Why you should love--or at least appreciate-- research methods
Why should you love research methods? Count the ways:
- 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.
- 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.
- A firm grasp of research methods prevents you from being fooled. Although the truth is often out there, so are a lot of lies
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.
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.)
- Knowing about research methods not only makes you better learners, thinkers, and decision makers, but it makes you 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 choose to read this internet appendix on how understanding
research makes you more marketable.
- 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 often been the wrong way, leading
people to believe ridiculous things for centuries.
to see some common nonsense (myths) that psychological science has
science has proven to be an effective tool.
Science is not perfect, but it sure beats quackery.
We need to use scientific reasoning to refine our thinking so that we have
uncommonly good sense. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on "if everybody thinks
that, it must be true"--because, through out history, what was common sense is
now known to be wrong. Even today, what everyone "knows" is not true. For
many examples of commonly held myths, see
Truth or Fiction, and
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