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Am Psychol. 2012 Feb-Mar;67(2):111-29. doi: 10.1037/a0023963. Epub 2011 Jun 13.

Public skepticism of psychology: why many people perceive the study of human behavior as unscientific.

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Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Data indicate that large percentages of the general public regard psychology's scientific status with considerable skepticism. I examine 6 criticisms commonly directed at the scientific basis of psychology (e.g., psychology is merely common sense, psychology does not use scientific methods, psychology is not useful to society) and offer 6 rebuttals. I then address 8 potential sources of public skepticism toward psychology and argue that although some of these sources reflect cognitive errors (e.g., hindsight bias) or misunderstandings of psychological science (e.g., failure to distinguish basic from applied research), others (e.g., psychology's failure to police itself, psychology's problematic public face) reflect the failure of professional psychology to get its own house in order. I offer several individual and institutional recommendations for enhancing psychology's image and contend that public skepticism toward psychology may, paradoxically, be one of our field's strongest allies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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