Psychology as a science, part deux

*big sigh*

Apparently two thirds of final year psychology undergraduates in the US do not believe psychology is a science.

Why are you studying it then?

I guess this is partly the instructors’ fault. I think we can get too focused on teaching “to the syllabus” and giving details about theories and experiments without the general training in the scientific method. I suppose if you were to ask one of these students “what is a theory?”, “what is the scientific method?” or “is Occum’s razor a new shaving product?” you would get blank faces.

Back in my day, this info was implicitly trained into us by stealth methods. Over the years, we just acquired the knowledge by the way the course was taught. These days I find myself having to explicitly explain these things to students as I have my doubts as to whether they are going to pick up a Philosophy of Science book. Mind you, in my day, we have the “general science” paper which asked really general and broad questions about psychology which touched on many of these things. It was my favourite part of the course, but due to a coup d’etat it was ejected from the syllabus the following year.

At the very least, our graduates should be leaving with this most basic of knowledge. Martin Conway has shown that research methods training tends to be remembered really well even years later. This basic training in science should function similarly.

But, if we can’t expect our own graduates to defend psychology, why should we expect the rest of the public to get on board?

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