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800 Word paper:
PART 1: You should allocate 200 words to the discussion of the scientific principle, 200 words to the discussion of the pseudoscientific claim.
PART 2: You should allocate 200 words each to the application of two ideas from the research methods material.
Paper should be 800 Words in length.
Read the article and Analyze the claims being made by choosing ONE of the 6 Guiding principles of scientific thinking and as well as analyzing using ONE of the 3 warning signs related to pseudoscientific claims. It is up to you to select the most relevant principles but in every case, if you think the research description does a good job of following one of the principles, provide a detailed response as to why you think that. If you think the research description does not do a good job of following one of the principles, provide a comprehensive answer and also say what would need to be done to make sure the research description follows the principle.
The six guiding principles are:
1) Ruling out rival hypotheses – Findings consistent with several different hypotheses need
additional research to decide which hypothesis is best supported. When looking at a
pattern of results that has been reported, it is important to ask “are there any alternative
hypotheses that could explain this pattern of data?” The rival hypotheses that are most
important to rule out are those that could also explain the specific results that have been
described. It is useful to consider how we could attempt to rule out these alternative
2) Correlation vs. causation – An association between two things does not imply a cause
and effect relationship. If a pattern of results was produced simply by measuring two
different things and comparing them, we cannot say anything definitive about whether
one of these things caused the other. It’s always important to ask whether the causal
connection that is claimed or implied (e.g. A causes B) could be reversed (i.e. B causes A) or whether a third variable could explain the relationship (i.e. C causes A and B to go
3) Falsifiability – Claims must be capable of being disproved. In other words, we should be
able to think of a way to test whether or not a claim is true. If the claim is made in such a
way that there’s no good way to test it, the claim is not really scientific. In science, we
should always be open to the possibility that our ideas are wrong. If there are no data
that could possibly show that our ideas are wrong, then our ideas are not properly
4) Replicability – Findings must be capable of being duplicated following the same
methodology. In addition, the most reliable claims are those that have converging
evidence for them. We can only really be confident in a claim if it has been tested in
multiple different ways and all of them point to the same effect.
5) Extraordinary claims – Science is, for the most part, a cumulative process, where new
claims represent small advances over older ones. A claim that contradicts what we
already know, or that seems to promise radical new benefits, must have a lot of evidence
to back it up. The bigger the claim, the more evidence must be provided.
6) Parsimony (a.k.a. Occam’s razor) – If two hypotheses explain a phenomenon equally
well, select the simpler one. The simpler one is not necessarily correct, but we shouldn’t
make our explanations more complicated than necessary.
Warning signs related to pseudoscientific claims are:
1) Overreliance on anecdotes – Testimonials from others can be hard to verify, hard to
generalize and fail to inform us about cause-and-effect relationships. In general,
statements that are backed up with data gathered from a study are to be preferred over
statements that reflect the opinion of just a single person. Any single person’s
observations may be based on an unrepresentative sample and may be influenced by
biases (including a social desirability bias or biases in memory).
2) Meaningless psychobabble – Technical jargon and scientific-sounding words can sound
convincing but be essentially meaningless. We should be wary of claims that rely on
3) Talk of ‘proof’ instead of ‘evidence’ – Science provides evidence that either supports or
refutes certain ideas we have about the world. But ‘proving’ an idea is almost impossible
because future research may show us that our existing ideas are incorrect, or at least only partially true.
For the second part of the written assignment, analyze the research description and the claims it makes in relation to TWO of the different aspects of the research methods listed below.
Apply two aspects of research methods to the research description. When you identify flaws in the research methodology, provide a comprehensive explanation of the flaw and also say what would need to be done to improve the research methodology in the research description.
(1) Reactivity – refers to the often-social nature of data collection in psychology and how the act of observation might impact the data. In other words, is it possible that the participants in the study changed their behaviour because they knew that they were being observed? If participants react to being observed, then researchers may no longer be observing the kind of behaviour that they really wanted to observe.
(2) Social desirability bias/positive impression management – this refers to the possibility that people may not always tell the truth when asked questions, or may attempt to improve their performance on a task to impress the experimenter. In other words, is it possible that participants in the research description gave untruthful answers in response to questions in order to look good? Alternatively, do you think participants in a study may have tried extra hard at something in order to impress the experimenter? If so, perhaps the experimenters will obtain results that won’t reflect people’s behaviour outside of their specific study.
(3) Unrepresentative or biased sample – this refers to the possibility that the sample of participants in the research description may not reflect the full range of people about whom we are interested in making conclusions (i.e. the population). In other words, is it possible that the researchers studied only a small and/or biased sample of people? Was there something about the sample of people that made them different from the general population of people? If so, try to think about how the biased sample may have affected the results that the researchers found.
(4) Confounding variables – when conducting an experiment, a confounding variable is something that systematically differs between the experimental and control groups, which confounds (or confuses) our interpretation of the study. In other words, the presence of a confounding variable means that we can’t be sure whether the independent variable (the thing we deliberately manipulated between the experimental and control groups) or the confounding variable (something that also varies between the experimental and control groups, but which we did not mean to vary) is responsible for the results of the study. If the research description describes an experiment, does that experiment contain a confounding variable? If it does, could the confounding variable be an alternative explanation for the results of the study?
(5) Lack of a control group – remember that in an experiment, we create an experimental group for whom we have manipulated an independent variable (e.g. we increase the amount of violent TV a group of children watches) to try to determine the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable (e.g. we look to see if watching more violent TV increases aggression in this group of children). However, we also need to study a control group for whom the independent variable has not been manipulated (in this case, a group of children who do not watch more violent TV than usual). It is the comparison of the experimental group with the control group that tells us the effect of the manipulation of the independent variable.
(6) Validity of the measures – this refers to the idea that even though we might have a measure that is highly reliable (i.e., a set of weighing scales) this measure would be inappropriate for measuring certain psychological characteristics (for example, intelligence or perfectionism). The degree of validity then is the degree to which the measure we are using has some relationship with the thing we are trying to measure.
(7) Ethics – There are many issues surrounding ethics and the study of human (and animal) behaviour. One of the key features is to safe-guard the well-being and dignity of the individuals taking part in the investigation. This includes making sure the individual has the opportunity to provide voluntary informed consent, has the right to withdraw from the investigation and is fully debriefed as to the nature and purpose of the investigation after data collection.