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Since modern, scientific psychology was originally (though debatably) inspired by classical psychoanalysis, people tend to get the two confused. Even with the radical differences between the two, one still often sees the word "psychology" used in the same writing as terms like "penis envy" and "Oedipus complex." This is a dangerous dilution of science in that it appeals to everybody's wish to understand themselves, uses ideas and relationships that can be easily understood by the layman, and is also completely unfounded and incorrect. When put together with a willing populace these ideas lead to heaps of supposedly educated people who believe they have deep insight into their peers, friends, and culture, but who are actually profoundly wrong. In the process psychology -- the real science with the correct explanations -- is ignored and layed to the wayside.

Here's the difference:

Psychoanalysis: The use of circular reasoning (the patient's description doesn't fit my diagnosis, so he must be in denial, etc.) to try and show how hundred year old unfounded findings are fact. Freud and the rest inferred their findings from individual case studies, and set up the system in such a way that any conflicting data could be thrown out as denial or repression. This approach is the exact opposite of real science, where controlled experiments are done on large groups of subjects, and when the data don't match a given theory, that theory is modified or discarded. Psychoanalysis is pseudo-science at its most ugly, because (unlike UFOs and Bigfoot) an enormous and unfortunate deal of attention has been paid to it by Western culture.

Psychology: The use of modern, experimental and comparative methods to determine how the human mind functions, and how that function relates to our behavior. Psychology uses data that can be measured and compared to one another as evidence for theories that may be proven or disproven at some point in the future. Science, pure and simple. Perhaps not as "hard" as physics or chemistry where all stages of the process are observable, but science none the less.

In the words of a psych professor I once had: Freud was wrong. Freud is dead. That is all.

That is a very interesting distinction to draw, and one would say quite valuable. However, if you examine psychology, you find that the so called "scientific" results are almost all culturally tainted. There is a presupposition in many tests that humanity fits some sort of broad generalised picture.

Facts are assumed about mind, (like it's existence), intelligence, stability, and about human behaviour. While psychology may throw up general trends, most sorts of social patterns, and mental actions evolve in accordance to laws that do not fit ordinary scientific reasoning. After all, people observe. We are not objects. We cannot reason intelligently about the nature of intelligence. Even presuming that thoughts exist, no one is yet able to show that a person's thoughts are generated by them, and not simply experienced. A fine distinction to be sure, but a crucial one, and one that no scientific experiment in psychology will ever be able to solve.

If then this is the case, we must accept that the basis of psychology is no more sound than the basis of psychoanalysis, which as stated above is arbitrary. As such can we really draw a distinction between the two?

Freud is the father of psychoanalysis.

Pavlov1 is the father of psychology.

Psychology is often perceived as having an "unsound" scientific basis, which is most definitely not the case. Unfortunately, many people assume that because psychology is said to be the study of the "mind" it cannot possibly be objective or universal. While this is true in some cases, it applies only to a few aspects of psychology. Naturally, social psychology will suffer from cross-cultural differences, but that does not preclude it from using scientific methods to gather valid and useful data. Similarly, personality theory often suffers from circular reasoning; but just because one aspect of psychology cannot easily be studied in a scientific manner does not mean the whole science should be written off. A great deal of older theoretical physics was later shown to be wildly inaccurate; the Phlogiston theory, for example. However, such misled theories are not sufficient grounds for debunking the whole discipline.

Arguing that psychology makes too many assumptions to be seen as valid science is also a dead end; the behaviorist school of thought led by B.F.Skinner that was popular in the middle of the twentieth century prided itself on its sound scientific approach, and on explaining every action and reaction only in terms of observable phenomena. In, this way, the science as a whole was completely disconnected from any concept of mind whatsoever. This movement has since faded from popularity, and is perhaps best thought of as a backlash against the unscientific methods of psychoanalysis. Behaviorism has served to provide us with a generation of psychologists with rigorous scientific training, who are now teaching the psychologists of tomorrow. Current psychological theories, notably cognitive psychology, base a great deal - some may argue too many - of their ideas on computer science and epistemology, with an emphasis on processing, input, buffer sizes, and the forms of internal representations stored by the human brain. Good experimental research can be carried out to ascertain the nature of internal visual representations of the world. In one experiment, subjects are asked to identify if a rotated version of an image is in a mirror image or normal form; the amount of time to do this accurately increases linearly with increased angle of rotation, providing compelling evidence that internal visual knowledge must be manipulated in some way that relates to the way we manipulate solid, 3-d objects.

I have examined psychology. I also have a love of formal logic, and half a degree in Artificial Intelligence. There is a lot of rubbish floating about that tries to pass itself off as psychology, but it is a young science, and it is now intolerant of unscientific methods, and employs rigorous (and extremely dull) statistical tests to ensure that any data presented for publication is indeed valid and relates to a real rather than perceived phenomenon. This has ensured that psychologists have become scientific in their methods, and avoid conclusions that aren't backed by solid fact.

1. Wilhelm Wundt is actually often thought of as the father of psychology, I am told, as he opened the first psychology lab in 1879, many years before Pavlov came along.

The most frequent criticism made of any claims that Freudian analysis is valid as a science is that it's non-falsifiable, which is to say that a Freudian logic of denial, along the lines of: analyst tests hypothesis H, patient denies H, analyst concludes H is true, does not allow the falsification of the hypothesis.

In a science, we expect there to be some way of showing our theories are incorrect - a scientific hypothesis is first of all a falsifiable one, and if it doesn't have this property, it isn't supposed to count as a scientific hypothesis. That's not to say that scientists don't see their experiments as confirming, rather than 'failing to falsify', their theories, or indeed introduce extra theories to explain the falsification, before they give up their theories, but that the logical structure of scientific knowledge is grounded in experiments, predictions and measurements.

Psychologists, in the main, are very conscious of this. At the extremes some (eg Skinner) have sought to entirely eradicate the study of the mental from psychology in order to qualify as a science. Indeed it's true that (assuming no epochal revolution in neuroscience has taken place) the only access to the mental a science can have is by inference from behaviour - though modern attempts like cognitive psychology are willing to infer quite a lot over and above the bare stimulus-response black box implied by Skinner's views - so psychology is in a uniquely difficult position with regard to its subject matter.

This is why psychologists are usually quite careful to frame their hypotheses in ways that can be falsified by the experimental data they collect.

This might not sound like much of a difference, but it leads to an entirely different approach to knowledge in the two fields. An analyst must undergo analysis, and take patients, in order to be thought competent. A psychologist needs to submit papers which may be criticised on the grounds that the falsifiability criterion is not met. You won't find that criticism being made in learned Freudian journals.

This is enough, I think, to demonstrate (without actually establishing the objectivity of psychology) that the two fields really have completely different approaches to the study of the mind. We should at least agree not to blame one for the sins of the other.

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