Chapter 1: Summary

Why do you love research methods? Count the ways:

  1. Doing research is fun. You get to do psychology rather than read about it. You get to write your own play, interact with the audience, and discover something new. That is, you can be the writer, actor, director, detective, and reporter.

  2. Understanding research methods helps you deal with a problem we all face-- information overload.


    No one can know everything. Thus, the important thing is to be able to find and evaluate the information you need. This course, rather than giving students more content to learn, teaches them how to find out what they need to know.

  3. A firm grasp of research methods prevents you from being fooled. Although the truth is often out there, so are a lot of lies and half-truths.
    There are many people in the media (e.g., Jenny McCarthy) and in government (e.g., a federally recognized body accredited an Astrology Institute) who would lead us astray (as well as many "experts"), either because they are intentionally trying to deceive us

    or because they are misguided.


     

    (As illustrated by the Dilbert cartoon that you can see by following the link below, you will not always be thanked for telling the misguided that they are misguided.)

    Dilbert.com  

     Without being able to separate fact from fiction, sense from nonsense, science from pseudoscience, we can easily become confused.


    (If we don't become confused, we may become close-minded, adopting Stephen Colbert's stated philosophy: "The problem with evidence is that it doesn't always support your opinions." This lack of scientific thinking may be threatening our democracy.)

  4. Knowing about research methods not only makes students better learners, thinkers, and decision makers, but it makes them more marketable. In fact, the skills taught in this course are the main skills that psychology majors are supposed to acquire. Thus, this course, even though it has little "content," is one of the few required by almost all psychology programs. To emphasize the marketability of the skills learned in this course, you might decide to assign this internet appendix.


  5. Knowing about research methods teaches one about the core of psychology. Without such knowledge, one doesn't know psychology (and can't distinguish between psychology and other fields) because psychology and science are intimately connected.

Science versus other ways of knowing

Why is the number one thing about psychology its scientific approach?

Largely because common sense alone has been the

and

 science has proven to be an effective tool.


Click here to see some common nonsense (myths) that psychological science has disproven.

Although students aren't all enthralled with the scientific approach, they see its merits when compared to quackery. Unfortunately, they may not see science as necessary to rid us of quack notions. They may believe that common sense would be enough to effectively combat quackery. Point out that today's common sense will be tomorrow's quackery. To shake their faith in common sense, you can have them evaluate some proverbs --and their opposites-- (as we do in Table 1.1 on page 21). To shake their faith in "social proof" (if everyone knows it, it must be true), you can also ask them some questions that everyone "knows" the answer to, but that are wrong. For example, although everyone "knows" that George Washington was the first president of the United States, he was, in fact, the eighth (as this link explains). For more current and clear-cut examples of debunking commonly held myths, see Snopes, Truth or Fiction, and Quackwatch


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