Kuhn Vs. Popper= Science of Psy

The scientific views of Kuhn and Popper are fundamental to the development of psychology, but their perspectives are different based on their philosophies of science. They disagreed on what normal science is, the correspondence of truth, and what the best way to study science was. Kuhn’s view of science accounts for the more realistic factors of society, while Popper saw science as a revolving door of theories based on


English: Karl Popper in 1990.
English: Karl Popper in 1990. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


the process of problems, and criticisms (Drenth, 1994). Popper encouraged his students, and other scientist to criticize theories, while Kuhn believe paradigm were irrefutable and irreversible, but they could change after a long process of development (Hergenhahn, 2001).


Popper’s philosophy was grounded in the notion that science must start with the creation and critic of myths, and has to be falsified (Drenth, 1994). Popper argues that the best hypotheses are those which we can disprove, because testing through the theory of falsification separated science from non-science. Theories concerning science generated hypotheses that could be falsified by observations and experiments (Guthrie, 1946). Popper refuted the point that science began with experiments, or even a collection of observations, but with theories.


A theory consisted of a set of statements, and Popper classified them according to different levels such as universal statements, which are hypotheses of the character of natural laws, and singular statements, which applies to the specific event in the hypothesis (Guthrie, 1946). He stated that theories could only be considered scientific if there was an establish criteria for theories, and that each theory must be testable (Guthrie, 1946). Through a selection method that set out to falsify theories Popper believed the field could always be progressively pushed forward. As a resolution between the hypothesis, and the empirical observations became apparent the old theory would be replaced.Popper saw value in having applicable theories that eventually would be replaced by more applicable theories(Guthrie, 1946).


Popper proposed an evaluation process based on the statements of the theory that provided valid results (Drenth, 1994). Popper’s view of science envisioned scientists using methods of deductive reasoning to test if a theory’s prediction is true. The specific conclusions stated by the theories can’t be proven to be true, from Popper’s standpoint, but scientist can show a prediction is false. So scientists influenced by Popper testing one of the theories predictions (Drenth, 1994). If they find out it is not true they come to the conclusion that the theory can’t be true. The internal consistency of the system is tested, the logical form of the theory based in empirical or scientific theory is tested, the theory is compared to other theories, and finally the theory is tested through empirical applications (Guthrie, 1946).


John Kuhn believed the system of falsification would make science impossible, because no theory could solve every aspect of science, and it couldn’t solve one problem perfectly. So if science were set up the way Popper theorized it, every theory would be rejected based on the notion it couldn’t pass the criteria (Drenth, 1994). In a sense, the degree of falsification would halt the growth of science, because every theory would run into the same problem. Some scientific statements can’t be logically falsified (Cronbach, 1957).  In Kuhn’s view of science there are no rules for deciding the significance of a puzzle.


Kuhn describes science as “puzzle-solving” meaning it consist of a combination of things such as the ability of the theorist, the complexity of the subject, and the methods used to approach the problem (Cronbach, 1957). The revolution of science was only possible if the scientific community committed to sharing the same beliefs, shared theoretical beliefs, values, instruments and technique called paradigms. They were used as models for future investigations, as researchers worked towards the things they know (Hergenhahn, 2001). In a sense, Kuhn believed that scientist created a “reality” influenced by subjective factors.


Kuhn accounted for the socio-political factors that influence the applications of theories.Factors that could decide the outcome of a scientific revolution such as nationalities, ethnicity, personalities on the development of science were taken into account (Cronbach, 1957). So the solutions of these important problems were restricted to certain paradigms. First the previous paradigms must be inadequate in their ability to explain the empirical observation. Kuhn believe scientist make predictions within their own paradigm, and that most scientist wouldn’t change their paradigms without overwhelming amounts of evidence.


Kuhn outlined the stages of scientific revolution based the notion of a successful paradigms. He believed science started off in a preparadigm stage in which a great deal of paradigms competed to be the one that was accepted by all the others. In the preparadigm stage the science is consider to be in the immature stage, because there are multiple paradigms from different schools of thought (Hergenhahn, 2001). Scientists refute each other’s point to position their theory as the leading candidate of change. Eventually, a dominate principle pushes the science into the next stage called paradigmatic stage. Once a paradigm unifies the field of science,scientist test the theory until it is replaced by another theory (Cronbach, 1957). However, several elements inside and outside the field must align for a revolution, even if the theory lacks evidence in certain situations. In the paradigm stage the dominate paradigm can expand as evidence is provided.


Popper’s view had much more restrictions as far as what was considered science, while Kuhn saw more restrictions on the thought processes of the scientist themselves. Kuhn stages of science formulated that science would eventually have one unified view; while Popper believe science would always be improved by a theory overthrowing its processor. In a way Popper’s view of science is similar to Kuhn first stage of scientist development but that’s where the similarities end.





One thought on “Kuhn Vs. Popper= Science of Psy

  1. Seems to me that Kuhn describes how science does often progress. Popper describes how science should progress. Kuhn laid the foundation for the disaster which is post-modern science. Branches of science that do not apply the rigour required in Popper’s approach will surely degenerate.


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