Viewpoint: Psychology is more mythology than hard science

Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images
Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images

In our secular age, many people no longer turn to sacred books to understand who and what they are. Psychology is where many find meaning. Indeed, the stories we tell ourselves through psychology fulfil many of the same functions served in the traditional belief practices of mythology. 

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. 

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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.

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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.

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