Basics of Scientific Method
We continue with basic assumptions of the scientific method, addressing the "hourglass" model of the overall research flow. We will define each of these terms: these will be central to the course (and the midterm!). These are in Week 2 lecture notes.
Some Key terms (yes, these will be on the exam...):
- Measurement versus 'True" Experiments versus Quasi-Experiments.
- Internal versus external validity.
- Hypothetical constructs.
- Operational definitions
- Variables, variance.
Types of research and internal v. external validity:
Suggested background reading: "Introduction to Methods in Science" (or the eqivalent) in whatever text you are using.
How do we know things?
What does Science Do?
For lecture & Discussion Group:
- Read the articles / media cited below for discussion group.
- Listen to the NYC RadioLab PodCast about operationally defining death.
Discussion group Assignment
Science and society
How much does science matter?
How do scientific discoveries influence the way you live? Are those influences always for the better?
Click here to read about the role science plays in social policy, and what role should it play. The article argues that science should matter a lot, but some parts of society may not value it enough.
- Do you buy that argument? Why / why not?
- What do you think inhibits full social acceptance (and use) of scientific findings or a scientific attitude? Refer to our class discussions in answering this.
Brain science and legal / moral responsibility
Religious or ethical systems assume people are responsible for their decisions and behavior: people exercise "free will" when they commit a crime. What if brain science tells us we are basically machines, without free will in the usual sense?
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows scientists to actually watch the brain while it is working. What if these data show that some people commit crimes due to a “brain problem” – a tumor, or restricted blood flow -- that interferes with their "free" decision making? A new sub-discipline called “Neurolaw” addresses the legal implications of brain research.
Click the image above for an article on “Neurolaw”, and click on the image in the bonus section for a NPR audio report. Then, write a sentence or two on each of the following:
- Should criminals with a brain abnormality be held responsible for their behavior?
- Could any crime be seen as due to a “brain problem”? After all, the brain "causes" any behavior, criminal or otherwise.
- Might Neurolaw be too great an intrusion of science into everyday morality, or is the ability to more clearly understand the neurological basis of criminal behavior an important advance?