What is science? Fundamentally, science is a process of hypothesis-testing. Scientists observe phenomena, propose hypotheses to explain or account for some observed phenomenon, and design experiments to test those hypotheses. Then those or other scientists attempt to replicate the findings. In other words, science is performed in the following manner:
1. Define the question
2. Gather information and resources (observe)
3. Form hypothesis
4. Perform experiment and collect data
5. Analyze data
6. Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
7. Publish results
8. Retest (frequently done by other scientists)
Psychological Science, then, is the application of the scientific method and hypothesis-testing to behavior or cognition.
Let's get one thing straight: psychology is not easy.
Okay, a second thing: psychology is rarely intuitive. Things that happen below the level of conscious awareness? Even less intuitive. Psychological Science (when done properly) is as scientifically rigorous as any other scientific discipline (when done properly). Even among scientists, psychology is sometimes not perceived as a science. Part of my motivation for going into such detail on the methods for many of my posts (other than the fact that some of the methods are brilliantly clever) is to show the scientific method at work and how carefully the experiments are constructed.
Not convinced that psychology is often non-intuitive? Watch the following video I made out of the supplementary material from this paper. Stare at the red fixation dot in the center. After 30 seconds, the dot arrays will change. Don't read ahead; watch the video first. After the change, which side appears to have more dots? Continue to stare at the fixation cross, after the switch, for the remaining 30 seconds.
If you are like most people, then immediately after the switch, the right side array appeared to have more dots, despite the fact that the two arrays after the switch were the same size. This phenomenon is probably not new to you. It has to do with neural fatigue - the explanation for the complementary color aftereffect is similar. But what happened while you continued to stare at the fixation point? After several seconds, the two arrays which initially seemed unequal started to even out. But, importantly, you likely did not perceive dots popping into or out of existence. Instead, as the previously fatigued neurons that participate in large number enumeration came back online, your perception was altered, below the level of conscious awareness. Many people are surprised that this form of counting - rapid large number enumeration - happens below conscious awareness. This is non-intuitive, inaccessible to experience, and not really simple or obvious.