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PSYB01H3 (585)
Chapter 1

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Connie Boudens

Chapter 1: Scientific Understanding of Behaviour Uses of Research Methods  Scientific research is a valuable way of answering questions about human behaviour  Need to be informed about research methods  media informs us about different research results (ex. Breast fed children found smarter)  Survey results are frequently reported that draw conclusions about our beliefs concerning a variety of topics  background in research methods will help you to read these reports critically, evaluate the methods employed, and decide whether the conclusions are reasonable  many occupations require the use of research findings  It is also important to recognize that scientific c research has become increasingly prominent in public policy decisions (propose legislation based on research findings)  Social Science Brief that was prepared by psychologists and accepted as evidence in the landmark 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education in which the U.S. Supreme Court banned school segregation in the United States (a study performed by Clark and Clark showed that when black and white children were given the choice to play with light or dark coloured skin dolls, they both preferred to play with light skin dolls)  Research has helped in supreme court for juveniles  Research is also important when developing and assessing the effectiveness of programs designed to achieve certain goals—for example, to increase retention of students in school, influence people to engage in behaviors that reduce their risk of contracting HIV, or teach employees how to reduce the effects of stress The Scientific Approach  Instead of scientific approach, some people rely on intuition and authority as ways of knowing (not scientific enough) The limitations of Intuition and Authority Intuition:  the observation that when a women adopts a child because she cannot conceive and then she becomes pregnant, is a common belief and intuitively reasonable  When you rely on intuition, you accept unquestioningly what your own personal judgment or a single story about one person’s experience tells you  it involves finding an explanation for our own behaviors or the behaviors of others (why you hate your roommate, or why adoption increases your chances of having a child)  cognitive and motivational biases that draw conclusions about cause and effect  cognitive bias called illusory correlation that occurs when we focus on two events that stand out and occur together (ex. Adoption and pregnancy)  need more evidence to be scientific approach Authority:  Aristotle would argue that 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  We might accept his argument because he is an authoritative figure  People believe that statements from authoritative figures or news must be true (not always the case) Skepticism, Science, and the Empirical Approach  The scientific approach to acquiring knowledge recognizes that both intuition and authority can be sources of ideas about behavior  Scientists don’t just accept others people tuition, still think they are wrong as well as things that authoritative figures say (very skeptical about what they say)  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 —the idea that knowledge is based on observations  Power of scientific approach  Goodstein describes an “evolved theory of science” that defines the characteristics of scientific inquiry 1. Data play a central role (knowledge is based on observation) 2. Scientists are not alone (others will replicate research to make sure it is right) 3. Science is adversarial (ideas battle with other ideas to get closer to the truth, also good scientific ideas are testable, they can be supported or they can be falsified by data—the latter concept called falsifiability) 4. Scientific evidence is peer-reviewed (other expertise evaluate research before it is published, called peer review) Integrating Intuition, Skepticism and Authority  Advantages of s.a= gathering and evaluating information as well as can be refuted or supported by others  Scientists rely on intuition and authority for research ideas  For example, opinions on whether exposure to media violence increases aggression are only opinions until scientific evidence
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