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Psychology a Soft Science?

Today in class we were asked if psychology was a soft science, while most answered that it was the professor then asked us to refute this claim. Can anyone give me some help? I left my book in class and it was stolen, I now have to wait for a new one to be delivered but, this is due tomorrow.

The question went soemthin like this:
A colleague comes up to you and states that psychology is not a science because it is a “soft science,” and is not considered one of the “hard” sciences like biology or physics .How would you refute your colleague’s claim.

You first need to define “soft” and “hard” sciences. Once these definitions are established you can formulate points for or against either of them.

What a lousy student…

I sure hope you aren’t planning to go into this field.

Modern Psychology is NOT to be mistaken for psychoanalysis. Modern psychology heavily depends on mathamtical and statistical analysis to make statments about PROBABILITIES. Thats what psychology is all about.

If you consider this “soft”, the clinical medicine is just as soft - and many many other fields.

[quote]PederLustzo wrote:
Modern Psychology is NOT to be mistaken for psychoanalysis. Modern psychology heavily depends on mathamtical and statistical analysis to make statments about PROBABILITIES. Thats what psychology is all about.

If you consider this “soft”, the clinical medicine is just as soft - and many many other fields.[/quote]

Perhaps I’m just ignorant, but can you give me some type of mathematical psychology example? I just don’t see where math and psychology are going to fit together, but then again I’ve never studied it so that could be why.

What is this a debate class?

In any case it is a “soft” science as it is right now because it uses evolutionary theory to develop it’s conclusions…instead of strict observation and the scientific method like they used to do. Even then though one must realize that some sciences such as economics, political science,(really all the social sciences) will never be as accurate as the true sciences. So they what they lack is accuracy, or a precise and predictable or calculable outcome…however they can predict outcomes generally and describe things generally.

[quote]JLu wrote:
Perhaps I’m just ignorant, but can you give me some type of mathematical psychology example? I just don’t see where math and psychology are going to fit together, but then again I’ve never studied it so that could be why.[/quote]
he said “Modern psychology heavily depends on mathamtical and statistical analysis to make statments about PROBABILITIES”.
ie. if you are testing reaction times to different stimuli and the effect of cues you use statistical (mathematical) tools to get your results.

If a “soft” science is one of the sciences, then psychology is a science. There’s a goodly bit of thought that you can pour into this, but honestly, the point of homework questions like this is for you to figure it out for yourself so that you might have a better understanding of the issues. If someone else feeds the answer to you it is somewhat meaningless.

Also, you discussed this today in class and the answer is due tomorrow? Your schedule puts this class back to back Thursday and Friday, and your Prof. only gave you one day for this?

Use of brain imaging technology to develop conclusions, base on empirical evidence ECt, not going to do your assignment for you

A good example of empircal psychology is the BIG-5 personality theorie - it claims to meassure 5 aspects of personality. (Openness ,
Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness & Neuroticism)

Psychology students learn that this is a “good” theorie because the test fullfill three criteria objectivity (i.e. result not dependen on interrogater), validity (the testresults show a statistical correlation with certain behaviours in situational tests) and reliability (i.e. the test can be repeated and yields the same results again). To me this is very “hard” science and not soft.
Psychology today has become a lot more descriptive and a lot less speculative & trying to explain things.

As mentioned, you’re going to have to define what hard and soft refer to with regard to the sciences; preferably back up your definition; and I would suggest qualifying your further discussion as being with regard only to that definition, with other conclusions being possible with different definitions.

And then you will further need to limit or describe what you mean by psychology. The psychology done by a therapist, or the author of a book on therapy, is quite different than much research psychology which may be highly based on physical measurements of the brain or components of it, e.g. nerves, or for example PET scan measurements under given conditions (with statistics only showing the high degree of accuracy and high confidence in actual difference rather than merely general correlation) and completely falsifiable (provable as untrue, if untrue.)

An enormous amount of what is considered psychology is not falsifiable – if untrue in any of various possible ways, the proponent of the theory offers no experiment that could demonstrate it nor do other authors in the field offer any – and thus not even science in the first place, let alone a hard science.

But that is for you to reason out and provide examples on.

As an example which you should not use: Another post mentioned that Poliquin says that men like flipping channels on the remote because of a caveman past of being used to the images of firelight flickering on the cave walls.

This bit of what many would call psychology is not falsifiable and thus is not science, let alone hard science.

Of course, Poliquin is not a psychologist, so that is not a usable example. It is only an illustration of the general concept, coming to mind only because of having read it here on the forum last night.

Because if not dependent upon the existence of a god, the psyche can be narrowed down to definitive factors.

There is no ‘soul’ with ‘free will’ only chemical reactions and social circumstances.

Take god out of the equation and people are no longer “possessed” they now have mental conditions. Worth noting I suppose.

Math trumps all.

A lot of what is called “psychology” is actually meta-psychology like object-relation theory.

That is rather “soft” but useful.

There is “hard” psychology too, like behaviorism, but even that deals with the fact that the human mind is very complex and therefore not something you can predict with absolute certainty.

It is probably a science based art like medicine.

No but sociology is, it’s all observations with labels. Interesting at times and boring as hell others.

[quote]JLu wrote:
PederLustzo wrote:
Modern Psychology is NOT to be mistaken for psychoanalysis. Modern psychology heavily depends on mathamtical and statistical analysis to make statments about PROBABILITIES. Thats what psychology is all about.

If you consider this “soft”, the clinical medicine is just as soft - and many many other fields.

Perhaps I’m just ignorant, but can you give me some type of mathematical psychology example? I just don’t see where math and psychology are going to fit together, but then again I’ve never studied it so that could be why.[/quote]

I suppose you’re not in the advertising field then

[quote]jCaesar88 wrote:
JLu wrote:
PederLustzo wrote:
Modern Psychology is NOT to be mistaken for psychoanalysis. Modern psychology heavily depends on mathamtical and statistical analysis to make statments about PROBABILITIES. Thats what psychology is all about.

If you consider this “soft”, the clinical medicine is just as soft - and many many other fields.

Perhaps I’m just ignorant, but can you give me some type of mathematical psychology example? I just don’t see where math and psychology are going to fit together, but then again I’ve never studied it so that could be why.

I suppose you’re not in the advertising field then[/quote]

You are correct.

if you can’t write the fundamental laws as a differential equation then it’s pretty soft. are there even fundamental laws in psychology?

But can you back up your assertion that that test establishes whether a supposed science is “hard” or “soft” according to definitions accepted by many other people?

Back to the OP:

Your professor is asking you to refute the claim that psychology is a soft science.

Is this the sort of class where a bullshit untrue-but-sounds-good argument is admirable if it advances the desired thing, or the sort of class where a sound argument for how your examination leads you to conclude that the claim is correct would also be acceptable?

If the first, then I would recommend finding a way of defining psychology where it is a field dealing only with falsifiable and measurable hypotheses and theories.

For example, a hypothesis that under EMDR, increased activity in the brain occurs in regions such and such with increased communication between hemispheres as measurable by PET scan is falsifiable and measurable, and psychology dealing with such things is not a soft science for the above reason.

So long as you allow things such as the theories of Freud or Jung or any of the other potsmokers (no offense intended to potsmokers) to count as “psychology” then it is not possible to coherently argue such to be a hard science. One could however argue that such is not a soft science because it is not even science at all. But if your professor is of the sort who wants only refutation of the soft science claim, I suppose he would be displeased with that method of refutation.