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The Need for Psychological Science - the Limits of Intuition & Common Sense

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Autor:   •  December 22, 2010  •  Essay  •  2,553 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,134 Views

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The Need For Psychological Science:

The Limits of Intuition & Common Sense:

Some people scorn a scientific approach because of their faith in human intuition. Intuition can lead you astray. We presume that we could have foreseen what we know happened. Finding out something has happened makes it seem inevitable. Psychologists call this 20/20 hindsight vision the hindsight bias (the tendency to believe, after learning an outcome, that one would have foreseen it) also know as the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon. Our everyday thinking is not limited to out after-the-fact common sense, but also by our human tendency to be overly confident.

The Scientific Attitude:

Underlying all science is a hard-headed curiosity, a passion to explore and understand without misleading or being mislead. When put to the test, can predictions be confirmed? This approach has a long history. For example: As ancient a figure as Moses used such an approach. How do you evaluate a self-proclaimed prophet? His Answer? Put the prophet to the test. If the predicted event "does not take place or prove true," then so much the worse for the prophet. (Deut. 18:22). Putting a scientific attitude into practice requires not only skepticism but also humility, because we may have to reject our own ideas. In the last analysis, what matters is not my opinion or yours, but the truths nature reveals in response to our questioning. Curiosity, skepticism, & humility helped make modern science possible. Scientists check and recheck one another's findings and conclusions. This scientific attitude prepares us to think smarter. Smart thinking, called critical thinking (thinking that does not blindly accept arguments and conclusions. Rather it examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, and assesses conclusions). Whether reading a news report or listening to a conversation, critical thinkers always ask questions. Has psychology's critical inquiry been open to surprising findings? The answer is plainly yes. Examples of this are:

1. Massive losses of brain tissue in early life may have minimal long term effects. (pg. 85)

2. Within days, newborns can recognize their mother's voice and odor. (pg. 138)

3. Brain damage can leave a person able to learn new skills, yet be unaware of such. (pgs. 86-88)

4. Diverse groups - men and women, old and young, rich and working class, those with abilities and those without - report roughly comparable levels of personal happiness. (pgs. 523-525)

5. Electroconvulsive ("shock") therapy is often a very effective treatment for severe depression. (pgs. 689-690)

The Scientific Method:

The scientific method is a self-correcting process for asking questions and observing nature's answer. It has 3 parts that work together to form a conclusion. Those parts are:

1. Theory: an explanation using an integrated set of principles that organizes and predicts observations.

2. Hypothesis: a testable prediction, often implied by a theory.

3. Research & Observations: recording what you see, hear, do, smell, etc. and researching to see if anyone else has made discoveries regarding the matter at hand and testing their conclusions.

By organizing isolated facts, a theory simplifies things. There are too many facts about behavior to remember them all. By linking facts and bridging them to deeper principles, a theory offers a useful summary. Yet, no matter how reasonable a theory may sound, we must put it to the test. A good theory doesn't just sound appealing. It must imply testable predictions, or hypothesis. By enabling us to test and reject or revise the theory, such predictions give direction to research. In testing theories, you should be aware that it can bias subjective observations. EX: Having theorized that depression springs from low self-esteem, we may see what we expect. We may perceive depressed people's neutral comments as self-disparaging. As a check on their biases, psychologists report their research precisely enough with clear operational definitions (a statement of the procedures (operations) used to define research variables. For example, intelligence may be operationally defined as what an intelligence test measures.) of concepts to allow others to replicate (repeating the essence of a research study, usually with different participants in different situations, to see whether the basic finding extends to other participants and circumstances.) their observations. If the recreated study with different participants and materials gets similar results, then our confidence in the finding's reliability grows. Our research strategies include descriptive, correlational, and experimental methods. We tests hypotheses and refine our theories by making observations that describe behavior, detecting correlations that help predict behavior, and doing experiments that help explain behavior. To think critically about popular psychology claims, we need to recognize these designs and to know what conclusions they allow.

Review & Reflect:

The Limits of Intuition and Common Sense:

Although in some ways we outsmart the smartest computers, or intuition often goes awry. To err is human. Without scientific inquiry and critical thinking we readily succumb to hindsight bias, also called the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon. Learning the outcome of a study (or of an everyday happening) can make it seem like obvious common sense. We also are routinely overconfident of out judgments, thanks partly to our bias to seek information that confirms them. Such biases lead us to overestimate our unaided intuition.

Enter psychological science. Science with its procedures for gathering and sifting evidence, restrains error. Although limited by the testable questions it can address, a scientific approach helps us to sift reality from illusion, taking us beyond the limits of our intuition and common sense.

The Scientific Attitude:

Scientific inquiry begins with an attitude - a curious eagerness to skeptically scrutinize competing ideas and open-minded humility before nature. Putting ideas, even crazy-sounding ideas, to the test helps us winnow sense form non sense. The curiosity that drives us to test ideas and to expose their underlying assumptions carries into everyday life as critical thinking.

The Scientific Method:



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