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Philosophy and History in Science PSYCH 291

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Joanne Wood

PSYCH 291 Philosophy and History of Science Psychology and public perception *There exists much confusion as to the nature and function of psychological research amongst the public *Rodney Dangerfield of Sciences: “I don’t get no respect.” Why? The ‘Freud problem’ Self-help industry: “Anything goes” *Self help books, radio talk shows, etc. geared more toward entertainment than actual sharing of scientific knowledge Media logic: Entertainment rules *Magazine articles, television programs *Anecdotal evidence cited as ‘proof’ *Case studies and personal stories are not scientific!! *In psychology, we want the aggregate or average. *Science is NOT based upon case studies. Media logic: Entertainment rules *Example: McLean’s magazine article on ‘putting the child first’ *Adult children of divorce actually are slightly more anxious than adult children of non- divorce *Studies of the appropriate group of comparison (parents who stay together for the children), show that these kids are the most ‘maladjusted’ Parapsychology and guilt-by-association *telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition (from the Parapsychological Association) *about 50% of people believe in parapsychology *Public associates this type of subject as being identified with psychology It’s all common sense: The “heads I win, tails you lose” problem *Positive results taken as support, negative (null) results not taken as evidence against *Too often, aggregate data ignored in favour of results that support one’s particular theoretical position Everyone’s an expert: Personal “theories” *If counterintuitive findings occur, people don’t believe it. *If people feel that they know the results of a study “that’s common sense”. *Science is about what happens on average, not individual experiences. Contradictory “psychofacts” *Opposites attract vs. Birds of a feather flock together *Look before you leap vs. He who hesitates is lost *Haste makes waste vs. Time waits for no man *Two heads are better than one vs. Too many cooks spoil the broth *Better to be safe than sorry vs. Nothing ventured, nothing gained Psychology is a young, “inexact” science *People are resistant to accepting that much of human behaviour can be predicted *Again, violations of anecdotal examples are treated as strong evidence against normative predictions *Lay people often believe that many concepts should be common sense, or cannot be studied. Strongly-held life assumptions, cultural beliefs & wishful thinking *People have a vested interest in their personal psychological theories *E.g., love, happiness, memory, child-rearing Catch 22 *Some people don’t think that an empirical understanding of human behaviour is possible *Others object to studying certain topics as the results could threaten their beliefs! Same old story *Hypatia of Alexandria- murdered because her interest in science was associated with paganism *Galileo- peers refused to look into his new telescope because it would have violated their philosophical and theological beliefs *Charles Darwin- ‘nuff said *Less dramatic now, but similar resistance An example *Cambridge University *100 years ago refused to establish a psychophysics lab because study of such a topic would “insult religion by putting the human soul on a pair of scales” What is psychology? *“empirical science of human behaviour” Common sub-fields *Developmental psychology *Social psychology *Cognitive psychology *Cognitive neuroscience (physiological psychology) *Clinical psychology *Industrial/Organizational psychology What makes psychology unique? *Two things that justify psychology as an independent discipline *1) Conclusi
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