PSY2 – Approaches: Lesson 02

ROCKET: Features of Science

This section of work is from PSY2 Research Methods but I have always chosen to teach it in PSY2 Approaches becuase I feel like it makes more sense and lots of the evaluation of the different psychological approaches hinges on whether or not it is scientific.


Teachers or students who want the original PPT please tweet @psychopepper

Learning Objectives

  • To KNOW and UNDERSTAND what the key features of science are and ANALYSE how these APPLY to Psychology over the years.

Lesson Outline:


  • Discuss the six key features of science.
  • To take notes in booklet, whether or not psychology meets each of these criteria for science (the answer is complex and often maybe/sort of /it depends)

Content Recap:

Replication: This is the ability to carry out research on exactly the same way again. This is only possible with highly controlled and standardised methods. For example, laboratory experiments, controlled observations, questionnaires and structured interviews. This means we can ensure consistency and check for reliability which is essential for make scientific laws. This is worst in non-standardised methods with low control. For example, natural experiments, naturalistic observations, unstructured interviews and case studies.

Objectivity: Scientific ideas should be unaffected by any sort of bias. In order to have objectivity measurements should not be influenced by any internal or external factors. Within Psychology we knew this is not always possible because of investigator and participant effects. The subject of study for us reacts to be studied. However this is also true in Physics (Double Slit Experiment) and so is this a fair criticism of Psychology?

Control: In order to have replication we need high levels of control. However we know not all methods have this. The important questions though for Psychologists is whether they want such high levels of control becuase it comes at the sacrifice of ecological validity.

Thomas Kuhn: Kuhn discussed that science has to have dominant paradigms (a shared view underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject). He suggests that science has one common view which shifts in light of new evidence. For example, everyone believed the world was flat, evidenced mounted up that this was wrong and we now believe it’s round. Kuhn criticises Psychology because we have several different paradigms and although different ones have dominated they are all still present.

Karl Popper: Popper believed good science aims to create hypotheses which can be falsified. This is to avoid confirmation bias and improve objectivity. His famous quote “No number of sightings of white swans can prove the theory that all swans are white. The sighting of just one black one may disprove it.

Empiricism: This means that theories are based on verifiable observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic. In terms of Psychology this means that some of the theoretical perspectives/approaches have empirical evidence (studies that show the effect happening) and others are without such evidence.

Theory Construction: This links to the order of events. If researchers develop a theory and then seek evidence to prove to this is called deductive reasoning. The problem with this is it can lead to confirmation bias and a lack of objectivity. If on the other hand researchers conduct studies and then generalise these results into theories this is inductive reasoning and is more scientific.

If you would like to access PsychoPepper’s Glossary of Terms please click here

Study Notes – History of Psychology (TBC):

If you would like to download a set of study notes for this lesson, you can do so here. If you would like access to the original word file please tweet @psychopepper


I would suggest that you have a copy of one of the textbooks which will allow you to read around the subject matter, pre-read ahead of lessons or even take extra notes/practise questions afterwards. I would recommend the following (you do not need to replicate books, one of each type is plenty!)

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