The Goals of Psychology

The four main goals of psychology are to describe, explain, predict and change the behaviour and mental processes of others :

To Describe

Describing a behaviour or recognition is the first goal of psychology. This can enable researchers to develop general laws of human behaviour.

For example, through describing the response of dogs to various stimuli, , Ivan Pavlov helped develop laws of learning known as classical conditioning theory.

To Explain

Once researchers have described general laws behaviour, the next step is to explain how or why this trend occurs. Psychologists will propose theories which can explain a behaviour.

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour, according to the American Psychological Association. Psychology is a multifaceted discipline and includes many sub-fields of study such areas as human development, sports, health, clinical, social behaviour and cognitive processes.

To Predict

Psychology aims to be able to predict future behaviour from the findings of empirical research. If a prediction is not confirmed, then the explanation it is based on might need to be revised.
For example, classical conditioning predicts that if a person associate a negative outcome with a stimuli they may develop a phobia or aversion of the stimuli.


To Change

Once psychology has described, explained and made predictions about behaviour, changing or controlling a behaviour can be attempted.
For example, interventions based on classical conditioning, such as systematic desensitization, have been used to treat people with anxiety disorders including phobias.


Critical Evaluation

Kuhn (1962) argues that a field of study can only legitimately be regarded as a science if most of its followers subscribe to a common perspective or paradigm.
Kuhn believes that psychology is still pre-paradigmatic, while others believe it’s already experienced scientific revolutions (Wundt’s structuralism being replaced by Watson’s Behaviorism, in turn replaced by the information)