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The Science of Psychology. Write your answers to the following on a sheet of paper. True or False. Science is a collection of facts Hard sciences are more rigorous and scientific than soft sciences. Scientific ideas are absolute and unchanging.

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The Science of Psychology


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  1. The Science of Psychology

  2. Write your answers to the following on a sheet of paper. True or False • Science is a collection of facts • Hard sciences are more rigorous and scientific than soft sciences. • Scientific ideas are absolute and unchanging. • The job of a scientist is to find support for his or her hypothesis. • Scientists are completely objective in their evaluation of scientific ideas.

  3. Why is science different • Science isn’t just a collection of facts • Falsification • Determinism • Parsimony • Systematic observations/Empiricism • Asks answerable questions • Public knowledge • Tentative conclusions • Based on theories that can be refuted

  4. Science is flawed: People are flawed • People are not objective; they are biased • How topic is studied/Choice of design • Previous beliefs • Expectations • Information processing/How evidence is evaluated • Motivational • selective attention, selective recall, confirmation bias • Desire for social consensus • Illusory correlations and personal contact

  5. Science is flawed: Research methods are flawed • There is no such thing as the perfect research study • Measurement • Observation • Hypotheses and predictions • Inferences drawn from observations • People do science • Still, what’s the alternative?!

  6. Can we really know anything? • The relativistic view: • All views are equally valid, no standpoint is privileged over the other. • Fine if we are talking about human rights. Kinda fishy when applied to science.

  7. Ways of knowing/Reasons for holding a viewpoint or position • Authority • Anecdote • Direct experience/ observation • Intuition • Faith, inspiration, emotions, gut feelings • Deduction • Logic, reason Systematic observation (empiricism) + Logic/Reason = Scientific Method Which method is the most valid? The most convincing?

  8. Psychology & Soft vs. Hard Science • The science of behavior and mental processes • Contrast • Sociology, anthropology, economics, philosophy • Biology, chemistry, physics • Hard sciences are seen as more rigorous because of two beliefs 1) small things provide more truth about the world than bigger things, 2) observable things are easier to measure than non-observable things • People in psychology do it too—just talk to a neuroscientist! • Resist reduction!

  9. Theories • What is a theory? • How does a theory differ from a hypothesis?

  10. Theories • Testable framework for describing the behavior of a related set of social phenomena • Capable of predicting (and often explaining or describing) • And capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified (disproved) through empirical methods. • Theories do not equal hypotheses or guesses!

  11. Hypotheses • Specific prediction based on a theory • Alarge number of more specific hypotheses may be logically bound together by just one or two theories

  12. Theory: Evolution Hypothesis (based on Natural selection): • Fishes with red tails are really healthy, therefore • Fishes with really red tails will get more sexual partners Natural Selection Heredity Variations

  13. Falsification • How science is different than other ways of knowing • Theories and hypothesis cannot be proved • All swans are white • Evolution • Newton’s theory of relativity TheoryTheory Consistent result - Inconsistent result = ??= ??

  14. Good Theories • Make unique and risky predictions • Fancy words and common sense • Over time, converging evidence supports the theory • Is relatively simple and/or elegant (parsimony) • The theory has not been refuted

  15. Write your answers to the following on a sheet of paper. True or False • Science is a collection of facts • Hard sciences are more rigorous and scientific than soft sciences. • Scientific ideas are absolute and unchanging. • The job of a scientist is to find support for his or her hypothesis. • Scientists are completely objective in their evaluation of scientific ideas.

  16. Unobservable stuff • Operational definitions • Unobservable to observable: To conduct a study you must decide how to measure variables • E.g., obesity, learning, aggression

  17. Validity and Operational Definitions • Validity = did you measure what you think you measured (e.g., what you meant to measure:!)? • OD for learning: • People learned if they answer at least 80% of the questions correctly on my quiz • Brain size: people with bigger brains can learn more. • Performance on task that requires knowledge

  18. Variable and their measurement are important! • Invalid measurement of variables can greatly affect how people interpret research findings! • Spatial ability via combat scenario

  19. Operational definitions • What “counts” in an observation • Answers to survey questions in a survey • Manipulation of something in an experiment • Mortality salience • Self esteem boosted or threatened • Masculine self identity • Measurement in experiment • Performance • Social distance (or comfort with closeness)

  20. Research Designs • Observation • Case studies • Survey • Experiments • Note: Science strives to describe, predict, and explain the world

  21. Doing Research • Hypothesis • Masturbation and happiness • Choose a research design • Ethics • Measurement issues: OD’s • Masturbation!? • Collect data • Oy! • Use statistics to make inferences

  22. Correlations and Survey • What is a correlation? • Correlational research designs (aka. surveys) provide a statistical indicator of relationships • r , strength, direction • Surveys and correlational research: • Describe or predict the relationships between two or more variables • Is this different than cause?

  23. Experiments: What are the necessary elements? • Random samples (generalizability) • Random Assignment to conditions • Manipulate an independent (IV) variable • Measure a dependent (DV) variable • Control extraneous variables so that you know that a change in the DV was caused by the IV

  24. Experiment: Number of Beers And Perceptions of Attractiveness • Hypothesis: Perceptions of attractiveness increase as a function of # beers consumed • Who should we include in our sample? • How will we operationally define our variables? • Independent: • Dependent: • Random assignment • How can we control extraneous variables (control for confounds!)

  25. Ethics • How to be unethical • Force people to do stuff that they don’t want to • Investigation of TB • The Milgram studies • Zimbardo’s prison experiment • Little Albert & white rabbits

  26. Ethics: How to be ethical • Research with humans • Informed consent • Deception • Coercion • Anonymity/Privacy • Risk vs. Benefit • Debriefing • More generally—respect, benefits > risk, equality