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Psychology as a Science

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Rachelle Tannenbaum

on 27 January 2014

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Transcript of Psychology as a Science

What is Psychology?
The study of the mind, the brain, and behavior
Science is a way of thinking, not a body of knowledge.
Science is Empirical
Danger: Pseudoscience Ahead!
Why are People
Drawn to Pseudoscience?
Opportunity Cost
Direct Harm
A theory is a set of assumptions that, taken together, explain multiple findings.
A good theory will generate testable hypotheses.
A specific prediction
Confirmation bias:
The tendency to seek out evidence which supports our beliefs, and ignore or minimize anything that contradicts them
Belief perseverance:
The tendency to stick to initial beliefs even when they are contradicted by evidence
= based on data
So what about metaphysical claims?
Metaphysical claims raise fascinating and important questions about ethics, religion, etc.
However, they are not testable, and therefore are not considered scientific.
We need to be willing to revise our assumptions if they are contradicted by data.
"Claims presented so that they appear scientific
even though they lack supporting evidence
or plausibility."
--definition used by the National Science Foundation, http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind02/c7/c7s5.htm
After being featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the book topped the NY Times bestseller list for 146 consecutive weeks.
The book has been translated into 44 languages, and has over 21 million copies in print.
The book and film have grossed $300 million in sales.
--Information taken from Wikipedia
Why Should We Care?
Our brains are naturally wired to find patterns and order among chaos.
It helps us find comfort in a world that can seem cruel and random.
Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis vs. DTap Vaccine
Jenny McCarthy praises a mom for listening to her "mommy instinct" when deciding not to vaccinate.
Exaggerated Claims
Lack of Peer Review
At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place.
To date, no one has passed the preliminary tests.
See also: Lack of connectivity to other research
James Randi 's $1 million challenge
Becoming Informed, Critically Thinking Citizens
See also: Use of
ad-hoc immunizing hypothesis

(i.e., a built-in "out")
Lack of
Meaningless "Scientific" Wording
The city council of Aliso Viejo, CA planned a vote to ban Styrofoam cups after learning that DHMO is used in their production.
See also:
All natural!
Chinese! (or Asian, or Native American, or whatever)
Over-reliance on Anecdotes
Anti-vaccination activists still claim that there's a "proven" connection between vaccines and autism, frequently citing the work of Andrew Wakefield, even though:
Nobody else has been able to replicate his results
Every major medical organization has unequivocally stated that there is no link between vaccines and autism
Wakefield's data has been shown to be fraudulent, and he has lost his medical license
“My son is 14 months old and he is learning how to read and do math. I can't tell you how pleased I am.” Mrs. Penny Fraser, Florida
What Do Parents Say?
Nowhere on this website is there ANY mention of empirical research, even though the program has been around since the 1960s!
"A 30C solution would have to have at least one molecule of the original substance dissolved in a minimum of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
molecules of water. This would require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth."
"Recent research on hydrogen bonds in water provides some support for this 'memory' theory. The Swiss chemist, Louis Rey, found that the structure of hydrogen bonds in homeopathic dilutions of salt solutions is very different from that in pure water. He reached the conclusion that the phenomenon results from the vigorous shaking of solutions that takes place during homeopathic 'succussion'."
A 2008 CDC survey showed that Americans had spent an estimated
$2.9 billion
on homeopathic remedies the previous year.
Not all common sense
A science
Separating the "mental" from the "physical" is often a false dichotomy.
The Biopsychosocial Model
Do we really use only 10% of our brains?
Well, what the heck does that mean?
Science Helps to Safeguard Against Bias
Death: 2 in 10
Pneumonia: 1 in 8
Encephalitis: 1 in 20
Death: 1 in 1,500
Death: 1 in 20
Continuous crying, then full recovery: 1 in 1000
Convulsions or shock, then full recovery: 1 in 14,000
Acute encephalopathy: 0-10.5 in 1,000,000
Death: None proven
"Hosted by Stormfront"
Six Principles of Scientific Thinking
Ruling Out Rival Hypotheses
Correlation vs. Causation
Extraordinary Claims
Occam's Razor
A useful hypothesis is one that *could* be falsified if tested properly.
Is there a simpler explanation that could account for the data just as well?
Listening to Mozart will increase your (and your baby's) IQ!
Children with more books in the home tend to be better readers, and to have greater educational achievement.
Partial solution?
Give one book to every child.
Psychic Claims She Led Police to Body of Missing 11-Year-Old in Family's Backyard
She "said she had a feeling that she knew where Terry was, and she went to the scene of the search that night, later finding the top of a head emerging from the dirt near a tree behind the [child's] home."
The operator of a business meant to help clients “erase addictions” and embrace change that employs a technique called “Quantum Thought Shifting,” Ragland said she has visions.
Don't make claims beyond what can be supported by evidence
Don't jump to conclusions! Make sure you've ruled out alternative explanations.
Can the results be duplicated by others? If not, then be skeptical!
Is it better to express anger, or to hold it in?
Do "opposites attract"? Or do "birds of a feather flock together"?
The logic behind
is that when a solution is diluted, the water retains the "memory" of the original active ingredient.
Full transcript