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Studying the Mind

The brain is the most amazing and powerful tool we have; the mind is powerful, but not in the same way as the brain. The distinction between the two is important. The brain is the physical organ in our bodies. It regulates everything; it’s in charge of everything. Some things we are unaware of, like breathing and sleeping. Other things we have to think about, like eating and moving. The study of the brain is neurology.

The mind is messy. The mind is the entire study of psychology. So many things can go wrong (or right if you’re into positive psychology). It’s difficult to study because the mind is not a physical thing. Even when people take the time to study the mind, there are no definitive results. If you actually take the time to read a scientific study of psychology the results are never 100% one way or another. This is why psychology is considered a “soft science.”

When you read an article about some psychological discovery, chances are the author didn’t read the actual entire study, or they misinterpreted it, or they stretched the truth to make it way more interesting. For example, a popular article might be titled, “CURE FOR DEPRESSION FOUND!!!” and go on to describe some pill or method or therapy that cures depression. (I made this up, total exaggeration). If you were to find and read the original scientific study you would most likely find that said pill or method or therapy worked like 60% of the time. You would probably also read that whatever it is isn’t actually a cure for depression, it just alleviates the symptoms. Even then, the article will describe every single aspect of the study and why they got the results they did and it is a LOT more convoluted than that popular article you read!

Popular articles are important because they draw attention to the field of psychology and help people to understand it without having to decipher a scientific study. It’s just important to remember that there is nothing definitive in psychology. We continue to do study after study and people study the same things over and over with different methodologies and mixed results. Eventually, hopefully, whatever is being studied will start to produce similar results and we’ll be launched forward little by little.


11 thoughts on “Studying the Mind

  1. Of course nothing is for certain in psychology, but are there certainties in neurology or neuropsychology? Just because we are dealing with physical matter, doesn’t make it any more definitive. I\d say uncertainty is a product of research method and observation limitations in any field rather than limited to the “soft sciences”

    • I didn’t say uncertainty was strictly a problem with psychology research, rather it is much more uncertain because there is nothing solid in front of you to study. We have to invent research studies and methodologies, which can be flawed due to human error, participants dropping out, etc. Studying a physical brain is very different from that.

      • I’d agree it’s different but not entirely methodologically different. Neuropsychologists and neurologists also invent research studies and questions and deal with confounds. Researchers are human and subject to error. brain scans are subject to error because with a live brain youre still talking about a person. My point is only that it’s an age old bias to separate the two, the physical and non physical, the hard and soft sciences, when really if we’re gonna discuss difficulties it should be focused on the entire scientific method, because that underlies both and creates uncertainties and difficulties for both.

      • Sure, I agree that there are errors with every type of study, that’s a fact. But hard and soft sciences are very different things and do need to be separated.

      • But the example you use (which I agree with your statements about) is directly related to studies of the brain. Depression is more often researched from a neuropsychological standpoints and the arguments that help define it is most commonly related to brain chemistry and structure. So really your post is about both because the mind is always connected to the brain and vice versa

      • But depression is psychology! I don’t mean to pick on you. I just wanted to point out that that’s exactly what happens in psychology. It’s related to everything else, especially the brain. The brain and mind don’t work independently of each other. So when discussing ‘messiness’ we must discuss both perpetrators. Maybe my blog posts will help explain. I’m a psychology student as well.

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