his conditioniting.


Also, regarding public relations, I look to Robert King Merton and Paul Lazarsfeld. Before them, it was a hodgepodge of practice. They gave it arithmetic rigor. As noted Lazarsfeld influenced Merton to develop "middle range theories." In sociology, we have the macro, the middle,and the micro: grand, middle, and small theories. Not only do they address groups of different sizes, but more cogently, they offer explanations of different ranges as applied to those.

It is the reductionist fallacy to expect the sciences of human action to assume that humans are inanimate objects.

Mike M.
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#10 Davy

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 11:13 AM

I don't have to read the article. Nor do I have to read an article about psychiatry. If the wrong people get a hold of you, you're screwed.

--Brant
talk to someone important in your life honestly about things that are very personally important to you and only go to a recommended professional by those who have used him/her and be ready to immediately bail on bad vibrations and authority power trips particularly--this means stay away from psychiatrists unless pill-popping is your last resort: pill-popping requires trying different pills in different amounts with close monitoring and record keeping BY YOU and "last resort" is no fucking kidding!


About 10 years ago I became very depressed as a result of a combination of circumstances involving work and relationships; everything just seemed to go down the pan at once. It was so bad, I could hardly function. On visiting my doctor I was offered counselling/psychotherapy, but declined and said: "nah, just give me some drugs!" Now, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that course of action as a general rule, but given my particular circumstances and the nature of the cause of the depression, I felt it was the right thing to do. After a few weeks, I was back to normal and running on all cylinders.

Pyschotherapy isn't such a big thing here in the UK as it is in the USA, although the popularity of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is increasing, having been adopted by our National Health Service. But as Lutus points out in his article, there is no substantive evidence that any 'talking therapy' has any efficacy beyond that of a placebo. Indeed, it's hard to see how effectiveness could be scientifically measured, given that there is no form of therapy which doesn't depend heavily on the relationship between client and patient, and the mutual belief that such a relationship will be beneficial.
"What gets us into trouble isn't what we don't know, but what we know for sure that just ain't so!" - Mark Twain

#11 Davy

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 11:28 AM

Advertising would be varifiable scientific psychology.
Peter


You should read Daniel Kahneman's new book 'Thinking, Fast and Slow'. It's a fascinating (and sometimes disturbing) study of our thinking processes and how intuitive impressions influence our behaviour. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, or as Michael says in his signature - 'know thyself'. ;-)
"What gets us into trouble isn't what we don't know, but what we know for sure that just ain't so!" - Mark Twain

#12 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 11:46 AM

Davy,

I have that book on my reading list. It looks very, very interesting.

I want to make an observation on a small point, but it's important. You asked, "Is psychology a science?" I imagine you wanted to ask, "Is psychiatry a science"? Or even "Is psychotherapy a science?"

Since psychology a very young science, you will find snake-oil alongside solid science on all three. But I see it going like this. Science is the strongest in psychology, then weakens in psychiatry, and is still in its infancy in psychotherapy. Conversely, you find some snake-oil in psychology, there's a lot more of it in psychiatry and psychotherapy has enough to be a serious concern.

To get colorful, if you want snake-oil in an atomizer, look into psychology. If you want a bottle of snake-oil, try psychiatry. If you want to get the stuff by the barrel, check out psychotherapy.

But there's good science to be had, too.

Michael

Know thyself...


#13 Davy

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:10 AM

Absolutely, Michael. I should have made it clear that the title of the thread was the title of the article I linked to, and that Lutus prefaces it with:

Because this article is directed toward educated nonspecialist readers considering psychological treatment, students of psychology are cautioned that terms such as "psychology," "clinical psychology" and "psychiatry" are used interchangeably, on the ground that they rely on the field of human psychology for validation, in the same way that astronomy and particle physics, though very different, rely on physics for validation.

The field of Psychology is a large one with many subfields, and I didn't mean to tar it all with the same brush.

Also, although there are undoubtedly snake-oil salesman in clinical psychology, the field seems to be inherently prone to systemic bias.

In 1959 statistician Theodore Sterling examined the results of psychological studies and discovered that 97% of them supported their initial hypotheses, implying a possible publication bias.[77][78][79] Similarly Fanelli (2010)[80] found out that 91.5% of psychiatry/psychology studies confirmed the effects they were looking for, which was around five times more often than in space- or geosciences. Fanelli argues that this is because of researchers in "softer" sciences have fewer constraints to their conscious and unconscious biases. - Wikipedia


You'll read more about biases in Kahneman's book. It's gripping stuff.
"What gets us into trouble isn't what we don't know, but what we know for sure that just ain't so!" - Mark Twain

#14 Stephen Boydstun

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 09:08 AM

.

Psychiatry in the Scientific Image

Dominic Murphy (MIT 2006)



#15 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 01:13 PM

You might find Pugliucci's book "Nonsense on Stilts"  useful in placing psychology on the scale between science and bunk. 

 

It is a very entertaining,  as well as informative book.  He treats various disciplines which fall in between genuine science ( such as particle physics) and bunk  ( for example  "intelligent design").  His treatment is very fair minded and he is no adherent to doctrinaire   scientism.  Psychology is one of those in-between disciplines.  

 

Ba'al Chatzaf


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#16 william.scherk

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 04:51 PM

Reading only the link/topic and not the entries above, I would say Yes and No.

 

No, psychology is not quite a science, but better labelled a field of inquiry. Much formal inquiry into human (and other) psychology aspires to use the hard tools of science (thesis/hypothesis, experiment, theory, refutation, yadda yadda), but cannot attempt what a physics or a chemistry must do and has done: approach and describe and explain universal regularities in the physical world -- regularities that are explained/theorized at different levels of analysis ... giving us Relativity, special and general, as well as the law of gravity, law of this and that ... and so on across the fields with Physics and Chemistry.

 

The question about psychology is not actually clear about its intent. It seems to me to be a 'truth' question at root, a question of reliability and explanatory power.   The intent could very well be to elicit a No answer to the question here:

 

Is Psychology True?

 

Now I will think about that underlying question, then read the commentary, then post again. In the meantime I expect that the answers given have made everyone feel good about their assumptions and their certainty.  Yes and no forced choice questions have that knock-on effect.


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#17 Selene

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 06:13 PM

No...not yet. 

 

However, with the exponential development in Neuroliguistics and other "brain" studies, it will eventually be there.

 

A...


"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#18 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 07:33 PM

I disagree.

 

A young science cannot be blamed for not being old.

 

Thinking like that is using reason in a conceptual manner.

 

But marketing-wise, I understand the constant objections and hair-splitting.

 

Whoever controls the labels used in society generally controls the core storylines. And whoever controls the storylines contols the morality of a society. And whoever controls the morality gets the power, the fame, the money and even sex when they ham up a good story.

 

The payoff in the game played by most Tellers of The Sacred Tales, the big brass ring, the prize of all prizes, the Number One spot, the lure of the covetousness, the Prime Motivator, has a universal essence:

 

Goodies from others.

 

:smile:

 

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#19 Selene

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Posted 02 February 2013 - 10:52 PM

I disagree.

 

Michael: 

 

Not sure what you are disagreeing with.

 

A...


"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#20 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 03 February 2013 - 01:31 AM

Adam,

 

I disagree that psychology is not yet a science. I hold it is a science, albeit a young one.

 

That means I disagree with you and some others on this point.

 

However, I did not have you in mind as one of the storytellers.

 

:)

 

Michael


Know thyself...





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