Home > Uncategorized > Should psychology be written for the layman or should science be exclusively for scientists?

Should psychology be written for the layman or should science be exclusively for scientists?

Hello all, welcome to another week and another blog.  Hope you’re all keeping well.

Today, I’ll be discussing whether psychology should be written in simple terms so that everyone can understand, or whether it should be kept scientific and just for scientists.

I believe that the first thing to consider here is what kind of research is actually being done.  For example, social psychology is something which the majority of people can relate to, and so, can understand.  In this case, if research were being done into the area, should it not be written so that everyone can understand it?

For example, Milgram’s study on obedience is something which the majority of people can relate to and understand. So, should this kind of research not be written so that they can read it and understand it?  (http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm)

On the other hand, an area such as psychobiology, although applicable to all society, is something which is not as easy to understand and can be a lot more scientific.  Is this the kind of research which should be written in scientific terms?

It may be important to note that without scientists/psychologists to first conduct research and to further evaluate it, we would not have anything to discuss in this topic.  There would be no research to read and to understand.

Turney stated that people have an appetite for scientific information, but there is a duty for scientists to explain the scientific research in ways that a range of people can use.  (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2896%2990283-4/abstract)

This means that while we do need scientists to understand research, it then should be explained to general public in ways that they can understand and use.  But does this mean that the research should be written in a way that only scientists understand, and then they should simplify it for the people who need it to be?

I think that it is important to note that, while Psychology is a science, it is also something which studies human behaviour and can be used to aid society’s knowledge of why people may act as they do.  Why should this only be something that scientists can learn?  Do people who may not be able to understand scientific terms not deserve to learn and to understand, considering Psychology is the study of EVERYONE’S behaviour, and not just the behaviour of people who study it?

If we think about previous research, and what important conclusions were drawn from it, it becomes clear that the general public should be able to learn from research findings.  An example can come from Asch’s study on conformity.  Asch drew important conclusions about how likely people are to conform to a group idea, even if they knew that the group opinion was the wrong one.  If scientists alone knew how to understand the research findings, would there really be any point in conducting the research when people as a whole can not learn from it?  Surely, this would mean that scientists would understand why people behaved as they did, but nothing would be learnt from it and nothing would change.  Using the example from Asch’s study, if nobody but scientists could understand what the findings showed about conformity, this would result in scientists knowing why people may conform, but general people not knowing and therefore not being able to change their behaviour.


In conclusions, while Psychology is a science, it is also the study of behaviour exhibited by all people, and therefore, I believe that it should be written so that non-scientists can read, understand and perhaps learn from research.

However, this can only take us so far and there may of course may cases (such as in Psychobiology) where things may not be as easily simplified. In which case, it should not be that the ‘laymen’ should not know about and learn about research, but research should be understood by scientists and put in terms that everyone can understand.



Thanks for reading, see you next time 🙂







Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I really like your ideas about this! And I actually think I agree. The only thing that I’d point out is that there are plenty of books about psychology already written for the layman, but like you, I agree that this should be the case. What I wouldn’t like to see is research papers or journals being written this way – it is a professional subject and therefore should be written in a professional manner. There are things, like psychobio, that are harder to simplify, but we were all layman once and we had to learn and research to understand some of the scientific jargon – surely it wouldn’t take too much for the layman do to that too, if they are really interested in the subject area? As much as I do think it should be available to all, there’s a line where it goes from layman to over simplistic (and we know that there are lots of things wrong with trying to explain something as complex as the mind simplistically) and that as a professional subject, we should be careful not to cross it.

  2. February 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    nice blog 🙂 I agree that psychological research should be made available to the general public, BUT if they wish to thoroughly understand it they should specialise in that area themselves. If all psychological research was written for the layman than why should we even bother studying it? Psychology has a hard enough time as it is trying to get itself credited as a science, so we wouldn’t be doing ourselves any favours by ‘dumbing down’ our research. Like you said, it’s very hard to change the jargon of psychobiology and neuropsychology into layman terms its just unfeasible to think the layman would be able to fully understand all psychological concepts without ever having studied it. Statistical evidence is needed in order for our research to be taken seriously and to then go on to be published. A physician or a chemist wouldn’t publish their results for the layman so why should we?

  3. February 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    i completely agree with you. i think it is important for psychology to be written for the layman. There is a branch of psychology called Pop psychology (popular psychology).this is basically all the myths and legends that people have about psychology. They are things such as ‘opposites attract.’ These are based on psychological fact bus misinterpreted by the layman. Now i’m not saying that research being purely written for scientists is the only cause. but it has to be a factor right? This is why i think it is important to write psychological research for the layman.

  4. February 22, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    I totally agree with your conclusion. The whole of psychology should ultimately to benefit individuals but even doing an undergraduate degree I struggle just as much as before hand to read never mind understand articles. There is so much research out there that could benefit all sectors of society and it is hard enough implementing them anyway but very often people don’t even know about them or how it could actually benefit them.

    Maybe abstracts at the very least could be simplified more. Let’s be honest this is the part most of us read and if we don’t really understand it then we will often discard the research paper,well I do anyway 🙂 or maybe there just needs to be more communication between researchers and the rest of the general public?

  5. February 22, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    I agree to what you have said in your blog and specifically about what Turney stated “Turney stated that people have an appetite for scientific information, but there is a duty for scientists to explain the scientific research in ways that a range of people can use. ” And that pretty much sums the whole debate up really for me. Psychology has to be written in a scientific manner and there are terms that are difficult to simplify always (especially in cognitive and neuroscience) like you said but I do think that there is a sensitive balance that can be made between the two and where we can avoid scientific jargon and write in a way that is self explanatory of the concept, and we are still talk psychology, which is ultimate there for the whole society to benifit from, so well done! 🙂

  1. February 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm

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