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The Role of psychological discipline

The Role of psychological discipline

The Role of psychological discipline

Journal of Soc. & Psy. Sci. 2018 Volume 11 (1): 51-55 Available at:

The Role of psychological discipline


The Role of psychological discipline

Ian Lawson


The moral and ethical concerns related to psychological study throughout history are covered in this essay. This is a fairly broad field that includes a wide range of subjects. However, covering every single facet of this topic would go beyond the purview of this study. By examining some important topics, such as schizophrenia, gender and IQ research, hypothesis testing, and significance testing—which typically serve as the foundation for changes in ethics and research development—the current paper raises pertinent issues for discussion without sacrificing the depth of analysis.

Concerning the moral and ethical ramifications for those who obtained diagnostic designations as a result of such study, these areas have come under a great deal of criticism. This essay holds that the practice of mindlessly presenting such data as “value free” or as a type of universal and ultimate truth raises serious ethical issues in and of itself. The Role of psychological discipline

Keywords: Critical Psychology, history of psychology, IQ, Schizophrenia


One can trace the development of contemporary ethics back to the Vienna Circle

and its associated philosophers, researchers and theorists attempt to demarcate

science from pseudo-science (Wlash, Teo & Baydala, 2014). It was at this point that

theorists defined what aspects of reality were worthy of studying, and thus defining

the very course of alleged scientific progress (Wlash, Teo & Baydala, 2014). It

should also be noted that early research being carried out in human participants

involved deliberate violation of ethics conduct (Mandal, Acharya & Parija, 2011).

For instance, in 1946 the American tribunal brought leading German physicians to

justice due gross negligence of ethics and crimes against humanity. The Role of psychological discipline More

specifically, these physicians were being tried mainly due to conducting medical

experiments on thousands of concentration camp prisoners without their consent.

As a result of such experiments most prisoners would either be permanently disabled

or would die (Mandal, Acharya & Parija, 2011). It should be evident that much of

such atrocities were carried out in the name of scientific progress, which seems to

be the usual argument for changes and negligence in ethics.


When it comes to examining epistemological and ontological stand point of

scientific underpinnings of mainstream psychology it should be evident that many

constructs emerging through psychological research have not withstood the test of

time. For example psychological ‘problems’ such as Gender Identity Disorder have

been treated as an objective fact, and treatment for such condition had quite often

involve electroconvulsive therapy For instance when examining abnormal behaviour

one must take into account what are the culturally and historically dominant notions

of normality and ‘normal’ behaviour. In every time in history socially acceptable

forms of behaviour are bound to change. In other words, notions of ‘normality’ are

very subjective, culturally specific, and contingent upon socio-economic and

historical factors. In this way, the objectification of normal behaviour, and the

subsequent objectification of abnormality is by no means trivial. It follows that one

of the problems with the scientific method is the fact that its popular hypothesis

testing paradigm has some flaws. Quite often researchers naively assume that a

significant relationship between two variables implies causality. In most cases, even

if there is an association between two variables, the direction of causality may not

always be evident (Shadish, Cook & Campbell, 2002). The Role of psychological discipline

Additionally, an association between two variables may not even imply a causal

relationship. This is particularly due to the fact that there are a myriad of variables

co-occurring when individuals are situated in their normal day-to-day environmental

settings studies (Shadish, Cook & Campbell, 2002). Most of these variables cannot

be completely controlled under experimental settings, and laboratories do not reflect

real life situations. Thus, it should be noted that the statistically significant p value

may not always represent the likelihood of an event repeating itself, but instead it

can be an indication of the likelihood of obtaining the specific sample used in a given

study. In general, there are broad issues concerning validity, replicability, and The Role of psychological discipline

generalisability of most psychological studies (Shadish, Cook & Campbell, 2002).

In this respect, it one should notice that even among the most robust neuroimaging

methods such as functional resonance imaging (fMRI) one can find an array of

literature about brain activation artefacts (Peeters & Sunaert, 2015). A good

example of this is fMRI activation found on a dead fish which has been famously

coined the “zombie fish” (Bennett, Miller, & Wolford, 2009). Therefore, one must

conclude that a scientific approach to psychology is just another discourse or

particular version of the truth, and not necessarily the absolute truth. It is the failure

of acknowledging this fact which has led to several ethical and moral issues in

psychological research, theory and practice.

It has been argued that psychological research cannot be value free given that

researchers impinge their own values upon the research process (Norman, 2013). In

addition, the very fact that, for instance the UK Government drafts the mental health

bill together with the British Psychological Society further suggests that there are

real socio-political implications of psychological research. The Role of psychological discipline More specifically, the

dynamics between research and politics can result in limiting educational and career

opportunities for individuals who have been given a diagnostic label. However, one

should not deny the physicality of symptoms attached to such labels, as there are

very tangible. It only becomes problematic when psychologist disregard wider

social factors which are also implicated in the aetiology of such diagnostic labels

There is dimension to reality which is not objectively measurable, and this is true

even in ‘hard’ sciences such as physics (Bohm, 2002). For instance, under

experimental conditions subatomic particles behave either as particles or as waves.

In this respect, it has been found that the shift from wave to particle and vice-versa

is mediated by the observer. More specifically, when one is observing it, matter

behaves as a particle, and when one is not looking at it behaves as waves (Bohm,

2002). From this vantage point one must conclude that subjective experience is just

a worthy of studying as it is objective experience. This is a very important point

given that it challenges the very ontological and epistemological foundations of the

scientific method as well as its justifications for changes in ethics in the name of

‘progress’. In this way, moral and ethical issues have inevitably arisen in the past

when mainstreams psychologists have individualised social problems.

It could be argued that so called mental health ‘disorders’ could in fact be a normal

reaction to intolerable and inhumane socio-economic circumstances. For instance,

disorders such as Schizophrenia have not been consistently diagnosed across the

globe (Boyle, 2002). Much incoherence and inconsistency still surrounds

schizophrenia related research (Boyle, 2004). In addition, virtually every chemical

and brain region has been implicated in its aetiology (Bentall, 2003). In this way,

it is important that one approaches changes in ethics in the name of scientific

progress with much reticence and academic scrutiny. The Role of psychological discipline


In conclusion, it should be evident that one of the main reasons why many ethics

fallacies and flaws of throughout history arose from the fact that mainstream

psychological research maintained the ideological position that it is a value-free and

objective endeavour. Contrary to what it advocates, one has witnessed throughout

history sets of theories and research being replaced as such knowledge is disproved

as conducting research on humans subjects is by no means trivial given that humans

attach subjective meaning to things, other people and situations. The Role of psychological discipline This makes the

outcome of the research process very unpredictable. In this way, one should note

that much of changes and development of ethics in Psychology where grounded in

the argument that such changes are inevitable in order to avoid hindering scientific

progress. In this way, one must conclude that so long as mainstream psychological

discourses concerning individuals’ mental health remain hidden and inexplicit, its

scientific credibility and ethical and moral underpinnings will remain questionable.

REFERENCES The Role of psychological discipline

Wlash, R.T.G, Teo, T. & Baydala, A. (2014). A Critical History and Philosophy of

Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Bennett, C. M., Miller, M. B., & Wolford, G. L. (2009). Neural correlates of

interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An

argument for multiple comparisons correction. Neuroimage, 47(1), p.125.

Norman, J. (2013) For how long can Psychology maintain its ‘scientific’ status?

Journal of Social & Psychological Sciences. 6, (1), 1-10.

Bohm, D. (2002) Wholeness and Implicate Order. London: Routledge

William R. Shadish, Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and

quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Wadsworth:

Cengage Learning.

Peeters, R., & Sunaert, S. (2015). Clinical BOLD fMRI and DTI: Artifacts, Tips,

and Tricks. In Clinical Functional MRI (pp. 313-336). Springer Berlin

Heidelberg. The Role of psychological discipline

Mandal, J., Acharya, S., & Parija, S. C. (2011). Ethics in human research. Tropical

Parasitology, 1(1), pp.2–3.

Boyle, M. (2002) Schizophrenia: A Scientific Delusion? London: Routledge

Boyle, M. (2004) ‘Schizophrenia’ and Genetics: Does critical thought stop here? The

Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy. Vol. 4 (2)


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