The Scientific Method: A Valid Way of Understanding Life

Scientific study is a valid way of coming to an understanding of life, and can be very useful in every area of life. Science develops theories based on what is observed. It examines each theory with rigorous and scrupulous tests to see if it describes reality. The scientific method works well in observing and recording physical data and in reaching conclusions which either confirm or nullify a theory.

During the mid-19th century, scholars (although at that time probably termed philosophers) wanted to study human nature with the aim of applying the scientific method to observe, record, and treat human behaviour that was deemed as unnatural. They believed that if people could be studied in a scientific manner, there would be a greater accuracy in understanding present behaviour, in predicting future behaviour, and, most controversially, in altering behaviour through scientific intervention. There are many areas of psychology, each attempting to explain behaviour from slightly different perspectives; Social psychology is concerned with the effects of social situations on human behaviour. Personality theorists study individual behaviour.

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Comparative psychologists study animal behaviours across the range of species Physiological psychologists are concerned with the biological basis of behaviour. Cognitive psychologists investigate memory, thought, problem solving, and the psychological aspects of learning. Analysis of behaviour studies the conditions under which a behaviour can be learned and the situations that cause that behaviour to occur. Learning is an area of psychology exploring how new behaviours are learned and maintained. Clinical psychologists study ways to help individuals and groups of individuals change their behaviour.

This school of psychology arose partly as a reaction against psychoanalysis and introspective methodology. Its founder J.B Watson claimed that psychology should be studied like any other science with regards to chemistry, physics, biology etc and the research should be available for public scrutiny. Behaviourism gained much respect for psychology in adopting the scientific method and using the “Experimental Method Of Research” in particular. B.F Skinner is the most famous contemporary behaviourist and is often described as the most influential psychologist of this century.

Skinner in particular distinguished between two forms of behaviour: respondent refers to the type of behaviour shown during classical conditioning when a stimulus triggers a more or less natural reaction. The Russian scientist Pavlov first identified classical conditioning as a form of learning. Pavlov in fact won a Nobel Prize for his research. These responses could include, excitement, fear, sadness or sexual response.

The other type of behaviour is operant which deals with the type of behaviour that is not a result of simple or automatic response. Most human behaviour is operant which is learned and strengthened by a process of operant conditioning. Examples of this type of behaviour would include: – driving a car, going to work, playing a sport and daily events which take place. The major elements, which are involved in operant conditioning, are, stimulus, the response and reinforcement or reward.

Cognitive psychology emerged partly as a reaction against the narrowness of the stimulus-response explanation of human behaviour. “The approach to this type of psychology was offered by Edward Tolman, whom was a behaviourist himself, and found that the stimulus-response of explanation of learning to be inadequate in explaining the behaviour of his lab rats (in mazes experiments)” He claimed that his lab rats were using ‘cognitive mapping’ to find the location of food in the maze. “Cognitive research included many different facets of mental life, such as the use of imagery in presentation, processes of decision-making and problem-solving; and reasoning”

It combined the insights into human perception and learning from the Gestalt school with the findings from the strict academic experimentalists, to create an interest in how human beings deal with information on a cognitive level. The cognitive revolution places the emphasis of psychology squarely on to the understanding of the human information processing. From being the ‘study of mind’ to the ‘study of behaviour’ they also studied the mental processes that intervene between stimulus inputs and response outputs. They believed that an understanding of this process is necessary to provide a complete picture of behaviour. Some theorists consider cognitive psychology to be synonymous with psychology as a whole but others acknowledge the importance of the information processing approach and as a consequence see cognitive psychology as a separate school.

In Germany, a school of psychology developed which became known as Gestalt psychology, after the German word for a complete unit or form. Gestalt psychologists investigated those aspects of human experience that they felt were complete and couldn’t be reduced to constitute parts. In particular, they believed that the way that we gain a sudden insight into the nature of the problem, or that we perceive objects, could not be understood in the terms of chains of stimulus response, but represent something far more fundamental in human psychology. “Gestalt psychologists proposed six principals or properties that lead the perceptual system to ‘glue’ raw sensations together in particular ways, organising stimuli into a world of shapes and patterns” Proximity being that the closer objects are together, the more likely they are to be perceived as belonging together.

Similarity is when similar elements are perceived to be part of a group. Continuity is when sensations appear to create a continuous form and are perceived as belonging together. Closure is when people tend to fill in the missing contours to form a complete object. Orientation when basic features of the stimuli have the same orientation (vertical or horizontal). Simplicity is when people group a stimulus feature in a way that provides the simplest interpretation.

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The Scientific Method: A Valid Way of Understanding Life. (2018, Jul 01). Retrieved from