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experimental psychology

Suspending Judgment

Suspensionofdisbelief suspendingjudgmentSuspending Judgment is necessary if you are going to explore uncharted territory.  Being ready to change your mind if necessary about some things is also important when learning about new things.  It is usually more comfortable to hang on to old beliefs and to “integrate” new findings into them; but you can not usually just do this and at the same time really master the new material.  Be ready to suspend judgment and change your mind about something if it is required in order to understand something new.

Suspending judgment is one giant step towards allowing yourself to experience something new.  Many of us are experienced at making quick judgments and snap decisions.  Doing this effectively shuts us off from exploring the unfamiliar with an open mind.  Recently I experienced eating something that was not a sandwich or a piece of fried chicken with my hands instead of with silverware.  I hesitated.  Silly wasn’t it.  How you eat your food is a matter of habit and it changes with the customs of the people with whom you are having a meal.  I could have spoiled a nice social occasion by being more concerned about how I was eating something than with whom I was eating.

Suspending judgment leads to thinking out of the box.  Brain storming works best when people concentrate on coming up with ideas rather than on prematurely eliminating them by initially passing judgment on them.  Juries are asked to do this when trying someone accused of a crime.  They are asked to suspend making a judgment until all the evidence is in.  Lawyers in picking a jury often have trouble finding people who haven’t already done this based on what they have heard about the case before the trial.  To be open-minded and to suspend judgment is often the best initial approach to any situation.  It is often very embarrassing to find out that you have misjudged someone or something when there is new information revealed that you were not aware of initially.

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Variables That Effect Behavior

Regular psychology not allowed...

Regular psychology not allowed… (Photo credit: Bill McIntyre)

Experimental Psychologists study the variables that effect behavior in humans, animals, and sometimes plants.  The problem with conducting such studies is that there are many possible variables that may effect behavior.  When you conduct research you must be able to control as many variables as possible and be able to isolate the one or ones that you want to study and manipulate them in a controlled fashion.  The more control you have over different variables the less likely it is that the experimental situation will resemble what happens in everyday life.

The ideal experimental psychologist has to have some background involving the naturalistic observation of the behaviors or behaviors being studied.  The act of observation effects the behavior or behaviors being studied.  This has been found to be true in physics.  You can’t measure something without effecting it in some way.  The simplest study in psychology is watching what is going on in interactions between humans and between animals and even between plants and even more complexly between each form of life and the other forms of life.  In fact, often so much is going on that it is easy to miss things that later prove to be important.

Psychologists get their ideas on what variables that effect behavior from other psychologists’ research and observations and also from others’ theories about human, animal, and plant behavior.  It is good to know about past results in the field and to use these results to plan what to do in the future.  The problem is that any mistakes that were made in these studies could be replicated and perpetuated in the theories formulated from them.  The problem is that as science changes so does our view of the world and new things can be measured and observed in ways that were never thought of before.

Prejudices can effect the variables that effect behavior and experiments can be designed that perpetuate these beliefs.  Psychological studies have been done that suggest that if the person running the experiments, knows what effect that they want to get that will make that effect more likely to happen than if they don’t know.

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