Is Psychology STEM? 

This blog post will answer the question “Is psychology STEM?” and cover topics like what subjects comprise of STEM, what makes psychology a science, why psychology is often considered not to be a science. 

Is Psychology STEM? 

Yes, psychology is recognised as a core STEM subject by the National Science Foundation due to its direct scientific and technological innovations, and its indirect contributions to education and learning in science and technology. 

What is STEM? 

STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. A wide range of academic disciplines fall under this description. Here’s list of some popular STEM subjects: 

  • Chemistry 
  • Sustainable Chemistry
  • Machine Learning 
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Bioengineering 
  • Biomedical
  • Geophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Statistics 

STEM subjects are not restricted to the above list. The above list gives you an idea of the range of subjects that are included under this category. 

STEM subjects and education has gained a lot of popularity since the early 2000s as the United States of America recognised that increasing human resources in these fields will lead to three kinds of intellectual capital and growth: 

  • Increase in the number of scientists and engineers contributing to research and development 
  • Increase in technology experts to keep up with the pace of innovations 
  • Increase in the scientifically aware and literate population, making intelligent decisions about the world around them. 

Over the past 2 decades, Psychology as a subject has also gained a lot of popularity. According to the American Psychological Society, Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour. 

This multifaceted discipline includes various sub-fields of study like human development, sports health, social behaviour, cognitive processes, etc. Owing to the novelty and dynamism of the subject, a number of debates surround the field. One of the most crucial being, can psychology be considered a science? 

What makes Psychology a science? 

Science is the pursuit of understanding the natural and social world around us. It is based on systematic methodology and evidence, Then using these observations to develop and influence laws and principles.

These principles are tested using the following steps of scientific research: 

Observation 

The first step of the scientific research process is the search for a problem with an unknown occurrence or an observation leading to unknown answers. We often question the things around us, for example, why does everything fall down? How do we learn to speak? 

How do we decide whether we like something or not? Why do we need to sleep? 

These examples should give you an idea of what it means to make an observation. In reality, while doing research, the depth of observations are higher and more specific. 

Hypothesis 

After observation, a thorough literature review and developing a rationale, scientists come up with a specific, testable hypothesis. A hypothesis is a proposed rationale made on the basis of limited knowledge as a starting point for further investigation. 

The hypothesis is not true or false, it is simply a statement that needs to be investigated. 

For example, if a scientist is exploring trends in breakfast and exam performance, a hypothesis could be: Students who eat breakfast will perform better on science exams than students who don’t eat breakfast. 

Experimentation 

A variety of experimental techniques can be used in scientific research. Both quantitative and qualitative research approaches are available to address the hypothesis. 

The experimental technique is also determined by a rationale, i.e., why a particular approach has been chosen for the study as opposed to others. For example, for a correlation, a field experiment can be conducted to observe subjects in their normal and uncontrolled environment. 

This approach is called ethnography and would be considered a qualitative approach. Other popular approaches are disseminating surveys, interviews, experimental manipulation, etc. The main aim of conducting the experiment is to prove or disprove the developed hypothesis.

Analysis

Once all the data is collected, it has to be analysed. Data analysis is the systematic process of applying statistical and/or logical techniques to explain and evaluate the data. 

This process entails inspecting, cleansing and transforming data so as to identify useful information to be able to make conclusions and support the decision making process. Based on the experimental methodologies, analysis will adopt a quantitative or qualitative approach. Some experiments can adopt both methodologies. 

Conclusion and Communication

Based on the analysis of the data, conclusions are drawn. These conclusions are then communicated with the scientific world in forms of research papers, research presentations, etc. 

They are also written as blogs, magazine articles, etc, to reach a wider audience. This is an integral part of the research process as there is no point in finding out something and not sharing it. This also allows others who have the same observations to gather knowledge and gives a new starting point for further research. 

Like all other sciences, psychology also follows all these steps of scientific research; making it a STEM subject. However, even though psychology follows the same methods of scientific research as other sciences and has the same validity and reliability of research, questions are often raised whether psychology is a science or not. 

Until now in this article we looked at why psychology is considered to be a part of STEM, now we will look into aspects of why psychology is sometimes not considered a science. 

Why is psychology not considered a science? 

Firstly, there is no universal definition of science. There is immense confusion about the concept of science, especially for the soft sciences as they are not as experimental, empirical and quantifiable as the hard sciences. 

Hard sciences comprise disciplines like maths, chemistry, biology and soft sciences comprise of disciplines like sociology, psychology, etc. In addition to this, the limited knowledge about the measuring instruments of human behaviour and mental processes, often leads to psychology being characterised as subjective. 

Definitions in psychology can be too abstract to be accurately tested. For example, how do we define happiness and find/or develop an instrument to measure it, when it depends on culture, circumstances and even what day it is. 

This defies the characteristic of the discipline being a science as the sciences are meant to be objective. In addition, the argument is that the research cannot be reproduced as people change everyday. However, psychologists account for these things in a scientific manner. 

Secondly, psychology is often misunderstood as many people use the term to refer to practices that have not been derived from scientific methods. The term “pseudoscience” comes up. For example, practices like coaching, NLP, etc., are not psychological practices but are considered to be because people wrongly talk about it in the psychological context. 

Therefore, psychology is definitely a science and is STEM as it is not looking to capture a universal human experience. Humans are messy and influenced by a variety of things around like culture, circumstances and even the book they just read last night. 

There are no hard strict rules for human behaviour. Every individual is different and as long as the psychologist acknowledges that their work is limited by individual differences, it should be considered a science. 

Conclusion 

This blog post addressed the question “Is psychology STEM?” We understood what is STEM, what subjects are categorized as STEM, what makes psychology a science and why psychology is often considered not to be a science. The article outlined the specific steps of research in psychology that contributes to its scientific nature. 

If you have any questions or comments please let us know.

FAQs: Is psychology stem? 

Is psychology STEM or humanities? 

Psychology is considered to be science, not humanities. It borrows heavily from scientific fields of Biology and Chemistry. 

What field does psychology fall under? 

Psychology is a science (STEM), it examines the science of human behaviour and mental processes. 

What courses are under STEM? 

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It refers to any subject that falls under these disciplines. Some STEM courses are: 

  • Chemistry 
  • Sustainable Chemistry
  • Machine Learning 
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Bioengineering 
  • Biomedical
  • Geophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Statistics 

Is psychology a science? 

Psychology is recognized as a social science. The National Science Foundation’s roster has included psychology as a STEM discipline. 

Is psychology a social science or STEM? 

The National Science Foundations definition of STEM fields include mathematics, natural sciences, engineering, computer and information sciences, and the social and behavioral sciences which includes psychology. Thus, psychology is a social science and STEM. 

Is psychology a pseudoscience? 

Psychology is not a pseudoscience. It is a science as it takes up scientific approaches to understand human behaviour. Pseudosciences are beliefs that are claimed to be scientific but dont have scientific factors. 

Why is psychology not STEM? 

Psychology is STEM. 

What is psychology? 

According to the American Psychological Society, Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour. 

What are the 4 different types of psychology? 

Psychology is broadly divided into social, developmental, forensic and cognitive. Psychology has other sub-fields and is not restricted to these 4 types. 

References 

Bray, J. H. (2010). Psychology as a core science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) discipline. Washington DC

American Psychological Association 

https://www.apa.org/pubs/reports/stem-discipline

NSF Approved fields 

https://www.btaa.org/docs/default-source/diversity/nsf-approved-fields-of-studycac2.pdf?sfvrsn=642824bc_2

McLeod, S. A. (2019). What is psychology? Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/whatispsychology.html 

Hill, K. M. (2015). Psychology as a STEM discipline. PsyPAG Quarterly, 96, 44-47. 

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