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Psychology and Scientific Thinking

What is Psychology?*

The scientific study of the mind, brain and behavior

William James (1842-1910)

Often regarded as the founder of American Psychology, described psychology as a "nasty little subject"

Levels of Explanation*

Rungs on a ladder of explanation, with lower levels tied most closely to biological influences and higher levels most closely tied to social influences

Multiply determined*

Human behavior is produced by many factors

Single-variable explanations*

Thought that human behavior is produced by one factor, wide spread in popular psychology

Individual differences*

People differ from each other in thinking, emotion, personality and behavior. Helps to explain why we respond in different ways to the same objective situation.

Naïve Realism*

The belief that we see the world precisely as it is. "seeing is believing"

Confirmation Bias*

The tendency to seek out evidence that supports our beliefs and neglect or distort evidence that contradicts them. "Seek and ye shall find"

Belief Perseverance*

The tendency to stick to our initial beliefs even when evidence contradicts them. "Don't confuse me with the facts"

Scientific Theory*

Explanation for a large number of findings in the natural world, including the psychological world.


Testable prediction derived from a scientific theory


Perceiving meaningful connections among unrelated and even random phenomena

Metaphysical Claims*

Assertions about the world that we can not test


A set of claims that seem scientific but aren't. Lacks the safeguards against confirmation bias and belief perseverance that characterize science

Exaggerated claims

Promise remarkable or dramatic cure but rarely delivers the goods

Ex: Three simple steps will change your love life forever!

Overreliance on anecdotes

"I know a person who" assertions.

Ex: The woman practiced yoga daily for three weeks and hasn't had a day of depression since

Absence of connectivity to other research

Most sciences are cumulative" new finding build on or "connect up with" previous findings.

Amazing new innovations in research have shown that eye massage results in reading speeds 10 times faster than average!

Lack of peer review

Bypasses peer review and relies on anecdotes or conducts informal research that's never submitted to scientific journals

Fifty studies conducted by the company all show overwhelming success

Lack of self correction

• Never adjust claims when contrary evidence is published unlike science which weeks out incorrect claims eventually. Proponents cling to claims stubbornly


Uses fancy scientific-sounding terms that don't make sense

Ex: Sine-wave filtered auditory stimulation is carefully designed to encourage maximal orbitofrontal dendritic development

Proof, not evidence

Scientific knowledge is rarely if ever conclusive.

Ex:Our new program is proven to reduce social anxiety by at least 50 percent

What are the Warning signs of Pseudoscience? (EOAL LPPA)

Exaggerated claims, Overreliance on anecdotes, Absence of connectivity to other research, Lack of peer review, Lack of self correction, Psychobabble, Proof not evidence, Apothenia

What are the Dangers of Pseudoscience ?

Opportunity Cost: What we give up, Direct Harm, and An Inability to Think Scientifically as Citizens

How does Pseudoscience affect Opportunity Cost: What we give up

Pseudoscientific treatments for mental disorders can lead people to forgo opportunities to seek effective treatments.

How does Pseudoscience cause Direct Harm?

Pseudoscientific treatments sometimes do dreadful harm to those who receive them, causing psychological or physical damage-occasionally even death.

Why does pseudoscience cause an Inability to Think Scientifically as Citizens

Scientific thinking skills aren't just important for evaluating psychological claims-we use them in all parts of life. We need scientific thinking skills to reach educated decisions about global warming, genetic engineering, stem cell research, novel medical treatments, and parenting and teaching practices.

Scientific Skepticism*

Approach of evaluating all claims with an open mind but insisting on persuasive evidence before accepting them

Critical thinking*

Set of skills for evaluating all claims in an open-minded and careful fashion

What are the Six Principles of Scientific Thinking?

Ruling out Rival Hypothesis,Correlation vs. Causation, Falsifiability, Replicability,Extraordinary Claims, Occam's Razor

Ruling out Rival Hypothesis

Have important alternative explanations for the findings been excluded?

Correlation vs. Causation

Can we be sure that A causes B


Can the claim be disproved?


Can the results be duplicated in other studies?

Extraordinary Claims

Is the evidence as convincing as the claim?

Occam's Razor

Does a simpler explanation fit the data just as well?


Method by which trained observers carefully reflect and report on their mental experiences


School of psychology that aimed to identify the basic elements of psychological experience
Founded by E.B Titchener


School of psychology that aimed to understand the adaptive purposes of psychological characteristics
Founded by Willian James; influenced by Charles Darwin


School of psychology that focuses on uncovering the general laws if learning by looking at observable behavior
Founded by John B. Watson; B.F. Skinner


School of psychology that examines the role of mental process on behavior
Important Cognists: Jean Piaget; Ulric Neisser


School of psychology that focuses on internal psychological processes of which we're unaware
Founded by Sigmund Freud


Metal processes involved in different aspects of thinking


Possess the following question: Are our behaviors attributable mostly to our genes (nature) or to our rearing enviorments (nurture)?

Free will-determinism

To what extent are our behaviors freely selected rather than caused by favtors outside of our control?

Basic research

Research examining how the mind works

Applied Research

Research examining how we can use basic research to solve real-world problems

Evolutionary Psychology

Sometimes called sociobiology, a discipline that applies Darwin's theory of natural selection to human and animal behavior


Anything that can vary

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