The Scientific Method – Breaking Down The Beast


How to Understand the Scientific Method So many of you have heard about the Scientific
Method, and perhaps, if you were like me, were intimidated by it as if it were some
big scary process used by scientists to build death rays, and develop brain viruses that
will lead to the zombie apocalypse? However, it was hollywood and artists, people
not known for caring about facts and reality, who gave science this connotation in the 20th
century. The scientific method is nothing more than
a way of thinking Its a way to process this big scary beast
we call the world it allows us to breakdown complex events into
simpler components so we can UNDERSTAND them. For psychologists, the scientific method is
the system used to gather information in order to understand human behavior; And like all systems, there is a protocol,
and for the scientific method it looks something like this:
#1: ask a question: questions are inquiries about the relationship among a set of otherwise
unorganized facts, but wait this sound confusing, so let’s break
it down inquiries are just your curiosities and “the
relationship among a set of otherwise unorganized facts” is anytime you look at something and
go “I don’t get it” therefore step one is simply: curiosities
about things you don’t get #2 develop a plausible explanation: this is
broken down into two steps – specifying a theory and developing a hypothesis, which
we’ll go into more depth in a sec #3 test your hypothesis:
#4 interpret the data Most often, the confusion starts at step 2:
Developing a Plausible Explanation; in your book, it first says to specify a theory,
meaning: you are gonna have to DO RESEARCH!!! Specifying a theory means gathering information
that can explain (elucidate) the confusion in the question; it is your framework. Say you ask, why does stress still exist,
isn’t bad for you? To specify your theory you might go to Wikipedia
and encounter the theory of evolutionary biology which explains that people stress because
it was advantageous in our ancestors, stress heightens motor reflexes in order to efficiently
react to dangerous situations. Now is a good time to distinguish between
a theory and a hypothesis because popular culture today fails to make any distinction. A theory is a well-established piece of information
whereas a hypothesis is an testable prediction in the form of a statement, keywords being
testable and statement, too often students present their hypothesis in the form of a
question. That is what step one is for. Whereas the theory is well established, the
hypothesis awaits testing. Theory can be thought of as the bridge between
your question and your hypothesis; it guides you in your hypothesis-developing process
; it is the reason, the justification for your hypothesis say you have a dog that scratches his butt:
your theory might look something like this — flees are common dog parasites, flees leech
off their host by sucking blood, the host’s body responds with inflammation, these areas
of inflammation itch therefore I hypothesize that my dog has butt fleas Notice that by having theory, our hypothesis
is logical now that we have developed a hypothesis, this
hypothesis needs to be tested ; just as there was theory to bridge our question to an appropriate
hypothesis, we have operational definitions to bridge our hypothesis to an appropriate
test. Operation definitions are making the variables
in our hypothesis observable and measurable. They are the physical manifestations of abstract
concepts and mental processes that are in your hypothesis say we go back to our first example with stress:
our task would now be to operationally define stress, we know of stress as a mental process, but how does it physically manifest itself?
You might say through sweating, increase heart rate, secretion of oxytocin, adrenalin, and
cortisol? Operational definitions are tricky because…
sweating? people sweat also because it’s hot. Increase heart rate? this also occurs during
sexual stimulation, and oxytocin is also released during lovey
dovey feelings you have around your significant other. The quality of an operational definition ultimately
depends on the ingenuity of the experimenter. Thus this is where a scientist is allowed
to exercise his creativity because it is often hard to verify a mental process through its
physical results.

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