"Is Psychology a Science?" - Introduction to Psychology (Part 2)

Short answer: 
Long answer:
Before answering, it is important to describe what science is, what its goals are, the requisites a field has to be a science, and to examine whether psychology can fulfill that criteria.

What is Science?

     Science is any field that follows the scientific method. This consists  five steps: making an observation/formulating a question, establishing a hypothesis, conducting a test, analyzing the data, and forming a conclusion.
     In order to find out whether psychology undergoes the scientific method we will examine a research paper to check if psychologists follow do the steps. The paper that will be examined comes from the journal Psychopharmacology, which is also the branch of psychology that deals with the effects of drugs. It is titled "Effects of 2-bromoterguride, a dopamine D2 receptor partial agonist, on cognitive dysfunction and social aversion in rats."
     As mentioned before, the scientific method starts with an observation and then a question. In this case, the drug, which is 2-Bromoterguride, meets the prerequisites to be considered an atypical antipsychotic drug. The hypothesis is made based on the observation that 2-bromoterguride is effective at reducing the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, which includes cognitive problems. To test their hypothesis, they used sub-chronic PCP treatment to produce cognitive deficits and social aversion and tested the effects of the drug in a series of different tasks. They found that at two different doses 2-bromoterguride was able to reverse the deficits induced by the researchers. For their conclusion, researchers supported the use of the drugs as an antipsychotic based on its effects on positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. 
     As it has now become evident, psychology experiments do follow the scientific method. The conclusions are just based on empirical evidence.

Did you know it all along?

When a layman hears the word psychology in a conversation, he or she may immediately think that this field is pure common sense. To exemplify this, I would like to present to you the findings of two experiments in which you should reason why the results are obvious.
  • All things being equal, physically attractive people are seen as more intelligent than physically unattractive people (Silva, 2014). 
  • People with low self-confidence are more susceptible to flattery than those with high self-confidence (Brown et al., 2005)
This is a small-scale experiment similar to one that examined the hindsight bias. The bias consists of an individual overestimating the likelihood of an event occurring only after it happened, despite the lack of any evidence that could support the prediction. In the real experiment, there were two groups which were presented with similar sentences to the ones used in the example. The majority of both groups agreed that the findings were common sense. However, one of the groups had a small difference in their statements. The word more was replaced by less in both sentences. For example, the sentences used before would now read:
  • All things being equal, physically attractive people are seen as less intelligent than physically unattractive people (Silva, 2014). 
  • People with low self-confidence are less susceptible to flattery than those with high self-confidence (Brown et al., 2005)

And, even though this meant that the findings between both groups were the exact opposite, they reported that the research was common sense. The justification for the first statement was something similar to the halo effect, which consists of attributing positive characteristics to someone that gave us a good impression. If we think someone is handsome or beautiful, based on this attraction, we could think that they're are smart too. For the opposite group, participants caved in to the stereotype of attractive people being conceited and preoccupied with their looks, rather than intelligence. These post hoc fallacies that reason every finding can be applied to every psychology experiment.

The point is that psychologists are not studying common knowledge, but rather people find the results of the research obvious. What is everything about this is that they always justified the results as evident, regardless of the outcome. For example, when told that separation weakens romantic attraction, people usually responded with the saying "out of sight, out of mind." but when told the opposite, they now responded with "absence makes the heart grow fonder." Another assertion in which participants responded with a saying was the statement that couples that had a strong love connection were very different. And, they justified it by saying, "opposites attract." However, when shown the opposite statement, participants replied with the saying, "Birds of a feather flock together." But if the participants were asked before the results were provided, the obviousness disappeared and there was no common answer.

This shows us why psychological research is necessary, because common sense is perceived after the findings are known. However, without research, we are unable to predict, describe or explain behavior and mental processes, which is the main goal of psychology.

Feel free to leave a comment, questions, concerns, or suggestions.