Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Psychology, Science, Sense, Human, Study, Theory, Discipline, Folk

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/01


Psychologists refer to folk psychology or common sense psychology as person’s ability to describe and foretell the behaviour and mental state of other individuals. These behaviours and mental occasions that people came across to with their daily living such as the feeling of contentment, joy, pleasure and even anxiety are referred to in a simple and common terms or language. By tradition, common sense psychology has been basically based on the attribution of mental states being a reflection of a person’s feelings or emotions. Common sense psychology is a cognitive aspect that is common to everyone and being used in everyday living. By and large, it is constantly used to provide 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. 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. The distinction of these two disciplines shall be deliberated in this paper by initially contrasting the two as well as discussing the effect of CSP on cognition.

Common Sense Psychology versus Scientific Psychology

The use of the common sense plays an important role for one to have a normal functioning type of living today, it was more so during earlier times when man has to contend with the many dangers that abound in his environment. They have to co-exist with other human beings in the midst of rivalry, friendship and in any other aspects of co-existence. The point that the human specie has survived the hazards of living in the olden times made one conclude that he must have used and develop an enormous amount of his common sense in the process. By far, common sense psychology has been treated by some psychologists as a quasi-science. They constantly refer to this discipline as a science that began before the formal study of science has ever started. The claim that CSP is an earlier form of science was strengthened by Paul Churchland who further stated that:

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).
However, a closer scrutiny would reveal that CSP is a mere theory and that it has nothing to do with any scientific discipline. One thing is for sure though, CSP is “bound to be incomplete in many ways” (Ramsey et al, 1190), just like any other discipline. Common sense psychology theories are largely based on tradition and the many cognitive phenomena that were associated with it can now be explained by detailed and more comprehensive scientific study. For instance, earlier civilizations interpreted dreams according to their belief, culture and tradition. During the late 19th century, Sigmund Freud presented his theory about dreaming and has strongly believed on the psychological meaning of dreams. Today, recent technological advances revealed that dreams are sheer brain electrical impulses that indiscriminately retrieve thoughts and images from the human memory. As the neurosciences progresses in its diverse fields, the many CSP theories are being explained by scientific studies. It boils down to one result, the difference between CSP and SP is the scientific explanation that is available to SP theories.

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 event or 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. While science is never satisfied in its quest for understanding, as proven by the many experiments that have been conducted in pursuit for modern knowledge, common sense in its simplicity has only aided in surviving the basics of human living. 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. 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. Both scientific psychology and CSP are important in the field of science, as the later can provide a rich imagination from where a meaningful scientific study can be based.


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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