How do politics affect the science of psychology?

I do believe that politics affect the science of psychology and very much does so. To begin with, in society today, political correctness in Britain has become absolutely ridiculous. When writing a research report, researchers today must make certain that they haven’t included any terminology in the report that could possibly offend anyone. It is politically incorrect today to differentiate different types of people from being what is classified as normal. This makes writing a psychology report extremely difficult at times, especially when a non-normal population is taken into consideration, for example when referring to people with special needs or people suffering from depression.

Secondly, it is not as straightforward today to conduct experiments or studies in order to analyse behaviour. For example, Milgram conducted a study in order to investigate the effects of obedience on behaviour. He did this by deceiving participants into believing that they were giving other participants a series of electric shocks, however in reality the participants that were receiving the electric shocks were actually confederates of the researcher. Although Milgram’s study demonstrated shocking behaviour and incredibly informative results, a study such as this one would in no way be given the ‘go ahead’ today due to ethical issues given by the the British Psychological Society and the law. Therefore, it is harder today due to politics to demonstrate enlightening results to suggest the effect of a stimulus on behaviour.

Therefore, politics has had an increasing effect on psychology as a science in recent years. Without politics, in some ways the field of psychology could be much more interesting and informative. However, without politics, ethical guidelines and the law, testing behaviour could become very dangerous. This was demonstrated in Zimbardo’s study where participants were recruited to the role of police officers and criminals in a prison-like study. A video tape was made of the whole study and the researchers discovered dreadfully malicious behaviour from the ‘prison officers’ towards the ‘criminals’ and the ‘criminals’ remained incredibly obedient to the ‘prison officers’ despite the roles being make-believe. When later asked about their experience in the prison-like study, the participants were still incredibly disturbed by the turmoil. Therefore, it is sometimes important that researchers are given some ethical guidelines to follow in order to protect the participants’ well-being. Thus, although politics can stand in the way of fascinating findings at times, it is also important to have politics in the science of psychology in order to protect participants from harm.

 

Do you need statistics to understand your data?

Before I started my degree course in the field of Psychology, I had always though that although statistics is very important, you don’t essentially need it to understand data. However, In the past year I have realised that statistics is absolutely essential in order to gain an understanding about the data collected by other researchers. Although from time to time (when the difference between variables is relatively large), one can predict whether an experiment is significant or not by simply looking at the data but without a good understanding of statistical background, that person would not be able to support his/her prediction in a scientific approach. Furthermore, when analysing the results of a research experiment or study, the goal is to make the strongest possible conclusion from limited amounts of data in order to make inferences about the population. Therefore, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of statistics in order to understand the level of significance between two or more particular variables.

In order to publish a psychology research paper suggesting a significant difference between two or more populations, every researcher must run a statistical analysis on a programme called SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). Researchers must plot their gathered data into the programme’s database and run the appropriate statistical test such as a one-sample t-test or a repeated-measures ANOVA etc. Without a good understanding of statistics, the researcher would not be able to figure out what the data from the experiment actually means.

Since I have been properly introduced to statistics, I have realised how important it is to have a good statistical understanding in every day life. We are most likely faced with data in one way or another every single day. We encounter the use of statistics in news reports, weather forecasts, elections and advertisements (Robert Duval, 2008). For example, in this advertisement by L’Oreal and by many other company commercials, surveys are often announced in which the company investigates how many customers would recommend a particular product to a friend (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLH4rG2eFYo&feature=relmfu). In order to obtain this data, the company’s researchers would need to have a good understanding of statistics in order to create a statistical analysis. Furthermore, the customer would also need some general understanding of statistics in order to work out whether 72% of 227 women is a strong number of satisfied customers or not.

Consequently, I do believe that statistics is very important in order to understand data whether it is being used in order to demonstrate a significance between variables in a research paper, in advertisement or just in every day environments. Primarily, statistics plays an essential role in every field of human activity (emathzone 2008 – 2011).