5. practical problems
•Common sense – the body of knowledge of things we all believe to be true
(ie. “do opposites attract”)
•Testing common sense is valuable because such notions don’t always turn
out to be true or research may show the real world is much more
complicated than our common sense ideas would have it.
•Conducting research to test common sense often makes us go beyond the
common sense theory of behavior.
Observation of the World
•Curiousity sparked by observation often leads to asking questions about
phenomena (ie. “When I hide something in a special place I often forget where I
put it”). This is what leads most students to engage in their first research project.
•There is a great diversity of the ideas that can be generated in this way.
•Fried suggested that the negative reaction to rap music may arise because it is
associated with Black music. To test this he asked participants to read lyrics to a
folk song with a violent message and he told them it was either a rap song or a
country song. He found they had more negative reactions when they were told it
was a rap song.
•Lynn was a waiter through university and during that time formed many
hypotheses about what increased tips. He took this further and used a scientific
approach to test his ideas, making an entire career out of it and making many new
discoveries. Lynn exemplifies that taking a scientific approach to a problem can
lead to important applications.
•Serendipity – sometimes the most interesting discoveries are the result of
accident of sheer luck. Pavlov (and the salivating dog) is an excellent example of
this. Such discoveries can only be made by luck when you are studying the world
with an inquisitive eye.
•Theories serve two important functions in increasing our understanding of
• They organize and explain a variety of specific facts or descriptions of behavior.
Such facts are meaningless on their own, so theories impose a framework on
them, making the world more comprehensible by providing a few abstract
concepts around which we can organize and explain a variety of behaviors (ie.
Darwin’s theory of evolution).
•They generate new knowledge by focusing our thinking so we notice new aspects
of behavior – they guide our observation of the world.
•Theory – a scientific theory is grounded in actual data: observations that have
been made and hypotheses that can be tested through research – they can be