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The data are only are good from the sources they come from. The Bad Science principles of this unit are centered on the sources of information. It takes time and resources to collect data from participants. The medical and psychological literature is replete with single-subjects / case studies.
These cases can be very powerful – Phineas Gage & John Harlow, Little Albert & John B Watson, Little Hans & Sigmund Freud, Little Peter & Mary Cover Jones, Tan & Paul Broca, Genie & Susan Curtiss, David Reimer & John Money, Joe & Michael Gazzaniga, AJ & James McGaugh and … the list goes on (and you get the idea).
The primary issue with case studies is whether the behaviors/ outcomes with one person can be generalized to others.
The same is true of small sample sizes that seem to stretch beyond their scope OR samples that may not represent the composition of the population where the results are applied. Some researchers argue that social science principles rely too much on the white albino rat and the college sophomore. Even the classic 1956 7+/-2 STM capacity study of George Miller was shown to apply to English speakers and not universally.
Let’s explore these further.
Bad Science Principle #7 – UNREPRESENTATIVE SAMPLES
Sometimes the language used in claims or stories is presented to appear to be more than what it is.
1. Your goal is to locate 1 example of Unrepresentative Samples from the social sciences literature and present:
o a summary of the study and a description of the sample and
o a justification of why the sample is unrepresentative AND propose a solution to address it.
Codes and Conscience
In 1963, Stanley Milgram published experiments demonstrating that the average American man (or woman) on the street would have done the same sorts of things that the Nazi guards did in the concentration camps.
” Milgram wanted to test whether – as his colleagues and other scientific research suggested – only a tiny, psychotic minority of volunteers would proceed with giving shocks up to 450 volts. In fact, 65% administered them, with varying – and sometimes entirely absent – moral qualms. ” That doesn’t put me in a very good light,” beams one woman, after speeding through the punishments without pause for thought. ” I don’t want to injure a man for $4.50,” says one man, trying to cling to some kind of moral framework but raising the question of how much he’d have to be paid.” — The Guardian, Elisabeth Mahoney, Thursday February 21, 2002.
View this video:
The Milgram Re-Enactment (2002) Links to an external site:
(If you are interested in reading the original 1963 Milgram article, you can find it in Files)
Suppose you are on the university’s research ethics committee. Prof. Milgram has just submitted a request for your committee to approve this new research project. Based on the Belmont Report’s three major principles, autonomy, beneficence, and justice.
• Would you vote to approve or disapprove this experiment? Remember, no one will actually shocked.
The person doing all the screaming in the video is, in fact, a paid actor. The real subject of the experiment is the person flipping the switch to administer the (fake) shocks. Several of these “shockers” may be very stressed during the study and very embarrassed later when they realize what they were willing to do to another human being.
1. Is the scientific knowledge that will be gained from doing this experiment really worth the stress and embarrassment to the subjects?
2. Please explain why you voted the way you did in terms of all three of the Belmont Report’s major principles.