Scientific Method


I. Limitations of non-scientific methods

A. Intuition => Often wrong

1. Lack of information (examples: Clever Hans, the two bullets)
2. Illusory correlations (examples: crime, conceiving a baby after adoption)

B. Folk wisdom => Often contradictory

C. Authority => could be wrong (e.g., misinformed, lying)

II. Assumptions of the scientific method

A. Knowledge should be pursued by observation and experimentation (empiricism)

B. Knowledge is self-correcting through peer review, competing perspectives and replication

III. Goals of scientific method

A. Describe behavior (How do people distribute resources among in-group and out-group?)

B. Predict behavior (Employers will tend to favor in-group members when hiring)

C. Determine causes of behavior (necessary for change) (Is it because of dislike or distrust?)

1. Covariation of cause and effect
2. Temporal precedence
3. Elimination of alternative explanations

D. Understand why behavior occurs (theory building!)


IV. Valued characteristics of a theory

A. Comprehensive
B. Parsimonious
C. Has applied value
D. Internally consistent
E. Falsifiable

V. Types of research

A. Basic (theoretical) vs Applied
B. Quantitative vs Qualitative