Proving psychological hypotheses through logic

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Illogical hypotheses are liabilities even in their assumption stage
- Thesigan Nadarajan

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Proving psychological hypotheses through logic

  1. 1. Proving Psychological Hypotheses through Logic Illogical hypotheses are liabilities even in their assumption stage - Thesigan NadarajanPsychology and Logic I have a question to pose to psychologists. Is it possible to provevalidity or non-validity of psychological hypotheses by logic and logicalarguments? Now, the traditional psychologist would say that after theformulation of a hypothesis, qualitative or quantitative research must beused to support it. I choose to disagree. As an eclectic thinker, I proposethat logic and logical argument be utilized first to prove the validity ornon-validity of a hypothesis. It is only after that, the necessary researchshould be done as complementary proof. To prove my point, I would like to demonstrate using thepsychological hypothesis of, “Actor Observer Effect,” proposed by Jones &Nisbett (1971). Jones & Nisbett hypothesized that “Actors tend to attribute the causes of their behaviour to stimuli inherent in the situation, while observers tend to attribute behaviour to stable dispositions of the actor” The above hypothesis assumes that the attribution of behaviour is afixed tendency (two possibilities), with actors attributing behaviour tostimuli inherent in situations and observers attributing behaviour to stabledispositions of the actor. Take note, the assumption is that attribution isfixed. I consider this assumption of fixed attribution (two only) as a flawin Jones & Nisbett hypothesis. I propose that the attributions can beinterchangeable and multiple in nature. Let me prove the fallacy of fixedattribution. Let’s begin by symbolizing the hypothesis.(Step 1) Symbolizing the Hypothesis Let’s use the following symbolic code to symbolize the hypothesisfor analysis. A = “Actors tend to attribute the causes of their behaviour to,” S = “stimuli inherent in the situation,”
  2. 2. O = “Observers tend to attribute behaviour to,” D = “stable dispositions of the actor,” . = “While (and)” E = “Actor Observer Effect” Having symbolized the hypothesis, let us now draw-up the symbolicformula.(Step 2) Symbolic Formula of the Hypothesis The formula can be stated as: [(A.S).(O.D)] The English interpretation of the above formula is, Actors tend to attribute the causes of their behaviour to stimuli inherent in the situation, while observers tend to attribute behaviour to stable dispositions of the actor Next, I would like to prove Jones & Nisbett argument as flawed.(Step 3) Actor Observer Effect Hypothesis: Arguments andCounter argumentsJones & Nisbett Argument Jones & Nisbett single step argument can be described in thefollowing manner. [(A.S).(O.D)] ECounter Argument: Deductively speaking, in order for Jones & Nisbett’s argument to bevalid, all of its premises and its conclusions must be true.
  3. 3. p q p ___ /∴ q If either is proven doubtful or untrue, then, their argument is notvalid. p q ~p ___ /∴ ~q Jones & Nisbett have committed the fallacy of “False Argument” inassuming that their hypothesis is exclusive without the possibility ofalternate premises and conclusions. Let me prove it. Why didn’t they show other premise combinations of (A.S).(O.D)]?For example, the other possibilities are: 1. [(A.D).(O.S)] 2. [(A. (D V S)] 3. [(O. (D V S)] If we were to interpret in English, the other possibility goes likethese: 1. Actors can attribute the causes of their behaviour to their stable dispositions, and observers can attribute their behaviour to stimuli inherent in the situation. 2. Actors can attribute the causes of their behaviour to their stable dispositions, or to stimuli inherent in the situation. 3. Observers can attribute the causes of their behaviour to their stable dispositions, or to stimuli inherent in the situation. I can therefore present my counter argument diagrammatically asfollows:
  4. 4. [(A.D).(O.S)] [(A. (D V S)] [(O. (D V S)] _________________________________________ [(A.S).(O.D)] E By excluding all the above possibilities, they have bias theirresearch and findings, by arbitrarily focusing only on proving [(A.S).(O.D)]. Therefore, both their premises and conclusion is faulty. My logicalargument against the fixed (two) attribution differentiation is alsosupported by current researches like Hilton (2006) and Knobe & Nelson(2007) that shows other attribution possibilities. When a hypothesis does not even stand-up to a logical argument,what is the use of researching for support to scaffold it? Illogicalhypotheses are liabilities even in their assumption stage. The logicalanalysis of hypotheses should always come first before the beginning ofany research.

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