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Is Psychology a social science? Psychology in plain terms is the scientific study of the mind, or the human psyche. Psychology is social science. It uses the scientific method to study and research what is happening in the minds of the populations and why. It basically deals with the thoughts that humans have about certain rules, objects, speech etc. This makes psychology a science subject. It uses the scientific method to test the hypothesis and presents the results based on scientific principles of experimentation. A person’s thoughts are not physical or material objects ( the mind is an invisible object) it is hence considered to be a social science.
Is Psychology a natural science ?
The definition of Natural science goes as follows. Natural Science is a branch of science that understands natural phenomenon based on empirical evidence and experimentations. So, Psychology is not a natural science as we can not see the mind. We can see the brain but that is not considered the mind. The mind is an amalgamation of the knowledge, ideas and thoughts that a human brain stores. It is not a physical object and hence we do not have empirical data about the mind. Hence Psychology is classified as a social science and not as a natural science.
Psychology vs Humanities
Psychology is derived from the Greek word Psyche which means soul, and logos which stands for “the study”. So Psychology in simple terms is the study of the soul. Psychology deals with people think, how they tend to behave and why they tend to behave the way they usually do. It is a study concerned about the way a society behaves and functions.
Humanities on the other hand, has the word humanity in it. It is a study that is all about the non-objective but subjective ideas and philosophies which mainly deal with what had happened to humanity, what is happening with humanity nowadays, what happened in our history as humans. Where we live, why we live there, all such questions that cannot be tested objectively come under the humanities. Humanities is basically just history and a little bit of geography of ideas and thoughts that humans and cultures have or live by.
Psychology vs Counselling
While psychology is a scientific study of the human mind counselling is not. Counseling is a human resource. This makes it a humanities program.
Since most psychologists and counselors on the general do the same type of work, it can seem quiet confusing to ‘outsiders’ in this regard. Most people don’t know what is the actual difference.
Why is psychology under social science?
Psychology is placed under social sciences because psychology is a very broad subject. It has two dimensions. The “social” side of psychology focuses on the day to day interactions between people. It is quiet a subjective subject and hence is not pure science. The “science” side of the subject focuses on how biochemical and neurological synapses in the brain affect our thoughts, emotions, feelings, desires and most importantly our behaviors. An example in this regard would be declined cognitive functioning caused by traumatic brain injury.
There tends to be a great degree of overlap between the various research methods employed as well. The “social” angle involves a fair bit of simple critical analysis (similar to cultural studies). It may involve simple tools such as observation, hypothesis and statistical analysis. The field focuses more on the questions like “how often” and “how rarely” certain documented behaviors will tend to occur. The “science” angle, will mostly look a lot more at the questions that involve medical experiments which are done in labs. These may involve animal or human case and control group experimentations.
Why is psychology offered both under humanities and science fields ?
The “social”/”science” aspects of the field are the main reason why such a distinction exists. You’ll often come across university programs offering both a BA and a BSc in psychology. The Bachelor of Arts stream of the course focuses more on the social and common behavioral aspects and the subjects studied would involve ideas to improve marketing using psychology ques. The BSc stream will focus majorly on the biochemical/neurological aspects. BA grads will often go on to further pursue a career as a psychologist. I have written an article on the various paths here. BA students will undergo graduate studies in psychology and attain a PsyD degree (May differ in different countries). Whereas the path usually followed by BSc grads will tend to lean on more towards going to medical school to become psychiatrists.
Is Psychology a real science?
Yep, it surely is. The part of psychology that mostly deals with connecting the different brain areas to the human emotions and feelings is pure science and has helped in figuring out the cures to many physical and mental ailments. Most of human brain is unrecognized territory and psychologists do a great job in figuring out its details. Most of the research psychology will focus on this area.
The clinical psychology is pure science as well. It will focus mainly on the realm of treating the patients who have certain mental conditions based on previously researched data and findings. The counselling part of psychology is designed to figure out the root cause of the patient’s problem and help him to improve that.
The mental or social aspect of psychology which works on the principle of “Everything we do, we do it for a reason”, is the most controversial. Most people don’t like the thought of this idea. This idea in itself will encompass then that any one can be influenced into carrying out a certain task without any free will. This part is still hence under debate in most higher institutions. I cannot give you my opinion as even I am still split between the two arguments. So I will leave it that.
Find more articles on psychology as a subject and as a career here.