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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYCH 291
Professor
John Holmes
Semester
Fall

Description
[ CHAPTER ONE ] – PSYCHOLOGY IS ALIVE AND WELL (AND DOING FINE AMONG THE SCIENCES) The Freud Problem  Freud + pop ―psychologists‖ (i.e. Dr. Phil) presented in media largely defines psych in public mind - greatly affected general public’s conceptions and contributed to many misunderstandings  Modern psych NOT obsessed nor largely defined by ideas of Freud  For a theory to be scientific, link btwn theory & beh’al data must meet some min. req’mts - Freud’s theories dN The Diversity of Modern Psychology  Understanding tht psych is composed of incredibly wide & diverse set of investigations is critical to appreciation Implications of Diversity  Psych is diverse (TF) no 1 grand theory to unify & explain all aspects of human beh’ Unity in Science  Only 2 things tht justify psych as (i) discipline: 1) studies full range of human & nonhuman beh’ w/ ™’s of sci 2) applications tht derive from this knowledge are sci-based  Psych diff in attempts to give public 2 guarantees: 1) conclusions abt beh’ tht it produces derive from sci evidence 2) practical applications of psych derived from & tested by sci methods  Defining f/ of psych: data-based sci study of beh’  If evo’n bio (w/ its long & impressive record of sci achievements) still engenders public opposition, is it any wonder tht psych (most recent discipline to bring long held beliefs abt humans under sci scrutiny) currently provokes ppl to deny its validity? What, Then, Is Science?  To understand what psych is, must 1 understand tht sci is not defined by: - subject matter - use of particular expmt apparatus  Sci defined by: 1) use of systematic empiricism 2) production of public knowledge 3) examination of solvable problems Systematic Empiricism  Empiricism = practice of relying on obsv’n  Termed systematic b/c sci obsv’n structured so tht results of obsv’n reveal sth abt underlying nature of world  Sci obsv’n usually theory driven - structured so tht, depending on outcome of obsv’n, some theories supported & others rejected Publicly Verifiable Knowledge: Replication and Peer Review  Sci makes idea of public verifiability concrete via replication—finding presented to sci community in way tht enables other scientists to attempt same expmt and obtain same results  ensures finding not due simply to error/biases  Publicly verifiable knowledge = findings presented to sci community in such a way tht they can be replicated, criticized, or extended by anyone in community  Important criterion for both scientists & layperson (as consumers)  Peer review = procedure in which each paper submitted to research journal critiqued by several scientists, who then submit criticism to editor (usually scientists w/ extensive hist of work in specialty area covered by journal) who makes final judgment (publish/not/what needs editing) Empirically Solvable Problems: Scientists’ Search for Testable Theories  If a problem is not solvable or theory not testable by empirical ™’s tht scientists have at hand, then scientists will not attack it  Sequence: theory  prediction  test  test modification  What makes a theory testable? - must have specific implications for obsv’able events in natural world  Sci is a process tht turns mysteries into problems Psychology and Folk Wisdom: The Problem with “Common Sense”  Problem w/ our common sense knowledge (general principles, homilies, clichés, etc.) abt beh’ is much of it contradicts itself (TF) unfalsifiable i.e. ―look before you leap” vs. “he who hesitates is lost”  Psycho-fact = belief tht, though not supported by hard evidence, taken as real b/c its constant repetition changes way we exp’ life i.e. folk wisdom: “we use only 10% of our brainpower”  w/ evidence becoming widely known, some ―common sense‖ does change Psychology as a Young Science  psych research often denigrated not b/c ppl think it’s bad but b/c they desire to avoid implications of info it might produce  psych often in no-win situation as a discipline - partially explained by relative youth as a sci [ CHAPTER TWO ] – FALSIFIABILITY: HOW TO FOIL LITTLE GREEN MEN IN THE HEAD Theories and the Falsifiability Criterion  Sci theories must always be stated in such a way tht predictions derived from them could potentially be shown to be false - falsifiability criterion = for a theory to be useful, predictions drawn from it must be specific  Successful theory is not one tht acc’s for every possible outcomes b/c such a theory robs itself of any predictive pwr  Theory = interrelated set of concepts used to explain body of data and to make predictions abt results of future expmts  Hypothesis = specific predictions derived from theories  The more specific predictions make, the greater impact when confirmed  Good theories make predictions tht expose themselves to falsifications; bad theories dN jeopardize themselves in this way  Existence of unfalsifiable theories does real damage i.e. Freudian theories: influenced by its ideas, psychologists Bruno Bettelheim popularized now- discredited notion of “refrigerator mothers” as cause and thought tht “precipitating factor in infantile autism is parent‟s wish tht child should not exist” - ideas like this not only damage but set back study of autism The Little Green Man  ESP & Little Green Man: it’s there as long as you don’t intrude to look at it carefully, and when you do it disappears Not All Confirmations Are Equal  Must look not only at quantity of confirming evidence, but also at quality of confirming instances  Sci is mech for continually challenging previously held beliefs by subjecting them to empirical tests in such a way tht they can be shown to be wrong to prevent intellectual stagnation - often puts sci & psych in conf’ w/ so-called folk wisdom or common sense  Sci seeks conceptual change and tries to describe world as it really is, as opposed to what our prior beliefs dictate it should be The Freedom to Admit a Mistake  Essence of sci is ―making mistakes in public—making mistakes for all to see, in hopes of getting others to help w/ corrections‖  Strength of sci knowledge comes not b/c scientists are virtuous, but from soc’ processes where scientists constantly cross-check each others’ knowledge & conclusions Thoughts Are Cheap  Those grand theories tht are so global, complicated, and ―fuzzy‖ tht they can be used to explain anything Errors in Science: Getting Closer to the Truth  Many rel’nshps in sci confirmed so many times tht they are termed laws b/c extremely doubtful they will be overturned by future expmt’n i.e. earth orbiting sun  Scientists always trying to refine theories as much as possible and to test limits of current knowledge - often more scientists look ―uncertain‖ [ CHAPTER THREE ] – OPERATIONISM AND ESSENTIALISM: “BUT, DOCTOR, WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?”  Essentialism = idea tht only good sci theories are those tht give ultimate explanations of phenomena in terms of their underlying essences or their essential purposes  Sci dN answer essentialist q’ns - instead, advances by dvlp’g operational definitions of concepts Why Scientists Are Not Essentialists  b/c free and open pursuit of knowledge is prereq’ for sci activity, scientists always sceptical of claims tht ultimate answer found Essentialists Like to Argue About the Meaning of Words  before word can be used as concept in theory, must have complete & unambiguous understanding of all underlying lang problems involved in its usage - sci, instead, dN - meaning of concept in sci dtrmn’d after extensive investigation of phenomena term refers to  key to progress in sci: abandon essentialism and adopt operationism Operationists Link Concepts to Observable Events  operationism = idea tht concepts in sci theories must in some way be grounded in or linked to obsv’able events tht can be measured - linking makes concept public (TF) testable by anyone  concept in sci defined by set of op’ns Reliability and Validity  both must be displayed for operational definition of concept to be useful  reliability = consistency of measuring instrument—whether same measurement arrived at if same concept assess multiple times  construct validity = whether measuring instrument (operational definition) measure what it’s supposed to Direct and Indirect Operational Definitions  few direct (obsv’able op’ns in real world)  most concepts defined indirectly i.e. dtrmn‟d by both set of op‟ns & particular concept‟s rel‟nshp to other theoretical constructs i.e. complex concept linked w/ other concepts, which, in turn, have operational definitions Scientific Concepts Evolve  as sci concepts evolve, often become enmeshed in several diff theoretical sys’ and acq’ alt operational definitions Operational Definitions in Psychology  source of misunderstanding and impediment to accurate presentation of psych findings in media is tht many technical concepts in psych are designated by words used in everyday lang - layperson dN realize words dN necessarily mean same thing Operationism as a Humanizing Force  problem w/ all intuitively based sys’s of belief is tht they have no mech for deciding among conf’g claims  humanizing force in sci is tht of making knowledge claims public so tht conf’g ideas can be tested in a way tht is acceptable to all disputants  in rejecting personal definitions, psych not shutting out layperson but opening up field to quest for common, publicly accessible knowledge tht all can share Essentialist Questions and the Misunderstanding of Psychology  problem for psych: public demands answers to essentialist q’ns tht it dN routinely demand of other sci’s Operationism and the Phrasing of Psychological Questions  presence of concepts tht are not directly/indirectly grounded in obsv’able q’ns important due to recognizing non-falsifiable theory - usually intended to rescue such a theory from disconfirmation after data collected  parsimony = when 2 theories have same explanatory pwr, simpler theory preferred - b/c theory w/ fewer conceptual rel’nshps will likely be more falsifiable of the 2 in future tests  combo of pre-existing bias and nonoperational essentialist attitudes tht fuel assumption tht ppl ―just know‖ w/o any necessity of operational criteria - what makes most ppl’s intuitive psych theories unfalsifiable (TF) useless [ CHAPTER FOUR ] – TESTIMONIALS AND CASE STUDY EVIDENCE: PLACEBO EFFECTS AND THE AMAZING RANDI  Common occurrence in media psych: present own ―clinical exp‖ or ―case studies‖ as proof The Place of the Case Study  … = investigation tht looks intensely and in detail at sgl indvdl or very small # of indvdls  Useful in early stages of investigation of certain problems as indicators of which variables deserve more intense study  Prominent role in opening up new areas of study  Not useful at later stages of sci investigation b/c cannot be used as confirming/disconfirming evidence in test of particular theory - b/c are isolated events tht lack comparative info necessary to rule out alt explanation  Testimonials are like case studies (isolated events) - problem: there are testimonials to support virtually every therapy tried  Data collected as support for particular theory must not leave many other alt explanations as equally viable candidates Why Testimonials Are Worthless: Placebo Effect  Mere suggestion tht trtmt being administered enough to make many ppl feel better  Placebo effect = tendency of ppl to report tht any trtmt has helped them regardless of whether it has real therapeutic element  Placebo responses can ―teach‖ chronic illness by confirming &/or reinforcing delusion of imagined disease - patients can become (d) on nonsci practitioners who employ placebo therapies The “Vividness” Problem  … = when faced w/ problem-solving/decision-making situation, ppl retrieve from memory info tht seems relevant to situation at hand - facts most accessible  Problem: vividness of personal testimony often overshadows other info of much higher reliability  Jumbo jet passengers (413 ppl) killed in crash more vivid than total of 300 ppl who die each wk in car accidents - b/c media portrays car crashes as indvdl events and dN blow up base as much as larger # of jumbo jet The Overwhelming Impact of a Single Case  Tendency for ppl’s judgments to be dominated by sgl salient example when more accurate info available  Fortunately, an alt: fight vividness w/ vividness The Amazing Randi: Fighting Fire with Fire  James Randi: magician, jack-of-all-trades, trying to teach public basic skills of critical thinking by exposing fraud & charlatanism of ―psychic‖ abilities  ™: let ppl be swallowed up in trap set by own testimonials i.e. on TV show, informed audience he had seen formation of orange V-shaped objects flying overhead and w/in seconds, station had witnesses calling in to confirm “sighting”  P.T. Barnum effect = indvdl will endorse generalized personality summaries as accurate and specific descriptions of themselves i.e. astrology Testimonials Open the Door to Pseudoscience  Opportunity costs = when you take time to do one thing, you have lost time to do sth else - when ppl spend time on pseudosci, they gain nothing and they waste time tht might have been spent on more productive endeavours  Ppl may be affected by pseudosci beliefs even if they dN share those beliefs i.e. ppl in areas w/o fluoridation suffering needless cavities b/c neighbours are in grip of pseudosci conspiracy theories abt its harmful effects in drinking water - beliefs of few –vely affect the many [ CHAPTER FIVE ] – CORRELATION AND CAUSATION: BIRTH CONTROL BY THE TOASTER METHOD  When causal link seems obvious to us, when we have strong pre-existing bias, or when our interpretations become dominated by our theoretical orientation, it is tempting to trt correlations as evidence of causation The Third Variable Problem: Goldberger and Pellagra  1900s: 1000s died of disease called pellagra - correlation btwn unsanitary houses & victims high  BUT Goldberger doubted: - thought correlation arose b/c families w/ sanitary plumbing likely to be economically adv↑’d (TF) reflected in better diets Why Goldberger’s Evidence Was Better  Ctrld’d manipulation of critical variable - involved setting up special conditions tht rarely occur naturally  Confident tht pellagra not contagious and not transmitted by bodily fluids of victims (TF) had himself injected w/: - blood, throat & nose secretions, and (L) feces of victim into own mouth (as pills rolled up in dough) - dN get pellagra  Test own: got 2 groups to receive high carb, low protein diet for or balanced diet - w/in 5 mths, high carb low protein group got pellagra while balanced diet showed no sign  Spurious correlations = correlations tht arise not b/c causal link exists btwn 2 variables tht are measured, both b/c both variables are related to 3 variable  Correlational statistics designed to allow correlation btwn 2 variables to be recalculated after influence of other variables removed/‖factored out‖/‖partialed out‖ - multiple regression - partial correlation - path analysis Selection Bias  … = refers to rel’nshp btwn certain subject & env variables tht may arise when ppl w/ diff bio, beh & psych characteristics select diff types of env - creates spurious correlation btwn env’al characteristics and beh-bio characteristics  Only way to ensure tht selection bias not operating is to conduct true expmt in which variables are manipulated [ CHAPTER SIX ] – GETTING THINGS UNDER CONTROL: THE CASE OF CLEVER HANS Snow and Cholera  1850s: outbreak of cholera in London  Dr.’s believed exhalations of victims inhaled by others who then contracted disease  Snow hypothesized spread by water supply, which had become contaminated w/ excrement of victims  One part of London had 2 water companies: upstream & downstream of sewage  Snow chemically tested water: - results: upstream – 37 deaths per 10 000 downstream – 315 deaths per 10 000 Comparison, Control, and Manipulation  By comparing results obtained in diff—but ctrl’d—conditions, scientists rule out certain explanation and confirm others  Essential goal of expmtal design: isolate a variable - outcome will eliminate # of alt theories tht may have been advanced as explanations - weed out max # of incorrect explanations either by directly ctrl’g expmtal situation or obsv’g kinds of naturally occurring situations tht allow them to test alt explanations  Instead, most scientists try to restructure world in ways tht will differentiate alt hypotheses - manipulate variable believed to be cause and obsv’ whether differential effect occurs while other relevant variables constant  Best expmtal design: manipulation Random Assignment in Conjunction with Manipulation Defines the True Experiment  Direct manipulation generates stronger inferences i.e. since design such as Snow‟s cannot rule out possibility of spurious correlation  When manipulation combined w/ random assignment, scientists can rule out alt explanations of data patterns tht depend on particular characteristics of subjects - as sample size i↑’s, RA tends to balance out chance factors *RA NOT same as random sampling  Fortunately for researchers, RA works pretty well even w/ relatively small #s (i.e. 20-25)  Confounding variables = extraneous variables tht could affect d.v.  Lack of systematic bias in RA allows us to be confident in any conclusions abt cause—as long as study can be replicated - b/c across series of such expmts, diffs btwn 2 groups on confounding variables will be balanced out The Importance of Control Groups  Drawing ppl’s attention away from necessity of comparative info is precisely what media often does  Field experiment = where variable manipulated in non-lab setting  Gov’s use ctrl groups i.e. w/o ctrl, gov would have no knowledge of what edu & health levels would be w/o program (mothers paid cash if they got prenatal care) The Case of Clever Hans, the Wonder Horse  German schoolteacher presented Clever Hans, horse tht coul
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