Chapter 1: Scientiﬁc Understanding of Behaviour
Method of Acquiring Knowledge
• When you rely on intuition, you accept unquestioningly what your personal judgment or
a single story about one person’s experience tells you about the world.
• Often, it involves ﬁnding an explanation for our behaviours or for the behaviours of
others. Other times, intuition is used to explain intriguing events that you observe.
• A problem with intuition is that many cognitive and motivational biases affect our
perceptions, and so we are likely to draw erroneous conclusions about causes and
• Illusory correlation occurs when we focus on two events that stand out and occur
together. When a decision to stop looking is closely followed by ﬁnding a long-term
mate, our attention is drawn to the situation, but when a decision to stop looking is not
closely followed by ﬁnding a long-term mate, we don’t notice this non-event.
• Many people are all too ready to accept anything they learn from the news, media,
books, government officials, or religious ﬁgures. They believe that the statements of
such authorities must be true. Advertisers know this, and therefore use endorsements
by authorities to sell products.
Skepticism, Science, and the Empirical Approach
• The scientiﬁc approach to acquiring knowledge recognizes that both intuition and
authority are sources of idea about behaviour.
• 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 method is empiricism – knowledge is
based on structured, systematic, observations. After developing a hypothesis – an idea
that might be true – a scientist carefully collects data to evaluate whether that
hypothesis accurately reﬂects the nature of the world.
• Four Key characteristics guide the process of scientiﬁc inquiry.
• The ﬁrst is that scientists make systematic observations that are accurately reported to
other scientists and the public; other can replicate the methods used to check whether
they obtain the same results.
• Second, scientists enthusiastically search for observations that will help them make
accurate discoveries about the world.
• Third, science ﬂourishes when there is an open system for the exchange and
competition of ideas.
Researchers are only interested in falsiﬁable ideas, where data can reveal whether they
are truth or ﬁction.
• Fourth, peer review of research is very important in increasing the likelihood that only
the most rigorous research is published. Before a study is published in a scientiﬁc
publication, it must be reviewed by other scientists who have the expertise to carefully
evaluate the research and recommend whether the research should be published. Integrating Scientiﬁc Skepticism, Intuition, and Authority
The advantage of the scientiﬁc approach over other ways of knowing about the world 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 refuted or supported by others.
• There are many examples in daily life of pseudoscience, which uses scientiﬁc terms to
substantiate claims without using scientiﬁc data.
Some Warning Signs of Pseudoscience:
Hypotheses generated are falsiﬁable
If scientiﬁc test are reported, methodology is not scientiﬁc and accuracy of data is
Supportive evidence tends to be anecdotal or relies heavily on authorities who are “so-
called” experts in the area of interest. Genuine, peer-reviewed scientiﬁc references are not
Claims ignore conﬂicting evidence
Claims are stated in scientiﬁc-sounding terminology and ideas
Claims tend to be vague