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some underlying assumptions of psychological science[edit]

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As a scientific endeavor, experimental psychology shares several assumptions with most other sciences. Among these are the following.

Empiricism[edit]

Perhaps the most basic assumption of science is that factual statements about the world must ultimately be based on observations of the world. This notion of empiricism requires that hypotheses and theories be tested against observations of the natural world rather than on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.

Testability[edit]

Closely related to empiricism is the idea that, to be useful, a scientific law or theory must be testable with available research methods. If a theory cannot be tested in any conceivable way then many scientists consider the theory to be meaningless. Testability implies falsifiability, which is the idea that some set of observations could prove the theory to be incorrect .[13] Testability has been emphasized in psychology because influential or well-known theories like those of Freud have been difficult to test.

Determinism[edit]

Experimental psychologists, like most scientists, accept the notion of determinism. This is the assumption that any state of an object or event is determined by prior states. In other words, behavioral or mental phenomena are typically stated in terms of cause and effect. If a phenomenon is sufficiently general and widely confirmed, it may be called a “law”; psychological theories serve to organize and integrate laws.

Parsimony[edit]

Another guiding idea of science is parsimony, the search for simplicity. For example, most scientists agree that if two theories handle a set of empirical observations equally well, we should prefer the simpler or more parsimonious of the two. A notable early argument for parsimony was stated by the medieval English philosopher William of Occam, and for this reason the principle of parsimony is often referred to as Occam’s razor.[14]