Overview of Basic Concepts, Roles, and Goals Philosophy & Methods of Science
What is Psychology? • Comprehensive discipline in which practitioners focus on understanding human behavior its underlying emotional, mental, and physiological processes. • According to the APA: • Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental health care services, "the understanding of behavior" is the enterprise of psychologists. (About APA, ¶ 5)
Misunderstandings Regarding Psychology • Psychologists are mind-readers • Psychologists analyze and diagnose every person they meet • The differences between psychologists and psychiatrists • Bachelors degrees in psychology are useless • One does not have to understand statistics and research methods to be a psychologist • Dr. Phil is a good example of a psychologist. • What have you heard?
Psychology and the Lay Person • How the general public is exposed to psych or forms opinions about psych: • Self-help books • Television/Radio talk-shows • Mass Media (News, TV, and Movies) • “Experts” in interviews • Character portrayals • Maybe an AP Psychology or PSYC 101 class • Maybe through personal experience (counseling or mediation)
Psychology is a Science • Grounded in Empiricism: • Observation, Measurement, and Analysis • Engaged in the replication of findings. • Methods section of a manuscript • Participants, Procedures, Instruments/Tests, Variables measured, etc. • Engaged in peer review and evaluation. • Most reputable journals peer review articles • Reviewers are professionals • There are standards • Must not withhold research data for review ( see APA Code, 8.14) • Falsifiability • Researchers in psychology use the scientific method.
Classical Definition(Roger Bacon, 13th century) Science is a set of procedures, based on mathematics and experimentation, to establish NATURAL explanations for events in the natural world.
Classical Assumptions: • No event in the universe “just happens” (I.e., events are caused by other events)
Classical Assumptions: • No event in the universe “just happens” (i.e., events are caused by other events) • There is an order, a set of principles, governing reality. Not all things are possible.
Classical Assumptions: • No event in the universe “just happens” (i.e., events are caused by other events) • There is an order, a set of principles, governing reality. Not all things are possible. • Simple (knowable) rules govern even complex events (i.e., there is parsimony to the rules of reality)
Corollaries to Basic Assumptions: • Physical reality exists and can be observed and measured, however imperfectly (pragmatic realism) • Statements about that reality should be limited to what can be observed and measured
Science’s “Rules of Evidence”: • Physical (empirical) evidence “trumps” all other forms • No claim about reality ever is proven to be TRUE; all claims are subject to reinterpretation, modification, and possible disproof • Therefore, all claims must be stated such that they can be tested and falsified if false • Therefore, detailed methods of acquiring evidence must be provided so that they may be replicated, so that claims may be tested
Scientific (Constructive) Skepticism vs. Cynicism: • Cynicism: Doubt everything, because someone always has something to gain from any claim • Scientific Skepticism: Demand evidence for everything; accept no claim without it; accept no claim that cannot be replicated by skeptics; accept no claim as ABSOLUTE TRUTH
The Goal of Modern Science: • Build a less inaccurate map of reality by means of 1. Hypothesis testing (What is an hypothesis?) 2. Theory construction (What is a theory?)