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Thursday, July 9, 2015

“Soft” vs. “Hard” Psychological Science in the Courtroom

By Geoffrey D. Munro and Cynthia A. Munro
The Jury Expert
Originally published May 31, 2015


The terms "soft science" and "hard science"are commonly applied to different scientific disciplines, and scientists have investigated and theorized about features that apply when placing scientific disciplines on a soft-hard continuum (e.g., Simonton, 2004, 2006, 2009). In the minds of laypeople, however, the difference may lie in the more simple perceptions of different scientific disciplines. The very words themselves, “soft” and “hard”, may hint at different reputations. Soft sciences are fuzzy and less rigid, suggesting lower reliability, validity, and rigor than hard sciences possess.

Psychological science includes research that is usually considered to be on the softer side of the continuum (e.g., behavioral science) as well as research that is usually considered to be on the harder side (e.g., neuroscience). However, the name “psychology” appears to elicit less respect from the general public than many other sciences. Survey data show that psychology was judged to be less important than disciplines like biology, chemistry, economics, medicine, and physics by both a random sample of adults as well as by full-time university faculty (Janda, England, Lovejoy, & Drury, 1998).

The entire article is here.