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Psychology and Neuroscience : Feedback

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Social Media, Psychology and Science

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Social Media, Psychology and Science
I just wanted to thank you for your post about the convergence of Psychology and Neuroscience. I have a BS in Neuroscience and have always found it curious how often Psychologists hijack Neuroscience to explain behavioral observations and theories. Yes. They do this because psychology is being eclipsed by neuroscience in a number of dramatic ways. And the unemployment rate among psychologists and other social scientists is now the highest of any profession for which college training is required. This makes psychologists defensive and sometimes irrational. Even more curiously, I had for so long been wondering how Neuroscience was being invaded by Psychologists claiming to be experts on the "brain" and yet could find zero discourse of this problematic conflation. That conflation is popular with psychologists, who would prefer it if the mind and brain were presumed to be the same thing. If that were true, and because the brain is a source of empirical evidence, that would make psychology a science. In case this sounds too fantastic to believe, I've had this exact debate with psychologists more times than I care to remember. Then I found your post and it articulated everything I'd been thinking. I also was downvoted to oblivion on a Neuroscience sub Reddit for explaining my observations. Yes — I've had the same experience, often by people who have no idea what constitutes science, including some Reddit moderators who did what they could to silence any debate about the scientific standing of psychology, motivated by the fact that there's no debate. Unsurprisingly, all the criticisms were from offended Psychologists who derided me for being arrogant and devaluing Psychology. Again, the same. To say psychology isn't a science is not at all to say it has no value. If that were true, astrology would have no value, and that's clearly false (astrology has millions of devoted followers including one First Lady). Interestingly enough though, I actually do value Psychology and made that point very clear; I had no intentions of exposing or proving that Psychology was a pseudoscience but was still attacked for even mentioning that Psychology only studies behavior and Neuroscience studies the Nervous System. But that's exactly right, such that current encyclopedias distinguish psychology and neuroscience in those exact terms.

I have to say that, because of the sheer number of people with useless psych degrees, many of whom occupy social media forums, Reddit has become an ideological echo chamber, one in which psychology is portrayed as a science, and if you dare to say otherwise, you will be banned. In case you think that's an exaggeration, that's an almost word-for-word quote from a Reddit moderator who read me saying that psychology isn't a science and promptly threatened me with banning if I ever said that again. Not because what I said was wrong or in violation of Reddit's rules, but because he and his psychologist associates found my remark annoying.
These are objective facts, yet I feel like I'm going insane that no one is willing to acknowledge the fight that Psychologists have forged to obtain unnecessary legitimacy and expertise on hot topics (like the "brain"). I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that psychologists have no idea how their public remarks and behavior makes them look — ironically, given their claimed expertise in human behavior. Or perhaps less controversial, that Psychology is simply not the same as Neuroscience and I don't know how else to explain it anymore other than redirecting folks to a dictionary. Hold on — the purpose of a dictionary isn't to provide correct word definitions, its purpose is to tell us what people think words mean. To demonstrate this, look up the word "literally" — most current dictionaries make "literally" synonymous with "figuratively", just because that's how people use the word (this is just one of many examples). Dictionaries deal with language and language is an art, not a science. Encyclopedias deal with meaning.

I mention this because any number of debates about what psychology means — or what science means — have disintegrated once my opponents realized their argument relied on dictionary definitions rather than encyclopedia entries.

Allowing a debate about psychology or science to rely on a dictionary undermines the discussion as well as introducing an element of self-reference. Science relies on objective evidence gathered from nature, but (not unlike psychology) a dictionary suffers from all the subjective elements that make human affairs so unpredictable. Dictionaries generally and incorrectly define science as knowledge, but science isn't knowledge, it's a disciplined way to acquire knowledge, something we can learn by consulting an encyclopedia. Calling science knowledge, as dictionaries do, is like calling agriculture potatoes — it leaves out the part where someone gets his hands dirty.

Thanks for writing.

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