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What are the features and principles of the scientific approach?

* Definable and agreed-upon subject matter or paradigm. (Paradigm = collective set of theoretical assumptions about a subject and its methods of enquiry.)

* There must be a theory, from which a hypothesis can be derived and tested.

* Empirical methods are used to gather info.

* Should attempt to discover general laws.


Kuhn's 3 historical stages of the development of science?

Pre Science - no paradigm
Normal Science - paradigm is established. researchers explore it
Revolution - too much evidence conflicts with the paradigm so is replaced with a new paradigm that fits with these findings


Paradigm... Is psychology a pre-science?

* Many conflicting approaches and methods of enquiry - no unifying paradigm.
EG) Cognitive psychologists focus metal processes whilst behaviourists focus on just outward behaviour.
EG) Psychodynamic and Humanistic psychologists base theories from evidence on case studies, whereas other approaches primarily use experimental methods of enquiry to test theories.
Can apply to Depression or Schizophrenia here - different explanations of behaviour (APP)

* Definition is 'study of the mind' - broad agreement of overall subject matter.

* Some argue it has already gone through paradigm shifts... structuralism > identifying conscious thoughts and feelings > behaviour > cognitive


What is a theory?

explains observable behaviour and events using an integrated set of general principles, and predicts observations.


Why are theories necessary in science?

* Organise facts, find regularities and patterns , and then condense them into a short list of general principles - this satisfies a key principle of science... order.
EG) observations of a depressed people = describing themselves, past, present, and future in gloomy terms > theory that low self esteem contributes to depression > summarises a long list of facts about depressed people (APP).

* allows falsifiable predictions to be made and hypotheses to be tested.
EG) a number of hypotheses could be deduced from a theory (hypothetico-deductive method) someone with depression and low self esteem (e.g. less likely to apply for promotion).


Are predictions ever proven true or untrue?

* A prediction being confirmed does not make the theory correct, as we don't know that all future predictions will be confirmed.

* A prediction should be based on observable data, and falsifiable. It should also be parsimonious (account for all known facts and not go beyond available evidence).


Key aspects of Empirical methods of investigation?

* Empiricism is the collection of data through observation and experiment.

*Doesn't rely on ideas, belief or faith.

*Rigorous experiments and observations reported in detail so that they can be replicated and verified.

* Must be as objective as possible, as this ensures great control and structure. However, observation is always pre-structured - undirected observation is difficult to follow... eg) physics students were asked to write down what they were observing, and they asked what they should observe.

* Objectivity is difficult in psychology as you are dealing with conscious, living beings. EG) questionnaire on self esteem could be contaminated by bias (putting selves forward in socially positive way.)
EG) Experiment on memory - participant may try to perform better to impress the experimenter.


Why is replicability important?

* Similar results = strengthened theories

* Confirms validity of findings

* Can't generalise from just one study - different cultures may bias findings

* Hard to achieve in psychology due to human behaviour.


What is generalisation?

* The ability of a researcher to apply their findings to other members of a target population and situations.

* Sample must be representative of target population. Difficult in psychology...

EG) due to ethics, volunteer bias - volunteers tend to be insecure, aggressive, introverted, dependent on and influenced by others. Therefore, cannot legitimately generalise findings to a wider population.

EG) Ecological validity - the degree to which the results can be generalised from the setting to another setting.


Overt Behaviour and Subjective private experience?

* Despite them being internal and private, Biological psychologists measure internal events using scientific techniques such as EEG recordings. Cognitive psychologists attempt to investigate thought processes and memory. Therefore, some internal experiences events are amenable to scientific enquiry.

* Private, subjective experiences such as 'stream of consciousness' (internal monologue) cannot be directly observed or inferred using empirical methods, as it is too fleeting and too much to verbalise.

EG) Wundt trained participants in structured introspection (turn inwards into their world and report what went through their mind when carrying out an action). Despite the lab setting, it wasn't 'scientific' because reports couldn't be verified, and only the individual had access to their subjective experience.


What is Phenomenology?

The study of an individual's subjective experience or unique perception of the world. Focus is on understanding from a person's point of view, not their behaviour.


Limitations of the scientific approach in psychology?

* experimental method can alter participants' behaviour.
- guess what its about and do what is or isn't expected of them. Not a true reflection of behaviour.
EG) Orne and Evans found that out of 18 participants, 15 were willing to pick up poisonous snake and throw acid in an experimenters face. Not likely to occur outside experimental situation.

* experimenter expectancy - expectations cause alterations in behaviour. EG) Pygmalion in the Classroom teachers were told that randomly selected children would do well over the school year. They did better on intelligence tests than children with no predictions made about them.

* Ethics - studies that may cause fear, anxiety, lack of self esteem, or distress sometimes have to be adapted or abandoned, due to the subject matter - humans and animals.

*Objectivity and controlled variables makes the study artificial, compromising the generalizability of it.

* Total objectivity is impossible - participants nad researchers are the same species, making it difficult for them to keep a 'distanced' perspective - not the same with things like atoms and stars.

* Know they are being watched, may change behaviour to show off (demand characteristics).

* Scientific approach is deterministic and reductionist. behaviour is seen as controllable, predictable and reducible to general laws. Humanistic psychologists would criticise it for ignoring the role of free will and destroying the totality of human experience.


Strengths of the scientific approach in psychology?

* scientific approach allows objectivity - providing accurate, reliable and generalizable results.

* 'scientific status'

* theories provide hypotheses which can be tested, allowing psychology to progress as a science and provide general laws. Helps to fulfil main aims of science - understanding, prediction, control.


The role of peer review in validating research?

* Work is submitted for publication, specialists in the field peer review the work.
- Was appropriate methodology used?
- is the work of an appropriate standard?
- Is a relevant conclusion drawn?

Specialists must be objective, have a supervisor (like an editor of a journal), and not know the author.

* Constructive comments fed back to authors (EG weak experimental design or inappropriate hypothesis) > minor revisions > publication.

* Same process for evaluating proposals to funding bodies for financial support for future work.
- supervised by grant awarding team seeking to find proposals worthy of support.