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Chapter 1

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Connie Boudens

Methods in Behavioral Research – 11 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 connection  Scientific approach requires much more evidence before conclusions can be drawn 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; ideas can be falsified – if so, science is thereby advanced because it can lead to new and better ideas  Scientific evidence is peer-reviewed: other scientists who have the expertise, evaluate research to review it before publishing; peer-reviewing ensures that research with major flaws with not become a part of scientific literature - Integrating Intuition, Skepticism and Authority o Assertions of authority can be accepted, but cannot be accepted as scientific evidence o Some beliefs beyond the realms of science because they are not testable o In science, ideas have to be evaluated on the basis of available evidence that can be
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