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PsyB01 Chapter 1

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Connie Boudens

PSYB01 Methods in Behavioural Research Chapter 1: Scientific Understanding of Behaviour USES OF RESEARCH METHODS To make good decisions people must be able to read research literature in the particular field they’re working in, and apply it to their personal lives. Ex. people working in business environments frequently rely on research to make decisions abt marketing strategies, ways of improving employee productivity and morale, and methods of selecting and training new employees. Bottom line: knowledge of research methods and the ability to evaluate research reports are useful in many fields Important to recognize that scientific research has become increasingly prominent in public policy decisions & judicial decisions. An example of this is the Social Science Brief prepared by psychologists and accepted as evidence in the pcase precedent of Brown v. Board of Education  US Supreme Court banned school segregation in the states. In the Clark and Clark study (1974), the researchers found that when allowed to choose b/w light-skinned and dark-skinned dolls, both Black and White children preferred playing with the light-skinned dolls Behavioural research on human development influenced the decisions related to juvenile crime especially in the 2005 case of Roper v. Simmons where the Supreme Court decided that juveniles couldn’t face the death penalty  this decision was informed by neurological and behavioural research that showed that the brain, social, and character differences b/w adults and juveniles make juveniles less responsible/guilty than adults for the same crimes and juveniles should not be sentenced to life in prison. Research points out that juveniles’ have a lack of maturity and poorly formed character development Psychologists have provided science-based perspectives on the values of confessions. Research is also important when developing and assessing the effectiveness of programs designed to achieve certain goals ex. increase the retention of students in school. We need to be able to determine whether these programs are successfully meeting their goals THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH People rely on intuition and authority as a means of understanding and explaining what they see and experience The limitations of intuition and authority intuition We use intuition to gather general conclusions about the world around us. When you rely on intuition you accept unquestioningly what your own personal judgement or a single story about one person’s experience tells you. Intuition often involves finding an explanation for our own behaviours or the behaviours of others. Intuition is also used to explain intriguing events that you observe ex. when an adoption is loosely followed by a pregnancy, you tend to conclude that adoption increases the chances of conception among couples having difficulty conceiving a child Problem with intuition is that numerous cognitive and motivational biases affect our perceptions so we may draw erroneous conclusions about cause and effect. Gilvoch points out that there is no relationship b/w adoption and subsequent pregnancy according to scientific research Illusory correlation: a cognitive bias that occurs when we focus on two events that stand out and occur together (this is what the whole adoption increases the chances of becoming pregnant thing is). Illusory correlations are also likely to e recognizes occur when we are highly motivated to believe in the causal relationship  it is a natural thing for us to do but its not scientific Authority: Aristotle was concerned with the factors associated with persuasion or attitude change. In his Rhetoric he said “persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and readily than others” basically he’s arguing that we are biased by our impressions of people, we are more likely to be persuaded by a speaker who seems prestigious & trustworthy than by someone who’s appearance lacks such qualities. Ex. we might automatically believe this argument w/o challenging it b/c it comes from Aristotle who is one smart dude and everyone knows him  he is a convincing and influential source. The scientific approach rejects the idea that one can accept on faith the statements of any authority  evidence is needed before we can draw scientific conclusions Skepticism Science and the Empirical Approach The scientific approach to acquiring knowledge recognizes that both intuition and authority can be a source of IDEAS about behaviour but scientists don’t unquestioningly accept anyone’s intuitions, including their own. Scientists don’t accept on faith the pronouncements of anyone regardless of their prestige or authority (so they won’t believe something just cuz Einstein said it’s true, they’ll question it!). Scientific skepticism: ideas must be evaluated on the basis of careful logic and results from scientific investigations Empiricism: the fundamental characteristic of the scientific model. It is the idea that knowledge is based on observations, and conclusions about the nature of the world are drawn from analyzing data collected. The scientific method embodies a number of rules for collecting and evaluation data Goodstein describes an “evolved theory of science” that defines the characteristic of scientific inquiry. The characteristics are: • Data play a central role: for scientist knowledge is based on observations that will verify their ideas about the world. So they develop theories and conduct research that increases our confidence that their theories are correct. Scientists have a “show me, don’t tell me” attitude  like I won’t believe it until I see in (IN WRITING!) • Scientists are not alone: Scientists make observations that are accurately reported to other scientists and the public; others can replicate the method and obtain the same results • Science is adversarial: ideas must battle with other ideas in order to move even closer to the truth. Research can be conducted to test any idea. Good scientific ideas are testable, the can be supported or falsified by data (the idea o proving a concept wrong is called falsifiability). 2 • Scientific evidence is peer reviewed: other scientists who have expertise must carefully review and evaluate the research before a study is published in a scientific journal  this is called peer reviewing. This review process ensure that research with major flaws won’t become part of the scientific literature o Science is a free market of ideas in which the best ideas are supported by research and scientists can build upon the research of others to make further advances Integrating Intuition, Skepticism and Authority • The scientific approach provides an objective set of rules for gathering, evaluating and reporting info  its an open system that allows ideas to be refuted or supported by others. Authority and intuition aren’t completely forgone in scientific research; scientists rely on intuition and assertions of authorities for ideas for research. Scientific evidence is [usually] not obtainable for things like religion where we are asked to accept certain beliefs by fait. Science is based on evidence used to support or refute the ideas • There is also nothing
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