Psychology Notes Chapter 1
What is psychology?
∙ The study of the mind, brain and behavior (Most common definition)
Why is psychology more than just common sense?
∙ Maybe what we think we know isn’t necessarily true. Example: Some people might think that opposites attract, while others might think that similars attract (“Common sense”)
∙ Research gives us more information to find out which one of these statements is true. (Similars attract)
∙ There is always going to be an exception. Example: Even though research shows that similars attract, there will always be that one couple that are nothing like each other/ opposites (beauty & the beast, etc.)
Naive Realism: Belief that we see the world precisely as it is/ what we see is what is true. In reality, we don’t always see the world as it truly is.
∙ common sense can lead us to false beliefs/ astray (Superstitions)
∙ But other times, common sense can actually be right: o Ex: Gut instincts about fear / something bad occurring tend to be right most of the time
o Can also generate a hypothesis which can then be tested (ex: Frat guys tend to have higher drinking rates than non frat guys) Don't forget about the age old question of Why reinvent the wheel?
Psychology as a science:
∙ Science isn’t formulas like e=mc^2 We also discuss several other topics like Where in a cell is receptor located?
∙ Science is the process to get formulas / an approach to evidence Don't forget about the age old question of What does the law of equity state?
How do we know things like “Is cracking your knuckles bad for your joints?” & “Do frat guys have higher drinking rates than non frat guys?” > Scientific Method
Pseudoscience: Claims that can be tested but have no evidence to support them. Set of claims that seem scientific, but aren’t. (Testable beliefs that are not supported by science). Don't forget about the age old question of What was themistocles famous for?
Examples: Astrology, The Lunar Effect & Conspiracy theories.
If these are all fake/ have no evidence to support them, what’s the harm?
A lot of harm can result from pseudoscience. Examples: ∙ Conversion Therapy: treatment that aims to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.
∙ Holocaust Denial: Belief that the Holocaust didn’t happen or was greatly exaggerated
∙ Scientific Racism: Belief that certain racial groups are inferior/ superior to others
Some warning signs of Pseudoscience:
1. Overreliance on anecdotes
2. Exaggerated claims
3. Absence of connection to other research
4. Lack of peer review
5. Failure to self correct when contrary evidence is presented 6. Uses fancy scientific language that doesn’t make sense 7. Talks about “proof” instead of “evidence” Don't forget about the age old question of How are hormones used in insect metamorphosis?
Pseudoscience can be dangerous for 3 main reasons: 1. Opportunity cost: what you miss out on when you choose to do something. Example: wasting time and money on something like “crystal therapy” We also discuss several other topics like What are the four steps of the public relations process?
2. Direct harm: Ex: Rebirthing therapy: “rebirthing” yourself to get over “attachment issues”. Baby once died during this therapy due to suffocation from trying to reenact birth.
3. Inability to think scientifically as citizens: We need to think critically/ scientifically to move society forward. Example: during hitler’s reign, citizens actually started supporting / believing him probably due to them not being able to think critically.
Scientific Skepticism: Doesn’t mean we should be close minded, just means we should evaluate claims with an open mind but insist on persuasive evidence before accepting them. (Be willing to change your mind).
6 Critical Thinking Principles:
1. Ruling out rival hypotheses
2. Correlation vs. Causation: Correlation DOES NOT MEAN Causation. Can we be sure that A causes B? example: ice cream sales went up, and so did murder rates, therefore an increase in ice cream sales causes an increase in murder rates. But really, HEAT makes people more aggressive & also makes people want to buy more ice cream. (just correlated)
3. Falsifiability: A theory that accounts for every possible outcome explains nothing. Falsifiable doesn’t mean it’s false. Can the claim be disproven? (can’t be too vague)
4. Replicability: Can the results be duplicated?
5. Extraordinary Claims: Require extraordinary evidence. Is the evidence as convincing as the claim?
6. Occam’s razor: Keep it simple. Does a simpler explanation fit the data just as well?
Bottom line: INSIST ON EVIDENCE
Scientific Theory: Explanation for a large number of findings in the natural world.
Example: “High activity levels in kids with ADHD actually increases their brain activity”
Hypothesis: Specific, testable prediction derived from a scientific theory. Example: “A kid will do better on a math test if he / she is sitting on a bouncy chair vs. a non bouncy chair.”
Confirmation Theory: Tendency to seek out evidence that supports our hypothesis and neglect evidence that contradicts our hypothesis. Example: Belief that every woman is a bad driver. When you see a
bad driver that happens to be a woman, you point it out. But when you see a bad male driver, you just disregard it.
∙ To combat this, scientists need to design studies that disprove their theories and look for evidence that falsifies those theories.
Belief Perseverance: Tendency to stick to our initial beliefs even when evidence contradicts them. Example: Wearing lucky socks to do well in a game. When you don’t do well (evidence that your theory is wrong) you still continue to wear them.
Psychology has many levels of analysis: All the way from physical (bottom of list) to social (top of the list). Can’t just examine one level. Must examine ALL.
Heuristics: Mental shortcuts or rules of thumb that we use daily. They reduce the cognitive energy required to solve problems BUT we oversimplify reality.
1. Availability heuristic: estimating the likelihood of an occurrence based on the ease with which it comes to our minds. (shark attacks, airplane crashes, etc. Might assume they are a bigger threat to us than they really are)
2. Representative Heuristic: “like goes with like”. Ignore how common behaviors actually are and commit the base rate fallacy. ( neglect to consider base rates). We might assume a lot of people are psychopaths but statistics show less than 1% of the population is a psychopath.
Heuristics can serve us well (can help us make fairly accurate judgments quickly)
Cognitive Biases: systematic errors in thinking that can lead to confidence in false conclusions.
Overconfidence Bias: Tendency to overestimate our ability to make correct predictions.
Hindsight Bias: “I knew it all along”
Why do we need research? To avoid speculation (example: lobotomies)
Scientific Method: toolbox of skills designed to counteract our tendency to fool ourselves. Allows us to test specific hypotheses derived from broader theories of how things work.
1. Naturalistic Observation: Observing/ describing behavior in real world settings. (Example: People watching) Advantages: High external validity/ generalizability. Disadvantages: low internal validity/ cause and effected inferences.
2. Case Study: Studying one person for an extended period of time (depth instead of breadth) Common for rare types of brain illnesses. Advantages: descriptions of phenomena,
providing disconfirming info of universally known info, and ability to generate a hypothesis. Disadvantage: Develop general principles, lead to cause and effect conclusions
Evaluating Measures: to trust results, measures must have a. Reliability: Consistency of measurement
b. Validity: Measure assesses what it claims to measure c. Can’t be unreliable AND valid at the same time.
Selfreporting measures and surveys Advantages: Easy to administer & can provide subtle information. Disadvantages: Respondents may not have the insight necessary and may not be honest
Validity vs. Reliability examples:
Channel, a second grader, got an A on each spelling test throughout the year, which was counted as her reading score for second grade. INVALID, RELIABLE.
Jimmy knows he weighs 180 pounds. His scale says 300 pounds every time he steps on it. RELIABLE, INVALID.
3. Correlational Designs: Examine how 2 variables are related. Correlations vary from 1 to +1 and can be:
Positive: as one increases, so does the other.
Negative: as one increases, the other decreases
Zero: No relationship between the 2
Examples: Height and Weight: Positive, Studying and Grades: Positive, Drinking and Social Awkwardness: Negative , Eye color and IQ: Zero
Correlational methods cannot determine directionality or causality. There could be a third variable involved.
How can we determine causation? An experimental design. The only way to determine if one thing is causally related to another is via an experimental design. This is because in an experiment, you purposefully manipulate variables, rather than just measure already existing difference. For example, smoking cigarettes and lung cancer are correlational, not causational because we haven’t /can’t conduct an experiment.
4. Experimental Designs: what makes a study an experiment? 1. Random Assignment 2. Manipulation of Independent variable
Pitfalls of experimental design:
Placebo Effect: Improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement. Subjects must be “blind”. Placebos show many of the same characteristics as real drugs.
Nocebo Effect: Placebo effect’s evil twin. Harm resulting from the mere expectation of harm.
Demand characteristics: cues that participants pick up that allow them to generate guesses regarding the researcher’s hypothesis. (disguising the purpose of the study can help to decrease these)
Modern Ethical Guidelines for Human Research
protection from harm and discomfort
justification of deception
Descriptive Statistics: Numerical characteristics of the nature of the data set.
Central Tendency: Measures of the central scores. Mean (average of all scores), Median( Middle score), Mode( Most frequent score)
Distribution Curves: A normal, bell shaped distribution Variability: Measure of how loosely/ tightly bunched scores are
Measures of Variability: Range Difference between the highest and lowest scores. Standard Deviation: Takes into account how far each data point is from the mean.
Features of language: Highly practiced and automatic process. Four levels of analysis that must coordinate with one another:
1. Phonemes (sounds)
2. Morphemes (meanings)
3. Syntax (Sentence structure)
4. Extralinguistic information ( tone, body language, etc) Language Development Stages:
1. Babbling Stage: spontaneously utter random sounds. Not imitation(34 months)
2. One Word Stage: from age 12
3. Two Word Stage: Mostly age 2. AKA telegraphic speech
Current studies about critical period for language learning are inconclusive.
There is no strict critical period for language development in humans, but a sensitive period
Linguistic Determinism: View that all thought is represented and that, as a result, our language defines our thinking (too severe of a view)
Linguistic Relativity: View that characteristics of language shape our thought processes. (More supported view)
Thinking and Reasoning: Thinking is any mental activity or processing of information.
Heuristics: (AKA mental shortcuts) shortcuts to increase our thinking efficiency. Simplifies what we attend to. The efficiency of our brain can serve us well, but can also lead to faulty conclusions.
Top down processing: have the expectation and work our way down to the details. Streamlines cognitive functioning by utilizing preexisting knowledge.
Framing: has an impact on decisions even when the underlying information relevant to these decisions is identical.
Example: 5% chance of winning vs. 95% chance of losing.
Problem solving: Generating a cognitive strategy to accomplish a specific goal. We often rely on algorithms to solve problems (longer version of heuristic/ step by step process)