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PS409
   Psychology, Science,
     & Pseudoscience



           Dr Brian Hughes
              School of Psychology

brian.hughes@nuigalway.ie            @b_m_hughes
Are psychologists
pseudoscientific?
Question:
Is psychology a science?
Reminder: What is science?
Science = “any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and
its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic
experimentation” (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Science = “1. the systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order
to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these
facts. 2. the organized body of knowledge that is derived from such observations
and that can be verified or tested by further investigation”
(Academic Press Dict. of Science &Technology)

             Features of Principle              Features of Practice
                     Science                           Science
               Valorises falsifiability            Publication of data
                                                      Peer review
            Accuracy in measurement
                                                  Argument “ad rem”
          Unproven as false = unproven
                                                   Empirical evidence
             Emphasis on refutation
                                                Appeals to reductionism
           Prioritization of parsimony
                                                Acceptance of paradigms
          Burden on claimant, not critic           Shared endeavour
Examples of Pseudoscience
The unsubtle…
Flat-earth theories
UFO-ology
Astrology
Clairvoyance
Telepathy
Extrasensory perception [ESP]
Psychokinesis                   “The facts are
                                simple. The earth is
Quantum healing                 flat”
Crystal therapy
Examples of Pseudoscience
…and the subtle?
Biological reductionism in
gender research
Assumptions of “normality”
Folk assumptions in
mainstream psychology
(e.g., social support theory)
Nurture (as opposed to
nature)
Psychoanalysis?
Psychotherapy as a whole?
HOT!                         NOT!

                     Physics   Chemistry     Psychology


Empirical
                      Yes        Yes             Yes
falsifiability
Parsimony of
                      Yes        Yes       Most of the time
theory
Experimental
                      Yes        Yes         To an extent
control
Measurement
                      Yes        Yes           Kind of
accuracy
Facilitates
                      Yes        Yes            A bit
prediction
HOT!                                    NOT!

                       Psychology       Meteorology    Astrophysics


Empirical
                           Yes              Yes          Kind of
falsifiability
Parsimony of
                     Most of the time    Not really        Yes
theory
Experimental
                       To an extent         No              No
control
Measurement
                         Kind of          Kind of      Within limits
accuracy
Facilitates
                          A bit            A bit       Who knows?
prediction
HOT!                                       NOT!

                       Psychology       Palaeontology        Botany


Empirical
                           Yes               No                No
falsifiability
Parsimony of
                     Most of the time    Hard to say      Not a priority
theory
Experimental
                       To an extent          No                No
control
Measurement                             Patchy track
                         Kind of                          Within limits
accuracy                                   record
Facilitates
                          A bit         Not a priority    Not a priority
prediction
HOT!                                          NOT!

                       Psychology           UFOlogy            Astrology


Empirical
                           Yes          Absolutely none     Absolutely none
falsifiability
Parsimony of                            The antithesis of
                     Most of the time                          Not at all
theory                                    parsimony
Experimental
                       To an extent        Err, nope          No attempt
control
Measurement                                                 Track record of
                         Kind of         Not a priority
accuracy                                                     utter failure
Facilitates
                          A bit          Not a priority       Afraid not!
prediction
PS409
   Psychology, Science,
     & Pseudoscience



           Dr Brian Hughes
              School of Psychology

brian.hughes@nuigalway.ie            @b_m_hughes

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Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #09 (Psych as Science)

  • 1. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychology brian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes
  • 4. Reminder: What is science? Science = “any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation” (Encyclopaedia Britannica) Science = “1. the systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts. 2. the organized body of knowledge that is derived from such observations and that can be verified or tested by further investigation” (Academic Press Dict. of Science &Technology) Features of Principle Features of Practice Science Science Valorises falsifiability Publication of data Peer review Accuracy in measurement Argument “ad rem” Unproven as false = unproven Empirical evidence Emphasis on refutation Appeals to reductionism Prioritization of parsimony Acceptance of paradigms Burden on claimant, not critic Shared endeavour
  • 5. Examples of Pseudoscience The unsubtle… Flat-earth theories UFO-ology Astrology Clairvoyance Telepathy Extrasensory perception [ESP] Psychokinesis “The facts are simple. The earth is Quantum healing flat” Crystal therapy
  • 6. Examples of Pseudoscience …and the subtle? Biological reductionism in gender research Assumptions of “normality” Folk assumptions in mainstream psychology (e.g., social support theory) Nurture (as opposed to nature) Psychoanalysis? Psychotherapy as a whole?
  • 7.
  • 8. HOT! NOT! Physics Chemistry Psychology Empirical Yes Yes Yes falsifiability Parsimony of Yes Yes Most of the time theory Experimental Yes Yes To an extent control Measurement Yes Yes Kind of accuracy Facilitates Yes Yes A bit prediction
  • 9. HOT! NOT! Psychology Meteorology Astrophysics Empirical Yes Yes Kind of falsifiability Parsimony of Most of the time Not really Yes theory Experimental To an extent No No control Measurement Kind of Kind of Within limits accuracy Facilitates A bit A bit Who knows? prediction
  • 10. HOT! NOT! Psychology Palaeontology Botany Empirical Yes No No falsifiability Parsimony of Most of the time Hard to say Not a priority theory Experimental To an extent No No control Measurement Patchy track Kind of Within limits accuracy record Facilitates A bit Not a priority Not a priority prediction
  • 11. HOT! NOT! Psychology UFOlogy Astrology Empirical Yes Absolutely none Absolutely none falsifiability Parsimony of The antithesis of Most of the time Not at all theory parsimony Experimental To an extent Err, nope No attempt control Measurement Track record of Kind of Not a priority accuracy utter failure Facilitates A bit Not a priority Afraid not! prediction
  • 12. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychology brian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes