Psychology has been described as the ‘scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context’- Oxford Dictionaries Online (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/psychology). My question is can we really scientifically study the mind? How can you study the mind scientifically when there is still some debate as to what and even where the mind is located? My understanding is that most experiments study behaviour, which is observable, in an attempt to understand the underlying processes that are happening in the mind.
My reason for asking this question came after seeing a book written by Uttal called ‘The Immeasurable Mind’. In his book he argues that the mind and its mental processes are in inaccessible. What we can measure is the observable behaviour, but this is only an indication of what is happening in the mind. This is a problem with many Psychological experiments, they measure behaviour but how can we know that this is a correct indicator or what we are thinking. Many experiments suffer from demand characteristics, where the participants behaves in a way that they think the experimenter wants them to, not in a way that they themselves think they should. So, taking this into context, measuring behaviour would not be a valid nor reliable method of inferring what the participant was thinking. Many criticisms of Milgrams experiment argued that the participants knew what the experiment was investigating and were simply behaving in a way that they thought the experimenter wanted.
Another argument on this topic would be that biological investigation such as fMRI scans can show what people are thinking. fMRI scanners highlight what areas of the brain are active when a person is experiencing a certain situation. EEG studies also highlight the active areas of brain by using electrodes to measure the electrical current.