Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior and the practical application of psychological therapy. Unfortunately, the field of psychology is riddled with sloppy work, pseudoscience and scientific fraud (see: Psychology and pseudoscience).
Psychological research covers such concepts as perception, cognition, attention, emotion, phenomenology, motivation, brain functioning, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. The practical, medical application of psychological therapy is known as clinical psychology.
Early considerations on human cognition doubted the applicability of the scientific approach to the subject, but gradually, following from early physiological studies by the Italian physician Galvani, it became apparent that the physical science could be applicable to description of cognitive processes. Through the 20th century, great advancements from basic philosophical study to detailed examination of the human brain using the application of MRI and other modern scanning techniques have lead to a very detailed understanding of the underlying physical processes involved in the structure and operation of human cognition, however, a great deal remains unknown about the human brain, particularly in the areas of long-term memory storage and in a functional and predictive coherent picture of full brain functioning.
Psychology is a relatively new discipline, less than two centuries old, and may be seen by some as a bastion of liberalism and secularism, which may be rife with pseudoscience and quackery. For example, an article published by the New York Times in late 2011 reports how only two third of Dutch psychologists release the data for their experiments. This naturally would raise some concern about the validity of the findings for these experiments
Psychology studies: Major problems with replication and transparency
- Over half of psychology studies fail reproducibility test, Nature, August 27, 2015
- Psychology is not science - Discusses lack of transparency of Dutch psychologists in terms of their data for their experiments
Psychology studies and statistical errors
In 2011, the New York Times reported:
|“||Also common is a self-serving statistical sloppiness. In an analysis published this year, Dr. Wicherts and Marjan Bakker, also at the University of Amsterdam, searched a random sample of 281 psychology papers for statistical errors. They found that about half of the papers in high-end journals contained some statistical error.||”|
Significant percentage of psychologists having depression and/or suicide ideation
Vox Day reported:
|“|| This is why therapy is reliably doomed to failure:..
In addition to the 46 percent of psychologists who the NHS reports as being depressed, "out of 800 psychologists sampled, 29 per cent reported suicidal ideation and 4 per cent reported attempting suicide."...
Would you go to a plumber whose toilet is overflowing? Would you hire a computer programmer who didn't know how to use a computer? Then why would you ever talk to one of these nutjobs in order to fix whatever mental issues you might be having?...
There is very little scientific evidence of the benefits of psychology. I read one recent study which showed that neurotic individuals actually stabilize on their own at a higher rate than those who seek therapy. This is no surprise, as the foundations of psychology are literally fiction.
The website Frontier Psychiatrist wrote:
|“|| The ‘Rosenhan experiment’ is a well known experiment examining the validity of psychiatric diagnosis. It was published in 1975 by David Rosenhan in a paper entitled ‘On being sane in insane places’
The study consisted of two parts. The first involved ‘pseudopatients’ – people who had never had symptoms of serious mental disorder – who, as part of the study, briefly reported auditory hallucinations in order to gain admission to psychiatric hospitals across the United States.
After admission, the pseudopatients no longer reported hallucinations and behaved as they ‘normally’ would. Despite this many were confined as inpatients for substantial periods of time and all were discharged with the diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder.
For the second part of the experiment staff at a teaching hospital, whose staff had learned of Rosenhan’s above results, were informed that one or more pseudopatients would attempt to be admitted to their hospital over an ensuing three month period. Many patients were subsequently identified as likely pseudopatients but in fact no pseudopatient had been sent.
Faith in God vs. secular psychology for solving addictions and other personal problems
- See also: Ineffectivness of counseling psychology
The Apostle Paul wrote:
|“||Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." - I Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)||”|
|“||Another factor from my experience as a close observer of the “ex-gay” phenomenon is that many former homosexuals do not linger in “reparative therapy” programs, or participate in them at all. They attribute their dramatic and (relatively) rapid transformation to the power of God, and likely would not show up in a study of this kind. In fact, these “unstudied” overcomers would appear to be the most successful ex-homosexuals because they’ve moved on with their lives — as “reborn” Christians move on after overcoming any besetting sin.||”|
In 1980 a study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and eleven men participated in this study. The aforementioned study in the American Journal of Psychiatry stated that eleven homosexual men became heterosexuals "without explicit treatment and/or long-term psychotherapy" through their participation in a Pentecostal church.
The website The Berean Call has a number of articles on various false claims and unbiblical notions that many practitioners of counseling psychology promote.
Effectiveness of laymen vs. trained psychologists
Christian author Todd A. Sinelli wrote in an article entitled To Whom Shall We Go?:
|“|| Psychology is ineffective, impotent, and embarrassingly deceptive. The great humbug is that “the psychological industry has successfully concealed its ineffectiveness from the general public. Pastors, churches, and the laity have been brainwashed into believing that only psychologically trained professional counselors are competent to deal with serious problems.”
Empirical research indicates that this is not so. In his study conducted in 1979 and entitled "Comparative Effectiveness of Paraprofessional and Professional Helpers", J.A. Durlack writes, “The research reviewed forty-two studies that compared professional counselors with untrained helpers. The findings were ‘consistent and provocative.’ Paraprofessionals achieve clinical outcomes equal to or significantly better than those obtained by professionals (...) The study, on the whole, lent no support to the major hypothesis that (...) the technical skills of professional psychotherapists produce measurably better therapeutic change.”
At the conclusion of this study, psychologist Gary Collins reluctantly admitted, “Clearly there is evidence that for most people, laypeople can counsel as well as or better than professionals.”
Again, the bottom line is that Christians are not to turn to psychologist for guidance. Primarily because the Word of God instructs us not to and God has given us the ability to counsel one another through His Word.
A 1985 paper entitled Does professional training make a therapist more effective? which was published by the University of Texas reported there was no substantial difference in between the results that laymen and trained psychologists are able to achieve.
Psychiatric quackery revealed by race often unnecessarily causing misdiagnosis
In 2005, The Washington Post reported:
|“|| John Zeber recently examined one of the nation's largest databases of psychiatric cases to evaluate how doctors diagnose schizophrenia, a disorder that often portends years of powerful brain-altering drugs, social ostracism and forced hospitalizations.
Although schizophrenia has been shown to affect all ethnic groups at the same rate, the scientist found that blacks in the United States were more than four times as likely to be diagnosed with the disorder as whites. Hispanics were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed as whites.
American millennials, irreligion, therapy and pseudoscience
Materialism in Psychology
From a materialist perspective, the most fundamental paradigm in psychology is the assumption that the human mind is a manifestation of the brain. This idea is in opposition to the traditional (religious) belief in the soul and hence psychology is rejected by many religions and cults, including some evangelical Christian denominations and also Scientology.
Unlike fields such as physics or biology that attempt to work towards a uniting frame or theory for all hypothesis generated, psychology has traditionally focused on defining different schools of thought with substantially different unifying principles and little effort is made to unite these different schools.
There is a primary division between clinical or applied psychology which focuses on helping people directly through various applications of theory and experimental or research oriented psychology which focuses on applying the scientific method to ascertain the foundations of thought and action.
Most meta-analysis of the field divides psychologist into 5 different paradigms:
- Cognitive psychology- This school of thought has a strong focus on understanding the mechanisms of mind in order to explain behavior. It often uses analogies to computers to accomplish this task, one of its great themes is the idea of the Computational Theory of Mind.
- Behavioral psychology- This school of thought views the mind of the organism as a black box which is impossible to describe empirically, therefore the focus is on understanding behavior as a byproduct of environment. Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner epitomize this philosophy with their focus on classical conditioning and instrumental learning.
- Psychoanalytic psychology- This school of thought attempts to understand mind and behavior as a product of the unconscious. It is most closely linked with the ideas of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Freud believed that much of behavior is related to repressed sexuality, while Jung and others extended his ideas to include other forms of repression. Psychoanalytic psychology is primarily used in clinical settings though it is not unheard of for researchers to appeal to Freudian concepts.
- Existential psychology and Humanistic psychology- While these schools of thought differ in some fundamental ways they are often linked together because of their focus on differences and the importance of the individual over generalized rules. Existential Psychology emerges from French Existential philosophy most notably linked to Jean-Paul Sartre. It places great importance on Existential angst as an inevitability of existence, and that the role of psychology is to help individuals recognize their angst and come to terms with it. Humanistic approaches to psychology are closely linked to the ideas of Abraham Maslow and his idea of the Hierarchy of Needs. To Maslow, psychological illness is a consequence of the difference between the idealized self and the actual self, the role of the psychologist is to help the person either adjust his idealized self-image or improve his actual self. Carl Rogers' Client Centered Therapy is also closely linked to humanistic approaches.
- Evolutionary psychology and Biological psychology- These approaches attempt to understand mind and behavior as products of biologic interactions and evolutionary history. This school of thought is heavily researched based. Evolutionary Psychology is a relatively recent development, and many of its proponents believe that a strongly biologic approach to psychology may ultimately serve as a unifying principle for the field of psychology.
For a more detailed treatment, see History of psychology.
Psychology is viewed as a relatively young discipline. It started with Wilhelm Wundt and "introspection", continued on with William James, and was later influenced by Charles Darwin and the Theory of evolution.
The atheist Sigmund Freud and his psychodynamics had an enormous influence on psychology which continues to this day, e.g., the concept of an unconscious mind being able to change and direct behavior. He also posited that people go through developmental stages in which their mind and behavior change as they grow up and grow old, an idea taken up by Jean Piaget. However, Freud's views on religion as it relates to mental health have been shown to be demonstrably false (See: Sigmund Freud's view of religion and Atheism and health).
Ivan Pavlov's work on classical conditioning was pivotal. It became combined with the concepts developed in functionalism and the field of behavioral psychology was born (see B.F. Skinner), and it was hoped that psychology could became a hard science like physics with mathematical rigor. Skinner also thought that all of human behavior was a function of conditioning and instrumental learning.
During the 1960s several developments altered the course of psychological research. Several experiments had begin turning up anomalous results. One of the most famous is the Garcia effect where an animal that is exposed to a novel food and then made sick instantly learns to no longer desire that food. Noam Chomsky showed that language acquisition follows seemingly innate rules. Thus cognitive psychology was born as a reaction against behaviorism. Cognitive psychologist attempted to understand the "black box" of the mind through computational analysis, modeling and rigorous experimentation. Psychology has continued to divorce itself from the strict empiricism of behaviouralism through the general endorsement of neuropsychological research. Neuropsychological research, typically conducted with fMRI scans, is not without controversy with prominent psychologists claiming that the interpretation of the data far outstrips its explanatory power. A similar complaint is often levelled against evolutionary psychology by prominent biologists who note that most evolutionary interpretations of psychological phenomena are necessarily post hoc and consequently untestable. It seems noteworthy that as psychology continues to grow and mature as a discipline it becomes increasingly mired in controversy.
Stanley Milgram's research on obedience to authority demonstrated that normal individuals would obey an authority figure and endanger the health and life of other people. This was also linked to Philip Zimbardo's work on the Stanford prison experiment demonstrating the ability for college students to quickly turn into torturers.
Fields of Psychology
While embracing one or several (referred to as eclectic) of the paradigms listed earlier individual psychologist, psychiatrist and therapist can work in a range of sub-fields that deal with the total spectrum of human interactions. These include but are not limited to:
- Developmental psychology is the study of how mental processes and behavior change with aging.
- Health psychology/behavioral medicine focuses on the impact of psychological factors on behaviors that are relevant to physical health. Researchers in this field study topics such as substance abuse, obesity, and exercise.
- Social psychology is the study of social behavior or interpersonal interactions. Social psychologists study issues such as the way in which attitudes towards other people are formed, or the effect that our perceptions of another person's behavior have on our interactions with that person.
- Compendium of Psychological Diagnostics (Personality tests)
- GLOSSARY Terms in the field of Psychiatry and Neurology.
- The Definition of "Psychology" - by Gene Zimmer
Research in Psychology
- Psychology is not science
- Fraud Case Seen as a Red Flag for Psychology Research
- Psychologist, heal thyself
- E.M. Pattison and M.L. Pattison, "'Ex-Gays': Religiously Mediated Change in Homosexuals," American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 137, pp. 1553-1562, 1980