You are on page 1of 6

In your courses in the psychology program you learned about some specific things

that we know about why people do what they do, and you learned about some methods
that psychologists use to establish that knowledge. The specifics aren't as important as the
general ways of thinking about behavior that we hope you have picked up in your
coursework. Whether you recognize it or not, you should have changed the way that you
respond to claims about the things that people do. You should have at least begun to think
like a psychologist.
eith !tanovich's book "#ow to Think !traight $bout %sychology" is a wonderful
summary of some of the most important dispositions of psychologists. &ach chapter
contrasts a casual, uninformed way of thinking about behavior with the more formal and
well organized thinking of an effective psychologist 'these are all summarized nicely for
you in a list on pages ()* and ()+,. This is the kind of thinking we hope you will reflect
in your !enior !eminar pro-ect, as you describe and evaluate e.planations of some
behaviors that interest you. %lease be sure to think about these as you do your reading and
writing, and be on the lookout for applications to your work.
Preface
(. /n page i. !tanovich writes that the discipline of psychology is "a body of
knowledge that is unknown to most people". What is his point here0
1. /n page . !tanovich notes some "unfortunate side effects" to the 2334+33 page
introductory psychology te.t crammed full of facts about psychology. What are those
side effects0
Much of the preface is an argument for the importance of developing critical thinking
skills with which to evaluate claims about psychology. Why is it important for you,
personally, to develop those skills? What difference will it make to your future life, both
professional and personal?
Chapter One - Psychology is Alive and Well (and Doing Fine Among the Sciences)
(. What is "the 5reud problem"0
1. /n page 2 !tanovich writes that "%sychology is difference from other behavioral
fields in that it attempts to give the public two guarantees". What are these two
guarantees0 6escribe them in your own words, being sure to e.plain how they differ
from each other. 7ive e.amples of coursework you have done that was intended to
help you to meet these "guarantees".
8. /n page + !tanovich lists two things that science is not, and three things that define
science. What are these0 &.plain why each is important.
9. /n page (94(: !tanovich discusses cultural beliefs and research about the importance
of teenagers' early work e.periences. What are the cultural beliefs0 What did the
research show0 Which should you believe0 What other e.amples does he give 'p. (:4
(2; there are three more,0
Ho to !hin" Straight A#o$t Psychology
%sy 9)(
In this chapter, Stanovich argues for a psychology supported by scientific research. How
do you suppose you might find yourself using results of specific psychological research in
your future life, again, both professional and personal?
Chapter !o - Falsifia#ility
(. /n page () !tanovich tells a story about the reasoning of 6octor <en-amin =ush,
who used bloodletting to treat yellow fever. In your own words, what was =ush's
belief, and what were the evidence and reasoning that he used to support it0
1. What is the falsifiability criterion0 'p. 13,.
8. /n page 1( !tanovich talks about a "theory of knocking rhythms". What is the point
of that story0
9. /n page 1: !tanovich talks about scientists having become impatient with &!%
research, and notes that "one reason is undoubtedly that the area is tainted by fraud,
charlatanism, and media e.ploitation". Why should that "taint" a scientific
hypothesis0 Why would a history of fraud with respect to a claim make scientists less
likely to pay attention to that claim in the future0
:. /n page 1+ !tanovich writes that "in science, making a mistake is not a sin". #ow
can it be okay to make a mistake in science0 What kind of mistake is he talking
about0
his chapter was all about going out on a limb. ell me about something that you believe,
and something that you might do to show that your belief is false.
Chapter % - Operationism and &ssentialism
(. !tanovich 'p. 8:, says that science does not "attempt to answer 'ultimate' >uestions
about the universe". What makes a >uestion an "ultimate >uestion"0 7ive an e.ample
of such a >uestion 'not one of those in the boo,.
1. What is operationism0 7ive an e.ample in psychology 'not one of those in the book,.
What is the target of operationism0 'that is, what is it that is operationalized0,
8. What is the "pre4e.isting bias problem" in psychology 'p. 93,0
9. /n the bottom of page 91 and onto page 98, !tanovich talks about "/perationism as a
#umanizing 5orce". &.plain his argument, using your own words.
Suppose you wanted to know what psychologists mean when they use the term
!patience!. How would you go about finding out?
Chapter ' - !estimonials and Case St$dy &vidence
(. /n page :1 !tanovich says that many popular therapies are backed by nothing but
testimonials of people who have used them, and he says that "case studies and
testimonials are virtually worthless as evidence". Why are they virtually worthless0
1. ?ater on that same page he says that case studies do have some value. What is it that
he thinks case studies are good for, and how does that differ from the purposes for
which he finds them "virtually worthless"0 'see also the e.ample near the top of page
:*,.
8. /n page :8 !tanovich points out that there are plenty of people who honestly believe
that subliminal self4help tapes have improved their memory or self4esteem, but that
controlled studies show that these tapes do not improve memory or self4esteem. Why
should we believe the studies and not the testimonials0 'your response should discuss
alternative e"planations,.
9. %ages :94:: talk about two important alternative e.planations for the apparent
success of treatments 'medical and@or psychological,. What are the0
:. What is "the vividness problem"0 'p. :*, #ow does it apply to testimonials0
#n page $% Stanovich describes a study by Wilson and &rekke '())*+. ,escribe this
study in your own words, including the reference in -.- format.
Chapter ( - Correlation and Ca$sation
(. The "toaster@birth control" and pellegra stories at the beginning of the chapter are
intended to demonstrate a shortcoming of correlational evidence. What is it that
!tanovich says correlation evidence cannot demonstrate0 What kind of study does he
say provides better evidence in those situations0
1. When is correlational evidence enough0
8. /n page *8 !tanovich describes a statistical study that concluded that "after variables
reflecting the students' home backgrounds and general mental ability were factored
out, there was virturally no relationship between school achievement and the type of
school attended". What conclusion does he draw from that about the value of public
versus private schooling0
/uite a bit of the end of this chapter is about conservatives0 misuse of correlations to
argue that spending more money on schools does not improve them. 1arlier material in
the chapter defended public schools against conservatives0 claims that private schools
work better. he e"amples given seem to show that conservatives0 arguments tend to be
based on bad reasoning. Is this because conservatives reason more poorly than the rest
of us, or is it because we choose e"amples in order to make conservatives look bad 'that
is, a selection bias of our own+? How would you tell?
Chapter ) - *etting !hings +nder Control
(. /n page +9 !tanovich talks about the drawback of a study in which the participants
themselves select the group they are in. Why is this a problem0
1. /n page +: !tanovich talks about three types of research study applied to the >uestion
of whether or not portacaval shunts were an effective treatment for cirrhosis of the
liver. #ow did those types of research differ0 What is the point !tanovich is making
here0
#n page 23 Stanovich e"plains !control! very clearly. 4ind the paragraph in which he
does this, and put it into your own words.
Chapter , - -.$t /t0s 1ot 2eal 3ife4-
(. /n pages (3( and following !tanovich talks about 6ouglas Aook's e.planation of the
kinds of research goals in which random samples are important and those in which
such samples are not important. When is a random sample important, according to
Aook0
1. What is the "Bollege !ophomore %roblem" 'p. (3+,0 #ow does !tanovich feel about
it0
he entire point of this chapter is that artificial !laboratory! situations are better than
natural situations if the goal is to !yield e"planations about the nature of the world! 'p.
))+. How can that be?
Chapter 5 - Avoiding the &instein Syndrome
1. This entire chapter is about two competing beliefs about science. What are those
beliefs0 Which does !tanovich want us to hold0
2. What does !tanovich think is the reason why so many people hold the wrong belief
about this0
3. What is the "connectivity principle"0 What is the "gradual synthesis model"0 What is
"converging evidence"0
4. /n page (12, !tanovich talks about "the progression to more powerful methods".
6escribe this progression0 What kinds of methods do researchers use first0 What
kinds do they use later0
#n page (5* Stanovich talks about a situation in which psychologists presented e"pert
testimony in a trial in which a rock group was accused of driving two boys to suicide. In
your own words, e"plain what happened with the e"pert testimony in that trial, and how
the researcher 'imothy Moore+ feels about the outcome.
Chapter 6 - !he 7isg$ided Search for the -7agic .$llet-
(. $t the end of the first paragraph in this chapter, !tanovich writes "<ehavior is
multiply determined". What does he mean0
1. /n page (81 !tanovich talks about the concept of "interaction". What does this refer
to0
In your pro6ect, you will identify some possible causes for some behavior. How will you
apply the points of this chapter to the way that you think and write about your topic?
Chapter 89 - !he Achilles0 Heel of H$man Cognition
(. /n page (8) !tanovich uses the term "probabilistic trend". What is that0 What is the
opposite 'that is, what kind of "trend" would C/T be "probabilistic",0
1. /n page (93 !tanovich says that virtually all of what we know about psychology is
probabilistic. Why0 Why aren't psychological laws stated in terms of certainties0
8. What are "person4who" statistics0 What kind of argument uses "person4who"
statistics0 What's wrong with that kind of argument0
,escribe a situation in which you might be asked to make a diagnostic 6udgment. What
personal e"periences might cause you to 6udge poorly?
Chapter 88 - !he 2ole of Chance in Psychology
(. What is "the tendency to try to e.plain chance events"0 7ive an e.ample.
1. Why do we have this tendency0
8. /n page (:9 !tanovich says that "when we say that something is due to chance, we
do not necessarily mean that it is indeterminate, only that it is currently
indeterminable". What is the difference0
9. /n page (22, !tanovich contrasts clinical and actuarial predictions. What are these0
What does he say about them0
hese comments about clinical prediction may be shocking. It0s probably safe to say that
most people who go into clinical practice do so believing that they will have the ability to
use personal information to diagnose mental health problems. What does Stanovich0s
claim about clinical prediction say about clinical practice?
Chapter 8: - !he 2odney Dangerfield of the Sciences
(. /n pages (*2 through (*+ !tanovich lists three kinds of books that are typically
found in the "%sychology" sections of bookstores. What are these0
1. /n page (*2 !tanovich says that parapsychology '&!%, etc., is not an area of research
in modern psychology. Why 'according to !tanovich, isn't it0
8. /n pages (+( through (+9, !tanovich points out that when psychologists are
interviewed by the media, one kind of comment gets published, and another kind
never does. What are these two kinds of comments0
&eginning on page (2$, Stanovich talks about the ways that psychologists themselves
contribute to the disrespect given to the field of psychology. hen on page (22, he says
that various forms of clinical training do not lead to improved therapeutic outcomes for
mental health patients. -ssuming that you are hoping to work in some form of
psychotherapy, how can you 7 personally 7 reconcile this with your goals and the training
re8uired to reach them?
Course Goals
1. You will reflect on your past work in psychology in order to identify your interests,
strengths, and areas to be developed further. The first task in this class will be to do
a portfolio review of your prior work in psychology, with a goal of using self
understanding to i!prove your work on the current pro"ect.
2. You will choose an appropriate topic. #hile the choice of topic is fairly wide open,
there are so!e li!itations. $ou will need to e%plain so!ething about the behavior,
thoughts, or e!otions of people or ani!als, and you will need to do so at a
psychological level &that is, addressing individuals as individuals'.
3. You will use two psychological theories to explain behaviors, thoughts, or emotions.
This !eans that you will need to de!onstrate that you understand how those
theories e%plain things in general, and apply those theories to the specific topic that
you have chosen.
4. You will critically evaluate those theoretical explanations. This !ay be new ground
for you, as in the past you were probably si!ply asked to understand how theories
e%plained certain behaviors, thoughts, or e!otions. (n this class we will talk about
how to evaluate those theoretical e%planations, and you will do so!e evaluation in
both your paper and your presentation.
. You will find and use appropriate psychological literature. #hile you !ay use so!e
)popular press) sources as well, your paper will be grounded !ainly in the
psychological acade!ic literature. *bviously you can+t find everything written on your
topic, but you will de!onstrate that you can find and use appropriate sources to
support your points. $our sources will support both your understanding of theories
and your clai!s about your specific topic.
!. You will act and interact in professional ways in the classroom. This will include
engaging in classroo! discussion with peers as well as the instructor, asking
relevant ,uestions, and assisting peers with resources and ideas.
". You will use #$# format %$ublication &anual,
th
edition, 2''1( in your final paper.