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Chapter 1: Thinking Critically With Psychological Science

Darian Shi

The Need for Psychological Science

Did We Know It All Along? Hindsight Bias
Hindsight bias - knew-it-all-along bias
Humans tend to be overconfident
Perceiving Order in Random Events
Humans are prone to perceive patterns
Random sequences often dont look random
In actual random sequences, patterns and streaks occur more often than people
A lot of times, we struggle to conceive ordinary, chance-related explanations
Hindsight bias, overconfidence, and our tendency to perceive patterns in random events often
lead us to overestimate our intuition
The Scientific Attitude: Curious, Skeptical, and Humble
All science is curiosity, passion to explore and understand without misleading or being misled
More often than not, science becomes societys garbage disposal, sending extraordinary ideas
to the waste heap
Scientific attitude requires curiosity and skepticism but also humility
Critical Thinking
Critical thinking - smart thinking - examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates
evidence, and assesses conclusions
How Do Psychologists Ask and Answer Questions?
Scientific method - self-correcting process for evaluating ideas with observation and analysis
The Scientific Method
Theory - explains with principles that organize observations and predict behaviors and events
Hypotheses - testable predictions
Theories can bias observation
Operational definitions - checks on their biases, carefully worded statements
Replicate - repeat original observations with different participants, materials, and circumstances
Descriptive methods - describe behaviors through case studies, surveys, or naturalistic
Correlational methods - associate different factors
Experimental methods - manipulate factors to discover their effects

Case studies - analyses of special individuals

Naturalistic observation - watching and recording the natural behavior of many individuals
Surveys and interviews - by asking people questions

The Case Study

Examines on individual in depth in hope of revealing things true of us all

Does not explain behavior
May mislead us if the individual is atypical
Stories can be misleading
Individual cases can suggest fruitful ideas, but discerning general truths that
cover individual cases, other methods must be used
Naturalistic Observation
Does not explain behavior
Offers interesting snapshots of everyday life, but does so without controlling all
factors that may influence behavior
The Survey

Looks at many cases in less depth

Wording Effects

Subtle changes in order or wording of questions can have major

Random Sampling
We tend to generalize from samples we observe especially vivid
cases (sampling bias)
Best basis for generalizing is from a representative sample
Population - the whole group you want to study and describe
Random sample - every person in the group has equal chance of

Correlation coefficient - statistical measure to figure out how closely two things vary together
Scatterplots - can help reveal things
The correlation of a graph can be positive, negative, strong, weak, etc.

Correlation and Causation

Association does not prove causation
Correlation indicates the possibility of a cause-effect relationship but does not
prove such
Enable researchers to isolate the effects of one or more factors by
Manipulating factors of interest
Holding constant other factors
Experimental group - people receive the treatment
Control group - does not receive treatment
Randomly assign - effectively equalizes two groups
No single experiment is conclusive
Unlike correlational studies, experiments manipulate factors to determine its effects
Double-blind procedure - neither the participants nor the research assistants know which group
is receiving which treatment
Placebo effect

Independent and Dependent Variables

Independent variables - can vary independently of other factors

Confounding variables - influence results of the experiment
Dependent variables - can vary depending on other factors
Can help evaluate social programs

Statistical Reasoning in Everyday Life

Statistics are tools that help us see and interpret what the unaided eye might miss
Describing Data
When viewing figures in magazines and on television, read the scale labels and note their range
Measures of Central Tendency
Measure of central tendency mean, median, mode
Neatly summarize data, show if lopsided or skewed
Measures of Variation
Range, standard deviation, normal curve
Significant Differences
Data are noisy
When is an Observed Difference Reliable?
Representative samples are better than biased samples
Less-variable observations are more reliable than those that are more variable
More cases are better than fewer
When Is a Difference Significant?
Statistical testing can estimate probability of the result occurring by chance
Statistical significance