Photo courtesy of Christopher Newport University | Staff Writer Emily Price argues that psychology, and other “soft sciences,” are important to our society.
“Psychology is nonsense.” “Psychology is a science founded on the failure to understand the ‘hard’ sciences.” “Along with other social sciences like anthropology and sociology, psychology is a ‘soft’ science, based on fluid ideas of humanity. ‘Hard’ sciences are generally thought of as difficult and respected subjects based on facts and measures. ‘Soft’ sciences are typically thought of as easy and unimportant subjects based on opinions and loose measures.”
To students, professors, doctors and scholars of psychology, the above statements are profoundly insulting. They are not insulting, however, in a way that makes us want to cover our faces and cry; they are insulting in a way that makes us want to stand up and fight.
Allegations of this nature against psychology are not only uneducated, but they are hypocritical as well. They are often made by scholars of the ‘hard’ sciences like chemistry and physics that refuse to believe in the impact of how people think and behave.
One of the main points used in this argument is that psychology is constantly changing. This is based on the fact that psychological studies that had large impacts in the 19th and 20th centuries have been found to be of less importance today. To this point, I argue that this is the nature of all sciences. There was a time in history when we thought the world was flat. There was a time in history when we thought the atom was the smallest, most basic form of matter. In both examples, “hard” sciences had to correct themselves just as psychology is doing today.
In addition, psychology is unlike physics and chemistry in that it is based on the human experience (something that is always changing). In contrast to a scientific belief system, which claims that science has the answers to every question, we are more than the biological and chemical characteristics and reactions that take place in our bodies. Therefore, as the world changes around us, our behavior, attitudes and characters are destined to change as well. Humans are malleable creatures, so psychology must be as well.
This means that even when psychology is older and more established on its principles, it will need to change as human nature does. The foundations of the theories and principles will largely remain the same (e.g., attitudes affect behaviors and vice versa), but the factors surrounding the foundation will change. For example, which attitudes affect which behaviors, what external forces affect attitudes, among so many other important considerations, could change
Another point made in the attempt to classify psychology as nonsense is that knowledge of it does not better us as individuals. Psychologists of all subcategories still suffer the same psychological tendencies that all people do. Social psychologists are not immune to hindsight bias and clinical psychologists are not immune to depression. If the intent behind studying a subfield of psychology is to better oneself, then why do so many psychologists seek to help other people? It is because the purpose of psychology is to better all people, not just those who study it. It is an effort to understand why we are here and why we feel the way we do. This is something that “hard” sciences cannot do, once again challenging the attitude of a scientific person.
The biology and chemistry of a person’s brain cannot explain the entirety of their human experience. The deeper meaning of the world and the questions every person wonders about cannot be answered by the mechanics of how we formulate the words to ask. Through understanding this hole in scientific explanation, we can see that its simplistic view of the world fails.
Considering all of this, it is obvious that psychology is not nonsense. Psychology is evident in everything we do. It is the key to answering the ultimate question: Why are we here? It may be young and still learning, but as we further our knowledge of it, its necessity within society will become clear.
Emily Price is a first-year psychology major and staff writer for the Newswire from Miamisburg, Ohio.