Science and Psychology: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Science and Psychology

1st Edition

By Richard Wilton, Trevor Harley


166 pages

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Paperback: 9781138693807
pub: 2017-06-22
Hardback: 9781138693791
pub: 2017-06-21
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Science and Psychology provides a comprehensive introduction to the structure and characteristics of scientific explanation, using examples from a variety of sciences to illuminate the scientific approach taken in psychology. In addition, the authors discuss a range of conceptual issues particular to psychology. They examine the concepts of free will, consciousness, and purposeful behaviour, and consider the social implications of possible future changes in our understanding of these concepts and of ourselves. The final chapters of the book provide an account of what psychology can tell us about the history and origins of science.

Assuming no previous understanding of either the philosophy of science or any science other than psychology, Science and Psychology is an ideal resource for both final year undergraduates and postgraduates studying psychology. Psychologists and other scientists who wish to further their understanding of the relationship between psychology and the natural sciences may also find the contents to be of interest.


"The first thing that is drummed into students coming from an arts background on most good psychology degrees is that psychology is a science. But it is not necessarily made clear what that means. Most students, too, lack any philosophical background. Scientific psychology attempted to repress its philosophical roots, but it failed. Many philosophical issues like consciousness and determinism keep reappearing. This book addresses both of these gaps with short simple chapters that are really easy to follow.", Emeritus Professor Tim Shallice, UCL

"A fascinating and important book. It made me revisit key questions regarding the fundamentals of science and psychology in a way I have not done since taking Dr. Wilton’s class on the subject a decade ago. For students, this book is the perfect philosophical companion to research methods classes, while for academics it is an excellent way to reacquaint themselves with the roots of their discipline. However, the book also offers something of great value to the general audience: a detailed and accessible account of how science works.", Dr Juliet R. H. Wakefield, Senior Psychology Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University.

Table of Contents

Preface: What this book is about Part 1: The Characteristics of Scientific Explanation and its Application to Psychology Chapter 1: The defining characteristic of science 1.1 Test your understanding of Chapter 1 Chapter 2: The structure of scientific explanation: The Standard View 2.1 The Standard View 2.2 Observation statements 2.3 Statements that assert laws 2.4 Testing laws 2.5 Theoretical statements 2.6 Testing theories 2.7 More on testing theories 2.8 Criteria used in deciding between theories 2.9 Test your understanding of Chapter 2 Chapter 3: The structure of scientific explanation: The Alternative View 3.1 The structure of scientific explanation 3.2 General conclusion 3.3 Must we conclude that no observation statement is incorrigible? 3.4 Conclusion 3.5 Implications for what one is free to believe about the world 3.6 Criteria used to decide between theories 3.7 Test your understanding of Chapter 3 Chapter 4: Some historical examples of responses to a contradiction between a theory and some apparent fact 4.1 Summary: the state of affairs at any one historical time 4.2 Test your understanding of Chapter 4 Chapter 5: The criteria used for choosing between competing theories 5.1 Axiomatic beliefs 5.2 Can selection according to one’s axiomatic beliefs be justified? 5.3 Power, scope, simplicity 5.4 Historical evidence favouring simple theories 5.5 Can a criterion of simplicity be justified? 5.6 Truth 5.7 Prediction 5.8 Explanatory content 5.9 Summary 5.10 Test your understanding of Chapter 5 Summary of Part 1: The characteristics of scientific explanation Part 2. Understanding Behaviour Chapter 6: Typical approaches in psychology: Internal mechanisms 6.1 The psychologist’s goal 6.2 Internal operations with no reference to embodiment 6.3 Granularity of explanation 6.4 Coarse-grained analysis 6.5 Fine-grained analysis 6.6 Connectionism 6.7 Some additional important points 6.8 Direct inspection of individual units 6.9 Test your understanding of Chapter 6 Chapter 7: Typical approaches in psychology: Skinner’s functional analysis 7.1 Objections 7.2 Test your understanding of Chapter 7 Chapter 8: Common-sense psychology and its implications 8.1 Common-sense explanations of human behaviour 8.2 Intentional states and causal explanations 8.3 Consequences of the two accounts differing in kind 8.4 The relevance of Tolman's theory 8.5 The two cases of sneezing, again 8.6 Verbal utterances 8.7 Some more examples 8.8 Some possible objections 8.9 Summary 8.10 Why do we like intentional accounts? 8.11 Test your understanding of Chapter 8 Chapter 9: Free will and determinism 9.1 Do laws of nature imply causality? 9.2 Laws of human behaviour: Causality or free will? 9.3 Test your understanding of Chapter 9 Chapter 10: The possible impact on social institutions (the legal system) if we relinquish our present disposition to believe in free will 10.1 Criteria for imposing punishment on offenders 10.2 Moral culpability 10.3 Deterrence 10.4 The possible impact of psychology upon the legal system 10.5 Comment on possible change in public attitude 10.6 Overall conclusion 10.7 Test your understanding of Chapter 10 Chapter 11: The problem of consciousness 11.1 Consciousness 11.2 The characteristics of sensations 11.3 Direct apprehension 11.4 Not subject to error 11.5 The relationship between sensations and physical events 11.6 Test your understanding of Chapter 11 Summary of Part 2: Understanding behaviour Part 3: What Psychology Tells Us About The Practice of Science Chapter 12: The use of imagery in scientific thought 12.1 Characteristics of mental problem solving 12.2 Are human disposed to use imagery in solving problems? 12.3 Examples of our disposition to use imagery 12.4 Conclusions so far 12.5 The history of scientific thought 12.6 Test your understanding of Chapter 12 Chapter 13: Why are cultures that practise science better at controlling the material world than non-scientific cultures? 13.1 (a) Structure of scientific theories (b) The development of the written word (c) The systematic testing of ideas (d) Different a priori assumptions about the world (e) Acceptance of fundamental change 13.2 Conclusion 3.3 Test your understanding of Chapter 13 Summary of Part 3: Psychological constraints on scientific explanations References

About the Authors

Richard Wilton has held the posts of Assistant professor at The University of Texas and Senior Lecturer at The University of Dundee. His interests include animal learning, human learning and memory, and mental problem solving. Most recently, as a Senior Teaching Fellow, he taught an undergraduate course focusing upon the issues discussed in this book.

Trevor Harley holds the Chair in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Dundee, and was previously Head of Department and Dean. He is now a science writer and journalist. He completed his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Cambridge, and worked for many years on language, mental illness, and consciousness. He is author of several books, including The Psychology of Language, now in its fourth edition.

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