What is the Point of Psychology Studies?

This may seem like a sacrilegious question to ask on a blog devoted to psychology studies, but it’s one that’s frequently raised elsewhere. I often see it buried in comment threads on social networking sites. Things like: “Why do we need this study?” or “This just tells us what we already know!” or, “Rubbish!” with no reasoned argument whatsoever.

Of course, all psychology studies were not created equal. Some provide marvellous insights into human nature, others are pretty banal. But even those apparently banal studies are usually valuable within the context in which they were conceived. They hope to plug a small specific gap in the wall of knowledge.

The very best psychology studies, however, can educate us about everything from our emotions, through our relationships with each other to our nonverbal behaviour. Psychology studies can actually tell us, through the scientific method, something about what it means to be human. What could be more interesting than that?

As you read PsyBlog, I’d guess you share my enthusiasm, but I wonder if you face other people asking what the point of psychology is. If so how do you deal with them telling you psychology is just ‘common sense’ or that its findings are ‘rubbish’? And, more broadly, what’s your view on how much psychology studies can teach us about ourselves?

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Published: 2 August 2007

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