Take it easy on the perfume! You might be setting yourself up for social rejection!


The purpose of the first written assignment is to get you to think scientifically about psychological issues. It?s highly likely you have come across claims and ideas regarding human behavior before, but perhaps not stopped to fully analyze whether these claims and ideas are scientific, and whether they are supported by good quality evidence. As guiding principles, Lilienfeld et al. (2013, p. 22-27) has set out some principles of scientific thinking:
1) Ruling out rival hypotheses- Findings consistent with several different hypotheses need additional research to decide which hypothesis is best supported.
2) Correlation vs. causation – An association between two things does not imply a cause and effect relationship.
3) Falsifiability – Claims must be capable of being disproved.
4) Replicability – Findings must be capable of being duplicated following the same methodology.
5) Extraordinary claims – A claim that contradicts what we already know must have a lot of evidence to back it up.
6) Occam?s razor – If two hypotheses explain a phenomenon equally well, select the simpler one.
In addition, Lilienfeld et al. have outlined some warning signs related to pseudoscientific claims:
1) Overreliance on anecdotes- Testimonials from others can be hard to verify, hard to generalize and fail to inform cause and effect relationships.
2) Meaningless psychobabble ? Technical jargon and scientific-sounding words can have a strong connotation but be essentially meaningless.
3) Talk of ?proof? instead of ?evidence? ? Science provides evidence that supports or refutes certain ideas we have about the world. ?Proving? an idea is almost impossible.
For your assignment, we would like you to choose one of the following scenarios and?
a) analyze the claims being made according to 3 of the above 6 principles of scientific thinking. It may be the case that the scenario you select does a good job of following some of these 6 scientific principles, but does not do a good job of following others. If you think the scenario does a good job of following one of the principles (e.g. you think it does a good job in ruling our rival hypotheses), provide a detailed response as to why you think that. If you think the scenario does not do a good job of following one of the principles (e.g. it fails to consider rival hypotheses), please provide a comprehensive answer and say what would need to be done to make sure the scenario follows the principle (e.g. what the rival hypotheses might be and how they might be ruled out).
b) analyze the claims according to 1 of the above 3 warning signs related to pseudoscientific claims. The scenarios also contain one (or more) of the warning signs of pseudoscience. So pick one of the three warning signs from the list and discuss how it applies to the scenario you have chosen.
SCENARIO B Take it easy on the perfume! You might be setting yourself up for social rejection!
Researchers have uncovered the social power of smell! Dr. Valeric and colleagues found that smells in our everyday environments can affect our first impressions of other people. University undergraduates were recruited to take part in this study, in which they were asked to rate pictures of faces and complete a short questionnaire about their scent preferences. Participants were shown pictures of strangers on a computer screen and then rated their overall impressions of the faces they saw ? were the faces attractive to them? Did they seem friendly? Did they seem ?nice?? The researchers found that participants who reported liking fruity smells alot also judged the faces they saw in a more favourable light! Conversely, when they reported that they did not like fruity smells that much, they had less than flattering impressions of the faces they saw. The implications for socializing are clear: pleasant smells lead to feelings of attraction! Jean Smythe, a naturopathic healer, commented on the findings, noting that ?many clients of mine have experienced profound health benefits from aroma-based therapies, so the results of this study are not surprising. There are other studies out there claiming that aromatherapy doesn?t work, but scent is incredibly powerful for us all, and can affect many areas of our lives even beyond health?. So, it seems as though psychologists have verified our understanding of how scent can impact our lives. The research provides solid evidence for this: meeting romantic partners, making good first impressions, and mending broken friendships all seem to be potential benefits of smelling great when you walk out that door
Your written assignment should be no more than 400 words and you should allocate approximately 100 words to each of the scientific principles you choose. Each scientific principle you select will be marked out of 3 marks, and so the written assignment will be out of 12 marks. We will use the following criteria:
Up to 4 aspects (approximately 100 words each; 3 marks each)
0 mark ? no answer or wholly inappropriate answer
1 mark ? significant misunderstanding or inappropriate application of principle
2 marks ? fair application of principle to scenario, some omissions
3 marks ? comprehensive discussion of principle as applied to scenario
Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Woolf, N. J., Cramer, K. M. & Schmaltz, R. (2013). Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding (2nd Ed). Toronto: Pearson Canada.