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Lecture 2

Lecture 2 - The goals of Science & The Role of Theories.docx

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Psychology 2800E
Doug Hazlewood

Psychology 2800-001 September 26, 2013 The Goals of Science & the Role of Theories W&M Ch 1 Stanovich Ch 2, 3, 5, 8 Part 1: The Goals of Science A) Classification of Goals:  Ultimate Goals: Understanding & Explaining  Intermediate Goals: Prediction & Control  Basic (immediate) Goals B) Types of Basic Goals: 1. Description (two levels):  Idiographic level (describe unique attributes of “things” – objects, people, behaviour);  World becomes complicated if everything is described in terms of its unique idiographic attributes  Nomothetic level (describe what things have in common) 2. Identifying Concepts: Names we use to classify things that have common attributes  E.g. male/female  Concepts are generalizations ( always more general than the specific things that hey describe, e.g. “mammal”)  Mammals describe all warm-blooded animals that give birth to live offspring; concept is more specific than things that it describes  Group can describe two people talking vs. two nations at war  “Helping” as a concept can be donating to charity vs. helping someone across the street  Scientific concepts are not always the same as concepts we use in everyday life (e.g. “aggression”)  A person’s definition of aggression may not be the same definition as that of a scientist  Scientific concepts must be clearly defined to avoid confusion with everyday terms  Concepts are not real things; they’re words that we use to describe things  You can’t see a concept; it’s a word to describe a thing  Other terms:  “Constructs” (words are inventions or constructions);  “Hypothetical constructs” (concepts that can never be directly observed, e.g., intelligence; self-esteem – they exist entirely within the person)  One may believe that relying on constructs might be inconsistent with the idea that science is objectively empirical (observations that can be verified & replicated by an independent observer) -> if intelligence & self-esteem cannot be directly observed, how can it be understood using scientific methods?  At some point, we have to translate our concepts/constructs into things that can be observed Psychology 2800-001 September 26, 2013 3. Identify “regular relations” between concepts  Identify correlations between concepts;  If you watch children play, you might find a correlation between gender and aggression  Identifying correlations facilitates “prediction” (intermediate goal of science)  i.e. large big toe correlated to being tall  However, correlation does not tell us anything about causes (see Stanovich, Ch5)  Identify causal relations;  Facilitates “control” (intermediate goal)  If A causes B, we can control B by manipulating A  To truly understand things, we must understand causal relationships  Need to conduct “experiments” to understand causal relations Interlude: Is any “regular relation” a “law”  A law describes a regular relation that’s highly general across people, contexts, and times (e.g., see the same relation in all people, in all contexts, at all times).  Why psychology doesn’t have many “laws” compared to natural/physical sciences:  Psychology is a relatively young science;  Things we study in psychology are more complex:  Chemicals don’t blush (but people do)  The Ultimate Goal of Science Part 2: Th
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