Topic #2 - Scientific Method

Topic #2 - Scientific Method - Introduction to Experimental...

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Unformatted text preview: Introduction to Experimental Psychology Scientific Method Epistemology (Methods of obtaining knowledge) Philosophers have identified at least three methods by which we gain knowledge (“truth”). These are: • Divine (non-physical) insight. We gain knowledge through “communication” with a higher, nonphysical being. Presumably this higher being knows much more than mortal humans. We then must have belief or “faith” in this divine truth. • Pure logic and thought (Aristotle). If we are logical enough in our reasoning, we should be able to deduce all knowledge. • Scientific manipulation. This is the only method of gaining knowledge that we shall study in this course. A biologist might want to know if water affects plant growth. The biologist then manipulates the amount of water that is given to a specific plant. The biologist varies (thus the word “variable”) the amount of water given to the plant. He/she gives the plant more or less water. He/she then observes the effect of this variable (the amount of water that is given) on plant growth. The result might well be that plants that are given more water grow higher. We now have knowledge . We know that water will cause plants to grow. Materialism versus Idealism For many centuries, philosophers and scientists debated about the nature of human experience (consciousness). A pure materialist assumes that all that exists must exist in some physical form. This material existence is subject to the laws of the physical universe. There is thus no room in this model of the universe for non-material existence. A pure materialist is thus an atheist. He or she does not believe in any higher non-physical existence, in god(s) or in the soul/mind (assuming that souls and minds are not physical). By contrast, a pure idealist does not believe in the physical reality of our existence. This is best exemplified by the Greek philosopher, Plato. How do we know that physical reality exists at all? How do I know that I am not simply experiencing dream-like existence? It was not until several centuries after Plato that a compromise solution was made by the French philosopher and mathematician, Descartes, who found room for a nonphysical existence (the mind or soul) and physical existence (the body). The laws of science operate only on a physical, material existence. Nevertheless, philosophers point out that we do have concepts such as love, hate, free will and in psychology we have concepts such as the mind, consciousness-unconsciousness. Are these entirely physical in nature? Scientific Process...
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This note was uploaded on 12/21/2010 for the course PSY 1101 taught by Professor Textbook during the Fall '08 term at University of Ottawa.

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Topic #2 - Scientific Method - Introduction to Experimental...

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