Curious about psychology

  • Thread starter Zefram
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How scientific is it? What I mean is I just read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and in the very last section on "cargo cult science" he says:

Other kinds of errors are more characteristic of poor science. When I was at Cornell, I often talked to the people in the psychology department. One of the students told me she wanted to do an experiment that went something like this--it had been found by others that under certain circumstances, X, rats did something, A. She was curious as to whether, if she changed the circumstances to Y, they would still do A. So her proposal was to do the experiment under circumstances Y and see if they still did A.

I explained to her that it was necessary first to repeat in her laboratory the experiment of the other person--to do it under condition X to see if she could also get result A, and then change to Y and see if A changed. Then she would know that the real difference was the thing she thought she had under control.

She was very delighted with this new idea, and went to her professor. And his reply was, no, you cannot do that, because the experiment has already been done and you would be wasting time. This was in about 1947 or so, and it seems to have been the general policy then to not try to repeat psychological experiments, but only to change the conditions and see what happens.
He goes on later to talk about a psychology experiment with rats which he says "discovered all the things you have to do to discover something about rats" that was largely ignored by other researchers.

So has it changed in the last 50 years or so? Has it become more scientific, have the experiments become more repeatable (or rather, do they repeat them more now)?

Or is it still pretty cargo-cultish at times?
 
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  • #2
RuroumiKenshin
I just read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
Is that a good book? What's it about?
 
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It's a book of Richard Feynman's anecdotes; I love it.

As such, psychology has taken incredible leaps in the effectiveness of its methodologies since the 40's and 50's since we now not only repeat endlessly experiments with minute and subtle variations each time, but utilize experiment results used in and from other sciences to validate and ensure precision.
I'd be interested in hearing more about its methodologies and experiments.
 

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