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The Use of Psychological Evidence in Public Debates: How to Judge for Yourself by Dr.Chris Noone

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Dr Chris Noone, NUI Galway, Psychology Matters Day.
We live in a democracy. For this democracy to work, we are forced to trust that our representatives can make informed decisions based on information that is relevant and accurate. We must also play our own role in this democracy by voting for our representatives and in referendums. When deciding how to vote, how can we be sure that the information we use to guide our decisions is truthful? Scientists rely on the scientific method as a transparent means of establishing a degree of certainty regarding the truth of a situation. The inclusion of scientific evidence in public debate has had numerous societal benefits, including lowering smoking rates, improving sanitation and, generally, extending life in many countries. However, the use of pseudoscientific claims and flat-out denial of scientific evidence has hindered progress, with climate change being an example of this.
The use of psychological evidence in public debate has become more prominent in recent decades. With increased access to scientific papers through the internet and the rapid sharing of information through social media, members of the public are exposed to more scientific evidence than ever before. This talk will examine the use of psychological evidence in two of the most high-profile recent political campaigns in Ireland and how to evaluate the quality of evidence from psychological science when it is presented in a public debate.

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The Use of Psychological Evidence in Public Debates: How to Judge for Yourself by Dr.Chris Noone

  1. 1. The use of psychological evidence in public debates How to judge for yourself Dr. Chris Noone School of Psychology NUI Galway
  2. 2. Correlation does not imply causation Rule 1
  3. 3. https://tallguywrites.livejournal.com/148012.html
  4. 4. Don’t generalize from small samples Rule 2
  5. 5. Be wary of percentages Rule 3
  6. 6. Not all evidence is equal Rule 4
  7. 7. Systematically evaluating all the available evidence • An unbiased method for determining what the evidence says
  8. 8. One single study cannot fully defend a claim Rule 5
  9. 9. News reports tend to distort science Rule 6
  10. 10. Irish Examples
  11. 11. Disclaimer • I am a pro-choice campaigner • I am a LGBT+ activist • I am not trying to sway your opinion in this talk • I am merely demonstrating how to think in an evidence-based manner • I acknowledge that there are other determinants of values and political decisions than evidence alone
  12. 12. 2015 – Referendum on the 34th Amendment Main focus – whether marriage should be available to all consenting adults without distinction as to their gender Where Evidence from Psychology came in • Health and wellbeing benefits of marriage and inclusion • Wellbeing of children who have parents of the same gender
  13. 13. 2018 – Referendum on the 8th Amendment Main focus – whether the Oireachtas should be able to regulate the termination of pregnancy Where Evidence from Psychology comes in • Health and wellbeing benefits of those who need an abortion • Claims regarding regret after having an abortion
  14. 14. Judging for yourself 1. Correlation does not imply causation 2. Don’t generalize from small samples 3. Be wary of percentages 4. Not all evidence is equal 5. One single study cannot fully defend a claim 6. News reports tend to distort science
  15. 15. Conclusion • Judge supposedly evidence- based claims made in public debates with care • Be open to having your mind changed by strong scientific evidence

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