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CHAPTER 1 – SCIENTIFIC THINKING IN PSYCHOLOGY 1. Review why you should take this course, including how it might impact you later on (e.g. in your careers) as well as the type of course this is versus some other courses WHY TAKE THIS COURSE? For one thing, a course in research methods (accompanied by a statistics course) provides a solid foundation for understanding the information you will encounter in other psychology courses in specific topic areas (social, cognitive, developmental, etc.). Research has shown that students who do well in statistics and methods courses go on to have higher GPAs in their other psychology courses than students doing poorly, and that methodology course grades in particular are good predictors of the overall knowledge about psychology gained by students during their careers as psychology majors. The difference between the methods course and other courses in the psychology curriculum is essentially the difference between process and content . The methods course teaches a process of acquiring knowledge about psychological phenomena that is then applied to all the specific content areas represented by other courses in the psychology curriculum. A social psychology experiment in conformity might be worlds apart in subject matter from a cognitive psychology study on eyewitness memory, but their common thread is method—the manner in which researchers gain their knowledge about these phenomena. Fully understanding textbook descriptions of research in psychology is much easier if you know something about the methods used to arrive at the conclusions. A second reason for taking experimental psychology is that knowledge of research methods will make you a more informed and critical thinker, even if you never collect a single piece of data after completing this course. Any good course in psychology will improve your critical thinking skills, but a methodology course will be especially effective at enhancing your skills in evaluating research and claims about psychology that appear to be based on research. Bensley (2008) defines critical thinking in psychology as a form of precise thinking “in which a person reasons about relevant evidence to draw a sound or good conclusion” (p. 128). This requires being able to judge the quality of the evidence used to support a claim, being fair and unbiased when examining conflicting claims, and drawing reasonable conclusions based on the evidence at hand. The need for critical thinking about psychology is clear. We are continually exposed to claims about behavior from sources ranging from the people around us who are amateur psychologists (i.e., everyone) to media accounts ranging from the sublime (an account in a reputable magazine about research on the relationship between video-game playing and aggressiveness) to the ridiculous (the tabloid headlines you read while waiting in line to pay for groceries). While most people can dismiss the latter without
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