What is Science? Science = a process or method for generating a body of knowledge. A logic of inquiry… a way of knowing… a problem- solving activity. Science relies on objective and empirical facts. Goals of science include: Description and discovery or regularities. Development of theories that explain facts and laws.
Ways of knowing about behavior Psychology – What are we studying? The science of human (and animal) behavior… So, how do we learn about behavior? There different ways to approach the study of human behavior, and these methods are the basis of psychological research.
Ways of Knowing Nonempirical Methods: Nonempirical = not based on experience or observation. Authority – A respected person tells us about a phenomenon and we believe it to be true. (e.g.) Our parents tell us that if we don’t wear socks, we’ll get a cold. (e.g.) The U.S. government tells us that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
Ways of Knowing Nonempirical Methods, cont.: Problems with Authority – Authorities can be wrong. The history of science shows a struggle between intellectual freedom and dogmas of authority. (e.g.) Galileo correctly thought that the earth moves around the sun, but his contemporaries rejected his findings.
Ways of Knowing Nonempirical Methods, cont.: Logic – 1. All humans are mortal. 2. John is human. 3. Therefore, John is mortal. These statements are logical in that if the first two are true, the third follows logically. This statement is logical and true, but just because a statement follows logically doesn’t always make it a true statement.
Ways of Knowing Nonempirical Methods, cont.: Problems with Logic – The truth of this logical series of statements depends on the accuracy or truthfulness of the very first statement. Logical statements can be true but don’t have to be. Consider this statement: All college professors are nerds. Kristen Rost is a college professor. Therefore, Kristen Rost is a nerd. Logic is no substitute for empirical evidence. You can logically conclude I am a nerd based on this statement. But to truly know if I’m a nerd, you’ll have to observe me over the course of the semester…
Ways of Knowing Empirical Methods: Empirical = based on experience or observation. Empirical methods of knowing are either: 1. Intuitive 2. Scientific
Ways of Knowing Empirical Methods, cont.: Intuition – Spontaneous, instinctive perception that does not based on reason. We use intuition to make decisions all the time. (e.g.) You see an angry man in the subway, you intuitively know to stay away. How is intuition empirical (how is it based in experience)?
Ways of Knowing Empirical Methods, cont.: Common Sense - A more practical kind of intuition; ability to agree with a large group of people. (e.g.) It is common sense in Western societies that you show respect for someone by looking him/her straight in the eye. How is intuition empirical (how is it based in experience)?
Ways of Knowing Empirical Methods, cont.: Problems with Common Sense – Common sense methods/ideas change across times and places. (e.g.) It used to be common sense in Christianity that “true believers” must go to church on Sundays. Nowadays, common sense tells us that you dont have to go to church every Sunday to be a “true believer”.
Ways of Knowing Empirical Methods, cont.: Problems with Common Sense – Common sense is pragmatic, but no attempt is made to verify if the common belief is in fact true. Any instance of success based on common sense is seen as proof of it. As long as a certain practice works, the practice is maintained and the theory behind it is considered true. But, just because a practice is common sense and works, does not help us predict when it will work and when it won’t. (e.g.) Having a common sense idea of how to treat children does not tell you how to treat children with certain developmental disabilities, such as Autism.
Ways of Knowing Empirical Methods, cont.: Scientific knowledge and findings often oppose common sense notions, and are counterintuitive. Example: Intuition: obese people always tend to eat more. Scientific Results: the amount of food consumed by obese people tends to depend on external cues (such as availability of food). If considerable effort is involved in obtaining food, obese people are less likely than normal weight people to obtain and eat the food.
Ways of Knowing Empirical Methods, cont.: Another Example: Common Sense: the more people who witness an emergency situation, the more likely the person in crisis will receive help. Scientific Results: research has shown that as the number of bystanders increases, the fewer offers of help are made (Bystander effect).
Science: Another Way of Knowing In science, we do not reject other ways of knowing. Scientists are human and are influenced by their beliefs, authority, logic, and common sense. What makes scientists different is their willingness to change those beliefs based on objectively obtained empirical evidence.
Science: Another Way of Knowing Example: Authority in science… Scientific conferences are forums where undergraduates, graduate students, or new PhDs can present research that may challenge the theories of very established scientists. If the challenger presents a sound argument and acceptable research methods, other scientists will be motivated to repeat their observations. If replication is successful, the established scientist’s ideas are replaced by the challenger’s.
Science: Another Way of Knowing There is NOT just one scientific method…Define the Problem This is a basic research process that is greatly Formulate hypothesis simplified. Design the study Research is sometimes conducted in this way, Collect data but often involves modification of these steps. Analyze the data Report the findings
Science: Another Way of Knowing Which method is best suited for a given problem often depends on the discipline you work in. Can you think of a field in which scientists can only observe and describe their subject matter? Astronomers are limited to observation and description, they cannot manipulate their subject matter.
Characteristics of Science Science has several important characteristics that make it different than the other ways of knowing. Science is Empirical: In science, we rely on experience more than authority, common sense, or logic. The best way to understand behavior is to generate predictions based on theory, gather data, and use data to test predictions. Are all empirical ways of knowing scientific? No, intuition is not.
Characteristics of Science Science is Objective: Science is a way of obtaining knowledge based on objective observations. Objective observations are made in a way that any person with normal perception, being in the same place at the same time, would arrive at the same observation. Objective observations are carefully reported, so others can replicate the procedures and see if they observe the same thing. Ann says: “I taste salt” - subjective or objective statement? Non-scientist: “Ann tasted salt” - subjective or objective statement? Scientist: “Ann reported tasting salt” - subjective or objective statement?
Characteristics of Science Science is Self-Correcting: New evidence is constantly being discovered that contradicts previous knowledge. Example: Scientists in the early 20th century believed that the environment and education primarily determined the behaviors and personality of children once they become adults. Newer research has shown that genetics do play a much bigger role than expected.
Characteristics of Science Science is Tentative & Progressive: Scientists don’t assume that they have found the absolute truth. New knowledge may make current knowledge obsolete at any time. Science is progressive. The amount and quality of scientific knowledge continues to advance over time. Fashions in clothes – change, but do not necessarily progress. Same with the arts - literature, music, painting – these change over time, but changed for the better is a matter of taste. Science actually does progress, previous ideas are replaced with more accurate ones that are based on further research.
Characteristics of Science Science is Parsimonious: The simplest explanation is usually the best. Scientists explore simple explanations of phenomena before considering more complex explanations. The principle of parsimony was advocated by William of Occam, a philosopher of the 14th century (“Occam’s Razor).
Characteristics of Science Science is concerned with Theory: A major concern of science is the development of theories that explain not only how, but also why things work. Scientists seek to find cause-effect relationships.
Assumptions of Science1) The reality of the world: Scientists assume the world to be ‘real’. A belief that all objects don’t just exist as we perceive them as humans, but exist aside from our perceptions (outside of our minds). Philosophers refer to this assumption as the doctrine or realism. Generally, scientists do not debate the reality of the world. They assume the world is there and study it the best they can. Scientists avoid naïve or commonsense realism (things are just the way they seem). Why is someone lazy?
Assumptions of Science2) Rationality: Scientists assume that rationality (reasoning) is fundamental to effective problem solving. If the world were irrational and could not be understood using principles of logic… we would not even bother studying and trying to understand it!
Assumptions of Science3) Regularity: Regularity means that we assume that the world follows the same laws at all times in all places. Phenomena reoccur because of universal laws. Science assumes that human behavior falls within the laws of nature.
Assumptions of Science4) Discoverability: Assumption that the orderliness of behavior can be experienced, examined, and discovered. Science views the world as a puzzle that can be solved by human means. But, that doesn’t mean solving the puzzle is easy… Scientists can spend a lifetime conducting experimental work. (e.g.) B.F. Skinner
Assumptions of Science5) Causality: The idea that every event has a cause. Determinism: The doctrine that all events happen because of preceding causes. Assumption that behavior is orderly and systematic, does not just happen by chance. Probabilistic causes – When a relationship between two variables is less than constant, but causality is still present. (e.g.) smoking and lung cancer
Assumptions of Science The assumptions of science need only be methodological, not assertions of ultimate truth. People are scientists when they are doing science, and to do so, must make the previous assumptions. Scientists must operate under the assumptions in the laboratory or when writing about science. At home, some scientists may believe in miracles or view human behavior as irrational at times.
Goals of Science Description of Behavior: What are we looking at? The accurate portrayal or depiction of a phenomenon. Scientists need description of phenomena to define the subject matter clearly as a basis for the development of laws and theories. Example: In biology, scientists had to describe many different types of animals within a species before they could be grouped into one species and common characteristics be determined. In psychology, we must describe behavior very carefully. Aggressive cat example… killing mice, fighting with other cats… are these both in the same class of behavior? Are they both “aggressive behavior”?
Goals of Science Discovery of lawful relationships among aspects of behavior: Laws are regularities among behavioral events. A law states that certain events are associated with each other in an orderly way. Behavioral events can be related lawfully, even if that relation is not a perfect or cause-effect one. Example: Cats raise their fur and arch their backs when about to fight, but those responses don’t cause the fight. The responses are merely correlated with fighting behavior.
Goals of Science Determination of Cause & Effect relationships : This is a crucial aspect of science! Example: A physician named Paul Broca analyzed the cause of expressive aphasia (inability to speak) in stroke patients by conducting autopsies on their brains after their deaths. He found that all patients who showed damage in a small area in the frontal cortex showed expressive aphasia – unable to speak (this area is now called Broca’s area).
Goals of Science Determination of Cause & Effect relationships, cont: Discovering the cause of an event is not often an easy task. Remember: 1. Sometimes events just happen to coincide, and are not causes of each other. 2. Causes cannot happen after their effects. 3. Sometimes the real cause is another event correlated with the suspected cause.
Goals of Science Determination of Cause & Effect relationships, cont: Example: John’s father hears that boys who wear longer pants tend to have larger vocabularies. John’s father suggests his son should wear longer pants. It’s not the pants that make the larger vocabularies though, but the age difference that goes with longer or shorter pants.
Goals of Science Development of Theories: The ultimate goal of science is the development of a theory to explain the lawful relationships that exist in a particular field. Laws: A single relationship among variables. Theories: Statements explaining relationships among variables (a number of laws tied together).
Theory Theory = a set of interrelated constructs (concepts), definitions, and propositions that present a systematic view of a phenomenon by specifying relations among variables, with the purpose of explaining and predicting the phenomenon. … basically… the organization of concepts that permit prediction of data.
Good theories are… Parsimonious: The simplest explanation is the best, explain a lot in as simple a way as possible. Precise: A theory should be specific and accurate in wording and conceptual statements so that its propositions and predictions are clear. Falsifiable: The propositions presented in a theory must be verifiable by some sort of experimentation. …NOT proven…theories are NEVER proven, but are supported or not supported by data.
Good theories are… Useful: A theory should be practical and help describe, explain, and predict important phenomenon. Generative: Theory should stimulate research that attempts to support or refute its propositions.
Hypotheses in Science How do we develop laws and theories? Hypothesis: A statement that is assumed to be true for the purpose of testing its validity. Hypotheses can be only true or false and must be empirically testable: If certain observations occur under particular conditions, and a given theory is correct, we should find the following outcomes.
Defining Theoretical Concepts Operationism: Scientific concepts have to be defined in terms of observational operations. If there is no way of defining a concept according to observable operations, the concept is barred from science. Example: Psychic ability – No operations exist that increase or decrease the probability of psychic ability.
Defining Theoretical Concepts Operational definition: A statement of the precise meaning of a procedure or concept within an experiment. Defining a variable in terms of the operations required to measure it How could we operationally define: “arriving late” “showing aggression” “happy” “sad”
Psychology as a Science We might feel like “amateur psychologists” as a result of observing human and animal behavior in our lives. In a chemistry class, you probably wouldn’t feel like and “amateur chemist” because you have not observed atoms and molecules in your lifetime. Our experiences with people may make it difficult to think about human behavior scientifically. But, behavior can be studied using scientific methods. Psychology is scientific because formal, systematic observation is used to answer questions about behavior.