Ways of Knowing
How do we come to “know”?
● Mostly through agreement and belief--not personal experience or discovery
●Personal experience & indirect sources
● We learn about probability, and cause & effect (ex. toddler behavior)
○We desire predictability - but can we understand the results?
■ Investments of time vs. lucky streaks?
● “One in two marriages ends in divorce” - really
● Is drinking during pregnancy dangerous?
●Tradition - “Why? Because it’s always been this way.”
■ Little incentive to look for better ways to do or learn things
■ Resistance to new ideas
●Authority - People or systems we accord credibility
○ Diminished trust in traditional authorities
○ Diminished trust in mass media, in an increasingly fragmented media landscape
●Overgeneralizing - My one experience proves that…
●Inaccurate & selective observations - Reinforcing what we already know or are primed
● Problems with non-scientific beliefs
○ Based on limited knowledge
○Intuitive thinking; it just makes sense(?)
○ Drive to avoid cognitive dissonance
○ Times and conditions may change--so thinking has to be self-correcting
So, what is “real”?
● We live in a state of naive realism most of the time
●Perspective - What is universal and what is relative in human experience? (ex.
reasons for a bald head)
Epistemology - science of knowing; systems of knowledge
Methodology - science of finding out; procedures for scientific investigation
Agreement Reality - those things we “know” as part and parcel of the culture we share with
those around us
Replication - repeating a research study to test and either confirm or question the findings of an
Theory - systematic explanation for the observations that relate to a particular aspect of life;
juvenile delinquency, for example, or perhaps social stratification or political revolution
Variables - logical sets of attributes; the variable sex
is made of up of the attributes male
Attributes - characteristics of people or things
Independent Variable - a variable with values that are not problematic in an analysis but are
taken as simply given; presumed to cause or determine a dependent variable