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Lecture 1 - Ways of Knowing.docx

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Psychology 2800E
Doug Hazlewood

Psychology 2800-001 September 19, 2013 Ways of Knowing Part 1: How do we know? Part 2: The scientific way of knowing Part 1: How do we know?  Charles Pierce (1877): wrote an essay called The “Fixation of Belief”  Described several ways of ‘knowing’ / fixating belief A) Authority  Relying on what authorities say (i.e. parents, professors)  But, authorities can be wrong  Parents can pass on incorrect information  Knowledge can be biased, incomplete or just completely wrong B) Logical Discourse (the “a proiri” method)  Knowledge that is “agreeable to reason”  Example: deductive logical (syllogisms):  Begin with general premises (that are believed, a priori, to be true)  Deduce specific conclusion from these premises (new knowledge)  Together, the premises and conclusion form what’s called a syllogism Example: Do Kangaroos of Livers?  Premise 1: All kangaroos are mammals  Premise 2: All mammals have livers  Conclusion: Therefore, it is logical to deduce that all kangaroos have liver Problem #1: The premises might not be true  Thus any conclusion you draw from the premise would be wrong - P1: Socrates was a Dog - P2: Dogs are not human - C: Socrates was not human Problem #2: “Logical Errors” - P1: All welfare is “giving to the poor” - P2: All charity is “giving to the poor” - C: All welfare is charity. But is it? Consider this: - P1: All Canadians are people - P2: All Egyptians are people - C: All Canadians are Egyptians ??? C) Empiricism: Relying on direct experience and observations  Problems occur when we rely too much on “subjective empiricism”:  Relying on informal, “intuitive” experiences and observations Psychology 2800-001 September 19, 2013 1. Knowledge we gain is too general (it describes everything, but predicts nothing)  E.g. Common Sense (conventional wisdom) - Haste makes waste, BUT o “he who hesitates is lost” - “two heads are better than one”, BUT o “too many cooks spoil the soup  Note: it’s not that common sense is wrong; instead, we don’t know when it’s right - Don’t know the specific conditions when it applies - So it can never be disconfirmed 2. Subjective experiences and observations are often biased  The availability bias: occurs when judging the frequency of events  People assume that events that are easily available in memory are also more frequent  But this is not always the case! Example 1: Some events are easier to retrieve from memory, even though this has nothing to do with their frequency in the real world  E.g. in the English language: which is more frequent? 1) Words beginning with the letter “k” OR 2) Words with “k” as the third letter  Most people choose (1) because they’re easier to retrieve from memory, but (2) is more than twice as frequent! Example 2: Some events are easier to imagine (makes them available in memory, so judged to be more frequent)  E.g. which is more frequent cause of death 1) Being killed by “shark attack” OR 2) Being killed by “falling airplane part”  Most people choose (1) because it’s easier to imagine, but (2) is 30 times more likely! Example 3: We’re exposed to biased samples of events (which makes them more available)  E.g. smokers overestimate the number of people who smoke (because they see more smokers)  Are you more likely to die from 1) A car accident OR 2) Stomach cancer?  (2) I the correct answer, but most people say (1). Why?  People are more likely to hear about car accidents in the media (provides a biased sample)  For additional examples of biases, see: 1. Stanovich  Ch4: the “viv
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