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Author Topic: Do psychology majors need to be taught calculus?
seagull
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On a separate thread in a side comment to a digression SG said this:

http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=6;t=003920

quote:
Teaching evolution to fundamentalists is like teaching calculus to psychology majors--a painful exercise in futility.
I completely agree that teaching evolution to fundamentalists is an exercise in futility.
But this is a horrible analogy!

IMHO, teaching calculus to psychology (as well as economics and astrophysics) majors is essential if we ever hope to see these academic fields evolve from a pseudo-science into a real science.

Not teaching calculus to psychology majors is like not teaching Galileo to the alchemists.

And in case you didn’t know: Issac Newton (the inventor of calculus) was an alchemist (at the time Chemistry was yet to be invented).

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Serotonin'sGone
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heh, that has to be my worst thread ever. here goes justifying (I expected a psych major to jump up in defense thereof):

Seagull, do you realize how dumb the average psych major is? Typically this is the very bottom of the college of liberal arts, about as low on the scale as you can go. These are the people that are doing their best to avoid the hard sciences (pun not intended, but appropriate). They have lack the desire or the intelligence necessary to master calculas (maybe UF has skewed my opinion here, but I imagine UF is normal. now psych grad students, that's the opposite. Because the undergrads are so plentiful, the graduate schools are extremely competitive.)

As for whether they need calculas--that's a different question. I would argue that fundementalist christians need to be taught evolution more then anyone else--this does not make the effort any less onerous.

I also think poli sci majors could probably benefit from a course in probablity and stochastic processes, but I doubt they'll be taking them any time soon...

[ June 09, 2004, 11:01 PM: Message edited by: Serotonin'sGone ]

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Zyne
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Polisci folks don't do math where you're from?

Anyway, I digress. If I were diktator, nobody would make it past freshman year without calculus or better.

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FIJC
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quote:
"I also think poli sci majors could probably benefit from a course in probablity and stochastic processes, but I doubt they'll be taking them any time soon..."
Nope, I didn't take any such class, and wouldn't have had I the opportunity. Quite frankly, I probably lack the intelligence to pass such a class.

As a Political Science major, I took Algebra, Intro to Econ., Introduction to Logic, and Symbolic Logic.

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TCB
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Serotonin'sGone said:

quote:
Seagull, do you realize how dumb the average psych major is? Typically this is the very bottom of the college of liberal arts, about as low on the scale as you can go.

Generalize much? I'm not sure what kind of basis you have for all this. I know many people who were psychology majors in college who are intelligent and some who are quite gifted at math. Keep in mind, intelligence and mathematical ability often don't go hand-in-hand.

I saw in one of your earlier posts that you're a grad student in engineering. So am I. I just don't like this arrogance that I see in the sciences toward the humanities. Yeah, I suspect they probably don't have to work as hard as we do, but maybe that just shows that they're the smart ones.

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WarrsawPact
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Or maybe it shows that they want to believe that things have meaning instead of just measure.
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FIJC
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quote:
"Yeah, I suspect they probably don't have to work as hard as we do, but maybe that just shows that they're the smart ones."
Probably not, but I suppose it depends on how naturally gifted one is in the area.

I think that most Poli Sci majors wouldn't consider their area of study "work", but rather, pure enjoyment. I loved learning about the political process, debating political issues in class, interning in Washington, and especially, political theory. I had to read a lot and read a lot of material in my spare time, and I suppose you could call it "work" or studying, but it was almost like a hobby for me.

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Serotonin'sGone
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I have complete respect for psych grad students as I said. As for the undergrads--yeah, I can generalize. I can walk into any sophomore level psych class and get a B on whatever exam they are taking. Ergo, the students taking said test who are attending the class and get C's and D's must be fairly unintelligent.

I am extremely arrogant toward people who get liberal arts degrees for no reason whatsoever. If they intend to go to law school, great. If they intend any kind of professional or higher education, great. If all they wanted to do was get a liberal arts degree, not so great (with the exception of teaching and a few other pursuits).

[ June 09, 2004, 11:52 PM: Message edited by: Serotonin'sGone ]

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FIJC
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quote:
"If all they wanted to do was get a liberal arts degree, not so great."
Maybe people just want to learn. Is the desire to simply become better educated so horrible?

Going into school, I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do after graduation, but I did know that I was attracted to liberal arts and the humanities. Now that I am out of school, I do know for sure that the public policy world is the place for me.

[ June 09, 2004, 11:58 PM: Message edited by: FIJC ]

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Serotonin'sGone
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If you're rich and have that option, congrats.

response to edit: I can certainly understand confusion upon entering college. The humanities are more interesting--everyone has an interest in life. So people naturally migrate toward them if they are undecided.

[ June 10, 2004, 12:01 AM: Message edited by: Serotonin'sGone ]

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FIJC
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quote:
"If you're rich and have that option, congrats."
I didn't grow up "rich."
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Serotonin'sGone
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Alright, perhaps I'm going a bit far with that statement. Considering the number of scholarships out there you can easily get a degree on someone else's dollar.

[ June 10, 2004, 12:09 AM: Message edited by: Serotonin'sGone ]

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Zyne
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I have asked around a bit and, in addition to what FIJC has said, I have been informed that polisci undergraduates may not be good at math and higher math may not be required for their BAs. Guess hubby's program was different, as he won't hardly shut up about quant and stats and how he had to do them 5 miles in the snow up hill both ways while all the theorists did was drink coffee and talk, talk, talk. [Big Grin]

I don't think anyone really intends to go to law school, it just happens.

Few kids entering college know what they want, exactly, and you know what? That tends to be a good thing, they're open and looking for a field and knowing they don't have all the answers.

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FIJC
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quote:
"Considering the number of scholarships out there you can easily get a degree on someone else's dollar."
Well, my parents certainly helped me out, but I also received a few scholarships from Concordia. Plus, I took out some school loans because I thought it would help me appreciate my education better.
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Serotonin'sGone
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quote:
I have asked around a bit and, in addition to what FIJC has said, I have been informed that polisci undergraduates may not be good at math and higher math may not be required for their BAs. Guess hubby's program was different, as he won't hardly shut up about quant and stats and how he had to do them 5 miles in the snow up hill both ways while all the theorists did was drink coffee and talk, talk, talk.

I don't think anyone really intends to go to law school, it just happens.

I would imagine that some advanced courses in statistics would be extremely useful to poli sci degrees. I find it a little surprising that at least a general stats course isn't required.

My officemate just got into stanford law. He estimates it'll cost him around $200k to get his degree. It's a very expensive thing he's fallen into, but I think he'll do well.

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seagull
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Not all psych undergrad majors:
quote:
lack the desire or the intelligence necessary to master calculus
Maybe 90% of them do, but where do you think the psych grad schools get their students from? Unless you expect them ALL to come from other departments with no background in psychology you have to teach calculus (as well as probability, stochastic processes and game theory) at the undergrad level. If you look closely at the programs in most serious psychology, economics and astronomy departments there are at least two different paths and the quantitative path is very rigorous in mathematics. Serious psychology students need much more math than most engineers or even economists do. This is because turning psychology into a real science is a much more difficult job than physics, chemistry or even biology ever were. If it weren't so hard psychology could have been a real science by now.

quote:
As for whether they need calculas--that's a different question.
Trying to read the writings of Newton’s most intelligent contemporaries makes you realize that maybe most of those psych majors aren’t really lacking in intelligence. It is just that the mathematical tools required for developing good scientific models in that field have yet to be invented. Not being on par with Newton is not the same as “lacking in intelligence” and having read Newton does not make you as intelligent as he was. If they want to come up with mathematical tools that will help them understand what they are doing, they will need something much better than simple derivatives or even multi-variable calculus. The systems they deal with are so non-linear that a simple Kalman filter wouldn’t do them any good. But they still need some models to describe the learning and reaction processes that go on inside the human brain, if they don’t know how a Kalman filters work and what their limitations are, how can they come up with something better?
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seagull
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quote:
FIJC: Nope, I didn't take any such class, and wouldn't have had I the opportunity. Quite frankly, I probably lack the intelligence to pass such a class.
From what you write on this forum you do not seem to be lacking in intelligence.

Was that a joke?

Or are you saying that the intelligence required to get a benefit from a course in probability and stochastic processes in the field of Political Science is so high that even you do not have that much intelligence?

[ [Smile] ]If that was your intent you may have managed to sound even more arrogant than SG [/ [Smile] ]

quote:
As a Political Science major, I took Algebra, Intro to Econ., Introduction to Logic, and Symbolic Logic.
Silly me.
I thought that probability and stochastic processes would be more relevant to Political Science than the abstract field of symbolic logic. Can you please enlighten us on why the foundations of logic and the implications of Gödel’s theorem are more relevant to your field than polling results (probability) and policy analysis in the face on uncertainty (stochastic processes)?

But then I also thought that a basic course in Game theory (prisoner’s dilemma, tragedy of the commons, voting systems, bargaining and mechanism design) would be a prerequisite for understanding any political system. Without that political “science” still sounds like an oxymoron to me.

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Serotonin'sGone
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quote:
The systems they deal with are so non-linear that a simple Kalman filter wouldn’t do them any good. But they still need some models to describe the learning and reaction processes that go on inside the human brain, if they don’t know how a Kalman filters work and what their limitations are, how can they come up with something better?
Which is no doubt why'd they'd use an extended Kalman filter or some other such.

I think the fields of neuroscience and neurobiology are doing everything that you say. They are using higher math to study these reactions in the brain already, and developing the appropriate models for them. I worked in a neuro lab as an undergrad and we could do some pretty cool things (we had an artificial monkey brain that was very, very good.)

as for
quote:
Serious psychology students need much more math than most engineers or even economists do
what? can you back that up?

[ June 10, 2004, 12:36 AM: Message edited by: Serotonin'sGone ]

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Serotonin'sGone
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quote:
Maybe 90% of them do, but where do you think the psych grad schools get their students from? Unless you expect them ALL to come from other departments with no background in psychology you have to teach calculus (as well as probability, stochastic processes and game theory) at the undergrad level.
Nah, you just require your first year psych students to take courses in these topics. This sort of thing is very typical at UT, I can't speak for other universities.
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TCB
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quote:
I can walk into any sophomore level psych class and get a B on whatever exam they are taking.
Is that true? I never took a psychology class in college, but I took a few sophomore level humanities classes. I thought they were easier than my other classes, but I still had to study.

[ June 10, 2004, 12:42 AM: Message edited by: TCB ]

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FIJC
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quote:
"I thought that probability and stochastic processes would be more relevant to Political Science than the abstract field of symbolic logic. Can you please enlighten us on why the foundations of logic and the implications of Gödel’s theorem are more relevant to your field than polling results (probability) and policy analysis in the face on uncertainty (stochastic processes)?"
Symbolic logic is simply formal logic--a more advanced or complete Logic course in undergraduate studies. Introduction to Logic is simply a prerequisite to Symbolic Logic. I don't recall learning about Gödel’s theorem, but do remember Boolean Logic, truth tables, logic in evaluative arguments, coverting sentences into symolic equations, etc.

I was serious when I stated that I simply do not possess the intelligence to complete the list of classes that SG gave. Why? Because I really struggled with Symbolic Logic and barely scrapped by with a C. It was very difficult for me to grasp.

quote:
"probability"
To be fair, in Logic you do learn about the elementary aspects of induction and probability, but nothing as deep as what you and SG are referring to.

[ June 10, 2004, 12:51 AM: Message edited by: FIJC ]

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Zyne
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Apparently stats, even baby stats, is not required for most polisci bachelors'. I would have never guessed, based on hubby and his grad school stuff, where everyone does tons of math (except the theorists!). I guess it makes more sense if you take into account the people who use it as a springboard to law school--tho IMO english, literature or history are much more useful 'prelaw' degrees.

Stanford law--Wow! Sexy! That is so a write-your-ticket school. If he thinks he can stand to work for the man for 3-5 years, it'll pay out for him.

$200k more? That seems a little high. If he's willing to work for-profit in the summers, he can pull in a good hunk of change. Summer pay at his strata will be $2k-$2.5k/week, all three summers if he wants, practically regardless of his grades.

Arm your tomatoes, but is it just me, or are there alot of folks in college on federal aid (especially loans) who have no business being in college, such as folks taking easy degrees who have bad grades?

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Serotonin'sGone
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quote:
Is that true? I never took a psychology class in college, but I took a few sophomore level humanities classes. I thought they were easier than my other classes, but I still had to study for exams.
Well kinda sorta maybe. I walked into 2 psych exams and got 2 B's. It's debatable which year you would consider them (sociology and general psychology). I think I could do it with other classes but I haven't had the opportunity.

I did the same with two business courses. I lost respect for those majors after that.
quote:
Stanford law--Wow! Sexy! That is so a write-your-ticket school. If he thinks he can stand to work for the man for 3-5 years, it'll pay out for him.

He's a smart kid. He's still on the waiting list for Yale, so he might end up there. He could have been a great engineer, but he'll probably be an even better lawyer.

quote:
I was serious when I stated that I simply do not possess the intelligence to complete the list of classes that SG gave. Why? Because I really struggled with Symbolic Logic and barely scrapped by with a C. It was very difficult for me to grasp.

I took stochastic processes a year ago and it almost made my brain melt. very humbling.

[ June 10, 2004, 12:57 AM: Message edited by: Serotonin'sGone ]

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FIJC
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quote:
"Without that political “science” still sounds like an oxymoron to me."
It really depends on the school you attend. In the field of Political Science, there are two semi-warring factions--the actual social science nuts and the more traditional philosophical branch. Poli Sci departments will really differ depending on which school of thought the Department prefers. My school was very heavy into philosophy (more humanities oriented) and political theory, and not as heavy into the actual social science aspect of Political Science.

I actually transferred schools mid-college career in order to be in such a Political Science Department. I loved reading about the Greeks, Stoics, medieval religious thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas, and now the more modern thinkers such as the Founding Fathers, Burke, Locke, FA Hayek, and Leo Strauss. I really needed to attend a school with a poli sci department that would indulge these interests.

[ June 10, 2004, 01:19 AM: Message edited by: FIJC ]

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Ivan
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I'll just go ahead and say that phych is generally considered something of a joke among the nat sci kids at my school. Not only is it the default major for kids joining the school (the intro psyche course has roughly 70 students in it out of an entering class of less than 200), but it's also where people fall to when they screw other stuff up. It's kind of similar with the Econ courses I take. I'm pretty good at math, and it's amazing to me how much difficulty some of my classmates have with simple mathmatical calculations.

Of course, my advisor basically told me that I would almost need to get a math minor if I wanted to get into any sort of top econ grad school. At that point, I'd be willing to bet that most people use TONs of math in their work. You create models through survey data and statistical analysis, and you can only do that with a heavy does of math. So if you don't have caluculas, linear algebra, etc. down pat, you're up a certain creak without a paddle.

-Ivan

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seagull
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quote:
I think the fields of neuroscience and neurobiology are doing everything that you say.
So maybe in a few years they’ll be able to model the biological reactions. Getting from there to understanding how the brain thinks is still a very long road.

You are taking about the hardware of the human brain which is much simpler than the software they try to study in psychology.

quote:
what? can you back that up?
I didn’t say they HAVE it. I said they NEED it.

Do you really think the reason psychology is not a real science is that psychologists lack intelligence?

Do you have any doubt that the system they are trying to study is much more complicated than anything we simple engineers have to deal with?

If you do try to ask yourself the following questions:

Do you think Tycho Brahe could have collected his data without Galileo’s telescope?

Do you think [url= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Kepler]Kepler[/url] could have come up with his laws without access to Tycho Brahe’s notes?

Do you think Newton could have developed (much less published) his laws of motion, the law of gravity and the calculus as a tool to manipulate them without knowing Kepler’s Laws?

It was Newton who said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” and even he was only a link in a long chain of physicists (Laplace, Lagrange, Maxwell, Einstein).

Would you have been able to use a Kalman filter (or invent one on your own) without a class in Ordinary Differential Equations?

Some of us scientists and engineers can see ourselves making one of these leaps on our own without being spoon fed in class. But there are only a few people like Aristotle, Newton, Einstein or Freud in each generation and the road yet to be traveled in psychology from Freud to “real science” is probably longer than the road traveled by physicists from Aristotle to Newton. Until then, psychology will be closer to alchemy than it is to chemistry.

Serious modern psychology students are in a similar situation to the alchemists who were Newton’s contemporaries.

Serious modern chemistry students need much more math than the alchemists of Newton’s generation had at their disposal. Newton had to invent calculus in order to make the breakthroughs he did and even that was not enough to turn chemistry into a “hard science” until centuries later. But can you imagine someone solving Schrödinger’s equation or designing a semiconductor chip without understanding calculus first?

When psychology eventually achieves the status of a true science the “equations” they would have to use are likely to be much more complicated than the ones we use in engineering or economics today.

[ June 10, 2004, 02:36 AM: Message edited by: seagull ]

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seagull
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quote:
FIJC: I think that most Poli Sci majors wouldn't consider their area of study "work", but rather, pure enjoyment. I loved learning … I had to read a lot and read a lot of material in my spare time, and I suppose you could call it "work" or studying, but it was almost like a hobby for me.
Like FIJC, I usually do not consider studying to be "work" but rather pure enjoyment. I love learning about science, engineering, computers and many other things. I like to read about it in my spare time (except that people seem to insist on paying me rather well to do so). I suppose you could call it "work" or studying or research but it has almost always been more of a hobby for me.

But there was one big exception …

quote:
SG: I can walk into any sophomore level psych class and get a B on whatever exam they are taking.
In my freshman year at college having advanced placed out of calculus and skipped the sophomore year pre-requisites, I walked into a chemistry class (quantum chemistry was only one quarter of the material) as well as Junior Classes in engineering mathematics (ODEs and PDEs) and control theory. I didn’t get many A’s but my GPA was higher than B and when I got an A I felt like it was a waste (I could have skipped that class and taken a more advanced one).

I have to admit that I really had to work hard (70 hours/week) that year. I still enjoyed it but probably not as much as I could have and two years later I was pretty burned out on studying [Frown]

I wouldn’t recommend it as a general rule, but there were special circumstances involved.

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the-womp
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ok, I usually lurk this forum but I just HAD to comment on this particular thread.

Let me begin by stating that I am a graduate psych student.

I'm curious about your comments referring to the field of psychology as not being a "real science" etc. What is your idea of a "real" science, what qualifies a field to fall into this category and what would an area of study be if it does not meet those criteria?

I'm not trying to start a war here, I'm just bristling a bit at the reference to "real" sciences. There are certainly some differences, but not to the point where psychology becomes black magic or voodoo. We're not talking phrenology here.

Oh by the way, as a undergrad I majored in psych as well. Can't say I totally disagree with the comments posted above about he students there. [Smile]

[ June 10, 2004, 03:00 AM: Message edited by: the-womp ]

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Ikemook
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I'm with the womp on this one. What exactly do you define as a real science?

I'm an anthropology major, and it irks me--I think understandably so--as well when people refer to the sciences of human behavior (anthropology, sociology, psychology) as pseudoscience.

Like the-womp said, there are some aspects of these sciences that are a little crazy--the oldest is barely 100 years old--but still, I can't see how they're not sciences.

Edit: Oh, and yeah, at UF, the psychology undergraduate program isn't exactly filled with the best and brightest. I've met several psychology majors that frankly scare me. There are many that are very intelligent...there are also many that wouldn't make good psychologists at all.

And, while I don't know how useful calculus would be to psychology students, I think it would be interesting to try and include some advanced mathematics into psychology and the behavioral sciences as a whole.

I've heard and read that nonlinear dynamics ("Chaos theory", I think) might be useful for predicting, or at least mapping, human behavior. Anyone with more knowledge on the subject care to confirm or deny that? I'd be interested in seeing if you could apply those same principles to anthropology, and human culture and society.

Probably not, simply because there's just not enough information on it, but it's still interesting.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

David Carlson

[ June 10, 2004, 03:16 AM: Message edited by: Ikemook ]

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seagull
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quote:
Let me begin by stating that I am a graduate psych student.
This probably puts you in a better position than either myself or SG to answer the question I posed as the topic for this thread and I am really interested in the result?

Do you think psychology majors need to be taught calculus?

Do you think there are other fields of mathematics (probability, stochastic processes, game theory something else) that may be more important? Or maybe what we really need is some way to combine them all that has yet to be invented?

quote:
I'm curious about your comments referring to the field of psychology as not being a "real science" etc. What is your idea of a "real" science, what qualifies a field to fall into this category and what would an area of study be if it does not meet those criteria?
That is a very good question. It prompted me to do a quick google search for the “scientific method” and then take a look at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protoscience

I haven’t had a chance to read all of it, but I read enough to see that these definitions are similar to what I had in mind and much better than anything I could come up with on the fly. It also made me realize that had I seen the term protoscience before, I would have chosen it rather than “Pseudoscience” to describe fields like psychology and astrophysics.

quote:
Fields such as astrology and alchemy prior to the invention of the scientific method can also be regarded as protosciences. With the advent of the scientific method, they rapidly produced the scientific fields of astronomy and chemistry respectively, leaving those who refused to adopt the scientific method to practice pseudoscience. Several sciences started as branches of Philosophy: Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Economics, Psychology, Sociology.
I agree with the wikipedia definitions of Alchemy and Astrology as protosciences that were precursors to real sciences. However, I guess that I am a bit stricter about the application of the scientific method. As long as I see too much of:

quote:

Asserting claims without supporting experimental evidence;
Asserting claims which contradict experimentally established results;
Failing to provide an experimental possiblity of reproducible results;
Asserting claims that violate falsifiability; or
Violating Occam's Razor

I call it a pseudoscience. Regrettably, I see too much of that in modern psychology. This is not to say that there are no scientific theories in psychology but rather that there is no consensus on any theory. You can find just as much of this “nonsense” in Aristotle and most of most Pre-Newtonian physics and I think that physics turned into a protoscience around Galileo’s time long before Newton codified the first working theories or laws that were enough to start “normal science” in the sense of:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Structure_of_Scientific_Revolutions

I think economics and biology have recently developed from protoscience into “normal science” but that this development is so recent that there are still many biologists and economists who were trained before it happened and have yet to become aware of it.

What struck me the most about reading psychology was how hard it was to put it all together in a way that makes sense and how similar that was to reading pre-Newtonian physicists. I like to think of Freud as the Galileo of psychology (starting the protoscience phase) but that the equivalent of Newton which unified most physicists has yet to appear in the field of psychology. Newton’s breakthroughs and stature certainly surpassed those of Galileo and until I see someone MUCH greater than Freud in psychology, I suspect that my opinion of it as a protoscience will stay the same.

My knowledge of psychology may be somewhat outdated.
But I haven’t heard of anyone with a stature MUCH greater than Freud’s, have I missed something big?

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seagull
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quote:
it irks me--I think understandably so
I can see why.
Does my rephrasing into protoscience help alleviate that?
Considering that the social sciences are barely 100 years old and are trying to deal with systems that are much more complicated than inanimate objects, I think they’ve achieved a great deal of progress. All I am saying is that there are still many conflicting theories out there and that there is no working consensus on one theory that can be refined using the “normal science” process.

quote:
I've heard and read that nonlinear dynamics ("Chaos theory", I think) might be useful for predicting, or at least mapping, human behavior. Anyone with more knowledge on the subject care to confirm or deny that? I'd be interested in seeing if you could apply those same principles to anthropology, and human culture and society.
The more technical name for “Chaos theory” is “Non-linear dynamical systems” which is a rather different field than nonlinear dynamics. I can see how this would be useful in psychology and for explaining the unpredictability of human behavior. But I don’t know enough about anthropology to see how you would apply it to your field.

If you can elaborate on where you would try to use chaos theory in anthropology, I may be able to see some interesting connections.

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Omega M.
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If psychology students need to learn statistics (which requires learning some probability), then they should learn calculus also. Continuous probability distributions such as the normal distribution are defined as integrals, and integration is part of calculus. If a psychology student doesn't know calculus, he or she will be reduced to looking up tables to see what the integrals equal.
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TCB
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quote:
If a psychology student doesn't know calculus, he or she will be reduced to looking up tables to see what the integrals equal.
I don't know if that's a big problem. I took lots of calculus and I know it okay, but I use tables or software to solve integrals pretty much whenever I can.
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MrSquicky
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To inject some scientific data into the discussion, here's the abstract of Lehman, D., Lempert, R., & Nisbett, R. (1988, June). The effects of graduate training on reasoning: Formal discipline and thinking about everyday-life events. American Psychologist, 43(6), 431-442.:
quote:
The theory of formal discipline–that is, the view that instruction in abstract rule systems can affect reasoning about everyday-life events–has been rejected by 20th century psychologists on the basis of rather scant evidence. We examined the effects of graduate training in law, medicine, psychology, and chemistry on statistical reasoning, methodological reasoning about confounded variables, and reasoning about problems in the logic of the conditional. Both psychology and medical training produced large effects on statistical and methodological reasoning, and psychology, medical, and law training produced effects on ability to reason about problems in the logic of the conditional. Chemistry training had no effect on any type of reasoning studied. These results seem well understood in terms of the rule systems taught by the various fields and indicate that a version of the formal discipline hypothesis is correct.
You seem to me to be misusing the word science. What you're talking about is sciencesque, but in reality bears no direct relation to the definition or whether something is scientific. Science is a description of the way that someone goes about analyzing information. When you complain about lack of certainty, competing hypotheses, and the like, you are actually describing aspects of a scientific discipline, especially one using admittedly imprecise tools to study complex phenomena.

Engineering is not scientific. It is the application of scientific findings. I could see how this could color your view. In terms of applied science, psychology, because of the very things you are complaining about, doesn't stack up all that well. As such, the people who apply psychology (i.e. therapists) could hardly be called engineers, because the field lacks the certainty to be anything more than somewhat guided by scientific findings. There is a great deal of an art form to psychotherapy.

However, to conclude that psychology is a "psuedo-science" and for the reasons that you give for this, makes me believe that you either don't understand psychology or don't understand science. Or most likely a combination of both.

It's amusing to me that the schools of psychological thought that have been regarded as most "scientific" (e.g. behaviorism, many aspects of cognitve psychology, evolutionary psychology) are in fact not scientific at all. Rather, they are extremely sciencesque.

This thread seems to be pitting one prejudice against the other. You want to talk about "stupid" or non-science oriented psych undergrads. Man, I'm completely on the bandwagon there. Of course, I'm going to assume that you're not going to talk about the many psych students who also study engineering. Computer science is one of the most popular minors or secondary majors for psych undergrads. I myself was a dual psych/CSer. Likewise, as the above referenced article shows, psychology grad students in fact have superior skills in terms of probabilistic and conditional reasoning than most of their counterparts, largely as result of their training.

Psychology is a highly complex and uncertain field. That I'll grant you. However, what it's knows, it's knows pretty damn well because there is a huge emphasis in actually understanding what both science and scientific confidence means, instead of the "sciencesque" prejudice that some peopel on this thread seem to be betraying.

edit to change certainty to confidence

[ June 10, 2004, 12:27 PM: Message edited by: MrSquicky ]

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A. Alzabo
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I'm not sure that Psych. undergrads should have to take calculus (I don't see how it could hurt -- every major at my first school included math through diff. EQs).

I definitely think journalism students should have to take statistics, though.

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Ivan
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I refer to psychology, economics, anthropology, etc. as "pseudo sciences" because they never actually make laws. There experiments are NOT replicable (too many exogenous factors), so they can never actually prove anything for certain. Oh, sure, they've all got plenty of theories, but that makes them probably true rather than universally true.

Psychology, et al. take too broad a picture of thing. Heck, biology is on the cust, IMO. The only psychology that I would say comes anywhere near a "science" is bio psych, and that's only sorta of science.

If you want science, do physics or p chem. Otherwise, you're somewhat out of luck.

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seagull
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MrSquicky, thanks for the great post.

First, I completely agree that my earlier use of “pseudo-science” was a complete misuse of the term (my own ignorance – my only excuse is that I haven’t brushed up on terminology in quite a while). I retract the use of that phrase as an error on my part.

Second, I did not “complain” about the lack of certainty, I just noted its existence.

The quote you gave is a terrific example of why I think the psychology is one of the most promising protosciences out there. Moreover, according to the definitions in the links I gave from wikipedia, it seems that you are also correct in identifying my engineering bias toward “application of scientific findings”. I suspect that most people (possibly Kuhn himself) would consider physics to have been a science from the time of Galileo and that my position of waiting for Newton is rather extreme. I don’t insist on everyone accepting my personal bias and I think those who consider Physics to have been a science before Newton should also consider psychology to be a full fledged science today.

That being said, I think we can both agree to recognize that the prevalence of "stupid" or non-science oriented psych undergrads today has sad similarities to the prevalence of "stupid" or non-science oriented physics undergrads in the 17th century.

quote:
There is a great deal of an art form to psychotherapy
There is also a great deal of an art form to engineering which as you say is not scientific even if it extensively uses scientific theories from physics, chemistry, Material science and other fields. It is mostly my engineering perspective that makes me consider psychology to be a protoscience because the concurrent competing theories (as opposed to competing hypotheses) make it much harder to practice the related art form.

This is in no way a criticism or a put down of psychology as a science. In fact the premise of my post was that psychology is so important that it is critical to teach skills like calculus to psychology students even if you think (like SG apparently does) that it is futile. Thank you for pointing out that the fields of “statistical, methodological and conditional reasoning” are additional and possibly more critical scientific tools that also need to be taught and that training in psychology is effective in doing so.

I especially love these two quotes:
quote:
It's amusing to me that the schools of psychological thought that have been regarded as most "scientific" (e.g. behaviorism, many aspects of cognitve psychology, evolutionary psychology) are in fact not scientific at all. Rather, they are extremely sciencesque.

Psychology is a highly complex and uncertain field. However, what it's knows, it's knows pretty damn well because there is a huge emphasis in actually understanding what both science and scientific confidence means

I had a vague feeling that something like that might be true and I was wishing that I could phrase it as well as you did. But I also knew that I do not understand psychology well enough to make these statements with any kind of confidence or to get the terminology correct. Thank you for phrasing these thoughts for me. It is exactly what I was looking for.

[ June 10, 2004, 02:20 PM: Message edited by: seagull ]

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Ron Lambert
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Actually, public schools are attempting to indoctrinate fundamentalists forcibly in their evolutionist philosophy. Fairness would require that qualified experts also present to the schools Creation Science, so students can at least see that there is a plausible scientifically sound alternative, that explains all the observed data just as well if not better. But those who currently control public education are intolerant of such fairness, and live in denial about the challenge of Creation Science.

I don't know why people are trying to beat up on psych majors. Understanding the human mind is the greatest challenge of all, it is the most difficult thing there is for humans to understand. No other scientific subject comes close. That is why the science of psychology still is in its relative infancy, and is so inexact, so far from being a "hard science" yet. For crying out loud, the intelligent mind is what collapses the probability wave, determining what exists, according to quantum physicists. And some people are giving psych majors a hard time because they haven't got it all figured out yet?

There is not presently any reason to teach calculus to psych majors. Sophomore college algebra is probably enough, if they'll even use that. Someday, after there are some breakthroughs in understanding the actual nature of the mind, psychology researchers might have a use for advanced mathematics. But then we would be talking about psycho-physics. (Some people say quantum physics is psycho-physics. [Smile] )

Isaac Newton has been mentioned, as the man who invented calculus, and was an alchemist because scientific chemistry had not yet been formalized. He also might have benefitted from a mature science of psychology, since he went insane for several years. He also would have benefitted from a more scientifically valid medical science, since he became insane (his biographers conclude) because he imbibed too much mercury during his scientific experiments (his lab notes describe the taste of mercury numerous times). Mercury consumption, or inhaling mercury vapors, is now known to be what caused so many hatters to go insane. They made hats out of felt, and they used mercury to make felt. It happened to so many hatters that the expression was coined, "Mad as a hatter."

Now, someone in Newton's day could have disparaged alchemistry, and psychology, and medical science as it existed at that time, and much that they could have said would have been valid. But alchemistry became the "hard science" of chemistry, and medical science has become very advanced if not totally "hard." Psychology has made great strides.

Give the poor psych students a break. Their science is the most difficult of all. And at least some of what psychologists say is good counsel.

[ June 10, 2004, 03:13 PM: Message edited by: Ron Lambert ]

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the-womp
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Seagull -

I think that I may be alright with the term "protoscience" for psychology. I picked over those wikipedia links and I still don't understand what many people consider the distinction between a "protoscience" and a "true" science.

Part of the problem with teaching psychology at the undergraduate level is that it is such a broad field. Many, many people whose goal is clinical work are not interested at all in the more "scientific" part of the field. They balk at the stats classes even at the undergraduate level. They should really try to have at least two different tracks for BA's - one with emphasis on clinical work only and one that's a prep for grad school.

I'm in a clinical program that tries to walk the line between research and clinical practice. We get a lot of stats, but no other math. I'm not really familiar with some of the math concepts you've mentioned. I'd have to think about that more before I could say whether psychologists could benefit. At the undergraduate level, you're lucky to get away with stats in most schools, especially if you are not goign to teach more than standard deviations and T-tests.

Ivan -

Like others have posted, I think science refers to a process rather than a presumed degree of certainty. Its true that we do not have laws equal to those in physics and our experiments look at such complicated constructs that highly rigorous controls are difficult. However, this does not change teh process, only the degree of certainty. it would stop being a science if psychology claimed unwarranted certainty.

to all -

People have mentioned conflicting theories etc. What theories are you referring to? I just to make sure I understand what is guiding your conclusions.

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Sunil Carspecken
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I am a psych major.

Calculus is a required subject for the degree... Psychology does involves math, believe it or not.

They could have said "as useless as teaching calculus to an art history major" or something like that. Even they would probably have to take finite.

quote:

Seagull, do you realize how dumb the average psych major is?

Haha. Well, I don't think I'm average and I know I'm not dumb, so I wont take offense to this.

quote:
These are the people that are doing their best to avoid the hard sciences (pun not intended, but appropriate).
So? The hard sciences are not for everyone.

quote:
They have lack the desire or the intelligence necessary to master calculas
At least we don't lack the intelligence to spell calculus.
Just kidding.
I definately lack the desire to master calculus. I hate it to be honest. However, this doesn't mean I lack the intellegence. Like I said, it's a required part of our degree (at least at IU).

At first I was majoring in Computer Science and I was doing fairly well, but I realized that that kind of work is just too impersonal and uninteresting for me. I wanted to pick something closer to my main strength which is philosophy. I didn't major in philosophy itself, because it's not nearly usefull enough to get serious about, IMO.

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