After a hundred and fifty years, this is what they got:
But isn’t psychology different from mythology in that it can be falsified? No doubt, since 1879, psychologists have devised methods to empirically investigate the mind, ranging from introspectionism to behaviourism, cognitive modelling, connectionism, and more. For example, as a cognitive psychologist, I am trained in the theory of how the mind works and the use of statistical instruments to pursue investigations of behaviour. Yet, our field is currently in a crisis due to issues with replication, ecological validity, the cultural limits of experimental subject populations, and some ethical peccadilloes. Frankly, for more than 100 years of research, we don’t have as much to show as the physical sciences do; so far, psychology is not very effective at tracing general laws. Sigmund Freud’s theories were largely unfalsifiable, and the promissory note that the mind is the brain has yet to be cashed in. It might be best to conceive of empirical psychology as a set of pragmatic methods to develop discursively helpful metaphors of the mind and hold out in hope that we slowly secure a set of reliable correlations between neuroanatomy and function.
Conceiving of psychology as a mythology enables us to perceive that psychology is an explicit portrayal of what we want to understand about reality and the ultimately pragmatic forms that such knowledge has taken. The emotional need to possess explanations worthy of the commitment of belief is greater than what we can ever know.Rami Gabriel, “Myth and the mind” at Aeon
Gabriel encourages us to see psychology as a mythology and, of course, he is right: “Sigmund Freud’s theories were largely unfalsifiable, and the promissory note that the mind is the brain has yet to be cashed in.” The idea that the mind is just the brain is unfalsifiable too. Beliefs that do not originate in fact are impervious to evidence.
See also: Back to school briefing: Seven myths of social psychology: Many lecture room icons from decades past are looking tarnished now. (That was 2014 and it has gotten worse since.)