Psychology as a Scientific Discipline

How does psychology as a scientific discipline differ from the casual observations we make about the world in everyday life? What are the similarities?

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Psychology, as a scientific discipline, is built upon testable, empirical data which has been obtained through the use of the scientific method. Now, of course, this does not apply to all of psychology. The psychodynamic approach leans heavily on case studies, which are not empirically testable. Since case studies examine the subjective thoughts of a patient there is no way to objectively test the results. However, for the most part, psychology is built upon reproducible experimentation. Furthermore, casual observations are highly subjective in nature. To borrow from the cognitive approach, the subjective constructs, which filter our sensory perceptions, can have a substantial effect on our impression of reality. For instance, two people could look at the exact same object and have completely different opinions about the significance of that object. It is our personal constructs (i.e. world view, opinions, etc…) which help us make sense of the world.

Casual observation and psychology as a scientific disciple are similar in that they both require second-level analysis. We don’t just take the word at face value. We are not so concerned with the results of an experiment but what the results mean. The difference though is that the results of experimentation are the same for all people; whereas, everyone’s individual perception of the world is varies. However, we use second-level analysis to infer what both experimentation and casual observation mean to us. If that makes any sense…    

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Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2005). Psychology (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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