AQA PSYB4 REVISION – PSYCHOLOGY AS A SCIENCE

Guten morgen PSYB4ers! For the benefit of my caffeine-fuelled, sleep-deprived self, I’ve composed a very brief set of notes for psychology as a science in fervent panic for today’s exam. If any of you unfortunate beings are in the same situation, then good luck to ya.


Discuss the limitations of the scientific approach in psychology. In other words, should psychology be a science?

Any question regarding the limitations of the scientific approach lends to this view.

So, outline the limitations, i.e.:

  • Reductionist
  • Deterministic
  • Ecological validity

Elaborate on them and flip them on their head. Reductionism may be negative in that we ignore other contributing factors, but by isolating variables, we can develop practical applications to treat disorders. Determinism may lend to a fatalistic outlook and see us as impossible of change due to the notion that we are controlled by extraneous forces outside of our control, but also allows us to predict negative behaviours, in order to prevent or control them etc. Use topic links too – these matters are easily discussed in the context of schizophrenia, mood disorders, offending behaviour etc.


Can psychology be a science?

Any question regarding the applications of the approach asks this question.

  • Unlike sciences of physics or chemistry that are more objective forms of science, psychology investigates humans. Thus, interaction between the experimenter and the subject raises various issues.
  • Experimenter bias – beliefs/wishes/attitudes/presence of psychologist affect the outcome of the study. Controlled to an extent by the double blind method, but even then, the general attitude of the psychology may still influence performance.
  • Demand characteristics – participant tries to guess the aim of the study, respond in ways they think the experimenter wants them to
  • Ethical implications – restriction and guidelines regarding what we’re allowed to do

Is psychology a science?

  • Outline criteria for science – paradigms, theory constructions, empirical methods and general laws
  • How closely does psychology adhere to the criteria?
  • Include topic links to demonstrate points – ie. biological approach/behaviourist utilises empirical methods, humanist/freud does not. General laws are established by Freud, the behaviourists etc.

Discuss reasons why psychology should adopt a scientific approach

  • Strengths of the approach, ie. practical applications, objective, high in internal validity, reliable etc.
  • Use topic links again, i.e. SSRIs for depression etc.
  • Offer counter argument – high in internal validity, but low ecological validity etc.
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