Kirby, G., & Goodpaster, J. (2007). Thinking (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
THINKING FOURTH EDITION
GARY R. KIRBY JEFFERY R. GOODPASTER
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a hody of knowledge
-CARL SAGAN, BROCA’S BRA!.\
Science. It is almost a second language as well as a method of inquiry. Rarely a day goes by when we don’t hear about some new discovery in fields such as medicine, psychology, and physics. To think more critically about such discoveries, such as a cure for cancer, new treatments for de- pression, evidence for life on other planets, or an advertisement for a new “won- der drug,” we need to know the language and methods of science.
In this chapter we explore the nature of science, beginning with the basic steps of the scientific method. We identify some of the assumptions and requirements of this method and contrast it with other ways of knowing. We look at the empirical na- ture of science and its limitations, and we briefly consider the problem of proo£ We also explore some research designs, their drawbacks, and the experimenter biases of the scientists themselves. Our goal is not to become scientists but to learn about the basis of research in order to become intelligent consumers of scientific information.
The worldwide technical and scientific literature was over 60 million pages a year by 1970 (Toffler, 1970). If scientific information comes close to doubling every twelve years as some suggest (Marien, 1998), it may now easily exceed 400
The Scientific Method 221
million pages. This explosion in knowledge began with an increased reliance on the scientific method as the tool for understanding our material and psychoso- cial universe. This method, which has so radically transformed our world, is a type of inductive thinking that moves through four major steps:
1. Observation 2. Hypothesis formulation 3. Experimentation 4. Verification
These same four steps were used by Galilee when he studied the effects of gravity on falling objects. Galilee observed bodies appearing to fall faster the longer they fell. He then formed a hypothesis that falling bodies increase their speed at a steady rate. He experimented by rolling balls down an inclined plane and measuring their speed at different points. He then attempted to verifY his hypothesis by analyzing the experimental results, which showed that the balls in- creased their speed at a constant velocity of 32 feet/second every second, in agreement with his hypothesis. To further verify his results, Galilee and others ran his experiment again.
The scientific method begins with observation. Observation is the food for our wondering about the world. We might observe a phenomena that needs ex- plaining, such as the rising sun or a comet tail. Or we might observe a possible relationship between two events that needs to be tested, such as our grand- mother’s vegetarianism and her longevity, or the bite of a skunk and the disease of rabies. Observations lead us to wonder about the causes and effects of what we observe, about its character and constitution, and how we might intervene to create desirable change. For example, as we observe that many human beings are stricken with cancer, we may begin wondering about the cause of cancer, the processes that maintain or strengthen cancer cells, and about ways to pre- vent it or remove it. This kind of wondering about cause-and-effect relation- ships can be called scientific thinking and takes us to the second step of the scientific method. ·
A hypothesis is a tentative statement about the relationship between two variables, usually in the form of a prediction: “If A, then B.” For example, if(l) we had ob- served that people dying of cancer are usually heavy cola drinkers, (2) we were aware that cancer rates were lower before cola was invented, and (3) there was considerable scientific debate about the safety of cola additives, then our thinking
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and observation might lead us to suspect that the cause of cancer is excessive cola drinking. We could express the hypothesis in an if-then statement, such as “If people drink large amounts of cola, then they are more likely to develop cancer.” This if-then hypothesis could be simplified into a single statement: “The cause of cancer is drinking too much cola.” No matter how the hypothesis is formu- lated, it must be tested for its truthfulness because the casual observations alone are not enough to support it.
Experimentation, the third step of the scientific method, tests the hypothesis through any of various research methods, including the formal experiment. There are many ways to conduct these studies, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, as we discuss later. For instance, in our cola example, we could feed large quantities of cola to chimpanzees and after a while compare their can- cer rates with those of a group of chimpanzees that did not receive cola. Or we could find human beings with a history of excessive cola consumption and com- pare their cancer incidence with that of humans who avoid such consumption. Once the experiment or data collection is complete, we move on to the last step of the scientific method, verification.
Verification is the analysis of data to see if that data support or dispute the hy- pothesis. In our example, we would analyze the results of our experiment to see if the excessive cola drinkers did indeed have a higher incidence of cancer. If they did, then our hypothesis would be supported (but not proven). If there was no difference between the groups, then we would have to go back to our first step to look for new observations or begin thinking about other cause-and-effect re- lationships that might explain our observations. This last step of the scientific method can be fortified through replication, which means running the study again, or some variation of it, to ensure that the results are reliable. It is especially helpful if other researchers replicate the results. Verification can also be fortified through prediction, which is the ability to use our study’s conclusions to reliably predict other outcomes.
These are the basics of the scientific method, a model of inquiry that is sometimes supplemented with hunches, intuitions, good luck, and creative play:
“To our knowledge, no one has ever been able to grow neurons from the brain, probably from any animal, much less a human,” said Dr. Solomon Snyder …. “We didn’t expect it to work. We can’t tell you why it did work. … We did it by diddling around, by being at the right place at the right rime.” (Bor, 1990)
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THINK ABOUT IT: While creating technological marvels and pro- ducing vast amounts of worthwhile information, the products of the scientific method have also created an ecological nightmare, extended humankind’s ability to kill a thousandfold, and raised ethical issues that seem to transcend our capacity to answer them.
Science and Other Ways of Knowing
The scientific method can be further understood by distinguishing it from other ways of knowing, such as philosophy and appeal to authority. Like sci- ence, philosophy has systems for investigating the world, and the questions philosophers address may be inspired by a set of observations. However, phi- losophy differs from science in its greater emphasis on reason for solving prob- lems as opposed to observation. The two also differ in the objects of their investigations. The domain of science is the world of observation, also known as the empirical world. Philosophy, on the other hand, often makes its inquiry outside the empirical world, investigating values, meaning, the nature of God, and so on.
The scientific method can also be distinguished from appeal to authority. Many people seek knowledge by appealing to an authority figure. This figure may be a well-respected doctor, teacher, or religious book. The scientific method, however, is at great odds with this way of knowing. When we appeal to authority, we believe something is true because an authoritative figure said so, and we do not require a set of systematic observations to support it. Dur- ing the Middle Ages, for example, the Catholic Church taught that all the heavenly bodies revolved around the earth. Most people accepted this teaching because it came from the Church’s interpretation of an authoritative source, the Bible, and casual observation supported it: the heavenly bodies did appear to go around the earth. But from the scientific point of view this observation led only to a hypothesis, which was not tested scientifically. There were, as we know now, other explanations that would just as well have supported the ob- servation that planets and stars appear to go around the earth. These explana- tions were not tested scientifically because the hypothesis was assumed to be true since it came from an authoritative source. When the Church’s teachings were eventually challenged by Copernicus and Galileo, they were deemed heretical, not because they were at odds with observation, but because they were at odds with authority!
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THINK ABOUT IT: Is science at the end of its useful life? Will it ever find another physical law? Will it ever discover the roots of con- sciousness? Will it ever find out what happened before the big bang? Will it ever answer the big questions? Or will it just give us technical trivia about esoteric matters that will have no real impact on our lives?
COPERNICUS AND GALILEO
In the sixteenth century, Copernicus argued that the earth moved around the sun. His idea was contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, which be- lieved that the celestial bodies revolved around the earth. Needless to say, Copernicus’s teachings inflamed many Christians, including Martin Luther who considered him a fool who wanted “to turn the whole of astronomy upside down” (Crowther, 1969, p. 48). In 1616, sixty years after Coperni- cus’s death, the Catholic Church, fearing a great scandal and dissent if Copernicus’s views were taken seriously, put his text outlining a heliocentric (sun-centered) theory of the solar system on the Index of Prohibited Books.
Although Copernicus is credited with introducing the heliocentric solar system, it was Galilee who was prosecuted for supporting such a view. Rely- ing on scientific observation of the sun, planets, and stars, instead of on reli- gious doctrine, Galilee found strong empirical support for Copernicus’s theory and was unafraid to go public with his views. Even though forbidden by the church, Galilee published a book in 1632 supporting Copernicus’s ideas and was consequently forced to stand trial for heresy. Found guilty, he was ordered to recant his views and was sentenced to house arrest, which remained in effect until he died eight years later. Such was the price of sci- ence. Only in 1992 did the Pope finally recant and admit that Galilee was right.
This story shows that appealing to authority is not always going to yield a valid picture of reality, and it shows the power of our worldviews to inhibit our consideration of opposing beliefs, no matter what the evi- dence. In this case, Christians had a worldview that placed earth and human beings at the center of the universe. This view prevented them from thinking objectively about alternate views, even when the scientific evi- dence was substantia l. This story also shows us the necessity for courage in our critical thinking, courage to abandon beliefs that make us feel safe and secure, and to stand up for an unorthodox view that may make us vulner- able to criticism from others. Without such courage, thinking cannot take the creative leaps often necessary for a breakthrough in knowledge.
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The world of science is the empirical world, the world of observation. In order to apply the scientific method, scientists must be able to make observations and meas- urements. Therefore, all variables under study in science must be defined in ob- servable, measurable terms. By giving operational definitions to variables in this way, we make it dear to others what those variables are and what observations or meas- urements will indicate their presence. Physicists must decide what physical traces from an atom collision will indicate or define certain atomic particles. Astronomers must define a black hole in a way that they can recognize it when it is present in their observations of deep space. And psychologists must define variables such as love, frustration, and stress in such a way that they can be observed and measured.
An example of a nonoperational definition is Webster’s definition of love as “strong affection” and “warm attachment” toward another. Although this defini- tion conveys to others the meaning of the term love, it does not indicate to oth- ers what observations or measurements are necessary to indicate the presence of love. With only Webster’s definition in mind, with no observational measures to indicate its presence, imagine trying to ascertain the percentage of passersby who are in love. But if we define love as walking hand in hand with someone for at least sixty seconds, then we are defining love operationally and we would be able to observe and count the number of people passing by who are in love. But have we, in this case, defined love accurately?
Erroneous Operational Definitions
When variables are defined operationally, they are sometimes defined incorrectly. When this happens, the conclusions of the research may be in error. In medical research, for example, an operational definition of low-fat eaters has been based on a person’s response to a questionnaire designed to determine how much fat a respondent eats now-not in the past, not in the future. That information is then used in studies twenty years later to see iflow-fat eaters had, for example, more or less cancer than the high-fat eaters over the twenty-year period. Since people’s eat- ing habits do change, one can certainly question whether twenty years of low-fat eating can be adequately defined by only one questionnaire twenty years ago.
As another example, consider a 1991 survey by the National Centers for Dis- ease Control (“Good News,” 1991). According to the survey, 45 to 75 percent of Americans have “sedentary lifestyles,” sedentary being defined as “fewer than three 20-minute sessions of exercise each week.” One can imagine the reactions of mil- lions of parents whose days are completely filled by employment, childcare, and housekeeping responsibilities that include miles of walking, hundreds of flights of stairs, and lifting babies and heavy bags of groceries, with no time left over for a
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regular exercise program. We could hardly call these people sedentary! We can see that, despite the good intentions of scientists, sometimes the concept under study is one thing, whereas the operational definition of that concept is another.
THINK ABOUT IT: In the above operational definition of love, the meaning of love may have been lost by defining it as handholding for sixty seconds. When we count handholding, are we really counting love? Are we missing anyone? A better definition might be to define love as a ‘Yes” response to the question “Are you in love?” Can you think of a better operational definition?
Operational definitions that are acceptable to everyone are sometimes very diffi- cult to achieve. Such difficulty often leads to debate. One area of debate in psy- chology, for instance, is whether or not the hypnotized state is an alternate state of consciousness. First, researchers have to define in nonoperational terms what they mean by an alternate state of consciousness, and then they have to define this state in observable, measurable terms. Those who believe that hypnosis does not lead to an alternate state typically define alternate state operationally as a pat- tern of brain waves different from those of the waking state. They then point out that such brain wave change does not occur during hypnosis, and therefore hyp- nosis is not an alternate state of consciousness. Supporters of the alternate state theory might respond by challenging this operational definition. They might ar- gue that it is possible for a person to be experiencing an alternate state of con- sciousness even though their brain waves indicate nothing more than normal waking consciousness. Given that possibility, critics of the alternate state theory of hypnosis could be relying on an invalid operational definition!
The limits of Science
Without an operational definition, the scientific method cannot be employed. Science cannot, for example, tell us whether or not a biblical heaven or hell ex- ists. Such metaphysical concepts are generally not reducible to operational terms. They lie outside the realm of observation and are best left to the areas of religion and philosophy.
Besides metaphysical questions, questions of values and ethics also lie out- side the domain of science. Consider the issue of abortion. Is abortion right, or
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is it wrong? The answer cannot be found through observation. Scientists cannot find an answer to this question by looking through microscopes, observing bio- logical changes in laboratory dishes, or observing how human beings respond to the abortion issue. The question of abortion is one of values, and although sci- ence can give us information that can be useful in answering such a question- for example, ascertaining when the heart starts beating in a fetus-it cannot by itself evaluate ethical statements. Value questions lie within the realm of religion and philosophy and outside the realm of science.
Consider the value statement “It is wrong to kill human beings for any rea- son but self-defense.” Can you imagine any scientific way to support or refute such a statement? Where would we look for the answer? Perhaps, you might say, in our emotions, for most human beings find killing emotionally repulsive. But how do you determine that human emotion should be the criterion for deter- mining values? Is that a scientific fact or a philosophical statement? No kind of scientific observation could possibly tell us that human emotion is the criterion for determining values. Once again we are back to the realm of philosophy and have left the domain of science.
In short, scientific investigation is a magnificent procedure for unlocking many secrets of our world, but it does have limitations and may never, as Schopenhauer put it, “reach a final goal or give an entirely satisfactory explana- tion” of our world (Schopenhauer 1859/1958a, p. 28). Carl]ung echoed this sen- timent in an interview on his eightieth birthday: “True reality can only be approached and surmised spiritually” (Jung, 1957/1977). In the words of Wittgenstein, “We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched” (Wittgenstein, 1961, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.52).
Creating Operational Definitions
If you were proposing to study the following variables, which ones could you operationally define? Which ones could not be so defined? The key to determining your success is to ask, “What could I observe that would in- dicate the presence of the variable?” and “Could my definition be defin- ing another variable instead?” Try your definitions out on others to see if there is agreement that your definition indeed defines the term without losing its meaning.
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1. Frustration 2. Obesity 3. Aggression 4. Soul 5. Scientist 6. Depression 7. Thumb sucking 8. Migraine
headache 9. Multiple
10. Nothing 11. Black hole
The Domain of Science
12. Gravity 13. Telepathy 14. Evolution 15. Pain 16. God 17. Immoral behavior 18. Prejudice 19. Meditation
personality 20. Hypnotized
subject 21. Psychological stress
22. Altruistic behavior
23. Happiness 24. Life 25. Consciousness 26. Thinking 27. Death 28. Beginning of
human life 29. Intelligence 30. Heaven
For which of the following questions would science be the appropriate method of investigation? Indicate your answer by putting “S” to the left of those questions.
1. Do human beings have free will? 2. How can we reduce pollution in the environment? 3. Is there life on other planets?
___ 4. Considering the physical and psychological changes that occur, is a person the same person from birth through old age? If so, why?
5. Does God exist? 6. At what point in fetal development do brain waves occur? 7. When does human life start? 8. What is life? 9. What principles should guide a person’s behavior toward
others? ___ 10. What is the origin of the human race? ___ 11. How can we increase our longevity? ___ 12. What was Shakespeare’s purpose in writing Romeo and
Science and the Understanding of Human Nature 229
___ 13. What is the human mind? ___ 14. Should human beings be punished for evil deeds? ___ 15. Are human beings basically good, or are they basically evil? ___ 16. What is beauty? ___ 17. Does stress cause most cases of depression? ___ 18. Does wearing a seat belt decrease the incidence of highway
fatalities? ___ 19. Does drinking milk before bedtime aid sleeping? ___ 20. Is there life after death? ___ 21. What is intelligence?
A scientific conception of human behavior dictates one practice, a philosophy of personal freedom another.
-B. F. SKINNER, SCIENCE AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR
Because of the remarkable success of the scientific method in understanding the material universe, psychologists and sociologists have applied scientific thinking to the understanding of the psychological and sociological dimensions of human beings. From a philosophical viewpoint, this scientific thinking rests upon a foundation of determinism, which leads to some interesting problems when ap- plied to the study of human beings. Below we explore some of these problems through a discussion of determinism.
Determinism as Foundation
Scientists seek not only to discover phenomena but to discover the order un- derlying various phenomena-that is, the cause-and-effect relationships be- tween things. The psychologists’ lengthy surveys, the biologists’ dish cultures, and the physicists’ atomic accelerators are all designed to discover the com- ponents of nature and the laws that govern the actions of these components, whether those components are human beings, tsetse flies, or atomic matter. Most scientists assume that the world is orderly, predictable, and operating through complex mechanisms of cause and effect. In other words, they assume
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a deterministic universe. If the world were not determined, but completely chaotic, scientific investigation could not lead to the discovery of natural laws.
There is considerable debate among philosophers and scientists about the extent of determinism, but most agree that for the macrocosmic physical uni- verse determinism is a valid description of events. The debate centers on the role of determinism in the microcosmic world of particle physics and in the behav- ior of human beings. We will concern ourselves with the latter.
Human Beings and Determinism
Social scientists are concerned with the understanding and control of human behavior in order to promote optimal social and psychological functioning. The assumption behind this concern, in whole or in part, is determinism: So- cial scientists assume that genetic, psychological, and social forces in each person’s history govern the character and behavior of each individual. Al- though not all psychologists adhere to a deterministic view of human nature, their dominant tendency to look for explanations of human behavior by ex- amining past events seems to assume such a view, especially when the general goal is to discover laws or principles that may govern human behavior. Here is an example:
STUDENT: Why did Mark become a psychopath?
PROFESSOR: Well, our answer lies in the genetic, social, and psychological forces that shaped Mark through his early development. Interest- ingly, Mark’s father was also a psychopath and might have passed on some “psychopathic genes” to him. Moreover, being a psy- chopath, Mark’s father did not teach him a healthy value system and actually served as a negative role model for Mark. Mark’s mother, of course, had to work ten hours a day, six days a week, because Mark’s father was often unemployed and was not a reliable source of income. Consequently, Mark’s mother was not around to help shape Mark’s values either and never really formed a strong bond with him. She often neglected Mark and physi- cally abused him when she was under stress, which was more of- ten than not. Sadly, there was never any sign of affection expressed toward him at all. And that’s why Mark became a psychopath!
If Mark’s behavior is shaped by his genetic constitution and his psychological and social environment, can he be held responsible for anything that he does? Hard de- terminists must answer “no,” for they believe that every element of Mark’s behavior, including the choices, judgments, and assessments underlying that behavior, are nothing but the result of a complicated chain of cause-and-effect relationships:
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In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity. (Spinoza, Ethics, Part II, Prop. XLVIII)
Hard determinists argue that if all the variables about Mark were known, they would be able to predict his behavior with perfect precision. The reason they cannot ever predict perfectly what someone will do is not because people are free, but because they never know all of the variables bearing on that behav- ior. Thus, they talk about probabilities. They say that, given a certain kind of parenting style and a certain social environment, the chances are good that someone will become a psychopath. But rarely, if ever, can they be certain.
Opposed to determinism are the indeterminists, who believe that even though much of our life is shaped by genetic and psychosocial forces, there is still an ele- ment of free will behind our behavior. We are free in the sense that we could have done otherwise, but we chose not to, and thus we are accountable for our actions.
If the indeterminists are right about our freedom, can scientists ever under- stand and predict our behavior? Some philosophers argue that prediction and free- dom are not incompatible. For example, you may know your friend well enough to know how he would choose to behave in a given situation. Thus, even though he is acting freely, you can predict his behavior. Then again, maybe you can’t:
I have observed instances of a person deliberately upsetting the predictions simply to reaffirm his unpredictability and therefore autonomy and self- governance. For instance, a ten-year-old girl, known for being always a good citizen, law-abiding and dutiful, unexpectedly disrupted classroom discipline by passing out French fried potatoes instead of notebooks simply because, as she later said, everyone just took her good behavior for granted. A young man who heard his fiancee say of him that he was so methodical that she always knew what to expect of him, deliberately did what was not expected of him. Some- how he felt her statement to be insulting. (Maslow, 1966, p. 42)
Would any scientist have been able to predict that the ten-year-old girl would hand out french fries? The determinist, of course, would argue that an in- ability to predict the girl’s behavior only reflects the complexity and enormity of the variables behind that behavior and in no way undermines determinism. Nonetheless, most of us would agree that a strong sense of freedom is evident in the example above. So strong is that sense of freedom in our lives that it may be more the burden of the determinists to show that we are not free than it is of the indeterminists to show that we are.
The point is that social scientists generally act under the assumption of de- terminism when they look for the causes of human behaviors and thoughts, even though their subjects feel free and are held responsible for their acts by others. For example, when Mark the psychopath murders, we react with outrage, not against a psychosocial system that made Mark what he is, but against Mark
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himself as though he is responsible for what he did, as though he could have cho- sen otherwise. Thus we have a contradiction between the deterministic assump- tion of social scientists which absolves Mark from responsibility and the reaction of the world in general which presupposes Mark’s responsibility and freedom. B. F. Skinner, a prominent determinist, explained the contradiction this way:
All of this suggests that we are in transition. We have not wholly abandoned the traditional philosophy ofhwnan nature [that we are free]; at the same time we are far from adopting a scientific point of view that our behavior is determined with- out reservation. We have accepted the assumption of determinism in part; yet we allow our sympathies, our first allegiances, and our personal aspirations to rise to the defense of the traditional view [of human freedom]. (Skinner, 1953, p. 9)
THINK ABOUT IT: In his statement below B. F. Skinner explains the contradiction between the deterministic assumption of social sci- ence and our general assumption of free will as due to an inability to fully embrace determinism because of our loyalty and attraction to the idea of free will. Do you agree? Is our “love” of free will and its impli- cations getting in the way of straight thinking about it? Or are there solid reasons for defending free will?
Although we have not determined the extent of human free will, we can say with some confidence that the precision of social science may be limited by the extent of it: the greater our freedom, the less the rule of cause and effect applies and the more difficult human behavior is to predict and control. And if human freedom exists at all, then perhaps the goal of social scientists ought to be to en- courage it. As Maslow (1966) wrote, “If humanistic science may be said to have any goals beyond sheer fascination with the human mystery and enjoyment of it, these would be to release the person from external controls and to make him less predictable to the observer” (p. 40).
DETERMINISM AND PROBABILITY
Although determinism underlies the scientific work of the physical and so- cial scientists, many scientists work more with the concept of probability than with the concept of determinism. Probability is concerned with the likelihood of a particular event occurring in a particular situation. In quantum
Proving a Theory 233
·”S(.I.- • ‘”‘ ·~’:._
DETERMINISM AND PROBABILITY (Continued) :~~~ . : . . ·.
mechanics, for example, physicists work with Werner Heisenberg’s uncer- tainty principle. This principle states that, because atomic particles are so small, the methods we use to observe and measure those particles change them. Therefore, physicists can observe and measure the exact momentum of a particle, but they cannot simultaneously determine its exact velocity because that would have been changed by the act of observing momen- tum, and vice versa. If physicists want to know both momentum and velocity, they can only make statements about the probability that a particle will fall within a particular range of values; for a given probability, the smaller the range for one value, the larger the range for the other.
Social scientists also deal with probability. Much of their research is done with groups of people as they compare the average value of one group with that of another. If, for example, they find that a group of peo- ple exposed to noisy working conditions have poorer marital relations than a similar group that is exposed to quiet working conditions, they might conclude that exposure to a noisy work environment leads to poor marital relations. However, not everyone in the noisy conditions is neces- sarily going to be affected that way. There are usually exceptions in every group. Thus, for a given individual who is exposed, we can talk about probable effects on marital relations, not certain effects.
Do these probability theories undermine determinism 7 Not necessar- ily. Einstein, for example, thought that the uncertainty principle reflected the limitation of our ability to measure atomic particles, not an inherent in- determinism of atomic elements. Similarly, the work of social scientists with probability may only reflect their limitation in assessing all of the im- portant characteristics of each individual; for although a group may have similar people, they do not have identical people. Those unmeasured dif- ferences foil our ability to predict behavior with certainty.
‘We cannot pretend to offer proofi. Proof is an idol before whom the pure mathematician tortures himself In physics, we are gen- erally content to sacrifice before the lesser shrine of plausibility.
-A. EDDINGTON, “DEFENSE OF MYSTICISM”
Imagine being a traveling nurse who cares for leukemia patients in a large city. After several months and hundreds of patient visits, you notice that many of your patients live very dose to high-voltage power lines. You at once suspect that the magnetic fields from those power lines may be the cause of leukemia in your patients. At this
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point you have formed a hypothesis, a tentative statement of the relationship be- tween events generally based on casual observation. Now you proceed scientifically. You look up the addresses of all your patients and fmd that 85 percent of them live within 1,000 feet of high-voltage wires or an electrical transformer, both of which generate a strong magnetic field. You then go to the city health department and col- lect addresses of all leukemia victims in the last ten years and find that most of them lived in urban areas, which is where high-voltage lines are more common. Further- more, you find that as distance from high-voltage lines decreases, leukemia rates drop. You then write an article and state your theory that strong magnetic fields cause cancer in children at rates directly related to the strength of the magnetic field.
Have you proven your case? No! There are other possible explanations for the results. For example, the fact that most of the cases come from urban areas may be nothing more than a reflection of the distribution of the population in the United States: Most cancers are in urban areas because that is where most people live. The higher rate ofleukemia near power lines can also be explained in other ways: it could be that the majority of high-voltage lines run through the more industrial parts of the city, and the industrial pollutants could be responsible for the leukemia. Or if high-voltage power lines are more common in urban areas, then it could be the stress of urban life, and not power lines, that is responsible for the disease-and so on.
THINK ABOUT IT: Can you think of other explanations for the leukemia results that are not connected to high-voltage lines?
Suppose you continue your research, this time using laboratory rats, and you find that the rats exposed to high voltages develop leukemia. And suppose your research is so good that we just cannot think of any explanation for your re- sults except the theory that you have formulated. Have you then proven your theory? You may have a strong case, for you would certainly have corroborating evidence, but you would not want to say that you have proven your theory. Sci- entists generally do not like to use the words proven and proof( despite how of- ten you hear them in commercials), for even though no other explanation for one’s results is available, there might still be one. As the Viennese philosopher Karl Popper (1965) put it, “The demand for scientific objectivity makes it in- evitable that every scientific statement must remain tentative for ever” (p. 280).
Ultimately, proof must remain subjective, for the amount of data necessary to convince one person of the validity of a theory may be insufficient to con- vince another. How do we determine, to everyone’s satisfaction, how much and what kind of data are necessary to prove a particular theory? Certainly if someone
Controlled Experiments 235
proposed a theory that challenged our worldview, we would want more data than if that person proposed a theory that did not usurp conventional beliefs. As we saw in Chapter 2, people are very resistant to changing their worldviews; a great deal of data would be required to do so. Bur how much?
One scientist who challenged our worldview was Albert Einstein. His theory of the universe confronted basic beliefs about space and time. His idea, for exam~ ple, that time is relative, that two individuals traveling at different speeds through the universe age at different rates, or that a person at the base of a mountain ages at a different rate from a person living at the top, seriously disturbs the common~ sense view of time held by most people even today. Nonetheless, his theory has been supported by numerous experiments throughout the last several decades. Has his theory been proven? It certainly is convincing to many physicists and mathe~ maticians; however, because proof is subjective, with each individual requiring more or less data or different kinds of data, some people probably won’t accept rel~ ativity as proven until they actually travel through the universe at different speeds.
In the rest of this chapter we explore some of the ways that science, particu~ larly the social and medical sciences, can make progress toward “proof,” and we illustrate in more detail why it is important for researchers and consumers to be cautious about jumping to hasty conclusions.
THINK ABOUT IT: Relatively few people fully understand Einstein’s theories of relativity How can a layperson become convinced of the validity of his theories?
A controlled experiment, also called experimental design or true experiment, is any research design that allows the experimenter to control the variables in an ex~ periment so that the results of the experiment can better establish a cause~and~ effect relationship. A controlled experiment requires at least one control group and one experimental group. The control group is the comparison group; the ex~ perimental group, also called the treatment group, is the group that receives the treatment. Theoretically, the two groups are identical except for the treatment. For example, if a chemist wants to find out if a new chemical added to ordinary detergent will improve its cleaning efficiency, one group of clothes will be washed with the new chemical (experimental group), while the other will not (control group). Both groups must have the same kinds and amount of clothing, with the same amount and type of stain, and must be washed in the same
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amount of water, at the same temperature, in the same kind of machine, and so on. Except for the added chemical, the washing conditions must be identical. If this identity has been achieved, we have a well-controlled experiment, and if the experimental group comes out cleaner, the chemist shall have reason to be ex- cited about the cleaning power of his chemical.
To illustrate the importance of having control over all the variables, consider a fictitious study that is not well controlled: Farmer Smith wants to find out if a special additive that he has developed will increase the number of eggs his chick- ens will lay. To begin, he randomly separates his 500 chickens into two groups. He does this randomly because he has learned, correctly, that randomization is usually the best procedure for dividing groups when one has a large number of subjects. If he divides his chickens by size, or age, or activity level, he will have two groups that are not identical. His randomization reasonably ensures that his two groups of chickens have about the same number of active and passive chick- ens, average age, average size, and so on. In fact, his randomization reasonably assures him that his two groups are the same on variables he hasn’t even thought about, such as diseases, appetites, genetics, and so forth. Any slight differences between his two groups should not be statistically significant.
So far Farmer Smith is proceeding okay. He now puts one group of chickens in a hen shack near the farmhouse, and the other in an existing hen shack about 500 feet away. The chickens near the farmhouse become his experimental group and the chickens in the other shack become the control group. Farmer Smith then puts one cup of his secret ingredient in each five-gallon bucket that he uses to supply water for the chickens in the experimental group. For the chickens in the other hen shack he uses regular water.
During the three months that Farmer Smith conducts his experiment, he keeps careful records of how many eggs each coop delivers each day. When his study is complete, he finds that the experimental group laid 25 percent more eggs on the average than the other group. Absolutely delighted, he finally shares his se- cret study with his wife and son at the dinner table one evening. Smug and proud as he finishes his story, he sits back waiting for the praise. His son looks puzzled and queries his father. “Dad, maybe the chickens in the distant hen shack didn’t lay as many eggs because they were stressed out by that fox. He doesn’t come up near the house much, but you know he tries to get at the chickens in the other shack near the road.” “Or maybe it was the noise,” said his wife, “That distant coop sets pretty close to the highway you know. All those trucks screaming by all day and night have to have some effect on those chickens, don’t you think?” “Or the sun,” said his son. “That one coop sits out there with no protection from the heat, while the one by the house is shaded most of the time. Maybe chickens that are cool and comfortable lay more eggs.” “Just a thought,” added his son. “Yea, just a thought,”
Nonexperimental Designs 237
said his wife. Farmer Smith, looking dejected, excuses himself as he slowly gets up from his chair to find a quiet room to plan his secret ingredient research-again.
We now know that Farmer Smith didn’t control enough variables to be confi- dent that the differences between his groups were due to his secret ingredient and not the noise, fox, or heat conditions that also differed between his two groups. Much to the embarrassment of researchers, such as Farmer Smith, someone often develops a competing explanation for their results. The experiment must then be run again, this time controlling for the variables that slipped by last time. And so it goes.
So next time you hear a commercial claim that says something like “Rinsing with our mouthwash before bedtime kills twice as many odor-causing germs as brushing alone,” think! What other variables could explain the results? The re- searchers compared their product to brushing without rinsing, but did they compare their product to brushing and rinsing with water before bedtime? Per- haps it is rinsing with a fluid that’s important in the removal of germs and not the expensive product’s “special ingredients.”
In Farmer Smith’s study, he correctly divided his subjects into two groups ran- domly. This is not always possible, however. For example, if we want to intro- duce a new teaching strategy for learning math, we might find that some schools are cooperative and others want nothing to do with our new technique. Thus, our experimental group becomes a sample of convenience instead of a randomly chosen group from the community. Whenever we select our two groups through nonrandom means we have a quasi-experimental design, as long as the researcher is still the one who makes the groups different by “treating” one group and not the other. Quasi-experimental designs, lacking randomness, are a little more vul- nerable to the possibility that the two groups were not equal at the outset of the study. The class receiving the new teaching style, for example, might be different from the control class at the outset because it came from a different school envi- ronment, a different neighborhood, and perhaps a different socioeconomic class. These differences might explain any outcome differences.
The experimental and quasi-experimental designs are not always appropriate or practical. Thankfully, there are many other research designs available. These other designs are often referred to as nonexperimental designs. These include,
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but are not limited to, the expost facto design, the correlational design, the survey method, and the case study.
Ex Post Facto Design
For reasons we will soon explain, researchers sometimes use an ex post facto de- sign. In fact, it may very well be the most common design underlying the science news we receive from the popular media. In d1e ex post facto design researchers find the groups that have differences. In other words, the researcher walks onto the scene after the treatment conditions have been created, thus ilie name “ex post facto” or “after the fact.” For example, using the ex post facto design in order to discover the effects of meditation, we would find meditators and nonmeditators. After finding the two groups, we would measure them on another variable such as emotional stability. If the meditation group is found to be more emotionally stable than the nonmeditation group, we might conclude iliat meditation in- creases emotional stability. The problem with this method, however, is that groups that are found generally have other differences between them besides the variable being studied, and those differences may be the real explanation for any outcome differences. In the example above, meditation may not be the only dif- ference between the two groups. If it is not, how are we to know if it is medita- tion that causes emotional stability or if it is one of the other differences?
What other differences might there be? Perhaps people who meditate are more educated than people who do not. Or maybe people who meditate also tend to be vegetarians. Or maybe people who choose to meditate have more leisure time and less stress. Or maybe they are spiritually inclined, which leads them to take up meditation. Who knows? The point is, any one of these other variables, called hidden variables, could explain the outcome differences between the two groups. In other words, education, vegetarianism, leisure time, or spiri- tual inclination could have been responsible for the increased stability of the meditation group and not the meditation itself.
Whenever we find differences between groups instead of creating differ- ences, we run into the problem of hidden variables. Scientists attempt to control for the variables that may obviously explain the differences by, for instance, mak- ing sure that the meditators and nonmeditators both eat meat, have the same level of education, and so forth. But what about intelligence, drug abuse history, or early family experiences? Research cannot always identify and control all the potentially important variables. Therefore, one or more of these uncontrolled variables might be the real reason for the outcome differences.
Suppose you hear about an ex post facto study that compared vegetarians with nonvegetarians and found that vegetarians live longer. Most people unin- formed about ex post facto designs would quickly conclude that adopting a
Nonexperimental Designs 239
vegetarian diet will increase longevity. But the cause-and-effect relationship is not obvious in ex post facto designs. For example, it could be that vegetarians happen to be the kind of people who care about their health more than the typical nonvegetarian, and they not only avoid meat but also avoid alcohol and tobacco more than nonvegetarians, and they tend to see their doctor more frequently for regular check-ups. So is it vegetarianism that leads to longevity or the other good health habits that tend to accompany vegetarianism?
Another problem with ex post facto designs is determining the direction of cause and effect. To illustrate, let’s consider a study that tries to find out if people who are satisfied with their marriage have higher work motivation than people who are not. Obviously, we would have to find our subjects as it would be quite “challenging” to make one group satisfied with their marriage and another dissat- isfied. Suppose we find that the group of subjects that was satisfied had higher work motivation than the other group. Does this mean that marital satisfaction somehow leads to more positive work attitudes, or is it that industrious people tend to put more energy into their marriages, consequently creating more marital satisfaction? In this case, aside from any hidden variable problems, the direction of cause and effect is not clear. But sometimes we can weed out a cause-and-effect di- rection. For example, an ex post facto design comparing youth and elderly on their differences in bone density, or atheists and Catholics on their longevity, will enable us to weed out one direction of cause and effect: Changing bone density will not make a person elderly, and living long will not make one Catholic! Nonetheless, hidden variables may still confound our interpretation and make it difficult to know precisely what cause-and-effect relationships exist to explain our results.
So why use ex post facto designs instead of the more controlled experimen- tal designs when the latter is better at determining cause and effect? Sometimes it is simply impractical to use the experimental design. Would you want to be as- signed to an experimental group and asked to eat no meat for the next 25 years? Other times the experimental design does not represent the real-world situation adequately. Having children watch an hour of violent television in a laboratory might not represent the hours and hours of television viewing they experience in their real life. Lastly, the ethical problems of running controlled experiments are often grave. To study the effects of child abuse using the experimental approach would require the researcher to abuse the children in the experimental group. Finding abused kids and studying them is the only moral choice.
Arguably, ethical problems are avoided by using animal subjects instead of humans. Granted, we cannot use animals to study child abuse, but a controlled experimental design looking for the possible cancer-causing effects of a particu- lar drug could be conducted with animal subjects. However, there is the prob- lem of generalization when using animal subjects instead of human ones. Generalization is the assumption that what is true of the sample is true of the
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larger population under study. To assume that a drug that causes cancer in laboratory mice also causes cancer in humans is to make a statement of general- ization. Given the differences between human beings and animals, there is room for skepticism about such generalizations.
THINK ABOUT IT: Disregarding the problems of generalization and ethics, can you think of any topics for social science research in which we could not use animals?
Most of us have heard of the relationship between crime and unemployment, and between vegetable consumption and lowered risk of qncer. We’ve all been warned about the relationship between stress and health problems, and we might have heard that the more male children a mother has, the greater the chance is that the next child will be homosexual (Purcell, Blanchard, and Zucker, 2000). Much of this information comes from correlational research.
The correlational research method is very similar to the ex post facto design. In both designs the investigator finds the variable under investigation; the re- searcher does not create it. However, unlike the ex post facto design, the correla- tional design looks for the degree of relationship between two or more variables, instead of examining differences between groups. The kinds of variables that can be studied are innumerable: from human stress and happiness, to solar magnetic fields and the earth’s temperature. If a relationship exists between two variables, then as one variable moves the other will also. For example, we could collect data from a large group of people about how much meat they typically eat in one week. At the same time, we could administer a test to assess the level of iron in their blood. If people who ate more meat tended to have higher blood iron levels, then we have established a positive correlation. If we found that people who ate more meat had lower blood iron levels, then we have established a negative cor- relation. But the question we must always ask is, “How strong is the relationship between the two variables?” If a correlation exists, it can range from very weak to very strong. If there was only a very weak positive relationship between meat eat- ing and iron levels, there would be little basis for altering one’s eating habits. On the other hand, if the relationship was strong, it might be well-advised to eat more meat if one wanted to raise one’s blood iron levels.
If there is no correlation between two variables, we can be certain that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between them, for all cause-and-effect relationships are correlational ones. But if a correlation is found, there will
Nonexperimental Designs 241
generally still be questions, as in the ex post facto design, about the direction of cause and effect, or even if a cause-and-effect relationship exists, because correlational designs are not meant to determine cause and effect! For example, if we find a strong correlation between aggressiveness and viewing violent television, does that mean that watching violent TV causes aggressive behavior? Or is it that aggressive personalities choose to watch more violent television? Or both? Or neither? We could have a good correlation with any of these possibilities. Per- haps more abusive parents, for example, let their children watch violent televi- sion more than less abusive parents, and it is the abuse that causes aggressiveness, not television. From this simple example, we can see how correlational studies can demonstrate a relationship between variables but can determine little about any cause-and-effect interactions. On the topic of violent television, the body of research over several decades, using a variety of research designs, indicates that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between viewing violent television and aggressive behavior, and the direction of cause and effect goes both ways.
Sometimes common sense and advanced statistical methods can help to clarify the directional problem. In one of the examples above, we could proba- bly rule out the possibility that blood iron levels cause meat eating. Could we then conclude that meat eating raises iron levels ·if we have found a positive cor- relation between meat eating and iron levels? Not necessarily, for as we have just seen in the ex post facto design, a third variable might explain the relationship. If for some reason meat consumption correlates with potato consumption, phys- ical activity, smoking, or alcohol consumption, it could be one of those variables and not meat eating that is responsible for changes in iron levels.
Given all these problems of correlational designs, why do we have these kinds of studies at all? One reason is that correlational designs yield statistics about the degree to which two variables are related-that is, the degree to which they corre- late. The higher the degree of correlation, the more precisely we can predict one of the variables if we know the other-and we can do this without knowing anything about cause and effect. Life insurance companies, for instance, use correlations when they assess the gender and health habits of new subscribers to determine death potential and insurance risk. And college admissions committees use ACT and SAT scores because they correlate somewhat with academic success. Another reason for using correlational designs is the same as for using ex post facto: It avoids the ethical and practical problems of using experimental approaches.
THINK ABOUT IT: Could a controlled experiment be used to deter- mine if meat eating raises blood iron levels?
242 CHAPTER 10 • Scientific Thinking
Determining the Research Design
The following are titles of real news articles. Place an “E” before those ar- ticles in which you think the researcher used an experimental or quasi- experimental study and a “C” before those in which you think the researcher used the ex post facto or correlational design. In those cases in which you think either approach might have been used, you may indicate both “E” and “C.” To help you with your thinking, ask yourself if an experimental ap- proach to these topics, in which the researcher creates the treatment differ- ences between groups, would be unethical or extremely impractical.
1. Lead Exposure, Laziness Linked to Alzheimer’s 2. More Evidence That Smoking Moms Have Smoking Kids 3. Vegetables Lower Prostate Cancer Risk 4. Vitamin E May Help Ease Menstrual Cramps 5. Acupuncture Helps Relieve Depression 6. Hormones in Womb Linked to Sexual Orientation 7. Women with Breast Implants Have Higher Suicide Risk 8. Brain Pattern Differs in Boys with ADHD 9. Loss of Parent Tied to Mental Illness
___ 10. Special Glue Assists Nerve Repair ___ 11. Moderate Drinking Tied to Arterial Disease ___ 12. Smoking During Pregnancy Linked to Child Psychiatric
Disorders ___ 13. Fish Oil Found to Ease Manic Depression ___ 14. Overwork Only One Cause of Job Burnout ___ 15. Poor Parenting May Create Disruptive Children
The Survey Method
One of the most convenient and relatively inexpensive ways to gather data for research is through a survey. A survey is simply an instrument with questions de- signed to assess our attitudes and opinions about various issues. This instrument can be given to a subject through an oral or written medium. We have probably all experienced the oral method when we were approached in a shopping mall by someone who wanted to ask us a few questions about a new product, or when we answered a phone call from an independent research firm with questions about our leanings in an upcoming election.
Without the survey method it would be difficult or impossible to acquire information about people’s beliefs, attitudes, and opinions. We might be able to
Nonexperimental Designs 243
infer some attitudes and beliefs by observing someone’s behavior, but much of a person’s subjective life cannot be reliably measured by this method. However, with the survey method a person’s political affiliation could be operationally de- fined as a “yes” response to the question ”Are you a Republican?” The survey technique transfers a political view, which we cannot see and measure, into an oral or written response, which we can observe and measure. Some information would otherwise be nearly impossible to accurately define operationally, such as people’s daydreams, their conception of God, their attitude toward gun control, their sexual behavior, or their worst regrets.
Surveys are a very popular method for accumulating data on large numbers of people, principally because of their relatively low costs, ease of administration, and ability to assess personal information and private experiences. However, sur- veys must meet four conditions for them to be efficient research tools: (1) They must be administered to people in a way that encourages honesty; (2) the ques- tions must be clearly stated, and asked objectively-that is, without bias in one direction or another; (3) they must reach a representative sample of the popula- tion being studied; and ( 4) they must be returned in an unbiased manner. If any of these conditions is not met, the survey results become invalid.
The best way to encourage honesty in survey responses is to assure the person that his or her answers will remain anonymous. This is especially im- portant when dealing with sensitive topics like sexual behavior, childhood sexual abuse, and problems of addiction. A face-to-face interview by a stranger about sexual habits does not provide the anonymity required for honest answers.
Anonymity alone, however, does not ensure valid results if the questions are asked in a biased manner-that is, by pressuring, intimidating, or otherwise in- dicating how they are to be answered. One “State of the Nation” survey violated the rules of anonymity and unbiased questioning when it instructed respondents to return the survey with their name on it and prefaced the survey with a four- page letter on how to vote. Part of the letter appears below:
May God strengthen you as you continue to speak out against abortion, ho- mosexuality, communism, pornography, anti-Christian TV programming and secularism in government …. There are more well-funded liberal activists than ever at work on Capitol Hill. They smell victory in the making because it ap- pears on the surface that the Christian agenda has been defeated …. You and I must show them they are wrong …. Radical feminist groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, and People for the American Way would like nothing more than to see ministries like Coral Ridge silenced.
A few years later the Democratic National Committee mailed a seven-page survey with sensitive political questions as part of its Democratic Party mem- bership acceptance form . At the top of each page of the survey was printed the respondent’s name!
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One would think that academic institutions would be one place where good surveys would be found, since this is where survey design is taught. But even in these institutions bad surveys are generated. It is not uncommon for college ad- ministrators to send surveys to faculty with questions about the respondent’s age, sex, race, department, and highest degree. Obviously, in small departments such information is devastating to anonymity.
Survey bias can also be found in academic arenas. One college survey on the topic of student retention asked respondents to rate the potential of various pro- grams to improve retention from “low potential” to “high potential.” Following each variable name, such as “advising” or “admissions selectivity,” a paragraph explained the value of such a program. For example:
Academic Advising. The importance of academic advising as a retention strat- egy is well documented in the literature. Advising provides the most significant mechanism by which students can clarify their educational/career goals andre- late these goals to academic offerings.
The above paragraph certainly steers respondents away from “low potential” and “moderate potential” ratings. Oftentimes administrators, managers, church leaders, and others have good intentions, but they are not well prepared in sur- vey design.
Even if a survey guarantees anonymity and objectivity, it is not necessarily going to generate useful data if no one returns it or if only a certain kind of per- son returns it. Probably the most difficult challenge in using the survey tech- nique is selecting a representative sample and ensuring an unbiased return. An unbiased return occurs when everyone in the sample returns the survey or when the surveys are returned by a representative sample of people from the sample it- self But even an unbiased return is not going to yield valid results if the sample receiving the survey is not representative of the larger population being studied. For example, if we want to find out what men’s attitudes are about a female can- didate for the U.S. presidency, we need to solicit the views of men who are rich as well as poor, Protestants as well as Catholics, young as well as old, educated as well as uneducated, and so on.
A popular survey among the American public in the 1980s was the Ann Landers survey that asked women if they would “be content to be held dose and treated tenderly” and forget about the sex act (Landers, 1984, Nov. 4, and 1985, Jan. 14 and 15). This question generated the second-largest response in the his- tory of her column and, to the amazement of many, men in particular, the re- sults came back overwhelmingly in support of being held instead of having sex. But the manner in which the survey was conducted gives us little confidence in the validity of the results. One might argue that Ann Landers surveys did not reach a cross section, or representative sample, of American women. It might be
Nonexperimental Designs 245
that women who read Ann Landers were disproportionately a certain type of woman compared with women in general in the United States. If this was true, then the results need to be qualified: Among women who read Ann Landers, a cer~ rain percentage of them would rather be held than have sex.
But even this conclusion may not be justified. There might also have been a problem of return bias in the Ann Landers survey. Because there was no motiva~ tion to fill out the survey other than the desire to do so, we might wonder why some women desired to fill it out and send it in, whereas others did not. Clearly not every woman who read the survey sent it in. Was there something special about the women who did respond?
Psychologists have shown that people who have strong negative feelings about an issue are more likely to express themselves on that issue than people who have strong positive feelings. With this knowledge in mind, we might suspect that women who were dissatisfied with their sex lives and were emotionally un~ fulfilled might have been more inclined to send in the survey. If this was true, then Ann Landers received a biased return; that is, she did not get responses from a representative sample of her readers, but instead she received a disproportionate number of survey returns from readers in emotionally unfulfilling relationships. All that we can conclude from her survey is that some women prefer to be held rather than have sex. We can conclude nothing about American women in gen~ eral, nor can we even make general statements about Ann Landers readers.
Unscientific surveys, such as the Ann Landers survey, magazine surveys, Internet surveys, and so forth, are abundant in American media. Even evening news programs are using them when they solicit their viewers’ opinions by ask~ ing them to dial a telephone number to express their view on a certain issue or when they request a response to their Web site questionnaire. These unscientific surveys may elicit responses from only certain kinds of people, who may not be typical of the larger population. Internet questionnaires, for example, are only going to be available to those who have a computer with an Internet connection. And though most people have a telephone, telephones can also be used unscien~ tifically. When a news program asks its viewers to dial a telephone number to record a vote on a political issue, it is likely that those who have the strongest feelings and greater wealth (because there is a charge for these calls) will be more inclined to respond. People on tight budgets with moderate feelings about the issue are less likely to be reached by such a method, yet they may constitute the majority of the public. One is reminded of the telephone survey conducted during the Dewey versus Truman presidential campaign. A phone survey was conducted to find out which candidate was likely to win the election. The phone survey showed such a lead for the Republican candidate Dewey that the Chicago Daily Tribune did not wait for election results and announced his win in the morning paper the day after the election. It turned out that Truman had won.
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The mistake? The phone interviews reached only the wealthy, for at that time only wealthier people could afford the luxury of a phone. And since wealthy people tend to vote Republican, the survey amounted to nothing more than ask- ing Republicans who they were going to vote for!
OPINION VERSUS FACT
Surveys about people’s opinions on a topic are sometimes misconstrued as fact about a topic. The only fact that an opinion survey can claim is the fact about people’s opinions. Surveys that ask nonexperts for opinions on the cause of homosexuality, the theory of evolution, or whether life exists on other planets can be taken only as statements of people’s opinions. They cannot be used as facts about homosexuality, evolution, or extrater- restrial life. If a majority of people believe that homosexuality is a matter of free choice, that widespread opinion cannot be used as evidence to support a theory of free choice. Similarly, the argument for evolution can- not be weakened by the general public ‘s opinions about it.
Evidence and strong argument lead to facts; inexpert opinions do not. Unfortunately, many people’s opinions about matters of science and philos- ophy do not come from scientific evidence or philosophical study but from enculturation forces. Over many millennia those forces were responsible for teaching people to believe in witches, human sacrifice, a flat earth, a geo- centric cosmological system, and the inferiority of virtually every minority and religious group on the planet. So much for people’s opinions.
The Case Study
We have seen that in order to generalize from a sample of people to a larger popu- lation we need to have a representative sample, which requires an adequate and un- biased return. Without representativeness we cannot make meaningful statements about a larger population of people. This problem of generalization is especially acute in case-study methods of investigation. The case-study method involves studying one person thoroughly as opposed to studying a large sample of people. It was the principal research method used by such famous psychologists as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. But because only one person is being studied, statements of generalization cannot be made from a case study. Yet people make them all the time:
PROFESSOR SMITH: According to a well-conducted study on the principle of reciprocity, we are more likely to succeed in attracting oth- ers by expressing a positive interest in those people whom we find attractive, as opposed to using the strategy of “playing hard to get.”
The Role of Chance 247
STUDENT: I don’t think that’s right at all. PROFESSOR: And why is that?
STUDENT: Well, I got my husband by playing hard to get, so I think playing hard to get works just fine. I recommend it to everyone. It sure worked for me.
In the above example, the student is using herself as a case study and then general~ izing to others. Such reasoning is not valid. No one should question the student’s honesty about her experience; what ought to be questioned, however, is the gener~ alizability of the student’s experience to everyone else’s experience, particularly when the student’s experience contradicts the results of a well~conducted study.
Technically speaking, case studies can be conducted within the physical sciences as well. But in the physical sciences it is legitimate to discover certain principles about a single physical event or object and then assume that those principles apply to all other events or objects identical with the one studied. If one discovered, for example, that adding two atoms of hydrogen to one atom of oxygen produced water, we could assume that that would be the case for all hy~ drogen and oxygen atoms. Studying human beings, however, is a different mat~ ter entirely because no two human beings are identical in their histories or constitutions. Finding out that Joan developed a multiple~personality disorder because she was severely abused as a child does not allow us to assume that every~ one severely abused as a child will develop a multiple~personality disorder, or that everyone with a multiple~ personality disorder was abused as a child (though, in fact, most of them were). Maybe Joan’s manner of developing a multiple per~ sonality was atypical, which is conceivable given each person’s unique genetics, family history, peer relations, and interpretation of life events.
If we cannot generalize from case studies in the social sciences, of what value are they? Case studies are valuable for clinical work with patients, and they can give us hints about what might be transpiring in similar cases. (When compar~ ing human beings, there are never identical cases.) These hints can then be tested using a larger sample of people.
It is possible that the results we get from a study are due to chance and cannot be attributed to the variables being studied. This statement does not imply that the world is chaotic or that some miracle occurred to cause our results. Chance, as we use the term here, means that the results of our study were due to random influ~ ences. For example, in a controlled experiment the researcher takes all precautions to make sure that the control and experimental groups are equal before the experimental variable, such as a new drug, is introduced. If they are equal and the
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group that gets the treatment is affected differently than the control group, then we can attribute that difference to the treatment-maybe. There is always the chance that the two groups were not identical before the treatment was delivered. If so, that inequality, whatever it is, might be responsible for the outcome and not the treatment. In a drug study, for instance, it could be that when the researcher selects the experimental group, by chance that group, in spite of all precautions taken to assure equality with the control group, is a hardier bunch than the control group before the drug is even administered. In this case, a higher cure rate in the experimental group might have occurred had the researcher fed the treat- ment group peanut butter, or given them nothing at all!
Other research designs can also be bedeviled by chance factors. In correla- tional research, for example, it is possible that the correlation we discover is sim- ply bogus! We know there is no correlation between the number of nickels you have in your pocket and the number of trees in your backyard. Yet, if we ran- domly selected 200 people would it not be possible, albeit not likely, that those with more nickels happened to have more trees? Certainly! Such a correlation would be due to sampling error caused by chance.
It may be evident by now that the larger our sample size, the less likely these errors are going to occur. But even with 500,000 people in each sample the possibility of sampling error still exists, however remote. That chance, called the significance level, is statistically calculated based on the size of the samples, the amount of variability within those samples, the size of the difference in out- come between the two groups, and the strength of a correlation.
Obviously, when the odds of our results occurring by chance are one out of a million, we have great confidence that our results reflect a real difference be- tween our groups. But what if the odds were one out of a thousand, or one out of fifty, or one out of ten? At what point do we lose confidence in our results? In the social sciences, for example, there are two acceptable standards: significance levels of .01 and .05. If research results are significant at the .01 level, the chance of the results occurring because of some sampling error is only one in one hun- dred, or 1 percent; thus we can be reasonably confident-but not certain-that our study is not that one time out of a hundred in which the results could have occurred by chance. A significance level of .05 is less stringent, indicating there- sults could occur by chance in five studies out of 100, but it is still acceptable to most scientists as indicating the likelihood of a real difference-that is, one not due to chance but to the variable being studied, such as a drug in a drug experi- ment, or the secret ingredient in a chicken egg-laying experiment.
How are we ever to know if it is chance or one of the variables under study that causes our results? We can become more certain if we repeat the study and find the same result. This is the importance of replication in the last step of the scientific method. Unfortunately, many studies are not repeated because researchers rely on the confidence levels of .01 or .05 or fail to be interested
Experimenter Bias 249
enough in a project to engage in a replication. But even results significant at the .Ollevel could still be due to chance. If someone else repeats the research design and gets the same results, however, then chance is probably not the explanation. Year after year we hear of possible cancer cures, only to be disappointed when others repeating the experimental design fail to get the same results.
The importance of the role of chance in research, and the way it can con- found results, will vary somewhat from one science to another. But most scien- tific disciplines must contend with it. In 1989, for example, the American public had a major disappointment when a supposedly successful cold fusion experi- ment failed replication tests. These replication failures suggest that something else other than, or in addition to, the variable being studied was responsible for the initial positive results in these experiments.
In sum, when we hear about the results of a study, we must think about the role of chance and exercise appropriate caution in our interpretation. We should ask ourselves if the results are consistent with other findings; if not, it might be prudent to wait for replication studies.
THINK ABOUT IT: How much confidence do you need to take ac- tion? What level of confidence do you need to run a red light, engage in unprotected sex, sky-dive, bungee-jump, or bet $1,000 on the lottery?
A sizeable effect is a large effect. Just because a study’s results are signifi- cant at, say, .01, does not mean that there is much to be concerned about. It is one thing to say the results of a study are not likely the result of sam- pling error; it’s another to say the study demonstrates a sizeable effect. If a well-conducted study finds that people who eat liver are less likely to get cancer, and the study has significance at .001, we can be quite confident that the results are not due to sampling error, especially if the results are repl icated. But we can still ask, “How much does eating liver reduce the risk of cancer? ” “Just a tad,” the researcher might reply. In that case, we need not change our diet to include the insufferable liver. On the other hand, if eating liver cuts our risk in half, then it might be time to change our palate-but not necessarily! If the original risk is ever so small in the first place, half of “ever so smal l” might still be ever so sma ll and no rea- son to change our ways. Unfortunately, the popular media often presents study results without mentioning the size of the effect or the original risk.
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THE GAMBLER’S FALLACY: DON’T BET ON IT!
Lottery players and other casual gamblers sometimes fall prey to the gam- bler’s fallacy, the belief that the frequency of a random event’s occurrence in the past will affect the odds of that event occurring again. For example, it is the gambler’s fallacy to believe that if a penny has shown heads ten times in a row, then the odds must be enormous against it coming up with heads again because the likelihood of eleven heads in a row are extremely remote. In fact, however, the odds of a penny coming up heads or tails is not de- pendent on what came before it. Each throw has a 50/50 chance of coming up heads; each throw is independent of past throws. The key to under- standing this lies in the past throws. If somebody gets 1 0 heads in a row, that is remarkable, but the odds of making it 11 heads in a row at this point (after 10 heads have already been thrown) are 50/50. The odds are behind us for the ten consecutive throws; those odds have been beaten. The next throw is only 50/50, and one would be wise to bet accordingly. Roulette wheels, penny tosses, and other devices that are based on randomness are subject to this fallacy. Bets on nonrandom events, such as dog and horse races, are not. If a dog wins several races, it is probably because he is a strong racer, so it is not fallacious to assume the dog will win the next one. In short, if you dis- cover that a certain bingo number has not been called in weeks, you should not assume that it will, therefore, probably be called tonight.
No intellectual activity, science included, is ever free from the shaping force of one particular ideology or another.
– W. BEVAN, CONTEMPORARY PSYCHOLOGY
Sometimes scientific failures are not due to chance or poor research design but to the experimenters themselves. This kind of error is known as experimenter bias-the tendency on the part of researchers to make errors in perception or judgment because of their expectations or desire for a particular result. It is part of a general tendency among all of us to see what we would like to see or what we expect to see. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, William James, and others argued that objective, rational inquiry may be more a fiction than a reality, a mere rationalization dictated by unconscious motives, seething emotions, and cher- ished beliefs. Our liking or disliking of a person, event, or idea can alter our per- ceptions, even if the foundation of our liking is based on nothing more than hearsay or unhealthy personal needs. Such bias affects teachers grading student exams, jurors judging a defendant, and scientists conducting research.
Experimenter Bias 251
Many psychological studies have demonstrated this effect. In one classic experiment (Rosenhan, 1973), normal graduate students lied to gain admission to a mental health hospital, were given a psychiatric diagnosis, generally “schiz- ophrenia,” and then behaved normally thereafter. Their normal behavior, however, was often seen by the hospital staff to be pathological. The label “schiz- ophrenia” biased the staff’s perception and judgment of normal behavior.
In another early experiment (Rosenthal, 1966), two groups of graduate stu- dents were given mice to run in a maze. One group was told that their mice were “maze bright”-that is, bred particularly for adeptness at maze running. The other group was led to believe that their mice were “maze dull.” In fact, however, the students were working with the same population of mice. But graduate students who were told that their mice were maze bright recorded sig- nificantly fewer maze-running errors than the other group and perceived their rats to be brighter, more pleasant, and more likable. Other studies support these findings.
When interpretation of research variables is open to subjectivity, special care should be taken to guard against experimenter bias. Because such biased inter- pretation is not a conscious process, it is not enough to rely on a scientist’s good judgment and care. What is needed are more objective means of measuring the variables, or special procedures in the research protocol that will eliminate the possibility of bias.
A common procedure is to make sure that the researcher is unaware of some critical conditions of the experiment that would otherwise allow for ex- perimenter bias. For example, if Dr. Z invented an antidepressant drug and runs an experiment to find out if the drug really can alleviate symptoms of de- pression, then Dr. Z, having a great deal of reputation and money at stake, might unknowingly bias his interpretation of the results. It would be more than just a little unwise to let Dr. Z assess the patients’ recovery when at the same time he knows which patients received his drug and which did not. It would be better to keep him ignorant about who took the real drug or have someone else who is unaware of these facts do the assessment of the patients’ recovery.
The motivation of the researcher or research organization is obviously some- thing that everyone should be wary o£ There is a big difference in credibility be- tween the research of Burt’s Chemical Corporation on the carcinogenic properties of their own weed-control product and the research of an independent group that has nothing at stake in the outcome. It is certainly not impossible for good research to be conducted by organizations that have a vested interest in the research out- come, but the potential for experimenter bias effects and outright fraud is signifi- cant. “The rule, ‘I sing the song of him whose bread I eat’ has held good in all times” (Schopenhauer, 1859/1958b, p. xxviii) . One survey of scientists found that
252 CHAPTER 10 • Scientific Thinking
15.5 percent said they had changed the way a study was conducted or its resulrs because of pressure from those funding the srudy (Wadman, 2005). Therefore, the special interests of the researcher or research organization must be taken into con- sideration when assessing scientific results, and those results must be weighed against any independent sources doing research on the same subject. If the televi- sion industry dtes studies financed by the television networks that show television violence to have no impact on the viewer, and if those studies conflict with well-conducted research from independent sources-well, you be the judge.
A similar problem arises in the political arena in which, for example, a politician is expected to carefully weigh arguments for and against gun control while at the same time receiving generous amounts of campaign money from the National Rifle Association. As suggested in Chapter 2, the politician’s ability to think objectively would very likely be impaired by motivational considerations. In science, one’s ability to judge, perceive, and assess are also subject to these motivational factors. Unfortunately, safeguards against these factors are not always implemented because of practical reasons, a disregard for the bias ten- dency, or a deliberate attempt to defraud the public. In the mid-1990s the American public became painfully aware of the potential for scientific fraud and bias when the tobacco industries were found to have suppressed research that suggested nicotine was addictive. As it turned out, tobacco science was nothing more than “politicized science,” as one politician correctly put it.
THE PLACEBO EFFECT
In any research in wh ich it cou ld be a problem, we must control for a researcher’s bel iefs and expectations. But beliefs of subjects must also be controlled for, because such beliefs can often confuse study resu lts. If sub- jects are given a drug that they believe will cure them, the belief itself may cause the cure and not the drug. This is called the placebo effect. To con- trol for this, only the study’s experimental group is given the real drug while the control group is given a placebo, a pi ll containing no medicine, but led to believe that it is the rea l drug. If belief is responsible for the cure, both groups wil l be cured. If it is rea lly the drug and not belief, then only the experimental group will be cured. The extent to which belief can cure is suggested by the Sapirstein and Kirsch study (1996). They an- alyzed thirty-nine studies involving a tota l of 3,252 depressed people and found that one-half of the drug response was due to the placebo effect. Clearly this study underscores the need to control for it in research.
Experimenter Bias 253
THE PLACEBO EFFECT (Continued) <.~· ,> .. , _ ~ }- ‘ ,! ‘
The use of placebos in research is not without problems. For one, placebos are not well regulated. Thus, there are different types with dif- ferent ingredients, and these ingredients are not completely inert. Even a simple sugar pil l can alter blood sugar. Any pharmacological effects of a placebo could confound some study results by increasing or decreasing the outcome difference between the placebo and the active pill.
If a placebo has absolutely no detectable effects, we must be con- cerned about another problem. In a drug cu lture, like that of the United States, people are becoming quite sophisticated about potentia l side effects of medication. If people who participate in a drug study are told that they will be given a placebo or a rea l pill , they might easily figure out that they have the placebo because of an absence of side effects that often accompanies real medication. If subjects can catch on that they only have the placebo, placebo research won’t be able to control adequately for belief. But if we give subjects placebos that induce side effects, then we have rather active placebos with more potential to confound results. Even more alarming is the thought that the conclusions of some earlier drug research might be wrong because of these kinds of problems.
~ . ~-·r ~~ ,) , , , , . CASES OF FRAUD .:’~:· :,.:. ‘ ..
::’: , . –
The following are some examples of scientific misconduct cases that occurred between 1989 and 2000, reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
• (Oregon Regional Primate Center] An assistant scientist in the division of neurosciences used the same photographs of cells to represent different sets of data in published papers (Wheeler, 1991, p. A7).
• (Northwestern University] An associate professor of physiology fab- ricated data for two publ ished abstracts and submitted a docu- ment with the forged signature of a graduate student to the investigating committee (Wheeler, 1991, p. A7).
• [Stanford University] Two professors of psychiatry misrepresented the status of research subjects in nine papers and plagiarized a book chapter (Wheeler, 1991, p. A7).
• [Medical College of Georgia] A nursing professor fabricated the existence of subjects and data in a mental health research study (Burd, 1995, p. A23).
254 CHAPTER 10 • Scientific Thinking
CASES OF FRAUD (Continued)
• [Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine] A research program coordinator in oncology fabricated data on patient interviews and falsified updates on patient status, giving the appearance of more favorable outcomes (Walker, 1997a, p. A33).
• [University of the Witwatersand (South Africa)] Hematology and oncology professor confessed that he falsified data in a breast can- cer treatment study (Vergnani, 2000, p. A52).
• [University of Ulm, the Medical University of Lubeck, University of Freiburg, and others] In Germany’s biggest case of scientific fraud in decades, two professors of hematology involved in gene therapy research stand accused by various university commissions of falsify- ing data in at least 47 scientific papers over a ten-year period. Hundreds of other papers written by them are currently being ex- amined for fraud (Bollag, 1998, p. A57, A59-60).
• [University of Missouri at Columbia] Assistant professor in the depart- ment of veterinary biomedical sciences made up data on the weights of muscles and presented the data as if they were results of experi- ments that were, in fact, not conducted (Walker, 1997b, p. A29).
In most of the above cases, the offenders resigned from their university positions and were barred from receiving federal grants for several years. Journals that had published the falsified data were notified.
Cases of fraud occur at all levels, in all disciplines, and in all countries. According to one survey, 0.3 percent of scientists falsified data (Cook, 2005). As you can see, some of the most prestigious universities were associated with, and victimized by, the cases above.
True scientific inquiry uses the steps of the scientific method in a careful, objec- tive manner in an attempt to reach some truths about the world. At the same time it is open to the possibility of error in its conclusions and considers reason- able alternative explanations. True scientific inquiry looks at all the data and does not omit facts because they threaten a pet theory or belief or are difficult to explain; it carefully and objectively weighs all the evidence for and against vari- ous hypotheses and theories. True science develops hypotheses and theories that are testable and falsifiable. In other words, its inquiry is self-correcting: In prin- ciple there is the possibility of finding evidence or experimental results that would support or weaken a given hypothesis or belief such that the unsupported
ideas are abandoned or modified. Any inquiry which pretends to be scientific but lacks these characteristics can be called a pseudoscience. In this sense of the term, “pseudoscience” is an activity, a flawed attempt at true scientific inquiry.
One common characteristic of pseudoscience is the tendency to give a post hoc (after the fact) explanation for an unfulfilled expectation or prediction without planning to test the explanation, or to give it in a manner that is untestable. Such explanations appear only to save face and protect a desired belie£ Those who claim or believe in a fortune-teller’s psychic abilities, for example, could attribute a failure to perform psychic readings and feats to “bad timing,” an “un- cooperative spirit,” or “negative energy.”
Some people use the term “pseudoscience” as a noun, labelling entire fields of inquiry as pseudosciences. However, even though some commonly labeled pseudosciences, such as astrology, are not built on a sound scientific foundation and fail miserably in their predictions, others cannot as easily be dismissed. Moreover, the tendency to label entire fields as pseudoscience can often be rooted in enculturation and personal barriers, such as religious bias or threats to a cherished world view. Darwin’s preoccupation with evolution, for example, was undoubtedly seen by many in his era as pseudoscience because it offended cherished religious beliefs and the “common sense” views of his time: “I repudi- ate with abhorence these new-fangled theories!” (Disraeli  cited in Seldes, 1985, p. 109). Because such personal barriers so often influence our judgment about pseudoscience areas, one writer defined pseudoscience as “scientific work undertaken by anyone of whom one disapproves” (Sutherland, 1989, p. 351).
While there certainly are some theories and subjects that unquestionably have little if any scientific support and ought to be abandoned, there are others that are more arguable. In those areas reason dictates that we allow others the freedom to pursue their investigations and be critical only to the extent to which their inquiry fails to conform to the methods and spirit of true science.
In sum, it may be best to view pseudoscience simply as the activity of bad science, ranging from a careless or misguided scientific approach to a serious psychological virus capable of affecting scientists in any discipline, shredding their objectivity and infecting them with an unreasonable passionate belief in hypotheses and theories in which good evidence strongly suggests otherwise.
Because we live in an era in which science permeates our culture, it is important to understand its basic methodology, assumptions, and limitations in order to think more critically about the scientific world around us. The methodology of science consists of four basic steps: observation, hypothesis formation, experimentation,
256 CHAPTER 10 • ScientificThinking
and verification. It differs from other forms of inquiry primarily in its emphasis on systematic observation. This is also its limitation, for science can study only the em- pirical world, the world of observation and measurement. Answering metaphysical questions and determining values, for example, are outside the reach of science.
Although many scientists work with the concept of probability, science gen- erally assumes a deterministic and orderly universe, including the universe of human behavior. Considerable debate occurs about the extent of this determin- ism when it is applied to human beings. Ironically, we tend to judge people as though they are free, but we study them as though they are not.
The methods of researchers are many and include experimental and quasi- experimental designs, ex post facto studies, and correlational designs, surveys, and case studies. Because the ex post facto method must find the difference be- tween groups instead of creating the difference, as is done in a controlled study, it has more problems with hidden variables as alternative explanations for the re- sults, and cause-and-effect relationships cannot as easily be inferred. The corre- lational designs, which examine the degree of relationship between two or more variables, is also a weak approach for discovering cause-and-effect relationships. In spite of the limitations of ex post facto and correlational studies, they are well suited for situations in which more controlled studies would be impractical or unethical. Additionally, correlational methods are quite useful in making pre- dictions when strong correlations exist between variables. Sometimes the use of animal subjects arguably avoids ethical problems and allows scientists to use more controlled studies, such as the experimental or quasi-experimental designs. However, the question about the validity of generalization ofren arises when us- ing animals to learn about human beings. Generalization is a problem in all studies if the sample is not representative of the larger population. And it is in- valid to generalize from a single case study.
Even when there are no problems in the studies themselves, there is always the question of the results occurring by chance. Results are generally accepted if their significance level is .05 or better, meaning that the results could have oc- curred by some sampling error five times out of a hundred or less. Replication of research can help to strengthen confidence in study results. Such increased confidence, however, does not prove a theory, because everyone’s standard for proof varies.
Researchers are human beings with cherished beliefs, pet theories, and great hopes like everyone else. These biases can consciously or unconsciously influ- ence their judgment of the research variables. Such influence is called experi- menter bias. It is important for researchers to insulate their research from this bias as much as possible. One technique, used particularly in drug experiments, is to make the experimenter and subjects ignorant about crucial conditions in the experiment.
The techniques of controlled, objective observation make science a valuable tool for unraveling the mysteries of the world. A failure to use science appropri- ately, and with the right scientific attitude, is considered pseudoscience. Some- times pseudoscience is driven by a pet theory or other cherished belief which overrides our critical scientific judgment.
As our awareness of the strengths and shortcomings of scientific procedures increases, we can make better judgments on the claims we see and hear, and we can apply the solid principles of science to our own thinking about the world, to our own attempts to find answers in an enigmatic universe.
Scientific Thinking Challenges
1. Is it possible to have a cause-and-effect order in the universe without deter- minism? Explain.
2. What kind of research method would you use to test the effects of depres- sion on thinking?
3. Imagine you heard the following: “Doctors found a relationship between being underweight and having cancer.” What hidden variable can you think of that might explain this relationship?
4. Were you ever in an argument in which you tried to prove a point and were unsuccessful? Why?
5. Short of actually discovering intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, what would it take to prove to you that such life probably exists?
6. Outline different ways in which you could determine if broccoli or some other food prevents cancer? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each method?
7. List the ten most important things that you would like to know. For how many of them is science the appropriate tool for finding an answer to your question?
8. When you hear the claim “Doctors recommend Goody’s Pills,” what ques- tions should you ask?
9. How satisfied are you with significance levels of .05 and .01 for determining confidence in experimental results? Can you think of situations in which you would want stricter criteria?
10. Are you free enough to be held responsible for what you do? How much does your social and psychological environment determine your behavior? How much is determined by your genetics?
11. Is experimenter bias a factor in the classroom?
12. Given that the speed of light is constant, if you shine a flashlight ahead of you as you travel forward at half the speed oflight, how fast would the light
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from your flashlight travel? If you find this intriguing, read a book for the layperson on Einstein’s theory of relativity.
13. What do you think about the definition of pseudoscience as “scientific work undertaken by anyone of whom one disapproves”?
14. Conduct your own survey about a topic of interest using the four criteria for good surveys. How did you do? Can you generalize from your sample to a larger population?
15. Ask people the same question but in different ways. Do you tend to get dif- ferent responses depending on how the question is asked?
16. Surveys are often conducted in shopping malls. What is a drawback to this technique?
17. Have you ever made the mistake of using your personal experience and then generalizing to a larger population?
18. If you noticed poverty and crime in mainly inner-city areas, what would be some of your hypotheses?
19. If you conducted a survey on the Internet in such a fashion that you picked up a representative sample oflnternet users, what do you think would be the makeup of your respondents?
20. You want to find out if praying is good for your health, so you compare the health of some monks in a nearby monastery who pray every day with the health of a local atheist group. You find that the monks are healthier. Besides praying, what other variables might explain the greater health of the monks?
21. Can the opinions of the general public about UFOs, astrology, or psychic phenomena be used to determine any facts about these subjects? Why or why not?
22. Think back to the last scientific study you heard or read. Was the size of the effect mentioned? What type of scientific design was probably used?
23. If you are taking medication, to what extent do you think your belief about the medication is contributing to its effect? Do you think some medications are more susceptible to the placebo effect than others? How can you know for sure?
24. The views of astrologers have not been supported by scientific studies. Why then do so many people continue to believe in astrology?
All people attempt w discuss statements and w maintain them . . . . It is possible w intruire the n•ason wh.!f some … succeed.
-imple to define, difficult to do, persuasion means influencing someone to ac- :ept our message. To persuade well is a demanding and delicate art. We must .mderstand human nature, control our emotions, and think carefully; and we
ust be aware of the time, the place, our involvement, the message, the receivers, – d their values. We must also articulate meticulously; one slip of a feeling or -ne wrong word and the architecture of persuasion collapses.
In this chapter we attempt that adventure. To craft a strong persuasive cture we use all of our thinking bases and abilities: We discuss the ethics of
:ersuasion, think about what persuades us, and learn to analyze audiences to :- d how they differ from us. We then follow a persuasive process that leads ~ audience to a new position, but one that continues to meet their basic
-eeds and concerns. We also look at some maneuvers that others typically use – their attempts to persuade us, so that we can better defend ourselves against
260 CHAPTER 11 • Persuasive Thinking
If we try to persuade people to do something solely for our advantage, we are using them. That is manipulation. If we try to get them to do something that we believe is for their, our, and society’s good, is that manipulation or persuasion? We should realize that the distinction between persuasion and manipulation is complex; few, if any, definitions, decisions, or discussions are black or white. Consider, for example, the chairperson of a college department who told us that she knew what her faculty members needed better than they knew themselves. The chairperson never openly told them what she thought they needed, but she acted, issued directions, and spoke to them in a manner to achieve her goals for them. Was the chairperson manipulating, persuading, or both?
THINK ABOUT IT: Do we ever have a right to get people to do things without their knowing why?
On the surface, all persuasion is presumptuous because it presumes that we know what is best. What right do we have to persuade people to change their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, or actions? On the other hand, although we do not know for certain what is best, we still cannot avoid persuading. At home, at work, and at school, we are constantly choosing and interacting with others; as Aristotle said, “All men attempt to discuss statements and to maintain them” (1954, p. 19). Our choices affect others whether we intend them to or not. Even if we try to march only to the drum we beat, our marching influ- ences others. Unless we march right out of society, and that exiting march would also influence, we cannot stop persuading; to live is to persuade and be persuaded.
Because persuading is part of life, we need to understand it and learn how to be- come powerful persuaders. Understanding begins with ourselves, for some of the same forces that move us move others. We are more likely to be persuaded by some- one who is knowledgeable, objective, rational, honest, attractive, convinced, similar to us, and by someone who appeals to our values, our needs, and our wants.
Thinking About What Moves US 261
To know that you do not know is the best. To pre- tend to know when you do not know is a disease.
If you were awed by the beauty of butterflies, would you rather listen to an engineer or a lepidopterologist with a vast and stunning collection? If they both told you why the cloud-covering migrations of the monarch were thinning, whom would you believe? No contest. We like to listen to people who know what they are talking about. Likewise, if we are to persuade anyone, we had better ground our persuasion in knowledge. Wise persons know what they know and what they don’t know.
Objectivity and Honesty
If the lepidopterologist were selling butterfly specimens, would we begin to sus- pect what he had to say? If we were offered free trips to Brazil to see the various butterflies, would we feel uneasy? (“I fear the Greeks bearing gifts,” Virgil wrote.) Suppose the persuader made an up-front statement such as this: “If you appreciate the beauty and purpose of the butterfly, I’ll show you ways you can help preserve the monarch through personal action and donations.” Now it is easier to believe the persuader. We tend to believe people who are unbiased and honest and who have nothing to gain by lying. Aristotle calls this persuading through personal character. We believe the person.
_, ‘i” ‘ ‘” -.~
CONFUCIUS. CHRIST, AND KANT ‘j::~~”:.?’~·”
Ethical thinking can be a complex task. For the moment, if you find yourself in a difficult situation, you might rely on a simple rule used by many people. Confucius stated it passively: “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others” (Analects 15.23). Christ stated it actively: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (Matthew 7 .12). And Kant formulates it: II Ad only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Ethics, 1955, p. 46). This Golden Rule, which has transcended cultures and time can be helpful when we are faced with tang led ethical choices.
Biases show. They warp our arguments and repel our audience. We tend to use arguments that support our biases, and we reject opposite arguments. The audi- ence will notice our biases and begin to close their minds, because our biases will surface in our connotations and become apparent in our tone.
262 CHAPTER 11 • Persuasive Thinking
The first step in dealing with biases is to recognize them. “Know thyself,” said Socrates. We can suspect a bias whenever we feel strongly about one side or another, and we can recall some of our particular biases that we may have identified as psy- chological barriers in Chapter 2. Once those biases have been identified, we have to keep them caged like a tiger; a slight snarl or a gleaming fung and our audience will re- coil. Even better, of course, is to let go of our biases and approach the issues objectively by looking at all points of view. If our audience believes that we are not aware of other viewpoints or that we are afraid to address them, then our credibility suffers. Audi- ences with at least a high school education seem to be persuaded more easily when we also address the other side. If we control our biases and attempt to address the issue objectively, we will strengthen our position and increase the audience’s receptivity.
If a persuader was knowledgeable and objective but was also condescending, haughty, belligerent, and wore smelly sweat clothes, would we listen eagerly? If the person did not show that she respected us, would we find it easy to listen to her? Sometimes what you are speaks so loudly that no one can hear what you are saying. We listen to people we like, and we are more open to receive their ideas. So when we persuade we must take care about our appearance and maintain a positive and respectful attitude toward our listeners. If we like them, we should let them know it, for the operative principle behind interpersonal attraction is reciprocity: we tend to like those who like us.
Motivation and Purpose
To understand our motivation we need to answer the question “Why do I wish to persuade these people on this topic?” If we can answer this question clearly, we can proceed to persuade with congruency and candor, without a hidden emotional agenda that might derail our appeal. If our biases are part of our mo- tivation, we may wish to rethink whether we are the right person to attempt to persuade this group at this time.
Motivation is related to purpose. To find our purpose, we must answer the question” What do we wish our audience to think, feel, or do?” A purpose helps us select and direct all of our ideas and appeals toward the target. A purpose, like a beacon in a fog, helps us sail our persuasion home.
The Rational Appeal
“Proof or apparent proof” can persuade, Aristotle said (1954, p. 25). When we have proof in the form of facts, evidence, undoctored photos, or reliable wit- nesses, we can convince all but members of the Flat Earth Society. But often our proofis not overwhelming, and we need to turn to logic to construct solid arguments
Thinking About What Moves US 263
(see Chapter 9, “Logical Thinking”). We respect people who, by persuading rationally, rise to the top of their fields. Most CEOs can process data logically according to the impact on “the bottom line”; they can use examples with inductive reasoning and theories applied in syllogisms; and they can use statistics, analogies, and cause-and-effect relationships to convince the board of the accuracy of their interpretations and projections. We need to appear rational to others, for ration- ality is one of our cultural norms. We live in a world of apparent rationality; politicians and business leaders, criminals and baseball players all give reasons for their actions. Sometimes the reasons are far from logical-they may be ludicrous, laughable, pitiable, self-serving, or lies-but people still give reasons. Reasons that appear illogical or contradictory or lead to absurd consequences, however, can hardly have persuasive force. We do not respect someone who, like an un- controllable child, simply says, “I want it,” or someone who relies on power alone, saying, ‘Tm the boss, that’s why.” Although they may force temporary compliance, they have not achieved permanent persuasion.
The Emotional Appeal: The Root Elements
Logic can convince thoughtful people, but logic is just the surface of the moun- tain. Much of the persuasive pressure that drives the mountain upward lies deep in the mantle, deep in our root elements: values, needs, biases, and beliefs. These forces are established early in life, and they drive the emotional tone beneath our convictions; thus we refer to these forces as the root elements. They drive the emotional meaning of our rational or rationalizing words.
We might not always recognize or wish to recognize these deeper forces, for they do not always flatter our idea of ourselves as “rational creatures,” a concept called into question by philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Freud, Jung, and William James. Because of our desire to appear rational, we tend to cloak our emotions with reasons. Aristotle’s “rational animals” often use logic to cover their animality. Freud called this cover-up “rationalization.” Recognizing this human emotionality, Aristotle tells us to stir the emotions of our hearers, for “our judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile” (1954, p. 25).
Our emotions are closely connected to our beliefs and prejudices, most of which were instilled in us as children; for instance, if we follow a religion it is likely the one passed on to us by our parents. Although some adults change their religion, it is often for an emotional reason such as loving and marrying someone of a different faith. Logic blows over the heads of Muslims bowing in Mecca, of Jews chanting in Jerusalem, and of Catholics kneeling in Rome; few adults, such as John Henry Newman (The Grammar of Assent), choose their re- ligion through an intellectual process. In Chapter 2 we examined this process of enculturation.
264 CHAPTER 11 • What Is Thinking?
All of us use emotional appeals in our arguments. The following is an ex- ample of how one student effectively played upon our emotions:
My world is small, hard and mostly barren. The bleak landscape is broken by a couple of pleasant objects, my color TY, stereo system, and of course my books. Though a hard place it offers many amenities: 24 hour security, three hot meals delivered daily, laundry service, all personal toiletries, art supplies, and of course the bookmobile comes to my door twice weekly. The health and dental plans are excellent, no deductible, co-payments or premiums. And let me not forget the gymnasium. All this for only $24,000 per year.
Why do I live here? That’s easy-I killed three people. Not my fault really, they were in my way and had to go. I was sent here to this place called “Death Row,” supposedly to join the three people I killed. There’s a possibility that I will die here, in say, oh, thirty or forty years, of old age or natural causes. But I’m thankful that I live in America where the humane moral majority will not let them kill me. I thank you. When I first came here I was slightly concerned about my old lady and three kids, but welfare gives them almost $10,000 a year, so they get by and she sends my smokes.
I keep up with the news while in here and am hoping that the recession will end soon so all you citizens can return to work. After all, we shouldn’t tol- erate people being delinquent on their taxes in this fine country. Taxes, like vot- ing, are responsibilities held by all citizens. So this fall when the death penalty is on the ballot I beseech you to vote NO. Isn’t my life worth that simple vote, and it only costs $24,000 per year. Well, back to my school.
Is this emotional appeal effective? How do you think it would affect someone who was very much against capital punishment because of religious beliefs?
Persuasion assumes “that we have studied well the human heart” (Pascal, 1958, p. 6). Our understanding of the human heart begins with ourselves. When the audience is similar to us, our self-knowledge works well: It’s not difficult for a Parisian to praise the Parisians in Paris. Bur when our audience differs from us, our words and our approach must also differ.
If we wish to persuade, we must understand how other people are different from us. Perhaps the greatest error in persuading, and the hardest to overcome, is to presume that people are exactly like us and do things for the same reasons we do. They don’t. For instance, we know a person who has actually found and returned a bag of money, then later stole a piece of chocolate. This tendency to think that what moves us will move others may cause us to miss our audience. Although we might think our arguments are steel-tipped arrows, they may fall upon our audience like gentle snow. We need to analyze our audience objectively.
Thinking About What Moves Our Audience 265
It certainly helps to know what our audience already knows about our topic. If we presume that they have information which they do not, or if we present information that is too simple, we run the risk of losing the audience through their ignorance or boredom. Demographics, or the study of subgroups in our population, can help us estimate the information level of an audience.
Demographic data are objective data describing people according to cate- gories, such as age, education level, and occupation. Demographic information is often used by marketers to target products. Some of the standard questions that marketers ask are those that would be discriminatory to ask on a job inter- view; they concern age, gender, race, religion, marital status, and political party. Other questions might relate to income level, occupation, education, hobbies, and affiliation with groups such as the National Rifle Association, the National Organization ofWomen, the Nature Conservancy, the American Civil Liberties Union, and so forth. For instance, if you were giving a speech on abortion or gun control, how would that speech change if your audience was young, female, Afro-American, college graduates, or members of the National Organization of Women? How would your speech on gun control or abortion change if your au- dience was old, male, white, republican, Baptist, and members of the National Rifle Association? Making some generalizations based on demographic informa- tion can paint for us a pretty clear picture of our audience.
A Demographic Analysis
What are the demographics of the students in your class? Using the lists of demographic features above, make some educated guesses about their age, gender, race, relig ion, and so forth. How did you arrive at some of your descriptions? How would you check your accuracy?
Values and Needs
Values and needs, those deep-seated forces, are more difficult to determine than demographics because often they are not even known to the people holding them. We can begin to identify those values by trying Thinking Activity 11.2. Using the chart below, ask your significant other to rank your values and his or her own values. How close do your assessments match each other? Our ability to persuade depends upon a fairly accurate assessment of the needs and values of our audience; you may have just discovered how difficult this can be.
266 CHAPTER 11 • Persuasive Thinking
Identifying Values and Needs
As you read through this chart, rate the importance of each characteristic from 1 to 1 0, 1 0 meaning that the value is of the highest importance, and 1 the lowest. In the columns to the right, Y stands for you, 0 for a signif- icant other, such as a spouse, lover, friend, or boss, and C for an estimate of the average person in this class.
Need Description y 0 c H To help Enjoys helping others; does
work in community
u Understand Likes reading; broad interests M Material Likes to own, save, collect
A Autonomy Likes to make decisions, run things
N Newness Likes change, adventure, creativity
s Safety Needs security at work, at home
A Appearance Looks: clothes, house, car
N Natural Health concerns: eating (three functions meals), exercise, sleep (eight
D Dollars Needs to save; preoccupied with money
N Number one! Likes to win, beat the competition
E Excel Sets high standards
E Esteem Wants recognition, admiration
D Details Likes order, everything in its place
s Socialization Likes people around, joins groups
Thinking About What Moves Our Audience 267
The values and needs chart can help us identifY some of the root elements that are behind the positions people hold. For example, the need for safety may supply the motivation for gun control. People who wish to control guns may be afraid that guns might kill them or their loved ones. They may not like holding or even seeing a gun. Surprisingly, the same need drives many of those who wish to have access to guns. They want guns to protect themselves. A gun in their hand gives them the confidence that they are a match for most criminals. Some gun owners do not know or admit that they want a gun for their safety; they of~ ten give other reasons such as sports, hunting, or collecting (in some cases these are the main motivations).
Once we’ve identified safety as a root element behind gun control, we then have to be sensitive to this value in our audience. We would acknowledge their rea~ sons or supposed reasons for supporting gun control and build a rational case to show that they would actually be safer with another program. This approach will not remove their need for safety but will simply replace one program with another.
Adjusting Our Goals
After analyzing and understanding our audience, we need to adjust our goals. How far can we go in changing our audience’s thinking, feeling, or acting? That depends on how deeply they are entrenched in their present position and on the power of our appeal. If we are arguing against a root element such as racial prej~ udice or religious belief, or if we are confronting a volatile topic such as abortion, we will be forcing the audience to run up a steep mountain in a single sprint. We must recognize where they are on the mountain and how far we can lead them in the time available. When we know they have deep convictions opposed to our message, our goal might be to get the audience just to begin to question their present position; we cannot expect an instant conversion. On the other hand, if the audience is near the top of the mountain, if they have already intellectually assented to a new position (for example, many smokers know the disadvantages of smoking and some would like to quit), our goal might be to move them to action, to take the last steps to reach the top of the mountain.
The “motivation mountain” diagrammed below can help us picture the relative positions of our audience. For instance, “granite” groups might include certa in political, religious, and ethnic groups and associations, such
268 CHAPTER 11 • PersuasiveThinking
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as the NRA and the ACLU, which are known to be unbending. Where might other groups fall?
Once the position of the audience has been established, then the task is to take them gently up to the next level. We cannot ask them to instantly leap to the top of the mountain.
(ask them to act)
ASSENTERS: agree passively
t (persuade questioners
to accept a new position) QUESTIONERS: more open to
new ideas; less entrenched
t (persuade those entrenched to
begin to question their positions)
ENTRENCHED: firmly nardened intellectual positions and/or beliefs
Once we have analyzed the audience, identified root elements, and gathered ideas for persuasion, how do we structure this information? This question is pivotal, for the careful placement of our thoughts, like weights on a balance, will tip the scale favorably to our side. Depending on the audience, the speaker, and the time available, our approach will differ, yet can be adapted to most audiences. One of the strongest persuasive structures we can create moves
Organizing for Persuasion 269
through five steps: (1) We establish our credibility; (2) we acknowledge the audience’s position; (3) we construct our rationale; (4) we transplant the root elements; and (5) we ask for the response.
Step 1: Establishing Credibility
First impressions, although often shallow and wrong, are nevertheless vital. Whether in a speech or in a paper, our audience can close their minds or drop the page-and quickly. First impressions become increasingly important when the audience is hostile. Facing an antagonistic audience, we cannot be militant or cowards or liars: “To thine own selfbe true …. ” We have to reach deep into our character and show ourselves to be knowledgeable, believable, likable, rational, unbiased, and convinced.
Not having a lifetime to establish these qualities, we can do so quickly by objectively acknowledging both sides of a disputed topic. For instance, on the topic of gun control, an objective opening for either side might state, “Gun control is a hotly debated issue in our nation. Thoughtful citizens offer reasons on both sides …. ” Here is an objective opening written by a student on the inflammatory topic of abortion:
The debate over abortion is complex. It involves theological, moral, medical, and social issues. It touches the mysteries of human sexuality and the process of reproduction. Consequently, it is a highly emotional subject.
Step 2: Acknowledging the Audience’s Position
This step can be encapsulated in a quote from Pascal: “Notice from what side they view the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to them” (1958, p. 4). With remarkable insight, Pascal asks us to do three things. First, we need to see the issue from the other side. While this advice is expressed in many common sayings, such as “Walk a mile in their shoes,” it is seldom followed.
Second, and perhaps harder to accept, Pascal says that the way others see the issue “is usually true.” Usually true? How can that be if it is the opposite of what we believe? A partial answer is that the opposite side starts from a different point, from different values and different presuppositions; naturally they reach different conclusions.
Third, Pascal asks us to “admit that truth to them.” This does not mean that we have to be hypocritical or dishonest. We do not have to agree with their position; we merely state that we understand that people holding that position are reasonable, intelligent people, and we understand why they came to their conclusions. By this single stroke of acknowledging their position and admitting the truth of it, we have shown ourselves to be knowledgeable, objective, and empathetic. We have prepared the ground for planting our idea because we have
270 CHAPTER 11 • Persuasive Thinking
first listened to the audience. The chances are now greater that they will listen to us and allow the seed of our idea to grow.
At this point our argument, like a new sprout, is fragile, so we must place our steps with precision. Our audience is tentatively with us because until now we have been on their side. But we will lose them if they sense any hostile rhet- oric. After restraining ourselves and admitting the truth of their position, it is natural to want to unleash the full force and feelings of our position. But we can- not wildly charge forward. We need to rein in our emotions, which might easily trample our delicate, budding argument. From this point onward we must guard our tongue or our pen and not let slip a single inflammatory word that might slam shut the door of the audience’s opening mind.
Step 3: Constructing Our Rationale
Now we can construct our rationale in a positive way using facts, statistics, authorities, and our strongest reasoning from logic, analogies, precedents, exam- ples, and cause and effect. Our goal is not to prove our audience wrong but rather to offer them something better. Whereas Aquinas might refute his oppo- nents or a trial lawyer rip away at the opposition, we are not in a medieval-style debate to intellectually vanquish our opponents, nor are we in a court of law to prove them guilty. We do not want to leave them humbled before our brilliance but, rather, excited by a better way of thinking or acting.
Recognizing the Other Side
In the space below try to apply Pascal’s first two steps to a contemporary issue such as abortion or gun control. First, review your own position on the issue. Then write down the other side:
The Opposite Side:
Organizing for Persuasion 271
Now try to see the truth of the opposite position. Pascal said that if we see the issue from the other side, it is usually true. Here you are challenged to see the truth of a position with which you do not agree. To do this, you must make an effort to almost adopt this position, to make yourself vul- nerable to the appeal of this position, to empathize with them.
The Truth of the Opposite Side:
Notice how difficult it can be to actually see the world from the oppo- nents’ point of view. You may want to test how well you did by sharing your response with people who actually hold that view. How well do they think you have captured the truth of their side?
Step 4: Transplanting the Root Elements
If we have crafted our persuasive message sensitively and strongly, if we have approached our audience’s root elements carefully and respectfully, if we have offered our audience a more solid rationale that satisfies their needs better than the one they currently hold, then change is likely. We are not so much painfully extracting their root elements as we are transplanting them into a package that is stronger and which feels better to the audience. For instance, they now believe they will be safer with (or without) gun control or capital punishment. They have now accepted a different supporting logic; they have changed; they are persuaded.
Step 5: Asking for the Response
So now we have convinced them to vote for us, but will they go to the voting booth? If the first four persuasive steps were sound, this final step is achieved by merely asking for it. It is similar to the salesperson who has convinced the buyer and “asks for the order.” At this concluding point, we need to get an agreement from the audience that they will do it, that they now hold a new line of think- ing, and that they formally accept the new position they have adopted. Without this formal “sign on the line,” it is easier for the newly persuaded to slip back
272 CHAPTER 11 • Persuasive Thinking
into their habitual patterns of behaving and thinking. We have worked hard arranging our thoughts and controlling our feelings, so we want to remember to add the capstone to our persuasion by asking for the response.
Forewarned is forearmed. -CERVANTES
Persuasion is most powerful and enduring when it is both honest and built upon a solid foundation. And it is in our best interest when it involves accurate facts, clean logic, and persuaders who have integrity. However, some persuaders are deliberately inaccurate, illogical, or dishonest; they bend and distort their messages to satisfy their own needs for power or possessions. Against this on- slaught of deceitful persuasion, we need to be aware and armed. Below we look at twelve common persuasive techniques that others are likely to use on us. We’ve organized them in three categories: (1) manipulative tactics, (2) erro- neous attacks, and (3) abuse oflanguage. By learning about them, we can more easily protect ourselves from their influence, separate the wheat from the chaff, and emerge rather unscathed.
Gordo told the rest of us how he had talked some of his more reluctant clients into making the bond play. He preyed upon their conservativism, upon their fear of losing money, upon their faith in the bond market during times of tur- moil. He played upon their egos, assuring them that it was the smartest thing to do, a bold move that would later prove how clever, how astute, how prescient they had been-LICENSETOSTEAL,ANONYMOUSAND HARPER 1999.
Seven psychological tactics-each with great potential to be manipulative-are used intentionally by others to persuade us: (1) foot-in-the-door technique, (2) door-in-the-face technique, (3) lowballing, (4) spending time, (5) appeal to pity, ( 6) appeal to fear, and (7) appeal to pride.
The basic strategy of the foot-in-the-door technique is to get a person to comply with a small request and then ask them to comply with a larger request later. Getting the person to comply with the larger request is the real objective. In one study of this technique (Freedman and Fraser, 1966), two groups of women were asked to put a large sign in their yards that read “Drive Carefully.” Only one of the groups was previously asked to comply with a smaller request to put
Defending Ourselves Against Deceitful Persuasion 273
a small sign in their front window; most of that group agreed. Amazingly, 76 percent of those who complied with the smaller request later complied with the larger one, but only 17 percent of the other group did.
Why does the foot-in-the-door technique work? Perhaps complying with the small request changes a person’s self-definition. By putting a small sign in the window we may begin thinking of ourself as a person who cares, as a person who gets involved in this issue. Then, when others approach us later for a larger request, they are approaching a person who cares, a person who gets involved, and they are more likely to gain compliance from us than from those who haven’t yet defined themselves in this way. Thus, we should beware ofletting the vacuum cleaner salesperson into our house, for once we let the person in, we have complied with a small request; we have defined ourself as someone who must be somewhat interested in vacuums, for why else would we let the sales- person in? Now the salesperson is selling to “someone who is interested” and thereby increases his or her chances of success.
Mix the spirit of cooperation with a pinch of guilt and you have the ingredients of the door-in-the-face technique. It is just the opposite of the foot-in-the-door technique. This time the first request is so large that one expects it to be rejected, that is, to have the door slammed in one’s face. Then, shortly thereafter, one fol- lows with the real request, which now appears much smaller than it otherwise would have. Denying this smaller request might be difficult because of a feeling of guilt about not compromising. Many teenagers have learned to use this tech- nique on their parents:
TEENAGER: Mom, may I have the car this weekend-! mean all weekend? My friends and I want to do something different for a change. You know, hit the streets in the city for a while. May I?
MOM: Absolutely not! You know that’s the only car we have. How am I supposed to function without a car all weekend? Besides, hitting the streets in the city does not sound like a healthy idea to me.
TEENAGER: I knew you would say that. You just don’t want me to have any fun. (Teenager walks away.)
TEENAGER: (Teenager returns.) Urn. Mom. I know you don’t want me to go this weekend and take the car and all. And I’m willing to accept that. But could I at least have the car for a few hours Friday night to take Terry out? I mean, you never let me use the car for anything, you know.
MOM: I suppose.
274 CHAPTER 11 • Persuasive Thinking
Unlike the foot~in~the~door technique, this strategy works only when the same person makes both requests. Perhaps our sense of cooperation, fair play, or social responsibility more easily extends to the individual who appears to be compromising. The exact mechanism whereby this technique works is yet un~ certain. There are two main competing theories: reciprocal concessions theory and the social responsibility theory. The former suggests that we feel obligated to make a concession out of fair play because someone else has, while the latter sug- gests that we are motivated by guilt and/or a sense of social responsibility to comply for a worthy cause. Although the reciprocal concessions theory is a viable and popular explanation, it does not account for the findings of some studies that find the door-in-the-face technique working primarily for social responsi- bility issues (e.g., O’Keefe and Hale, 1998).
While watching an exciting football game on T\1, a young man was interrupted by his neighbor who asked for help to move the refrigerator in his basement. Since it was halftime, the young man complied, believing it would take only about fifteen minutes. After moving the refrigerator up from the basement, the young man was expected to help move it onto his neighbor’s pickup. Once that task was accom- plished, his neighbor said, ”All we have to do now is take it to my grandma’s house.” The young man reluctantly got in the truck and proceeded to drive to grandma’s house, located on the other side of the city. When he arrived, he helped to unload the refrigerator, set it up in grandma’s kitchen, and finally returned home two hours later. “Had I known,” he said, “that I would miss the rest of the game and be gone for two hours, I never would have complied in the first place.”
The technique of lowballing asks someone to comply with a request without giving them the whole story; specifically, negative aspects of a task are withheld in order to ensure compliance. Lowballing helps to ensure compliance to a large request, not by getting someone to comply first to a small request in order to change their self~definition, but by making a large request appear small and then relying on the other’s commitment. This technique seems to work because (1) we tend to feel obligated to follow through with our commitment to a person, although we may blame ourselves for making it hastily without getting all the details; (2) we are often inched along, as when gas prices jump a penny or two per month, each step being too small for us to raise a serious objection; and (3) we might lack the necessary assertive skills to say “no” when we realize that we are being manipulated. This last aspect is quite serious, for it makes us more vulnerable not only to lowballing but to all forms of manipulation. Assertiveness is a quality and skill of character that allows us to act on our thinking and reject manipulation. Fortunately, assertiveness can be learned if we need it.
Defending Ourselves Against Deceitful Persuasion 275
THINK ABOUT IT: Monday you agree to help Bill supervise some Cub Scouts on Saturday while they do “a little fishing.” Bob calls you in the middle of the week to tell you that it will also involve participat- ing in recreational sports and you won’t be getting home until11 :00 p.m. that evening. Will Bill’s lowballing technique work to sustain your commitment?
A former car salesman shared with us a technique he learned in a training program to motivate customers to buy a car. This technique involved investing time–noth- ing more than spending time with the customer. “When you spend a lot of time with them,” he said, “they feel guilty walking away with no commitment, with no purchase. Here I am working perhaps two to three hours showing the car and try- ing to get a good deal for them. That’s almost half my day. Many people feel guilty taking up half a person’s day and then leaving them with nothing.”
One woman succumbed to the foot-in-the-door technique used by a vac- uum cleaner salesman. Once he was inside the house, she had a difficult time getting rid of him. “He was there for hours,” she said. Although she did not make a purchase, she felt great pressure to do so. Moreover, she felt so guilty using his time up that day without a sale that she invited him for supper! This technique is perhaps best summed up in the words of John Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath, penning the thoughts of the used car salesman: “Get ’em under obli- gation. Make ’em take up your time. Don’t let ’em forget they’re takin’ your time. People are nice, mostly. They hate to put you out. Make ’em put you out, an’ then sock it to ’em” (1996, pp. 274-75).
Appeal to Pity
People can evoke our sympathy and empathy by an appeal to pity. A school board might be led to retain a school principal who was convicted of ballot fixing at the high school prom, or a college instructor might pass a failing student. Such is the influence of pity.
Sometimes an appeal to pity is appropriate in motivating people to tal<e benevolent actions, as in a plea to provide food and shelter for hurricane victims or to help the needy in impoverished countries. We must be wary, however, of pleas based on pity that stand alone and have little to do with the argument or situation. For example, a young woman who had received aD in a college course approached her professor with a plea for a C; in the middle of her plea she began crying uncontrollably, explaining that her father would reject her if she
276 CHAPTER 11 8 Persuasive Thinking
received such a bad grade. And an employee defended his high salary because of his retirement needs and the number of mouths he had to feed at home.
In sum, if pity is not the basis on which we ought to make certain decisions, then it is usually invalid to appeal to pity to modify those decisions. Some of us are less vulnerable than others to this form of appeal; while retaining empathy and compassion, we can resist false appeals to pity.
Appeal to Fear
And the Lord God commanded the man thus, “From the tree of the knowl- edge of good and evil you must not eat; for the day you eat of it, you must die.”
Another appeal that is often used in persuasion is the appeal to fear. The following excerpt from a “junk mail” letter is an example of such an appeal. It comes from an insurance company intent on selling mortgage accidental death insurance:
Every 6 minutes someone in the United States dies in an accident. Accidents are the lead~ng cause of death among people under age 34. They are the fifth leading cause of death for people of all ages. An accident could happen to you when you least expect it. That’s why it makes sense to prepare now for your fam- ily’s financial well-being if you were to die from an accident.
Cigarette smokers are warned about the cancer-causing potential of smoking, automobile drivers are encouraged to buckle up or risk death in an accident, and children are told to brush their teeth to avoid painful cavities. These uses of fear are legitimate because the fearful consequences may really happen if we do not heed the message. Sometimes, however, the degree of danger and the probability of it hap- pening are exaggerated in an attempt to manipulate our behavior or attitudes. Politicians warn us that if we vote for their opponent the economy will collapse and our jobs will be lost. Automobile insurance companies may recommend increasing our coverage lest we lose everything in a lawsuit. And makers of water and air puri- fiers might warn us about an increased risk of disease if we do not use their prod- ucts. These claims may contain some truth, but they are usually greatly exaggerated.
Do such fear messages work? For years it has been assumed that fear mes- sages work differently with different people. High anxiety people, for example, were thought to respond differently than low anxiety people. Bur this has been seriously challenged (Witte and Morrison, 2000). It may be that people are more alike than not when it comes to their response to fear appeals. But research has found mixed conclusions about what that response will be. Generally, fear has been found to be more effective in persuasion than no fear at all, but whether strong or moderate fear works better is still in question. A strong fear message without specific instructions on how to avoid the danger, as in the case of
Defending Ourselves Against Deceitful Persuasion 277
cigarette smokers being told they are killing themselves without at the same time being told how to break the habit, may not lead to behavioral change at all, but only to psychological defenses, such as denial. If we can’t stop smoking, we’re likely to block out the fear message to alleviate anxiety. Surprisingly, in such sit- uations of total denial, moderate fear may work better, such as a warning about smoker’s breath or the financial drain on the household budget.
A good example of the appropriate and effective use of fear in persuasion comes from a study that attempted to stop the use of smokeless tobacco among college ath- letes (Walsh et al., 1999). In this study tobacco chewers were educated about their increased risk for mouth cancer and were shown graphic pictures of facial disfigure- ment caused by the cancer. They were also shown pictures of any cancer in their own mouths and given brief counseling on strategies for quitting their addiction. Their success rate after one year was 21 percent higher than a control group.
In sum, appealing to fear does work. There are legitimate fear messages with real and likely dangers, but some fear messages are designed to manipulate us by exaggerating the danger of a situation.
Your Vulnerability to Fear Appeals
To help you find out where you are. especially vulnerable to fear appeals, organize the following list of fears from most fearful to least fearful. Add others if you feel some important fears are missing.
1. fear of change 2. fear of failure 3. fear of injury 4. fear of death 5. fear of controversy 6. fear of financial loss 7. fear of embarrassment 8. fear of abandonment 9. fear of rejection
10. fearof __ _ 11. fear of __ _
Try to find examples of fear messages that appeal to each of these fears. You may find most of them in advertisements or news items in var- ious media, but also attend carefully to your conversations with friends; they too try to persuade through fear.
278 CHAPTER 11 • Persuasive Thinking
THINK ABOUT IT: The appeal to fear was effectively used against the front-runner in a presidential election. The other candidate pointed out that as governor, the front-runner had pardoned a con- vict who, upon being released, killed again. This issue evoked fear in the voters and was heavily credited for the front-runner’s defeat.
Appeal to Pride
Of all the causes which compire to blind Man’s erring judgment, and misguide the mind, What the weak head with strongest bias rules Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
At times persuaders appeal to our pride, “great intelligence” or “uncommon wis- dom.” An appeal to pride may work in two ways: It may increase our liking for the other and thereby increase that person’s persuasive power, or it may inhibit us from consulting with others or listening to their sound advice.
As an example of appeal to pride, consider the salesperson who pays us a compliment about our superior intelligence and good taste compared with her other customers. She tells us that we wouldn’t be duped into buying an inferior line of products, that for us only the best will do (the best is more expensive, of course). Feeling flattered, we may be more willing to buy her items. When we point out that the other retailers in the area have suggested that we not invest in the “better” product line, she asks us why we would even consider their views on the matter. Certainly, she tells us, we are not the kind of person who is told what to do. We are to lead, she says, not to follow. Whereupon we nod smugly in agreement and sign her purchase contract.
The Ad Hominem Argument
Reason, if it is against you, is a powerful enemy. Those who confront the power of reason without a rational defense often resort to the ad hominem ar- gument-that is, an argument against the person (literally, “to the man”). This is an attempt to discredit a person’s argument or position by attacking the per- son’s character. Ad hominem arguments are commonly used by politicians in an election year; they’re called “mud slinging” or “negative campaigning.”
Defending Ourselves Against Deceitful Persuasion 279
Su£h arguments can sink presidential candidates, especially when they involve sexual impropriety, unpopular affiliations, illicit drug use, or questionable military service.
Ad hominem arguments are erroneous when the character of the person has nothing to do with the merit of their position or argument. Someone who experimented with marijuana in his twenties can, later in life, advance reasonable arguments for controlling drug use; a man who is unfaithful to his wife may yet be a successful politician; and a draft dodger in the sixties can, thirty years later, have valid reasons for the arming or disarming of America. Many people who had their character impuned by their peers made great intellectual contributions. Thomas Paine, an American patriot of the eigh- teenth century, for example, published arguments in Common Sense that inspired America’s move toward independence. His later “infidel” branding, because of his published unorthodox religious beliefs, does not diminish the strength of his arguments for American independence. The English philoso- pher and Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell was an atheist; the eminent psychologist Carl Jung was an adulterer; the Nobel Prize writer John Stein- beck was addicted to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol; and Thomas Jefferson, a founding father and president of the United States, owned hundreds of slaves and fathered illegitimate children by one of them. The list goes on-and on and on. If we threw out all the books written by people with questionable character, our whispers in libraries would echo in empty chambers. Yet, in spite of its invalidity, the ad hominem argument does influence peoples’ atti- tudes against the attacked person and their ideas. That is why it is so com- monly used.
MS. A: … and that’s why I am running for election against my oppo- nent.
OPPONENT: Well, we have all heard Ms. Xs eloquent speech, and the nu- merous faults she finds with my political record. Funny how she can find faults with others so easily but not with herself A woman who has married two draft dodgers can hardly ex- pect to have the respect of patriotic American people, no mat- ter how eloquently she speaks. Of course she doesn’t talk about that, does she? Nor does she mention her experimentation with marijuana in college. Is this the kind of woman we want in office? She talks about being committed to the American people, yet she herself can’t even stay committed to her hus- bands. Two divorces and rumors of infidelity won’t sell com- mitment to the American people. How can anyone take this woman seriously as a contender for office?
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Ad hominem arguments are even less legitimate when they attack the per- son’s former character. Such an attack assumes that people always remain the same. If that were so, each of us would be fully mature by our twenty-first birth- day and experience would be no teacher at all. The view that no change occurs in a person’s character or wisdom during a lifetime of experience flies in the face of social science theory and research, not to mention common sense.
THINK ABOUT IT: Are attacks on character ever justified?
Fallacy of Tu Quoque
One variation of the ad hominem attack is the follacy of you also, more commonly called the follacy of tu quoque (pronounced “too kwoke kway”). This reasoning fallacy attempts to discredit a person’s position or argument because their char- acter or personal life is inconsistent with it. A fat man lecturing on the hazards of overeating and the proper nutrition for optimum health will not sway much of his audience; that’s the psychological fact. Nonetheless, the man’s weight problem has no bearing on the truth or falsity of his nutrition statements, espe- cially if they’re backed up by sound research. Similarly, angry people are not in- capable of preaching about the drawbacks to anger; and mothers who smoke know all too well the hazards of smoking. A son who, caught smoking, rebuffs all his mother’s good arguments for quitting by pointing out that she’s a smoker too is guilty of this fallacy. Generally, when we are attacked and we respond by saying, “Yea, what about you?” or “Look who’s talking,” we’re guilty of the fallacy of tu quoque.
The Straw Man Argument
It’s not hard to attack a scarecrow. A straw man argument distorts the opponent’s position or assumptions in a manner that makes his position easily refutable. By attacking a fabricated weak position, one can easily gain the upper hand. The “straw man” is usually a simplistic or extreme restatement of the opponent’s real position. For example, one might argue against abortion by claiming that no one should have the right to kill babies. But this claim is an oversimplification of a very complex issue involving questions about what human life is, when human life begins, how we know when human life begins, how we determine the,value of human life, when human life becomes more valuable than the human life supporting it, and so on. To reduce the moral and scientific complexity of the issue to “killing babies” is to attack a straw man.
Abuse of Language
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sorr:etimes people try to persuade us by withholding information. Qualifiers h “all”” ‘”‘ 1 “” all, d”al , 1 fi f . sue as , some, on y, usu y, an ways are e t out o statements m
the hope that the listener will fill in the desirable quantifier, but one which is contrary to fact. This type of language abuse is called withholding quantification.
Withholding quantification might be used in a mild ad hominem argument as follows:
Soldiers did drugs in Vietnam. Everybody knows that. And here is Dean stand- ing before you bragging about his military service. We know, too, that soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Do we really want Dean serving in our government as state senator? Granted, he is not to blame for his status; we applaud him for fighting for us. Nonetheless, we must face the facts: Drug abuse and PTSD are no laughing matters.
In the above argument the speaker suppresses quantification by not specifically mentioning whether all, many, some, or just a few soldiers did drugs in Vietnam. Clearly he would like his audience to fill the quantity “all” or at least “most.” In his statement about post-traumatic stress, the speaker again withholds the quan- tification. What percentage of soldiers actually suffered PTSD? And for how long? The speaker doesn’t say, so we must fill in the blanks. The speaker’s argument works only if we assume that all or most soldiers did drugs and all or most of them develop PTSD.
Withholding quantification is a form of suggestion. Suggestion occurs when we hint at something without really stating it. In the example above, the speaker doesn’t say that all soldiers used illegal drugs, but he suggests it by concealing the quantification. Another way to suggest an idea without actually stating it is to couch it with words such as “hope,” “might,” and “maybe.” The statement “The board might want to question this person’s integrity” suggests that it ought to. But a person making such a statement can appeal to the literal interpretation and claim that he did not say that the person’s integrity was questionable. Similarly, the statement “I hope your party can handle this tough job” could suggest doubt about the parry’s ability to do so. However, it could also be quickly reinterpreted as a goodwill gesture by changing the meaning of “hope.”
People may try to persuade us by suggesting we will receive favors or advan- tages if we comply with their requests, only to back down later by appealing to the literal interpretation of their promises: “I said maybe I’d speak to the boss on your behalf if you cooperated with me on this project. I didn’t say I would.”
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In sum, we must be careful about assuming what is only suggested in a state- ment. Reading and listening carefully for “mights”and “maybes”and being cau- tious about filling in missing quantifiers will help us think more critically about the claims we hear and will decrease the likelihood of being persuaded by mis- leading statements.
Ignoring the Question
Listen carefully. Sometimes it’s not so much what we hear as what we do not hear. A person trying to persuade another with an argument may face a threat- ening challenge or question. One common way of responding to such a chal- lenge is to ignore the question altogether. This tactic is quite common in politics where the candidates avoid answering questions that might cost them votes. Evasive answers are often thrown out in the hope that they will satisfY the ap- petite without providing a definitive and costly reply:
INTERVIEWER: Mr. Candidate, on the abortion issue, do you support women’s rights to choose?
CANDIDATE: I can assure you and your listeners that I support responsible policies on this issue.
INTERVIEWER: Does that mean that you support women’s rights to choose or not?
CANDIDATE: This is a very sensitive topic of course. But I think I can go be- yond that to say that generally my policies are well supported by women. They know that I am quite sensitive to their issues and their feelings about these matters. In a recent poll60 per- cent of women said that they would vote for me over my op- ponent. I assume that means they’re supportive of my policies.
INTERVIEWER: How can we know what your policies are if you do not give us answers to our questions about your policies? I have not yet heard a clear answer to my question about whether or not you support women’s right to choose.
CANDIDATE: I think I already answered that question. I believe my policies on all issues, not just the abortion issue, are responsible and sensitive to the needs and wishes of the American people.
INTERVIEWER: One last time Mr. Candidate, yes or no, do you support women’s right to choose?
CANDIDATE: Everyone wants simple answers to complex questions. Next question please.
The following example, with names deleted, comes from a television dis- cussion following a presidential debate:
INTERVIEWER: Are you saying if this were candidate X versus candidate Y you would vote for candidate X?
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Well luckily, I say on behalf of all Americans, we have not just a third choice but the best choice and that’s the current presi- dent of the United States who has truly exhibited … But if he wasn’t running would you vote for Candidate X over Candidate Y?
GUEST: I’m just so glad I get to vote for our current president in November I don’t even have to look at the exception.
THINK ABOUT IT: In the first century e.c.E., Publilius Syrus, author of the maxim “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” also said, “It is not every question that deserves an answer.” What questions can you think of that do not deserve an answer? How should we respond to such questions?
A herring is a fish about 8 to 15 inches long that turns to a golden-red color when it’s cured by smoking-thus the name “red herring.” Because red herring has a strong smell, it was dragged along the ground by fox hunters to train their dogs to follow a scent. Herring was also used to foil the dogs: People opposed to fox hunting would drag red herring along the ground and across the path of a fox during a fox hunt. This would often divert the dogs’ attention from the fox scent to the herring scent, thus sparing the fox (Rogers, 1985).
From this activity red herring came to refer to a fact or issue that is intro- duced in an argument with the intention of diverting the argument away from the main issue. This happens commonly in domestic disputes and in political debates. For example, if a married person often comes home late from work or other engagements, his or her spouse might be upset and confrontational. The argument might go something like this:
PERSON 1: Late again? Why are you always late! Once again I go out of my way to make a nice meal for this family and you have to spoil it.
PERSON 2: You’re nagging me again. You know how I hate nagging. We just talked about that the other day, and you promised you would back off. If it’s not one thing it’s another.
PERSON 1: I promised I would give you some space. You called me a nag, and I still resent that remark!
The red herring is similar to ignoring the question. But the latter simply ignores the question or issue, while the former attempts to run away from it by going down another path. In the example above, Person 1 took the bait easily; the issue of being late receded to the background.
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It could be said that persuasion, of all the types of communication we engage in, demands the most thinking. Besides having a command of the subject matter, we must think carefully about how we present ourselves, think thoroughly and em pathetically about the audience, hold a tight reign on our emotions, and pres- ent our rationale in a positive, sensitive way that supports the audience’s needs and moves them to accept our position. Then we can ask for their response, a commitment to take action based on that position.
We have presented an ethical thinking process that can lead to honest, solid persuasion; but there are other routes, deceitful and often effective, that we need to recognize and reject, including the foot-in-the-door technique, which moves us toward a redefinition of ourselves and a new level of commitment; the door- in-the-face technique, which takes advantage of our sense of fair play; low- balling, which doesn’t give us a fair picture of our options; investing time, which uses our sense of guilt to pressure us into an action; appealing to pity, fear, and pride; hitting our human weaknesses with ad hominem attacks or the fallacy of tu quoque; attacking a straw man, which dethrones a simplistic version of our argument; and abusing language through suggestion, withholding quantifica- tion, ignoring the question, and red herring diversions.
In short, by thinking carefully, by deflecting cunning persuasive tactics, and by crafting sensitive, logical persuasive techniques, we can most effectively persuade.
1. This chapter presents a strategy of persuasion that respects those with other views and is sensitive to their values. Although we addressed changing views rather than values, are there any situations in which you might want to change the values of others? When would this be justified? Do you think the suggestions in this chapter would be useful in such an endeavor?
2. Ad hominem arguments, particularly in politics, often attack people as they were. Are such attacks ever justified? In what sense, if any, are we the same person from one decade to another? What stays the same?
3. In this chapter we left out a step of Pascal’s persuasive process which is to “reveal to him the side on which [his view] is false” (1958, p. 4~. Our rea- son for excluding this tactic was that we are trying to persuade, not win a debate. Do you think this fourth element has a proper place in persuasion?
4. Can you identifY the root elements of people on both sides of these issues: capital punishment, abortion, gun control, AIDS testing, drug legalization, flag burning, and euthanasia?
5. During the next week, from magazines, conversations, news, commercials, and TV programs, observe and record any manipulative tactics that you see.
6. Some of the manipulative tactics we’ve discussed are similar and work quite well ~ogether. To help your understanding of them and how they might be appliea, try to create scenarios in which more than one tactic is used. Is it possible to use all seven?
7. Under what conditions, if any, is it ethical to use the manipulative tactics of door-in-the-face, foot-in-the-door, and lowballing?
8. Do you believe there is a distinction between manipulation and persuasion? Or is all persuasion manipulation?
9. Our rationale for presenting deceitful forms of persuasion is that awareness of them and how they work can reduce their effectiveness. Do you agree? Are there situations in which awareness alone will not lead to a solid defense against these techniques?
10. If you believe that someone is using one of the deceitful techniques on you, what would be an appropriate response?
11. To what extent are you encouraged at your place of employment to use deceitful persuasions for your own or your employer’s gain? Do you rationalize away the questionable ethics of using such techniques?
12. We have listed only some techniques for persuasion that could be construed as manipulative. Can you think of other manipulative strategies? For example, what tactics are used in grocery stores?
13. Identify a recent appeal to pity that was justified and one that was not. Is the distinction an easy one to make?
14. There are many kinds of fear, but some may be used more than others in persuasive appeals. For the next week be especially watchful for appeals to fear and identify the fears that are targeted. Are some kinds of fear targeted more than others?
15. Most people engage in some kind of pernicious behavior, such as smoking, drinking, and so on. Identify any pernicious behaviors you have and the fear messages that are commonly used to try to influence that behavior. Is denial a mechanism that you use to fight such persuasion? Do you deny denying?
16. Ad hominem attacks are popular in politics. What other occasions invite fre- quent use of such attacks?
17. Do some people have so little pride in themselves that an appeal to pride doesn’t work? Does the appeal to pride work better the more pride we have? Explain.
18. Identify popular debatable issues and fabricate a straw man for each side. Are you guilty of using such attacks? To answer this question, think of
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positions that you hold with conviction and emotion. Now list the oppos- ing position and your common arguments against it. Are your arguments against a simplistic version of the other side?
19. Create an argument that intentionally misleads by withholding quantifica- tion. Read it to some friends and see if they accept it uncritically.
20. Intentionally ignore a question that is asked of you and notice the effect on the speaker. How easy was it to evade the question?
21. Is it ethical to intentionally use a red herring in an argument? Do you think some people use this tactic unintentionally?
22. When was the last time you were guilty of the fallacy of tu quoque? Consider challenges to your personality, or to specific behaviors, such as eating, smoking, or drinking. How will you respond the next time you are faced with such a challenge?
23. Develop a persuasive essay or speech following these steps:
a. Name your topic. b. Describe the audience. c. What is your purpose? What do you want the audience to do, feel, or
think? d. What are your motivations, biases? e. Practicing empathy, describe in their words the position that individu-
als in your audience hold now. f. Gently, objectively, introduce your position. Be careful to avoid any in-
flammatory words. g. Show how this position actually better meets the needs of the audience
based on their root elements. h. Now ask them to move to this new position. i. It is often prudent to test your approach on people who are similar to
the audience you want to persuade. If you lose them at any point, ask them to identify where you went astray and then improve that section. Some students in class probably hold the opposite position and can act as a test group.