PSYC 100 Lecture 2 (07/09/2010)
1) To gain an understanding of current ideas about the nature of human behavior
2) To develop your own position on controversies in the field
3) To become exposed to some of the major ideas and topics in contemporary
scientific psychology (preparation for upper division courses in psychology,
economics, philosophy, biology, etc.)
4) To develop your skills in critical thinking and evaluation of scientific claims
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND HOW DO WE
EVALUATE THOSE CLAIMS?
1. Psychology is an empirical science
a. Measurable - Repeatable - Amenable to experimentation
(That is, manipulation of variables)
e.g. Darley & Latané
2. Nature and nurture are inextricably entwined – E.g. Some people may
have genetic predisposition for patience and tolerance, though if they are
extremely bothered by the “environment”, they may lose this patience and
tolerance. There are environmental factors that can supplant the biological
3. The mind and brain are inseparable – The mind is the functioning of the
brain. The mind is the software and the brain is the hardware. Two ways
are looking at same process.
4. A biological revolution is energizing psychological research
5. The mind is adaptive – It responds in an adaptive ways to new
situations. E.g. some components of intelligence is the ability to take new
information and use it in new and creative ways.
6. Psychologists use different levels of analysis in their research –
From the neuronal level to the sociocultural level.
1 7. We often are unaware of the influences on how we think, feel, and
behave – Besides the fact they are unconscious, they operate at such a
complex level that they are difficult to understand.
Darley & Latané Experiment (Princeton University)
Illustrates how variables can be easily manipulated. Darley’s idea/observation:
people’s behavior is influenced by the situation they are in, to a degree that
it might be underappreciated by most people.
He thought about what was to have a personality such as patient, or long
suffering, or helpful. For example, is a helpful person always helpful, in all
circumstances? Or are they helpful in some circumstances?
Are there situational factors that may limit or enhance a person’s helpfulness?
This presents a debate between Trait Psychology against Social Psychology.
Trait Psychology or Individual Differences Psychology looks at the many ways
we all differ from each other. And to what extent these differences are rooted into
the makeup of who you are?
Social Psychology studies how situations can affect, overcome some of these
innate personality predispositions or even acquire a personality predisposition.
Experiment ran in the university Theological Seminary where male students
studied to become clergy men. Methods: They called each divinity student and
told them he had to run to an auditorium and tell the public that the speaker
would be late. Also told he could stay to listen the speaker talking about Jesus
Sermon at the Mount (The Good Samaritan Speech – treat others the way you
would like to be treated).
Darley hands a map with a route for the student to get to the auditorium. A
confederate plays a role of being someone in trouble at the entrance of the
auditorium. Once the student passed by, the confederate asks for help.
If the student stops, the confederate asks him to call a doctor for him.
He manipulated the following variable:
a) Some students were told they had just enough time to get there on time.
b) Others were told that they had more than enough time; they could take
their time and still arrive.
Results: Students who had more time were more likely to stop and help “the man
in trouble” than the students with less time. The issue here is that these are all
seminar student, people meant to help other people for the rest of their lives.
This is not a perfect experiment. Darley assumes that these students have a
stable trait of helpfulness. And the small manipulation of how rush they are alters
their behavior. Here the social situation of arriving late or having few minutes to
2 How to improve this study?
Small sample size, therefore think how replicable and stable the results are.
Type of help: Helping one poor guy vs. helping 300 people at the auditorium.
Gender difference: how about females?
Missed a manipulation: compare it to group that is not helpful e.g. Hells Angels
Maybe it is a false assumption that these people are helpful. Darley should have
collected some helpfulness ratings/scale, tests of helpfulness such as a
psychometric instrument that could measure how helpful people are, being rated
not only by themselves but also by acquaintances. It would have been interesting
to see if this helpfulness ratings influence whether this people would stop.
The social psychological phenomenon of Diffusion of Responsibility, where the
person believes that since there are people around, someone would stop and
help the man. An example of this is Kitty Genovese case that was stabbed in
her neighborhood in New York and died since no one called an ambulance.
Assumption that can be made: Some people do not go in the ministry for the right
reasons. Some people would be persuaded not to stop since other people are
around to help.
In psychological science, experiments have to be repeatable and with certain
qualities. Psychological science is an empirical science where want to
decide the nature of things on the basis of experiments.
Many theories about human behavior are not testable, at least with control
methods. E.g. smoking and cancer. It is unethical to force one group to smoke
and to prevent other from doing it. Some variables are not measurable.
Need to know if an experiment is empirical, i.e. if it can be tested.
Non empirical experiment: Einstein’s idea of a space ship travelling at 98% of
speed of light. Fortunately, using physics and math, this experiment can be
simulated, making inference and developing a thought experiment.
Need to make sure that the experiment is valid. Validity and the burden of truth
are on the experimenter.