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Anna Nagy

Chapter 1 – Scientific Understanding of Behavior Uses of Research Methods • Having knowledge of research methods allows us to evaluate studies presented to the public (ie “eating disorders are more common in warm climates”) and think critically about whether or not the conclusions are reasonable • Many occupations require the use of research findings (ie. mental health professions) and it is important to recognize that scientific research has become increasingly important in public policy decisions. Politicians frequently take political positions based on research findings. It can also influence judicial decisions, as exemplified by the Social Science Brief used as evidence in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. • Important when developing and assessing the effectiveness of programs designed to achieve certain goals The Scientific Approach Many people, incorrectly, rely on intuition and authority instead of scientific research. The Limitations of Intuition and Authority • When you rely on intuition you accept unquestioningly what your own personal judgment or a single story tells you about the world. Often, it involves finding an explanation for our own behavior or the behavior of others (ie. “I fight with people at work because they want my job”) or to explain intriguing events (ie. couples tend to get pregnant after they adopt) • The problem is that numerous cognitive and motivational biases affect our perception, therefore we draw erroneous conclusions. • Illusionary correlation – occurs when we focus on two events that stand out and occur together. We are biased to conclude that there must be a causal connection because we are highly motivated to believe the causal relationship. Authority • Aristotle would argue that we are more likely to be persuaded by a speaker who seems prestigious, trustworthy, and respectable than by one who lacks such qualities. • Many people are all to ready to accept anything they learn from the news media, books, government officials, or religious figures, for they believe the statements to be true, but they may very well be false. • Science rejects the notion of accepting on faith and requires evidence. Skepticism, Science, and the Empirical Approach • Scientists do not unquestioningly accept anyone’s intuition, including their own, nor do they allow a person’s prestige or authority cause them to accept on faith what they pronounce. • Scientific skepticism means that ideas must be evaluated on the basis of careful logic and results from scientific investigations. • The fundamental characteristic of the scientific model is empiricism – knowledge is based on direct observation. • Goodstein (2000) describes an “evolved theory of science” that defines the characteristics of scientific inquiry: -Observations accurately reported to others. The public can then try to replicate methods used and obtain the same data. Fabricating data is unethical and dealt with by strong sanctions. -Search for discovery and verification of ideas. They develop theories and argue that existing data supports their theories, conducting research to increase confidence in their theories. -Open exchange and competition among ideas. Supporters and those who oppose the theory can present their research findings to be evaluated. Good scientific ideas are testable, they can be supported or disproved by data – they are falsifiable. In science, ideas must be tested on the basis of available evidence that can be used to support or refute the ideas. Even if an idea is disproved, it advances science because it can spur new ideas. -Peer review of research. It is used to ensure only the best research is published, not flawed research. Before a study is published in a scientific journal, it must be reviewed by other scientists who have expertise to carefully evaluate and recommend what should be published. Integrating Intuition, Skepticism, and Authority • The advantage of the scientific approach is that it provides an objective set of rules for gathering, evaluating, and reporting information. It is an open system that allows ideas to be accepted or refuted by others. • Authority and intuition are not unimportant. Scientists often rely on intuition and assertion of authorities for ideas for research, and there is nothing wrong with accepting the statements of authority (ie putting blind faith in religion) as long as we do not take them as scientific facts. • There is nothing wrong with presenting opinions as long as they are not presented as facts, however, we should ask whether the idea can be tested or if evidence exists to support it. • When someone claims to be a scientist, should we be more willing to accept what they say? Look at the credentials of the individual and the reputation of the institution represented by the person or the researcher’s funding source. • Be aware of “pseudoscientists”. Characteristics of pseudoscientists are: -Hypothesis generated are typically not testable -If scientific tests are reported, methodology is not scientific and validity of data is questionable -Claims ignore conflicting evidence -Claims are stated in scientific-sounding terminology -Claims tend to be vague, rationalize strongly held beliefs, and appeal to pre- conceived ideas -Claims are never revised • We are highly susceptible to false scientific findings via the Internet. Goals of Science 1. to describe behavior 2. to predict behavior 3. to determine causes of behavior 4. to understand or explain behavior Description of Behavior  Scientists first begin with careful observation because the first goal of science is to describe behavior.  Researchers are often interested in describing the ways in which events are systematically related (ie. do students who study with t
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