Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. As psychology commonly involves experimentation and data analysis, it is sometimes categorized as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field. However, the debate on whether psychology is truly a STEM field is ongoing.
STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – four disciplines that share a common focus on quantitative approaches and systematic experimentation. Inquisitively, psychology also involves data analysis and experimentation, and its methods of research make use of scientific techniques.
However, not all fields that use scientific methods are considered STEM fields. Social Sciences, for example, employ the same scientific methods and tools that psychology uses, yet they are not classified as STEM fields.
The Debate on Psychology’s Classification
The scientific validity of psychology is established by its strict research methods that involve data collection, experiment design, and statistical analysis. Some schools of thought believe that this classification alone makes psychology a STEM field.
Others argue that psychology lacks a broad enough foundation upon which STEM fields are built. For psychology to genuinely be considered a STEM field, it must possess an interdisciplinary character. This characteristic could mean that it has a greater reliance on technology, computation, and data analysis than is currently the case.
The Intersection of Psychology and STEM Fields
The boundary between psychology and STEM fields is becoming increasingly blurred due to the rise of computational psychology. Migration of traditional psychological methods towards computational research techniques and tools led to the creation of cognitive psychology, which synthesizes fields such as neuroscience, computer science, and psychology to discover how the human mind works.
Cognitive psychology, and an increasing amount of other scientific subfields of psychology, utilize a STEM-heavy skill set, providing more evidence for psychology’s status as a STEM field.
Advantages of Being a STEM Field
STEM fields, in general, experience significant research funding, career opportunities, and influence across various industries. Becoming a STEM field could establish psychology as a more esteemed field, which could open more opportunities and resources for researchers and professionals in the field.
A classification as a STEM field could eventually allow the subject to lend additional direction to technological invention and medical research.
Despite the ongoing debate, there is no significant evidence to suggest that psychology is a STEM field, mainly due to its lack of interdisciplinary subjects. However, psychology has made substantial contributions to, and continues to intersect with STEM fields, particularly by contributing to cognitive psychology.
Regardless of how psychology is classified in the future, the critical thing is that the field continues to advance the understanding of human behavior and the mind.