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e-book The Human Subject in the Psychological Laboratory

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But many approaches of psychology do meet the accepted requirements of the scientific method, whilst others appear to be more doubtful in this respect. There are alternatives to empiricism, such as rational research, argument and belief. The humanistic approach another alternative values private, subjective conscious experience and argues for the rejection of science. The humanistic approach argues that objective reality is less important than a person's subjective perception and subjective understanding of the world.

Because of this, Carl Rogers and Maslow placed little value on scientific psychology, especially the use of the scientific laboratory to investigate both human and other animal behavior. This is what the humanistic approach aims to do. Humanism is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the study of the whole person. Humanistic psychologists look at human behavior not only through the eyes of the observer, but through the eyes of the person doing the behaving.

Humanistic psychologists believe that an individual's behavior is connected to his inner feelings and self-image. The humanistic approach in psychology deliberately steps away from a scientific viewpoint, rejecting determinism in favor of freewill, aiming to arrive at a unique and in depth understanding. Humanistic psychologists rejected a rigorous scientific approach to psychology because they saw it as dehumanizing and unable to capture the richness of conscious experience. In many ways the rejection of scientific psychology in the s, s and s was a backlash to the dominance of the behaviorist approach in North American psychology.

In certain ways everyone is a psychologist. This does not mean that everyone has been formally trained to study and be trained in psychology. People have common sense views of the world, of other people and themselves. These common sense views may come from personal experience, from our upbringing as a child and through culture etc.


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Common-sense views about people are rarely based on systematic i. Racial or religious prejudices may reflect what seems like common sense within a group of people. However, prejudicial beliefs rarely stand up to what is actually the case. Common sense, then, is something which everybody uses in their day-to-day lives, guides decisions and influences how we interact with one another. But because it is not based on systematic evidence, or derived from scientific inquiry, it may be misleading and lead to one group of people treating others unfairly and in a discriminatory way.

Despite having a scientific methodology worked out we think , there are further problems and arguments which throw doubt onto psychology ever really being a science. Limitations may refer to the subject matter e. Science assumes that there are laws of human behavior that apply to each person. Therefore science takes both a deterministic and reductionist approach.

Science studies overt behavior because overt behavior is objectively observable and can be measured, allowing different psychologists to record behavior and agree on what has been observed.

The Scientific Process

This means that evidence can be collected to test a theory about people. Scientific laws are generalizable, but psychological explanations are often restricted to specific times and places. Because psychology studies mostly people, it studies indirectly the effects of social and cultural changes on behavior.

Psychology does not go on in a social vacuum. Behavior changes over time, and over different situations. These factors, and individual differences, make research findings reliable for a limited time only. Are traditional scientific methods appropriate for studying human behavior? When psychologists operationalize their IV, it is highly likely that this is reductionist, mechanistic, subjective, or just wrong. Experiments are keen to establish that X causes Y, but taking this deterministic view means that we ignore extraneous variables, and the fact that at a different time, in a different place, we probably would not be influenced by X.

There are so many variables that influence human behavior that it is impossible to control them effectively.

The Human Subject in the Psychological Laboratory

The issue of ecological validity ties in really nicely here. Objectivity is impossible. Investigation of these simple sensory and affective processes would, it was hoped, provide brass-instrument psychologists with the building blocks for a positivist science of the mind.

But the methodological rigour of the physical sciences was no more than a pipe dream. Because of these pitfalls, psychology was destined to become increasingly reliant on trickery and espionage in both laboratory and field. But the public remained largely oblivious to the high-minded gamesmanship of psychologists, sociologists and clinical researchers.


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  • Researchers rarely considered the ethical or methodological impact of this repeated trickery. With every mistake, the shock was to be raised by 15 volts. All pleas and protestations were to be ignored. Whenever the volunteers faltered or refused, they were encouraged to proceed with a series of pre-scripted prompts. Please continue. The experiment requires that you continue. It is absolutely essential that you continue.

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    You have no other choice, you must go on. Having crossed a moral line, Milgram cast an ominous shadow over the profession as a whole. Before commencing the experiments, Milgram had polled colleagues and students to guess their outcome. Within the psychological community, there was a collective sigh of dismay. Having crossed a moral line, Milgram was upbraided for the stress and trauma to which he had exposed his volunteers, and roundly rebuked for casting an ominous shadow over the profession as a whole. B y the time Milgram published his book Obedience to Authority , the climate of public and expert opinion on the ethics of scientific deception was even less forgiving.

    Public health physicians working on the Tuskegee syphilis experiment in Alabama were found to have duped hundreds of syphilis victims, depriving them of treatment with penicillin in order to observe progression of the disease. In short, Milgram-style deception found itself lumped together with some decidedly unsavoury company.

    How Experimental Psychology Studies Behavior

    Post-Watergate America decided that it could no longer trust its clinicians or behavioural researchers. In light of the new guidelines on human experimentation laid out by The Belmont Report from the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects in Biomedical and Behavioural Research, the social psychologist was required to navigate a new regulatory landscape.

    Intro to Psychology: Crash Course Psychology #1

    Institutional review boards were encouraged to take an especially dim view of deceptions that could potentially expose subjects to transient physical or psychological harm. The old guard of experimental psychology and the clinical researchers were not happy. Experimenters continued to be granted permission to misrepresent their research hypothesis, to spy upon their subjects, and to mask their identities.

    The First Experimental Psychology Lab

    They were asked to watch another person who was actually an actor do a memory test and were instructed to press a button that gave an electric shock each time the person got a wrong answer the actor did not actually receive the shocks, but pretended as if they did. The experimenters asked the participants to keep increasing the shocks and most of them obeyed even though the individual completing the memory test appeared to be in great pain.

    Despite these protests, many participants continued the experiment when the authority figure urged them to, increasing the voltage after each wrong answer until some eventually administered what would be lethal electric shocks. This experiment showed that humans are conditioned to obey authority and will usually do so even if it goes against their natural morals or common sense. What the researcher found was that the baby monkeys spent much more time with the cloth mother than the wire mother, thereby proving that affection plays a greater role than sustenance when it comes to childhood development.

    These findings also had implications in the attachment between fathers and their infants when the mother is the source of nourishment. Experiment Details: In , an experiment was created by John Darley and Daniel Batson, to investigate the potential causes that underlie altruistic behavior. The experiment researchers set out three hypotheses they wanted to test:. Student participants were given some religious teaching and instruction and then were told to travel from one building to the next.

    Between the two buildings was a man lying injured and appearing to be in dire need of assistance. The first variable being tested was the degree of urgency impressed upon the subjects, with some being told not to rush and others being informed that speed was of the essence. The results of the experiment were intriguing, with the haste of the subject proving to be the overriding factor. When the subject was in no hurry, nearly two-thirds of people stopped to lend assistance. When the subject was in a rush, this dropped to one in ten.

    People who were on the way to deliver a speech about helping others were nearly twice as likely to help as those delivering other sermons, showing that the thoughts of the individual were a factor in determining helping behavior. Religious beliefs did not appear to make much difference on the results; being religious for personal gain, or as part of a spiritual quest, did not appear to make much of a noticeable impact on the amount of helping behavior shown.

    Experiment Details: The Halo Effect states that people generally assume that people who are physically attractive are more likely to be intelligent, friendly, and display good judgment. In order to prove their theory Nisbett and DeCamp Wilson created a study to prove that people have little awareness of the nature of the Halo Effect, and that it influences their personal judgments, inferences and the production of a more complex social behavior.

    In the experiment, college students were the research participants and were asked to evaluate a psychology instructor as they view him in a videotaped interview. The students were randomly assigned to one of two groups, and each group was shown one of two different interviews with the same instructor who is a native French-speaking Belgian who spoke English with a fairly noticeable accent.

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    In the second interview, he presented himself as much more unlikable.