Almost a quarter of the sampled textbooks explicitly and boastfully stated that there is no difference between psychology and other “hard” sciences such as chemistry and physics. Yet only one textbook discussed “methodological freedom” – the idea asserted by the philosopher-critic of science, Paul Feyerabend, that all scientific techniques are different. Only one textbook mentioned the issue of improper use of ad hoc hypotheses, a characteristic of pseudoscience. Similarly, there was only one reference to the ideas put forward by Feyerabend and Alan Gross that persuasion and rhetoric are a key part of science – i.e. that the scientific endeavour is not merely about “the dispassionate evaluation of evidence”.
There were also just three mentions of such important issues as “evolutionary epistemology” (how knowledge accumulates), “social constructionism” (how social context shapes our scientific understanding), and “Kuhnian paradigms” (a discussion regarding Kuhn’s idea of paradigms, including that knowledge is only interpreted within a certain paradigm and how Kuhnian paradigm shifts occur), and the question of whether psychology is a pre-paradigmatic science or mature science. Only four textbooks contained any sort of discussion regarding whether or not the definition of science itself is a controversial topic. The roles of competing theories and evaluations in science were mentioned only six times.
Unfortunately, the content of textbooks in undergraduate psychology suggest that they serve not only to instruct, but also to essentially indoctrinate students into a particular way of thinking. Tomasz Witkowski, “Many undergrad psych textbooks do a poor job of describing science and exploring psychology’s place in it” at The British Psychological Society Research Digest
Unfortunate for whom? If all that the psychology faculty wants is to get flimflam published in compliant media, it’s a Golden Age. For the development of a discipline, it’s a disaster. One must choose.
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See also: Science writer: Academia is in meltdown Berezow: A new survey by Gallup shows that only 48% of U.S. adults have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in academia, down from 57% in 2015.
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