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Social Scientific Thinking Developing the Mind of a Social Scientist.

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1 Social Scientific Thinking Developing the Mind of a Social Scientist

2 The Importance of Methodology  The Social Scientific Method: review the steps! defines the social sciences distinguishes them from other disciplines helps avoid errors of judgement prevents deception  Challenge: studies have to account for ‘human factor’ “bacteria don’t blush”

3 Common Errors in Social Thought 1.Hindsight bias – I knew the second tower on 9/11 was going to be hit! (I knew it all along…after the fact it is much easier to identify what did happen.) 2. Anecdotal evidence – use people or situations around you to draw false conclusions based on these stories 3. False consensus – everyone (wrongly) agrees to something

4 Common Errors in Social Thought cont… 4. Confirmation Bias “the tendency to search for information that confirms one’s preconceptions” tend to weigh confirming info more heavily more readily notice it 5. Observation Bias making unconscious mistakes in classifying or selecting observations  our biases may operate subtly  is it possible to be fully objective, neutral?

5 Common Errors in Social Thought cont… 6.Perceive order in chance random events often assigned undue significance  card sequences  multiple births  airplane crashes missed/skipped flight  HHHHTTTT or HTHHTHTT?  tend to place metaphysical, spiritual significance on explainable occurrences of extreme chance

6 7. Fixation inability to see a problem from a different perspective  “tunnel vision”  number pattern: 2 – 4 – 6  9 dots with 4 lines locked into one opinion, solution, cause fail to see other possible perspectives “belief perseverance” Common Errors in Social Thought cont…

7 8. Illusory correlations often perceive a connection between 2 variables that doesn’t exist  adoptions and pregnancy  “lucky socks” and winning game  retirement and death Common Errors in Social Thought cont…

8 9. Fooled by “framing” “the way an issue is posed … can significantly affect judgements”  ground beef: 75 % lean vs. 25 % fat  condom: 95 % effective vs. 5 % failure rate  chance of death: 10 in 10 million vs. 0.000001 % Common Errors in Social Thought cont…

9 10. Sampling: too small, non- representative  How many people studied depends on degree of error you are willing to tolerate

10 Apparently This is the e-mail that the employee's at ATB in Edmonton passed around before they won the big lottery last year. Let's hope it works for you. There are five things that you cannot recover in life: (1) The Stone...........after it's thrown, (2) The Word...............after it's said, (3) The Occasion......after it's missed, and (4) The Time.............after it's gone. (5) A person...............after they die If you delete it - you will beg! - seeing is believing. MONEY ANGEL This is a money angel. Pass it to 6 of your good friends or family and be rich in 4 days. Pass it to 12 of your good friends or family and be rich in 2 days. I am not joking. You will find an unexpected windfall. If you delete it, you will beg. Trust me!!!

11 Elements of Critical Thinking  critical thinking “examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, and assesses conclusions”  maintain a healthy scepticism Polish proverb: “To believe with certainty, we must begin by doubting” David Myers: “be sceptical but not cynical, open but not gullible”

12 Elements of Critical Thinking  opinions are based on evidence, testing  social scientific method is not perfect, but it minimizes many of the above errors randomized control tests  e.g. effectiveness of medications double-blind studies

13 Application: Parapsychology  the study of paranormal phenomena Extrasensory Perception (ESP) Telepathy: mind-to-mind communication Clairvoyance: perceiving remote events Precognition: perceiving future events

14 Parapsychology  many parapsychological (or Psi) claims seem believable  most claims appear less credible when tested scientifically they demonstrate many of the common thinking errors  e.g. Lindbergh baby kidnapping and dreams baby is dead: 5 % body among trees: 4 people (0.003 %)

15  parapsychology claims need to be tested verifiable controlled setting, factors repeated e.g. to test psychic powers: Parapsychology

16 Some explanations: frequency  make many predictions; some will be right  “A person who talks a lot is sometimes right.” – Spanish Proverb  “A stopped clock is right twice a day.” experts at reading cues  facial reactions, verbal clues (micro- expressions) Parapsychology

17 desire to get an answer; tell people what they want to hear  confirmation bias media influence  Lee Frede airplane prediction hoax  64 media outlets report the story; 12 report the retraction

18 References  Battersby, M. (2010). Is That a Fact? Peterborough: Broadview Press.  Brym, R. (2004). New Society. (4 th edition). Toronto: Thomson Nelson.  Carroll, R. (1994-2009) Skeptic’s Dictionary. Retrieved February 10, 2010 from  James Randi Educational Foundation. (2010). James Randi Educational Foundation. Retreived February 8, 2010 from  Myers, D. (2007). Psychology. (8 th edition). New York: Worth Publishers.

19 Explain the logical or reasoning error in each statement below:  “I heard weak magnets worn on the body can heal and prevent illness.”  “I saw the suspect: she was definitely wearing black pants, a beige shirt, and had a tattoo on her left arm.”  “If you work hard you can get ahead. I know several of my parents’ friends started off poor but are now comfortably middle class.”

20  “I have to be right. I can’t think of any contrary cases or examples”  “I have no idea how that could have happened. There must be supernatural forces at work.”  “The Leafs only won 6 games last month, but they won 4 of them on Saturdays. I’m betting they’ll win this Saturday too.”

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