WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY?

I. Psychology is the science of behavior.

II. Alternative approaches (phrenology, astrology, philosophy, etc.) to studying behavior

III. What is science?

A. What science is not: Common misconceptions about science

1. Science is not the same as statistics (Darwin, Piaget, Skinner, Gestalt Psychology all did well without using statistics)--although statistics can be a useful tool for scientists.

2. Science is not synonymous with technology.

a. Polygraph and phrenometer were not scientific

b. If enough technological knowledge were accumulated in a field, people might stop trying to get answers to questions and instead only focus on applying what we already know.

B. Key qualities of science:

1. Objective empirical evidence: "Show me" attitude

2. Replication: "Let me see for myself"

3. A social enterprise

a. Scientists check each other's work

b. Scientists build on each other's work

4. Skeptical: Many ideas are rejected. Ideas must be supported by evidence.

IV. Is psychology really a science?

A. Objective

B. Replication

C. Social

1. Check each other's work

2. Build on each other's work

D. Skeptical: "Pet" theories often rejected

V. Should psychology be a science?--A close look at other ways of knowing

A. Logic

1. Incorporated into scientific method

2. Logic alone is not enough--Truth can seem strange (Tiny germs killing people)

B. Authority: "Expert says"

C. Popularity: But truth is not a popularity contest

D. Experience, but

1. Humans are not so perfect that we learn perfectly from experience

a. We can't believe our eyes.

b. We can't always trust our memories.

c. People are hypothesis-confirmers, not testers

2. Our experience may not be typical

a. "A stopped clock is right twice a day."

b. Lottery winners' experience is that playing the lottery is profitable

E. Intuition:

1. Wishing doesn't make it so.

2. Is "intuition" a fancier word for "opinion"?

3. How do we deal with conflicting intuitions?

F. Faith

1. Good for answering questions that are unanswerable by science

a. Moral questions (what "should" we do)

b. Metaphysical questions

2. Not available to everyone: Not everyone has faith and people may have different faiths.

3. Can be supplemented by the scientific method when testing propositions about physical reality

VI. Conclusions

A. Psychology is a science

B. Nonscientific approaches to psychology have led to errors and pain

  1. Early Rorschach tests

  2. Early lie detectors

  3. Lobotomies

  4. Tests and procedures used by at least 25% of therapists today!


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