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This article may have a content or subject overlap with Humanistic psychology. The pages could be merged. You can discuss this at RationalWiki:Duplicate articles.

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind; our inner, subjective experience, and behavior; our observable actions.

Modern psychology began in 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt founded the first psychological laboratory at the University of Leipzig. Though there are different schools of psychology (with the two prominent paradigms being "Psychoanalytic" and "Cognitive-Behavioral") all clinical psychologists value the idea of confidentiality with their clients as the main stepping stone to treatment.

Differences between psychology and other disciplines[edit]

A demonstration of psychology

The primary difference between psychology and other similar disciplines (e.g., philosophy, sociology, and anthropology) is that it generally focuses on individuals and change. This is in contrast to, for example, sociology, which focuses more on group behavior and society, or biology, which focuses on physiological processes. Nevertheless, there is often interdisciplinary overlap (e.g., between social psychology and sociology). A burgeoning trend is to investigate the neurological causes of thought and behavior, creating considerable overlap between some areas of psychology and neuroscience (e.g., cognitive neuroscience, behavioral neuroscience, and social cognitive neuroscience).

Within the last century a large number of the sub-fields in psychology have embraced a more rigorous application of the scientific method than its sister disciplines. However, this is starting to change as the influence of cultural anthropology and arm-chair theorizing in sociology wane. Studies in treatment efficacy have become the source of theory, rather than theory guiding practice.

Psychology in crisis[edit]

In recent years, psychology has been struggling replication crisis. An attempt to reproduce many of the 100 well-known studies failed to reproduce results. Among social psychology experiments, only 14/55 (25%) replicated; among cognitive psychology experiments, only 21/41 (50%) replicated.[1][2]

After preliminary results were published, some of those people whose studies failed to be reproduced accused the reproduction study authors of bullying.[3] In another study, many published psychology papers have been accused of using flawed statistics and of failure to examine alternative hypotheses.[4]

Since the publication of the replication studies, Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert has argued that the replication studies contained key errors.[5][6] Nonetheless, at least one researcher outside the field of psychology has not been impressed by the results. Stanford University epidemiologist John Ioannidis said, "The very best scientists cannot really agree on what the results of the most important paper in the recent history of psychology mean."[5] In a reanalysis of the experiments, Alexander Etz and Joachim Vandekerckhove argued that the failures to replicate occurred largely because of original studies that used too few participants to generate strong statistical results, and also because of journals' bias of only publishing experiments with positive results.[5][7]

Psychology in popular culture[edit]

Amongst the general public ideas about psychology come most prominently from pop psychology which aims at the mass market,[8] often through self-help moddalities and large group awareness training motivational seminars. Pop psychology is generally disdained by those in the broader psychology field because of its widely varying quality, lack of peer review, oversimplification of complex psychological principles, and frequent inclusion of ideas taken from pseudoscience.

Another prominent source is historical, anecdotal and personal experience of clinical psychology. Clinical psychology is popularly linked to psychoanalysis and to Freud. None of Freud's ideas were developed using any sort of testable hypotheses and almost all have been repudiated over time. Modern psychology places a high emphasis on empirical testing and data for various interventions. This emphasis is seen throughout the various orientations of psychology such as cognitive behavioral and psychoanalytic. The empirical testing is peer-reviewed for publication in various journals. Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated that empirically-based treatments such as action-commitment therapy and dialectical behavior therapy can reduce troublesome symptoms in clients.

There are, however, subsets of psychology which focus on pseudoscience and promote that notion that psychology cannot be a "hard/regulated science". Infamously, the "Integrative Psychology" movement in California, started by Ken Wilber,[9] seeks to incorporate "spirituality" as a dimension of health.

The fact that these two branches are the source for most popular opinions on psychology may explain why the much more scientifically rigorous and instructive sub-fields (such as cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and neuro-psychology) have had to fight an uphill battle towards widespread acceptance.

Notable psychologists[edit]

  • Albert Bandura, investigated how individuals learn from others and developed social learning theory.
  • Sigmund Freud, based on case histories, wrote extensively about childhood, personality, society, and the unconscious. Significantly influenced popular ideas about psychology.
  • William James, founded the psychology department at Harvard University.
  • Carl Jung, influential psychologist who is known for the concept of archetypes as well as some minor study of psychology through pseudoscience such as mythology and dream interpretation.
  • Alfred Kinsey, conducted research on human sexuality.
  • Jean Piaget, conducted seminal research into the origins of intelligence in children.
  • Wilhelm Reich, known for his psychological theories on fascism, later became involved with orgone energy pseudoscience.
  • Carl Rogers, founder of Humanistic Psychology, he is one of the most influential psychologists in professional circles and in popular culture.
  • B.F. Skinner, emphasized empiricism and the study of observable behavior rather than subjective mental processes.
  • Wilhelm Wundt, created the first psychology lab. Father of modern psychology.

See also[edit]

External Links[edit]


  1. Psychology results evaporate upon further review: Surprising reports, findings with marginal statistical significance least likely to be reproduced, study concludes by Bruce Bower (2:00pm, August 27, 2015) Science News.
  2. Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science by B. A. Nosek et al. 28 August 2015: Vol. 349 no. 6251 Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4716.
  3. Replication effort provokes praise—and ‘bullying’ charges (Science 23 May 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6186 pp. 788-789)
  4. Closed Thinking: Without scientific competition and open debate, much psychology research goes nowhere (Science News, May 16, 2013)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Psychology’s replication crisis sparks new debate: Analyses of major reproducibility review reach conflicting conclusions by Bruce Bower 2:41pm, March 3, 2016) Science News.
  6. Comment on "Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science" by Daniel T. Gilbert et al. Science 04 Mar 2016: Vol. 351, Issue 6277, pp. 1037 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad7243.
  7. A Bayesian Perspective on the Reproducibility Project: Psychology by Alexander Etz & Joachim Vandekerckhove. PLOS One Published: February 26, 2016.
  8. See the Wikipedia article on mass market.
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Ken Wilber.