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Principles of Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives


One of the unique things about this textbook is the lively and effective pedagogical scheme that helps first year undergraduates develop the skills and approaches necessary for success.

Read on to find out more, and to view examples of the 'Debunking' feature used throughout the text.

Principles of Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives


Did you know that you can't be left brained or right brained? That schizophrenia doesn't mean 'split-personality'? That 'crack babies' don't exist?
Science is based on its evidence - strong evidence means a reliable conclusion. But there are many examples of things that many people believe are true, that just aren't supported by the evidence. Part of learning to think like a psychologist is to question commonly-held beliefs and assumptions, and to challenge bad science.

Our 'Debunking' feature improves psychological literacy by showing how some commonly-held beliefs and assumptions are based on flawed science. 

This feature summarises each myth, and then outlines the evidence that disproves it. The feature also explores the reasons for the popularity of the myth being considered, encouraging students to apply this methodology to examples from their own life.

Matt Jarvis' clear, informal, and user-friendly approach to myth-busting encourages students to engage with the material, to relate the subject to everyday life, and to develop the key skills they need to be successful. 

Principles of Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives

An example from the book - Why do people believe in astrology?

Principles of Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives

Principles of Psychology: Contemporary PerspectivesAn awful lot of people believe in astrology. According to a review of international surveys (Groome, 2016) around 20% of people in the UK believe in the influence of 'their stars,' as compared with 29% in the USA and close to 100% in India. Without being disrespectful to anyone's cultural traditions, we can confidently say that there is no scientific basis to astrology. Of course you may have additional frames of reference other than science; we are just hoping to influence your scientific development. This is not to say that it is impossible that the season of your birth may impact on your development. Whether you were one of the older or younger children in your school year may mean that you had slightly different social and educational experiences. It may even be that the weather in your infancy influenced gene expression at crucial points in your development. However this is not the same as saying that your personality is influenced by the stars.

The vast majority of scientists-if not all scientists-are convinced that there is no virtue to astrology, and that astrology is a good example of a pseudoscience. For example, astrology is not self-correcting but changes only for arbitrary reasons (e.g., social fashion), if at all; it relies on testimonials, anecdotes, and bold statements; it uses jargon to obscure rather than clarify; it cannot produce scientific evidence to support its validity (indeed, virtually all such evidence denies its validity); it over interprets coincidence; it uses "after the fact" (post-hoc) reasons to explain away its failures; and, perhaps most important, it simply doesn't do what it says it can do-that is, it doesn't work. In a classic example of a scientific evaluation of astrology Voas (2007) used British census data to look at 10 million marriages to test the most basic of astrological predictions-that certain sun signs would be attracted to certain other signs, and the personalities of people born under those signs would be compatible with each other. Voas found that no combination of sun signs was found among married couples more frequently than would be expected by chance.

What is perhaps most interesting about all this to psychologists is that intelligent people still believe in astrology, and those who do are generally not at all convinced by evidence or logic. In other words, astrology is a data-proof topic. People will believe regardless of evidence that it cannot do what believers claim that it can. Why is belief in astrology immune to evidence? This is a complex question. Attempts to explain important aspects of life in terms of the supernatural or paranormal are pervasive in all known human societies (Brown, 1991), suggesting that tendencies toward such beliefs may be part of human psychological nature. Human beings also have a tendency to mentally construct patterns from events that conceivably could be related, particularly if these events have an impact on important aspects of life. This pattern-finding skill-"putting two and two together"-likely evolved over evolutionary time because it aided in survival and reproduction. The problem is that we sometimes see patterns where none really exist, and "over interpret" coincidence and chance occurrences (Dawes, 2001).

Principles of Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives


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