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Chapter 1

PSYB01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Illusory Correlation, Scientific Method, Cognitive Bias

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Connie Boudens

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Methods in Behavioral Research 11th edition
Chapter 1 Scientific Understanding of Behaviour
Uses of Research Methods
- Understanding research methods helps with the skill of reading studies/reports critically,
evaluating the employed methods, and deciding whether the conclusions are reasonable
- Many occupations require the use of research findings
o i.e. mental health professionals in the assignment of clients to different medications
o i.e. court decisions related to juvenile crime (influenced by behavioral research on
human development
- Research is important in developing and assessing the effectiveness of programs that are
designed to achieve certain goals
The Scientific Approach
- Often, people rely on intuition and authority as ways of knowing, insteading of using the
scientific approach
- Limitations of Intuition and Authority
o Intuition
When relying on intuition, one unquestioningly accepts what your own
personal judgement or a single story about another’s experience tells you
Intuitive approach often involves finding an explanation for our own
behaviour or that of others and can also be used in explaining intriguing
events that we observe
Problem: cognitive and motivational biases affect our perceptions which can
lead to erroneous conclusions of cause and effect
Illusory correlation: cognitive bias that occurs when we focus on two events
that stand out and occur together which leads to a perceived causal
Scientific approach requires much more evidence before conclusions can be
o Authority
Aristotle: We are more likely to be persuaded by a speaker who seems
prestigious, trustworthy, and respectable than by one who appears to lack
such qualities
Problem: statements may not be true
Scientific approach rejects that one can accept the statements of any authority
- Skepticism, Science and the Empirical Approach
o Skepticism: Ideas must be evaluated on the basis of careful logic and results from
scientific investigations
o Empiricism: The idea that knowledge is based on observations; fundamental
characteristic of the scientific method
o Goodstein (2000) an “evolved theory of science” defines the characteristics of
scientific inquiry
Data play a central role: scientists have a “show me, don’t tell me” attitude;
data is central and fundamental in the cases that observations are criticized,
alternatives are suggested, and data collection methods are questioned
Scientists are not alone: scientists make observations that are accurately
reported to other scientists and the public
Science is adversarial: ideas battle with other ideas in order to move closer to
the truth; some ideas may prove to be wrong if research fails to support them;
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