Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Psychology, Science, Sense, People, Study, Belief, Human, Folk

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/03/19


Psychologists refer to folk psychology or common sense psychology as “primarily the systems of describing, explaining and predicting human thought and action in terms of beliefs, desires, hopes, fears, expectations, intentions and the so called propositional attitudes”(Baker). Common sense psychology has been based on the attribution of mental states as a reflection of a person’s feelings or emotions, and according to Kelley, it includes people’s ideas about their own and other person’s behaviour (Kelley) providing an explanation about people’s deliberate actions. Scientific psychology, on the other hand, is the aspect of social psychology that uses scientific viewpoints to study and comprehend human conducts. Recently, there has been debate among psychologists on the relationship between folk and scientific psychology. Accordingly, some scholars argued on the conflicting principle of scientific and common sense psychology. This paper aims to show that CSP and scientific psychology are two different but interrelated disciplines, with their principle contingent on their own different frameworks.

Common Sense Psychology versus Scientific Psychology

There is an inter-play between common-sense psychology and scientific psychology; this is implicit in the use of use of common language among people of common culture, before people even started studying psychology in the scientific sense. Kelley deduced that since the scientific efforts to study behavioural occurrences involved common terms and beliefs, they have a customary impact on the concepts and theories that are developed for scientific purposes. There are three parallel phenomena that explain how common-sense and scientific psychology overlaps: a) first is on how common terms affect scientific concepts, b) how common beliefs affect scientific propositions and, c) how common terms may affect scientific propositions (Kelley).
The use of common terms in any scientific study cannot be set aside as the development of scientific terms calls for the help of common language to explain it. Common terms are the most convenient way to clarify scientific categories and “enables us to tap into the store of information our respondents may have about the phenomena (Kelley). In another aspect, common beliefs may affect scientific propositions due to the fact that psychologists are previously exposed to their daily practices and ideas that are part of the common culture. “To the degree common beliefs reflect accurately observed and encoded experience, (), scientific psychology can rely on those beliefs as information about reality”(Kelley). The information that can be taken from these encoded experiences may come from, a) people’s report on what they did or others have done under certain circumstances, b) other people’s predictions on another individual’s reaction under a particular condition, c) people’s beliefs about what particular type of person do or would do in certain situations (Kelley).

Not only is folk psychology a theory, it is so obviously a theory that it must be

held a major mystery why it has taken until the last half of the twentieth century
for philosophers to realize it. The structural features of folk psychology parallel
perfectly those of mathematical physics; the only difference lies in the respective
domains of abstract entities they exploit - numbers in the case of physics, and
propositions in the case of psychology (cited in Wilkes, 1991).

Cognition and Common Sense Psychology

Despite the scientific explanation offered by recent advances in science and technology, and the clarification provided for by the discoveries in neurosciences, it remains that there are aspects of cognition that were yet to be explained by science. Common sense psychology, notwithstanding the many arguments countered against it, will always be useful in cognitive science (Watt, 1997). One among the reasons why it lacks the scientific aspect, such as those that are required in scientific researches, is that CSP is a natural disciple. Commons sense psychology is different from the discipline of physical sciences, in that while the sciences focused on concrete explanations or results, CSP delved into intuition and the natural ability of the human brain to relate actions or objects to what is going on in another individual’s mind. This is an instance of egocentric outlook, accordingly this means that we have an uninterrupted access to our own cognitive functioning, and the expressions we refer to different mental conditions are known intrinsically. The passage of time and the repetitive usage would improve the way we use these terms to others. As intuitive beings, we take other people point of view and integrate them on our own, while we use our own experiences and intuition to foresee the mental functioning of other people. There is, however, an argument on the ability and the possibility of interpreting other peoples mind through intuition. There is the query on whether that particular individual perceived an experience the same way that we do. The coherent theory comes into the picture and a first and a third person’s viewpoint are referred to in order to validate the intuition.

Interrelationship between Science and Common Sense Psychology

There is much contempt among scientist on the use of common sense especially in explaining things that are now explained by scientific researches. However, this should not be so as the goal of each of this discipline is not the same. While science is rich in different theoretical concepts and models that have gone through an extensive investigation and testing, commons sense relies more on the validity of a claim depending on how it make sense. Despite that, these two have been tow important aspects in the human development. For instance, a rich imagination is needed to stretch scientific study into more meaningful aspects. It was not possible for man to go to outer space had it not been for the human brains ability to imagine meaningfully.


Folk psychology or CSP is an individual’s capability to predict another human being’s mental behaviour basing from previous common experiences. This is in contrast to scientific psychology where scientific studies and standpoints are referred to in order to provide an explanation about human behaviour. Scientists argued that CSP has no basis; however, as there is no valid cause to completely ignore this discipline, it is still being used by many psychologists in their studies. Other scholars provided their basis in concluding that both scientific and common sense psychology were two interrelated philosophies claiming that these two fields of study in psychology are related as exemplified by the fact that the terms used in scientific psychology are formulated or derived from common terms. Needless to say, common sense psychology is important in the scientific studies because scientists are inclined to use common terms in their every research. Common sense psychology provides an important foundation in the field of science; providing a rich basis from where a meaningful scientific study can be based.


Bakers, L., What is this Thing Called Common sense Psychology? Retrieved from people.mass.edu
Kelley, H., Common-sense Psychology and Scientific Psychology. Annual Reviews, Inc. Retrieved from www.annualreviews.org
Ramsey, W., Stich, S., Garon, J., 1990. Connectionism, Eliminativism and The future of Folk Psychology. Ridgeview Publishing Company. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2214202
Watt, S., 1997. Anthropomorphism and Common-sense Psychology. Retrieved from kmi.open.uk
Wilkes, K. 1991. The Relationship Between Scientific Psychology and Common-Sense Psychology. Springer. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.rog/stable/20116955

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