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Empiricism and Positivism: Is Psychology a Technology?


In aiming to answer quite and complex question of whether psychology is a knowledge, we will first take a brief check out two major philosophical influences that help create psychology- Empiricism and Positivism. Then review the view of determinism, indeterminism and nondeterminism of different psychologists to go over your brain and subject matter of psychology. And lastly, make an effort to compare determinism and free will and conclude writer's view on this original question " Is psychology a science?".


John Locke, David Hume and David Hartley etc were the English empiricists who pressured that the top of experience in the attainment of knowledge. As well as the only way to obtain true knowledge about the globe is sensory experience which is information that comes to our senses or our inferences between the connections of sensory facts. The word empirical is often used with the concept of science which implies that science used observation, dimension of the world and collecting data in the surroundings. This view is comparison with the Rationalists who presumed that knowledge is innate and inborn.

Locke taken care of that your brain at labor and birth was purely nothing at all, but encounters color it. This idea included in the behaviorist view of learning, like children can be produced into whatever environment want it to be. The implication of empiricism on mindset include, firstly, the idea of conscious mind into simple ideas or overt action into stimuli response patterns and second of all, provided us the idea of connection for detailing how simple elements can be combined to form intricate elements or compounds.

Thus the empiricist provided for psychology both a theory and methodology that a lot of behaviorists made used of and is still influence today's psychology.


Comte, the positivist, stated that the only things we can make certain of is thing that can publicly observable. That's, sense experience that may be shared with other folks. The data of technology is observable and for that reason can be respected and only methodical information can be considered valid. Whatever is not publicly observable is suspect and is rejected because it is not really a proper object to study. He did not believe psychology could not become a knowledge because the only path to study the mind is using unreliable method of introspection. To study individual, it can be objectively analyzed by watching their overt tendencies or through phrenological evaluation. You will find two significant impact of positivism on psychology: first of all, Darwin's progression theory enabled psychology to be placed in field of natural science. Secondly, mindset can be cared for experimentally under Wundt's psychology laboratory.


All determinists believe that all patterns is brought on and there are three sorts of determinism: the first one is natural determinism which emphasizes that tendencies can be induced by physiological conditions or hereditary predisposition, for example, mental health problems was caused as a result of insufficient neurotransmitter, dopamine, in the mind. And that individuals will suffer excessive behavior. Most individual action is genetically inherited. The next the first is environmental determinism, stressed that the environmental stimulus as the determinants of human being behavior. For example, behavior theory stresses that environmental stimulus determine our habit. The 3rd determinism is sociocultural determinism, it is a kind of environmental determinism, but stresses on the social factors like guidelines, regulations and beliefs that govern individual behavior. For example, everyone keep quite in the catalogue automatically because the communal norm of our own culture is not a chatting in the library. So, the surroundings factor guides our conducts.

Freud and Skinner, who are both determinists, agreed with the view that individuals behavior is brought on.

The neo-behaviorist B. F. Skinner organised the view that the person is not free. In his book "Beyond liberty and Dignity" (1971), he argues that behavioral freedom can be an illusion. His famous idea of operant conditioning, suggested that whenever negative reinforcers are consider along with rewards, then virtually all behavior is managed by association of support which appear constantly in the environment. What we think that we could behaving widely is not exact because we are merely free from negative reinforcement or its menace; our behavior is still determined by the quest for things that have been favorably reinforcing in the past, and contains responses which may have previously been positively reinforced. Whenever we understand others as behaving readily we are simply just unacquainted with their support histories and the association that govern their action. So, Skinner concluded that behavioral freedom can be an illusion.

Other determinist, Freud, also rejects the possibility of free will. Every cause of human's behavior comes from within the individual's own unconscious mind; for Skinner's view, they may be external.

However, from the view of inductive character of knowledge, it is clear that total predictability is impossible. The past does not logically predict the near future, if it's true for physics, will it still true for individual behavior? And how much more true it is? So if the key requirement of determinism is that action should be completely predictable, it generally does not seem to be to bring the same reason to the free will view in the end.


Some psychologists believe that human behavior is set but because the universe is intricate, we cannot accurately measure all the cause of our patterns. As Heisnberg said, despite individuals behavior is set, we can not know at least a few of causes of patterns because we change that patterns when we are attempting to notice them. Psychologists who accepted this view thinking that we now have some specific factors behind behavior but that we cannot accurately known. For example, when studying human's thought and behavior, just like social psychologists does indeed in their experiment; one reliant variable can be induced by many independent variables. The issue of youngsters' substance abuse can be brought on by peer influence, family problem, personal behaviour or others factors. The drug abuse behavior is set, but we can not accurately assess or discover all the complexities.

Determinism versus Nondeterminism (Free will)

Our everyday good sense understanding is that folks have the ability to choose their own plan of action, to find out their lives and, to the extent, have free will. Free will could be exercised within physical, political, environmental and other sociological factors.

Sometimes, whenever we think about the concept of free will, it is also linked to the concept of responsibility; we normally think that individuals are in charge of what they do being that they are the reason for what they do, that is they aren't driven by any outsides factors.

Most humanists or existentialists, like Carl Rogers, Rollo May and George Kelly etc assume that individual behaviors are openly chosen and for that reason cannot be analyzed by technological method. This notion in free will is unlike the view of determinism. Therefore, these psychologists are considered nonscientific. These psychologists are firmly influenced by the idea that our characteristics of experience and our knowledge of the exterior world are established on how we interpret and explain it. The world is occupied only by the imagination, and physical things be based upon and can be found in individual's mind.

But the view of positivism in the nature of scientific psychology differs. They imply behavior depends upon external happenings or stimuli and that individuals reaction to it passively and, to the extent, aren't free. Determinism also implies that behavior is totally predictable, as they arise in a normal, orderly manner. And every human being action has a reason.

An important distinction can be made between compulsion on the one hand and determinism on the other side. Free actions are free from compulsion, but this is steady with them being identified. The view which William Adam proposed called delicate determinism. He argued that the question of free action is depending on kind of cause our tendencies has. If our activities have as their proximate cause something like conscious brain, we can easily see them as free, rational, voluntary, purposive actions.

Some areas of psychology are methodical and some aren't. The psychologist used methodical method have provided very much useful information in every major area of mindset, for example, memory, personality, learning, perception, intelligence, drive and psychotherapy.

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