The Role of Neuroscience Within Psychology: A Call for Inclusiveness Over Exclusiveness

Seth J. Schwartz, Scott O. Lilienfeld, Alan Meca, Katheryn C. Sauvigne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


In the present article, we appraise the increasingly prominent role of neuroscience within psychology and offer cautions and recommendations regarding the future of psychology as a field. We contend that the conflict between eliminative reductionism (the belief that the neural level of analysis will eventually render the psychological level of analysis superfluous) and emergent properties (the assumption that higher-order mental functions are not directly reducible to neural processes) is critical if we are to identify the optimal role for neuroscience within psychology. We argue for an interdisciplinary future for psychology in which the considerable strengths of neuroscience complement and extend the strengths of other subfields of psychology. For this goal to be achieved, a balance must be struck between an increasing focus on neuroscience and the continued importance of other areas of psychology. We discuss the implications of the growing prominence of neuroscience for the broader profession of psychology, especially with respect to funding agency priorities, hiring practices in psychology departments, methodological rigor, and the training of future generations of students. We conclude with recommendations for advancing psychology as both a social science and a natural science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-70
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Emergent properties
  • Funding agency priorities
  • Hiring practices
  • Neuroscience
  • Training of students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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