Folk psychology is also referred to as common sense psychology and it involves studies based on the beliefs of an individual, there exist relationships between scientific psychology and folk psychology but they are both different disciplines aimed at understanding human behavior. However scientific psychology tends to criticize folk psychology but has failed to criticise the assumptions of folk psychology. This paper discusses why scientific psychology cannot live with folk psychology and why it cannot without it.
Differences between folk and scientific psychology:
Scientific psychology is objective and non normative, folk psychology on the other hand is
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normative and interpretive. Folk psychology explains people actions in terms of their goals however scientific psychology explains actions of individuals based on what leads them to undertake these actions. Despite the distinction scientific psychology still has some normative aspects and for this reason cannot live without folk psychology.
Why scientific psychology cannot live with folk psychology:
Folk psychology has been challenged by scientific psychology and this is based on how folk psychology results are achieved, in most cases folk psychology results will conflict with results of scientific psychology. For this reason therefore it is very difficult to choose which results best explain human behavior, due to conflicting results of the two disciplines scientific psychology tend to criticize the results of folk psychology and for this reason scientific psychology cannot live with folk psychology.
Folk psychology assumes that people already know why they tend to believe in their actions and why they take these actions, according to scientific psychology people are not aware of why they take certain actions, this is a conflict of assumption and therefore it is evident that scientific psychology cannot live with folk psychology.
According to Stephen Stitch it is possible to undertake scientific psychology without folk
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psychology where he gave an example using beliefs. He gave an example of two characters X and Y and based on their beliefs and perceptions that was the only way they would understand and interpret their understandings and observations. He gave an example of a day that had rained and the two characters X and Y are asked to narrate on what had happened, X said that the day had rained very heavily and Y said that it did not rain very heavily. He posed the question who of the two individuals was telling the truth, however Stephen Stitch said that these two persons may telling the truth but it depends on their understanding and observations on the way they have learned from the groups, that is family or friends on how they belief in a particular aspect.
According to J.B Watson it is possible to identify someone’s behavior at his or her current age as long as he or she is not in the childhood age but it depends on how the person behaves and socializes. For this reason therefore Watson verifies that it is only necessary to study the persons behavior without taking into consideration believes of the individuals, in his statement he states that it is possible for scientific psychology to live without folk.
Folk Psychology assumes that an individual can directly explain the different feelings they experience, this is to say that individuals are well aware of what they feel and why they feel it, on the other hand scientific psychology agues that individuals feeling are based on the inferences about changes in what they are undergoing. For this reason therefore there is a conflict of assumptions that people are ware of their feelings and for this reason both disciplines will yield different results, for this reason therefore scientific psychology cannot live with folk psychology.
Why scientific psychology cannot live without folk psychology:
Despite the many reasons why scientific psychology cannot live with folk psychology it is evident that scientific psychology cannot live without folk psychology, folk psychology is
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normative while scientific psychology is non normative, however scientific psychology has normative aspects as Kahneman states, this is because scientific psychology acknowledge that people will treat issues differently depending on outcomes of losses or gains.
Sehon states that both folk and scientific psychology are both aimed at understanding and predicting human behavior, therefore the two disciplines work hand in hand in explaining behavior, for this reason therefore it is clear that they have similar goals and objectives and therefore scientific psychology cannot live without folk psychology.
The other reason why scientific psychology cannot live without folk psychology is because scientific psychology cannot challenge the assumptions of folk psychology, according to Sehon scientific psychology cannot challenge the assumptions of folk psychology and for this reason both cannot live without each other.
Sohen gave an example of how we describe a human behavior, he states that we describe human on the basis of scientific attributes, if we were to study the effect of a drug we would have to consider the chemical composition of the drug and also its effect in the body, however we would also consider the property of the brain which would also help explain the reaction of the drug in the body, for this reason therefore we should not reject results by folk psychology and therefore folk and scientific psychology cannot live without each other.
There are those scholars who argued that it is impossible to identify someone’s character without considering folk psychology theory. Folk psychology theory is mainly based on human capability of trying to reason and automatically be able to shape his or her view on the understanding of a particular aspect. This mainly originates from mental capability of reasoning mainly depending on the ways a person perceives things on how they are like or the way a person understands them. For this reason therefore it is impossible for scientific psychology to live without folk psychology.
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Folk psychology is the way in which human behavior is identified, this is made possible the use of the way he or she strongly believes in a certain belief and his or her desire to achieve that particular thing. It can also be identified by the way an individual socializes because some are introverts while others are extroverts, this behavior can easily indicate the actions of indivudlkas.
Scholars’ ague that scientific psychology cannot live with folk psychology while others argue that scientific psychology cannot live without folk psychology. However from the discussion it is evident that both disciplines are unique and for this reason they are equally important in behavior study.
Scientific psychology tend to challenge the findings of folk psychology but this has not been successful because scientific psychology cannot criticize the assumption of folk psychology, both disciplines are also related and therefore scientific psychology cannot live without folk psychology due to this relationship.
It is also evident that both disciplines will yield different results but it is also evident that they are related and depend on each other in explaining human behavior. Folk psychology is considered to be normative while scientific is considered to be non normative however it is evident that scientific psychology has some normative psychology, therefore according to my view scientific psychology cannot live without folk psychology.
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Baron J. (2001) Thinking and Deciding, Cambridge University press, Cambridge:
Davies M and Stone T (1995) Folk Psychology, Blackwell publishers, Oxford
George Botterill and Peter Carruthers (1999) The Philosophy of Psychology Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Goldman, A. (1989) Interpretation psychologized, Journal of Mind and Language vol. 4, page 161 to 185.
Gordon, R. (1986) Folk psychology as simulation, Journal of Mind and Language, vol. 1, page 158 to 170
Kahneman D and Tversky A (1982) The psychology of preferences, Scientific
American, vol. 246 (1), page 160 to 173
Lewis D. (1992). Psychophysical and theoretical identifications, Australasian Journal of
Philosophy, 50, page 249 to 258
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Nichols, S. and Stephen Stitch (2004) Mindreading, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Nisbett R. and Ross L. (1980) Human Inference, Prentice Hall Press, New Jersey
Stephen Stitch (1996) Deconstructing the mind, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Stephen Stich and Ravenscroft I (1994) what is folk psychology, Cognition, 50, page 447 to 468
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