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We think of engineering as applied physics (and chemistry) toward improvement of social life, whether personal or civic. Psychology, a “soft” science, also shares this duality. While theories of psychology abound, and occupy the minds of taxonomists and neuroscientists, the lion’s share of psychology’s energy is spent in applying psychological principles to individual cases. Like engineering, psychology’s real value is in the solving or ameliorating of social problems, such as diagnosing, correcting, and preventing criminal behavior. Another social application of psychology is found in sociopathy, where theories and abstractions of scientific ideas are applied to deviant social behavior, from autism to addiction. The parallel of theory to practice in these two discipline is often overlooked because the “hard” sciences have been utilized in social practices for centuries (think of the lever, the screw, the incline, etc.) while psychological application is relatively new (replacing witchcraft, “humours”, “spirit invasions”, etc.) only since the late nineteenth century (Freud, Jung, and Wilhelm Wundt, for example). Wundt opened the first laboratory of psychology in 1879. Analyzing a problem, designing a solution, and then putting the plan into action are the steps in both disciplines. In these ways engineering can serve as a model for psychology.
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