Did you know that at one point in time it was believed that ice cream caused polio?
As you saw by this example, the human mind can come up with some crazy conclusions when it isn't guided by systematic research. There are several different methods by which the mind can trick and deceive even the smartest individual. The two that we'll be discussing quite a bit are:
1) Biases and
Biases are preexisting notions or prejudices in favor of or against something. You gain biases in your everyday life and naturally will lean toward evidence that only proves whatever point you're trying to make. It's only natural, after all. No one likes to be wrong. So let's take a look at the different types of biases that you yourself have at one point or another in your own life (and I in mine) made.
Hindsight bias is the idea that "I knew it all along" when really, we were just as clueless as the rest of them. Take the ice cream example from above: when the study came out on the news that ice cream caused polio, you could imagine your grandma or perhaps even someone in the health food industry say something to the effect of "I told you all thems sweets was bad fer ya! Ya shoulda ate them broccolli cuts and this wouldn'ta happened! Nothing good comes from lollipops and jimmies and chocolate sodas all the time!"
In other words, it's really easy to look at something and point out what you should have done... After the fact.
Along with hindsight bias, we get the overconfidence, also known as the 'Didn't you know I have ESP?' bias. This is basically the notion that you're always right and you're confident in your own ego - even if 70% of the time you're probably wrong. You like to think of yourself as better than you actually are. But don't worry, you're probably still pretty awesome (or am I just being overconfident?)
Ever hear the phrase "Never judge a book by its cover"? Well it turns out that we almost automatically do this every time anyway thanks to a little thing called heuristics. Heuristics are another fun thing that our mind likes to do to mess with us. Think of them as mental shortcuts and knowledge that "you just know off the top of your head". In all actuality, half of the time you're probably wrong. Heuristics are nice though. They help organize the brain and lets you make sense of the world around you without filling up your entire mental capacity (though, there isn't any real need to worry about that, now is there?)
And the last topic that I'm going to cover today is correlation vs. causation; also known as the A, B therefore A=B. Basically what you need to know about this is that two events or variables may go on at the same time, and therefore, it is natural for you to say that one causes the other. Let's take a look at the ice cream example once more. They found that polio cases rose in numbers in the summer. The researchers also found that ice cream sales rise just as significantly in the summer. So does that mean that ice cream causes polio? Of course, we know the answer is no, but it is easy to see how they drew that conclusion even if the two events were not causational, they still correlated.
All in all, this chapter is important to pay attention to because it highlights common mistakes that can be made in any researcher's data and it points out patterns of thought that psychology students just like you need to be aware of when you're doing your research or going over case studies. Look at the data and look at it closely. Don't let your eyes (or your mind for that matter) make a fool out of you.