What do we know from psychological research
By Captain Colin Burchfield , 14th Medical Operations Squadron
/ Published June 26, 2007
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- In 1969, the president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. George Miller, gave a speech to the members of that group titled, "Giving Psychology Away." Dr. Miller pointed out that psychologists are often bad at telling the public what we have figured out and what we do not yet know in a way that can be applied to daily lives. The APA president then said that we need to do a better job at "giving psychology away;" that is, telling the public what we do know and what we do not know in an useful way.
The tough part is that science does not let us know anything. There have been tries to make science the judge of reality. For example, there were groups of people who believed we could find the truth of something by guessing the outcome, and then doing tests to see if they got the same outcome each time. This is what led to our common idea of "scientific method."
Others do not believe that idea. For example, some of Einstein's theories were based on thought alone with no use of a scientific method. In fact, only after he presented his ideas were any tests run.
Also, scientific method does not necessarily provide any real evidence for knowledge. The scientific method, as we know it, is set up to run an experiment and see if one thing causes another thing to happen. If that second thing does happen, we decide that the first thing caused it. There is no way to know if that was the only thing that could have caused it. Some people now believe that all science can really do is figure out what is not correct.
Most people who come up with theories are rather stubborn and will come up with other ways to explain what went wrong with their projects. In the end, the best way to understand science is to go ahead and do the experiments, and then follow up with thoughtful discussions about new ideas.
It is too bad that science does not work in a simple fact gathering way. There is no real match between what is real and the findings from studies. This is the one "truth" that we have been able to find out over the years by doing all sorts of studies and tests.
Still, we do have some information which we can use to draw some conclusions. In the next in this series of five articles, I will use Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as an example of some of these conclusions. I want to use ADHD as an example because I have spent several years studying it. I also wanted to use ADHD as an example because children often get this label in our country. It is also an example of how we can focus our studies on one part of life and ignore the other important parts.