Sunday, July 6, 2014

Is Psychology common sense?

Did you know it all along?

When people hear the word psychology in a conversation, many immediately think that this field is pure common sense. Now, I would like to try a small experiment with you. You will read the next two research findings in psychology experiments and explain in one or two sentences in your head why this is obvious.

  • All things being equal, physically attractive people are seen as more intelligent than physically unattractive people. 
  • People with low self-confidence are more susceptible to flattery than those with high self-confidence.

This is a small-scale experiment similar to one that tried to prove a bias called the hindsight bias. In the real experiment there were two groups which were presented with similar sentences and in both groups the majority agreed that these were common sense. One of the groups had these statements, however, the other group's sentences had a small difference. The word more was replaced by less in both sentences. And, even though this meant that the findings of the first and the second group were the exact opposite, both groups reported that the research was common sense and that psychologists wasted time and money. Did you fell for the bias too?

This means that psychologists are not studying common knowledge, but rather people find the results of the research obvious. The interesting thing is that they always justified the results were evident. For example, when told that separation weakens romantic attraction, people usually responded with the saying "out of sight, out of mind." but when told the opposite, they now responded with "absence makes the heart grow fonder." Another research finding in which participants responded with a saying was the statement that couples that had a strong love connection were very different. And, they justified it by saying, "opposites attract." However, when shown the opposite statement, participants replied with the saying, "Birds of a feather flock together."

But if the participants were asked before the results were provided, the obviousness disappeared and there was no common answer.
This shows us why psychological research is necessary, because common sense is felt after the findings are known. However, without research, we are unable to predict, describe or explain behavior and mental processes, which is the main goal of Psychology.

Feel free to leave a comment, questions, concerns, or suggestions.