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Author Topic:   Is Psychology Science?
JustinC
Member (Idle past 2923 days)
Posts: 624
From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Joined: 07-21-2003


Message 1 of 41 (404260)
06-07-2007 4:49 PM


First off, I'll broadly construe science as the activity of creating ideas and then exposing them to observation. That is, they make certain empiricial predictions that support the idea if verified or oppose the idea if not verified.

Psychology is the study of human behavior, or sometimes said to study the human psyche as manifested in human behavior. If is of my opinion that the discipline is riddled with pseudoscientific concepts and methodologies, especially clinical psychology.

First off, let's talk about psychological theories. Popper famously derided Freud's ideas as being unfalsifiable. At best, they were explanatory frameworks that helped one understand there own behavior and guide their lives. At worst, the obfuscated one's self-awareness and hindered their ability to accurately assess their internal problems. The question comes down to the fact that you can't really get objective evidence when it comes to psychological analysis. There is always the "leading the witness" problem. A patient may think at the end of a session that they gained some deep insights to their behavior, and this may be true. But how does one know they aren't merely interpreting their behavior interms of some arbitrary framework? How do you assess the theories contact with reality? How do I observe the Id, Ego, or Superego? Or how do I assess whether my actions are guided by unconscious motivations that aren't immediately apparent to my conscious self?

I think most of psychology, as practiced today, can be described similarly. Their is an increasing trend to label certain behavioral characteristics as disorders without accurately describing how a "normal" person should act. People constantly complain that they suffer from "depression" or "anxiety" or "ADHD". Shouldn't the inability to define "mental disorder" in a meaningful way give pause to the practitioners and open up a debate as to the efficacy of the incessant manufacturing of diseases?

Edited by JustinC, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Zhimbo, posted 06-07-2007 9:27 PM JustinC has responded
 Message 5 by anastasia, posted 06-07-2007 11:39 PM JustinC has responded
 Message 6 by anglagard, posted 06-08-2007 3:32 AM JustinC has not yet responded
 Message 19 by Larni, posted 06-12-2007 8:59 AM JustinC has responded

    
AdminSchraf
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Message 2 of 41 (404288)
06-07-2007 9:13 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
Zhimbo
Member (Idle past 4091 days)
Posts: 571
From: New Hampshire, USA
Joined: 07-28-2001


Message 3 of 41 (404292)
06-07-2007 9:27 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
06-07-2007 4:49 PM


Wrong title?
First, Freud hasn't been in the mainstream of Psychology for >50years. Psychoanalysis has survived even until this day within its own cadre of supporters, but is for all intents and purposes extinct within scientific (including clinical) psychology.

Your main point is isn't about whether psychology is a science - it's about clinical diagnosis. Of course, clinical diagnosis of any sort is really a practical art, not a science.

But there are valid issues about 1) the reliability of clinical diagnoses, and 2) whether there is a sound theoretical basis for diagnosed syndromes.

As for 2, the theoretical basis doesn't necessarily matter: it's a practical art, not a science. If it helps people, it helps people. Theory is useful, but not the point of clinical practice.

I think 1 is the main point (which admittedly, is probably related to #2).

So is your intended point: "Does the lack of a theoretical basis for clinical mental disorders leads to unreliability of diagnosis and treatment?"

'Cuz if you're really sticking to the more general "Is Psychology Science?", I'm switching to Cognitive pscyh and cognitive neuroscience for my answers.

Edited by Zhimbo, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by JustinC, posted 06-07-2007 4:49 PM JustinC has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by RAZD, posted 06-07-2007 9:36 PM Zhimbo has not yet responded
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19759
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 6.4


Message 4 of 41 (404293)
06-07-2007 9:36 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Zhimbo
06-07-2007 9:27 PM


Re: Wrong title?
1) the reliability of clinical diagnoses,...

Recently the tools of genetics and CTscans have been added to the diagnostic kit. This allows researchers to see if there is something common between people with certain diseases determined by classical diagnosis.

This is fairly new but is showing some results. It is probably most hindered by having to use classical diagnosis for data organization when that is the least reliable of the techniques.

I expect psychology to grow up soon. Especially for things like battle fatigue (where we now have a large source of people to study).

Enjoy.


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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4032 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 5 of 41 (404303)
06-07-2007 11:39 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
06-07-2007 4:49 PM


Psychology is using scientific methods to reach conclusions. Up to and until we can know that there are empirical conclusions to be found, I would call it science.

It would be lovely to just know what is 'wrong' with you. As Zhimbo said, you may feel uneasy about a diagnosis not grounded in fact. I agree with you, especially when it comes to uniformly medicating people without certainty. It can be disastrous to jump to conclusions, and unfortunately many have suffered at the hands of incorrect diagnostics throughout history.

Because many people just want a quick fix, psycholgy could easily become quackery. For now, it is a respectable and necessary study that could potentially have great benefit. So, yes, it is a science, and no, it's application may be at this point 'not an exact science'. I believe RAZD is pointing out that, through the combining of other sciences, we maybe able one day to make an accurate diagnosis of mental disorders without relying so much on the symptoms as guides. It is possbible that we could find no scientific/factual basis for a diagnosis.

Edited by anastasia, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by JustinC, posted 06-07-2007 4:49 PM JustinC has responded

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anglagard
Member
Posts: 2185
From: Socorro, New Mexico USA
Joined: 03-18-2006


Message 6 of 41 (404311)
06-08-2007 3:32 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by JustinC
06-07-2007 4:49 PM


The Difference Between a Science and a Profession
Psychology, like sociology, political science, cultural anthropology, indeed even economics is a social science as all involve human behavior. This means that research in these fields are primarily, but not exclusively, qualitative.

Physics, chemistry, and geology are physical sciences, as these fields are concerned with physical phenomena. This means that research in these fields is primarily quantitative.

Life sciences are a mix of both as they deal with living organisms that are not necessarily human, therefore research may be either primarily quantitative or qualitative depending upon what subbranch one is researching. For example, biochemistry is very quantitative while nature studies are more descriptive.

Sciences have models of reality where such models are to be tested through research to determine validity regardless of whether that research is either qualitative or quantitative.

Professions, such as medicine, engineering, accounting, the law, or even dare I say librarianship, are not sciences as these fields do not use a single overriding model to describe reality but rather use the findings of all pertinent sciences in order to develop a code of best practices which may vary from one situation to another.

In other words, scientists must address the model, or prevailing theories within each field, either to support or contradict. Professionals (in the narrow sense) are not as concerned with the theories as they are in taking such findings and applying them to specific situations which may be too diverse in nature for any single model to properly address.

Science requires models of reality, professions are based upon human judgment.

Psychiatry (as in Freud etc.) is a profession. Psychology is a social science.

I hope this helps clarify why any past psychoanalytic theorists are not necessarily scientists and therefore their speculations are not necessarily science.


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JustinC
Member (Idle past 2923 days)
Posts: 624
From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Joined: 07-21-2003


Message 7 of 41 (404382)
06-08-2007 2:44 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Zhimbo
06-07-2007 9:27 PM


Re: Wrong title?
I wrote the post kindof hastily. I have no doubt that human behavior is a valid domain of scientific inquiry, especially when grounded in neurophysiology (e.g., addictive behavior is connected with the VTA and nucleus accumbens).

But what I have a problem with is the plethora of mental illnesses now being "diagnosed."

quote:

But there are valid issues about 1) the reliability of clinical diagnoses, and 2) whether there is a sound theoretical basis for diagnosed syndromes.


(1) is inexextricably linked to two. The reason there is no reliability in clinical diagnosis is because there is no one really knows what a mental disorder is. They just seem to be classifying some personality characteristics as a disorder with really no justification.

In the recent DSM, there is a "sibling rivalry disorder." In previous editions "homosexuality" was considered a mental disorder. Now, I ask, what exactly changed that they decided homosexuality is no longer a mental disorder and the sibling rivalry suddenly is? What are the criteria for mental disorders as opposed to "normal" behavior?

Edited by JustinC, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by RAZD, posted 06-10-2007 1:43 PM JustinC has responded
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JustinC
Member (Idle past 2923 days)
Posts: 624
From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Joined: 07-21-2003


Message 8 of 41 (404409)
06-08-2007 6:02 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by anastasia
06-07-2007 11:39 PM


quote:
It would be lovely to just know what is 'wrong' with you. As Zhimbo said, you may feel uneasy about a diagnosis not grounded in fact. I agree with you, especially when it comes to uniformly medicating people without certainty. It can be disastrous to jump to conclusions, and unfortunately many have suffered at the hands of incorrect diagnostics throughout history.


What is wrong with me? According to therapists, I have ADHD as well as mild depression. I wouldn't consider these disorders though, merely personality characteristics that are a part of who I am.

Its not just that I think that diagnosis is suspect to the vagaries associated with any medical profession- I don't think they know exactly what they are diagnosing.

If they define a bunch of attributes as a disorder, then yes, I have a disorder by definition.

But what is a disorder and how do you delineate normal variations in human behavior from a disorder? Again, why is homosexuality no longer a mental disorder? What startling new finding made them change there mind?


This message is a reply to:
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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4032 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 9 of 41 (404415)
06-08-2007 7:09 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by JustinC
06-08-2007 6:02 PM


JustinC, I think that you and I are probably 'weirdos' to think about these things, but I understand you completely.

My family has a history of depression which they are constantly projecting onto me. EVERYTHING I talk about is a symptom.I feel I have more of an anxiety disorder if anything, because I DO get panic attacks. Sis was diagnosed with a mild epilepsy for things which I experience as well. The 'things' could also be linked to stress or self-induced anxiety.

My point is, I KNOW what is wrong with me. I need a freakin' night out more than once a month, I need to get some things into perspective, stop being a perfectionist, and just chill. I don't want to be medicated for a condition that may honestly be due to externals.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by JustinC, posted 06-08-2007 6:02 PM JustinC has not yet responded

    
JustinC
Member (Idle past 2923 days)
Posts: 624
From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Joined: 07-21-2003


Message 10 of 41 (404799)
06-09-2007 8:48 PM


Let me see if I can jumpstart this subject by asking the more general question: what is health and what is disease?

The problem with defining disease is present in biological illness as well as mental illnesses. One possible definition for disease is:


Any characteristic which hinders or impedes the body's natural functioning as explained by evolutionary biology

Using this definition, it is somewhat clearer why we view some body states as diseased and others not. For example, childhood leukemia severely decreases the body's intended function to reproduce and pass on its genes. The same can be said of heart disease, retardation, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc.

Actually, this definition is probably deficient in several respects. One case in point is "Alzheimers disease." Usually Alzheimer's sets in after the reproductive period of one's life and is this part is probably not subject to the same severity in selective pressures as earlier periods.

I think this critique can be bypassed, though, when one acknowledges that we are family-oriented creatures (more so in the past, admittedly). It is in the interest of an individual not just to produce offspring, but also to aid the offspring in producing more offspring as much as they can. So Alzheimer's can still be considered to have the affect of reducing the probabilty of having your genes present in future generations.

This is open to debate, though, and I'm willing to bet this definition is lacking is several respects when it comes under closer scrutiny.

That said, if we accept the definition for a moment it is clear why biological diseases are on surer footing than mental diseases: its not very clear there is a "normal way" for the brain, in particular the neocortex, to operate. One of the beauties of the neocortex is that it is extremely flexible and malleable to environmental conditions, that's one of its adaptive functions. In this regard, it is very unlikely that there is a rigidly defined state of for someone's behavior. To call someone's behavior a disease, then, one would have to take on the task of showing that it is counter to some intrinsic function of the brain.

This post is long enough as it is and should suffice. I would like to add, though, that maybe there is a way to define mental illness objectively in terms of the previous definition and also incorperate value-laden judgements. To be reproductively successful one should incorperate themselves in the social structure that they find themselves in. If they aren't meshing well, then there chances would seem to be diminished, atleast it seems that way to me.

Any thoughts?


Replies to this message:
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tudwell
Member (Idle past 4058 days)
Posts: 172
From: KCMO
Joined: 08-20-2006


Message 11 of 41 (404823)
06-10-2007 12:01 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by JustinC
06-09-2007 8:48 PM


I don't know that you need two separate categories. Most mental illnesses are biological diseases also, caused by chemical imbalances or malfunctions in the brain. Some of the sillier ones (sibling rivalry disorder?) may not be so objectively identified, but bipolar disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, and other prominent illnesses are known to be caused by chemical imbalances.
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19759
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 6.4


Message 12 of 41 (404907)
06-10-2007 1:43 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by JustinC
06-08-2007 2:44 PM


Re: Wrong title?
But what I have a problem with is the plethora of mental illnesses now being "diagnosed."

quote:

But there are valid issues about 1) the reliability of clinical diagnoses, and 2) whether there is a sound theoretical basis for diagnosed syndromes.


(1) is inexextricably linked to two. The reason there is no reliability in clinical diagnosis is because there is no one really knows what a mental disorder is. They just seem to be classifying some personality characteristics as a disorder with really no justification.

As long as they can do double blind studies and show positive results they can move forward on making such diagnosis. In populations where the sample size is small this may be difficult, but where we have a large sample (say for battle fatigue?) they should be able to manage it.


Join the effort to unravel AIDS/HIV, unfold Proteomes, fight Cancer,
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we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
RebelAAmericanOZen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by JustinC, posted 06-08-2007 2:44 PM JustinC has responded

Replies to this message:
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JustinC
Member (Idle past 2923 days)
Posts: 624
From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Joined: 07-21-2003


Message 13 of 41 (404916)
06-10-2007 3:27 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by RAZD
06-10-2007 1:43 PM


Re: Wrong title?
quote:
As long as they can do double blind studies and show positive results they can move forward on making such diagnosis.


A double blind study with regard to what exactly? The effectiveness of treatment?
This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by RAZD, posted 06-10-2007 1:43 PM RAZD has responded

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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19759
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 6.4


Message 14 of 41 (404925)
06-10-2007 5:03 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by JustinC
06-10-2007 3:27 PM


double blind bind
A double blind study with regard to what exactly? The effectiveness of treatment?

Certainly for treatment (same as any other medical procedure)

Could be anything. It could be on diagnosis, with patients and volunteers filling out questionnaires and psychologists and lay people making diagnosis from the answers. If you had a strong correlation between patients and psychologist diagnosis would that not speak to the validity of the diagnosis?

Edited by RAZD, : .


Join the effort to unravel AIDS/HIV, unfold Proteomes, fight Cancer,
compare Fiocruz Genome and fight Muscular Dystrophy with Team EvC! (click)


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
RebelAAmericanOZen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by JustinC, posted 06-10-2007 3:27 PM JustinC has responded

Replies to this message:
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Zhimbo
Member (Idle past 4091 days)
Posts: 571
From: New Hampshire, USA
Joined: 07-28-2001


Message 15 of 41 (405108)
06-11-2007 10:41 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by JustinC
06-09-2007 8:48 PM


For Alzheimer's you state:

"It is in the interest of an individual not just to produce offspring, but also to aid the offspring in producing more offspring as much as they can. So Alzheimer's can still be considered to have the affect of reducing the probabilty of having your genes present in future generations."

If this is your standard, then yes, there are mental diseases. Suicidal depression, for example. Paranoid schizophrenia. Heck, severe untreated obsessive-compulsive disorder is going to impede all sorts of things, and these can often (or even preferentially) strike during prime reproductive years.

While getting one "necessary and sufficient" definition of disease is going to be difficult, I think, any definition that excludes suicidal depression, paranoid schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder is severely lacking.

Now, I am utterly sympathetic with the narrower point that many named "disorders" are probably undeserving of the status, especially many "personality disorders". There's a couple of reasons. One is that the field is still developing. There's great progress in understanding certain subsets of mental problems, but a murky mess at best in many more.

Another is the realities of health care in this country. In the U.S., unless you have a diagnosis, it can be hard to get reimbursed for treatment. So, the whole DSM system for diagnosing mental disorders is in part driven by the need to have some sort, any sort, of diagnosis available for someone who is receiving treatment.

Many people probably do need psychological help, and will benefit from it, even though they don't have a specific "disorder" or "disease". But try to get a health insurance company to keep paying for therapy for general coping skills, or whatever. Not gonna happen in most cases.


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