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AP Psych Chapter 1

1. When your best friend hears that you are taking a psychology course, she asserts that
psychology is simply common sense. Explain why your awareness of both the limits of
everyday reasoning and the methods of psychological research would lead you to
disagree with your friend’s assertion.

Most notions of common sense commonly create errors. Humans have the natural tendency
to feel as if they had the “right idea” after an outcome of any event.

One of our human errors is known as the hindsight bias. Hindsight bias is defined as ones
tendency to believe, after learning an outcome, that one could have foreseen it (I – knew- it-
all-along phenomenon). For instance, after the World Trade Tower was hit on 9/11, people
should have immediately evacuated but it was later revealed that this was not the case. In a
study by psychologists Paul Slovic and Baruch Fischoff and Gordon Wood, they showed how
unanticipated scientific results and historical happenings can seem like common sense. They
created two groups of participants in their experiment and told one group that separation
weakens romantic attraction (Out of sight, out of mind); then they told the second groups that
separation tends to strengthen romantic attraction (Absence makes the heart grow fonder).
Given this result, many participants could make sense out of the information given to them
and perceive their overall attraction to the given aspect.

Another error in humans is our tendency to be overconfident. Overconfidence is defined as

the idea that we tend to think that we know more than we do. Humans tend to be more
confident than correct. Take anagrams, once people know the target word, the answer seems
obvious. People estimate that the answer will take them 10 seconds when it actually takes
them 3 minutes.

Psychology combines the scientific attitude and the scientific research method to prove that
this study isn’t based on common sense. The scientific attitude that most psychologists abide
by emphasizes on critical thinking: thinking that does not blindly accept arguments and
conclusions. Rather, it examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence,
and assesses conclusions. Most psychologists, like scientists approach the world with
something known as curious skepticism. Often this involves the two questions, “What do you
mean?” and “How do you know?” The scientific research method involves a theory,
hypothesis, operational definition, and replication. All of which ensure the validity and quality
of research findings; the theory being an explanation using an integrated set of principles
that organizes and predicts behavior and a hypothesis that is a testable prediction implied
by a theory. Lather, psychologists provide operational definitions: a statement of
procedures used to define research variables that allow for replication; repeating the
essence of a research study with different participants and different situations.

2. Probably not getting this freak.

3. Speaking at a college graduation ceremony, Professor Robson compared college
graduates with adults who are less educated. She correctly noted that college graduates
pay more taxes, vote more frequently, and engage in more volunteer activities in their
communities, and are less likely to go to jail than less educated adults. The professor
concluded that colleges obviously do great things for society. How might you reasonably
challenge the way the professor reached her conclusions.

First of all. Correlation does not prove causation. Correlation simply indicates the
possibility of a cause-and-effect relationship but doesn’t prove the relationship. The fact
that it makes logical sense for college graduates to pay fewer taxes and vote more simply
points to a illusory correlation made by most people in society. An illusory correlation being
the perception of a relationship where none exists. Illusory correlation explains why when
we believe there is a relationship between college degrees and future earnings moves
most people to perceive correlation if given the evidence.

When making inferences one should keep these three principles in mind. Representative
samples are better than biased samples. No research involves a representative sample of
the whole human’s population, thus the population sampled in each comparison may be
different. Robson can be over generalizing from only one such study to prove causation.
Secondly less-variable observations are more reliable than those that are more variable.
The average of any study is more reliable when it comes with low variability. Also more
cases are better than fewer the cases that Robson mentions in her speech may be out of
the ordinary when compared to other cases. So being impressed by her anecdotes would
be generalizing based on a few unrepresentative cases.

4. Design an experiment to test whether alcohol consumption influences peoples’ tendency

to become socially aggressive. Be sure to specify your experimental hypothesis and
identify your dependent and independent variables, as well as your experimental and
control conditions. Identify any experimental procedures that would ensure the validity of
your research.

In order to evaluate whether alcohol consumption would influence people’s tendency to

become socially aggressive, we must have a plausible experiment. An experiment is a
research method in which an investigator manipulates one or more factors (independent
variables) to observe the effect on some behavior or mental process (the dependent
variable). These participants will be exposed to experimental conditions. The experimental
condition is defined as the condition of an experiment that exposes participants to the
treatment, that is, to one version of the independent variable .

First we much identify the variables of the experiment. Our independent variable would
be alcohol consumption. An independent variable is the experimental factor that is
manipulated; the variable whose effect is being studied. We will test the effect of alcohol
consumption, therefore the levels of alcohol consumption must be changed. Our dependent
variable would be the social aggressiveness of people who have consumed alcohol. A
dependent variable is the experimental factor-in psychology, the behavior or mental
process that is being measured; the variable may change in response to the manipulations of
the independent variable. However, there must be many control conditions in this
experiment. This is because, without the control condition, the experiment will not know what
factors are causing change in the dependent variable. The controlled variable or control
condition is defined as the condition of an experiment that contrasts with the experimental
condition and serves as a comparison for evaluating the effect of the treatment.

Some examples of controlled variables in this experiment would be the participants

diets, the time of day the alcohol was consumed, what type of alcohol was consumed, the age
of the participant, the criminal history of the participants actions, and the overall health of the

Some experimental procedures that could help to ensure the validity of the research
would be the use of the placebo effect, double blind procedure, and random assignment. The
use of a double blind procedure is defined as an experimental procedure in which both the
research participants and the research staff are ignorant about whether the research
participants have received the treatment of a placebo. In this experiment since different
levels of alcohol need to be given to participants, the amount need not be disclosed to the
researchers thus minimizing the personal bias or preexisting mindset of how a certain amount
of alcohol will affect each participant. This procedure directly shows the basis of the placebo
effect. The placebo effect is defined as experimental results based on expectations alone.
Giving a group of participants’ mock alcohol could help identify the possibility of social
aggressive behavior to be inert and not just persuaded by alcohol alone. Also, the random
assignment will minimize preexisting differences between groups, random assignment is
the assignments of participants to experimental and control conditions by chance.

5. Five students receive the following test scores: 7, 11, 5, 6, and 11. Calculate the mode,
median, mean and range of this distribution of scores. Which measure of central tendency
would change the most if an additional test score of 2 was included in the distribution?

Measures of central tendency are three measures used to summarize data. The simplest
measure is called the mode. Mode is the most frequently occurring score in a distribution.
However the most commonly reported measure of central tendency is the mean. The
mean is the arithmetic average of a distribution, obtained by adding the scores and then
dividing by the number of scores. The median is the middle score is a distribution, half
the scores are above it and the other half below it. Measures of central tendency neatly
summarize data but can change quickly. When data is skewed, the mean of a distribution
also becomes lopsided. The mean can be biased by a few extreme scores. It is always
important to note which measure of central tendency is being reported.
Measures of variation show the similarities in each set of data. Measures of variation can
help with the validity of the measures of central tendency. The range of scores is the
difference between the highest and lowest scores in a distribution. The lower range
probably ensures a more accurate measure of central tendency. The more useful measure
of how much scores deviate from each other is standard deviation. Standard deviation
being a computed measure of how much scores vary around the mean score. Standard
deviation better gauges whether scores are packed together or dispersed because it uses
information from each score.