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Chapter 1- Thinking Critically With Psychological Science

How can we use psychology to understand why people think, feel and act as
they do?

1. The Scientific Attiude

A scientific approach to nature and to life is undergirded by curious

skepticism and open-minded humility. The critical inquiry that flows from
such attitudes helps winnow sense from nonsense.

When subjected to such scrutiny, crazy-sounding ideas sometimes find

support. During the 1700s, scientists scoffed at the notion that meteorites
has extraterrestrial origins. When to Yale scientists dared to deviate from the
conventional opinion. Thomas Jefferson jeered, "Gentlemen, I would rather
believe that those two Yankee Professors would lie to believe that stones fell
from heaven." Sometimes scientific inquiry refutes skeptics.

The scientific attitude requires one to be skeptical but not cynical. humbly
open but not gullible.

Psychologists approach the world of behavior with a curious skepticism. They

ask two questions: what do you mean and how do you know?

"To believe with certainty, we must begin by doubting."- a Polish proverb

Putting a scientific attitude into practice also inquires humility because it

sometimes means that we may have to reject our own ideas. In the last
analysis, what matters most is whatever truths reveals in response to our

Historians of science tell us that these attitudes of curious skepticism and

open-minded humility helped make modern science possible.

The attitude, armed with scientific principles for sifting reality from illusion,
prepares us to think smarter. Smart thinking is known as critical thinking, or
thinking that does not blindly accept arguments and conclusions.

A critical attitude can also produce humility-- an awareness of our own

vulnerability to error and an openness to surprises and new perspectives.

Psychology's own critical inquiry indeed has even open to surprising findings
and critical inquiry convincingly debunked many popular beliefs.

2. The Limits and Common Sense

Did we know it all along?

Some scorn a scientific approach because of their faith in human intuition.

Advocates of "intuitive management" urge us to tune into our hunches.
However, many times our intuition may lead us astray.

Psychologists Paul Slovic and Baruch Fischhoff and Gordon Wood have shown
how scientific results and historical happenings can indeed seem like obvious
and common sense. They discovered that events that do not seem obvious
beforehand seem so in hindsight. Finding out something that has happened
makes it seem inevitable. This is known as hindsight bias, or the I knew it all
along phenomenon.

We often experience hindsight bias after looking back into history, or tracing
an autopsy.

Jeanne Kirkpatrick in 1980 believe that the point is not that common sense is
usually wrong, but that it is after the fact. Common sense describes what has
happened more easily than it predicts what will happen. Sometimes
Grandmother's intuition has it wrong.

Overconfidence- We tend to think that we know more than we do. We tend to

be more confident then correct. WHen Richard Goranson asked people to
unscramble wreat-water, etryn-energy, and grabe-barge it took them 2
minutes. However, after people see the answer they believe that they could
have done it in 10 seconds.

Many people believe that w era better at predicting social behavior. Robert
Vallone and his associates has students predict at the beginning of the
school year whether they would drop a course, vote in an upcoming election,
call their parents more than twice a month, and so forth. The students felt 84
percent confident on making these predictions. However, they were correct
71 percent of the time, even when they were 100 percent sure of

Overconfidence stems partly from our human tendency to seek information

that confirms our ideas.

3. Research Strategies- How Psychologists Ask and Answer Questions

Like all scientists, psychologists construct theories that organize

observations and imply testable hypothesis. To describe, predict, and explain
behavior and mental processes, psychologists use three methods: THey
describe behavior using case studies, surveys, and naturalistic observations.
They predict behavior from correlational studies. And they seek cause-effect
explanations through experiments that manipulate one or more factors
under controlled conditions.

Psychologists make observations, form theories, and then refine their

theories in the light of new observations.

The Scientific Method-

A theory explains through an integrated set of principles that organizes and

predicts observable behaviors or events.

A good theory should link the isolated dots and emerge a coherent picture
even before the dots are all connected.

A good theory does not just sound appealing, It must imply a set of testable
predictions, known as a hypothesis.

However, in testing our theory, we should be aware that it can bias our
observations. Having theorized that depression springs from low self-esteem,
we may see what we expect to see.

As one check on their biases, psychologists report their research precisely

enough to allow others to replicate their observations. If the experiment is
done a few times, our confidence in the reliability of our findings grows.

Scientific theory: explanation using set of principles to organise/predict

No matter how good theory sounds, must put it to test
Must imply testable prediction = hypothesis
Beware of bias when testing
Good experiment can be replicated: the experiment can be repeated and
would yield constant results; done with a different group of people or by a
different person ending with constant results
Theory useful if:
I. effectively organises range of observations
II. implies clear predictions

Case study: research method where one person is studied in depth to find
universal principles (things that apply to all)Drawback is that the individual
being studied could be atypical, results not universally contained

Survey: research method to get the self-reported attitudes/behaviours of

Looks at cases less depth and wording of question affects the response given
(framing)Tend to hang around group similar to us so using them as study is

False consensus effect: tendency to overestimate other’s agreement with us;

eg. Vegetarians believe larger amount of pop. is vegetarian than meat-eaters

Population: all the cases in the group being studied

To make a good sample, use random sampling: sample that gives each case
a good chance of being studied to ensure results within range

Naturalistic observation: observing and recording behavior in natural settings

with any control on situation
Like case study & survey, doesn’t explain behavior
When finding a trait that accompanies another, not resulting effect, but
correlation: the way 2 factors vary together and how well one predicts the

Positive correlation: direct relationship where factors increase or decrease

Negative correlation: inverse relationship where one factor goes up while one
goes down

Does not explain cause, simply show relationship between factors

Illusory correlation: perceiving correlation when none exist; Notice random

coincidences as not random, rather as correlated


To isolate cause & effect, conduct experiments

Experimental condition: condition that exposes subjects to treatment

Control condition: condition that serves as a comparison to see effects of

treatment on experimental condition subjects

Use random assignment: assigning subjects to experimental/control groups

randomly to ensure no bias

Independent variable: experimental factor being manipulated and studied

(by itself, alone, no need to depend on something) * x-axis

Dependent variable: experimental factor that depends on independent

variable and changes in response to it * y- axis

Placebo: an inert substance/condition that maybe administered instead of a

presumed active agent
Double-blind procedure: procedure in which the experimenter and the
subject noth don't know which treatment is given