Whether you realize it or not, you may become a consumer of psychology research at some point. Almost every day, new reports on the latest psychological research results are broadcast on TV, printed in newspapers, shared on social media, or caused a sensation in talk shows. Just pick up any popular magazine to view a large number of self-help articles that synthesize current psychology research.
How do you determine whether these reports are credible? In order to be a wise consumer of psychology research, you need to learn how to evaluate the various research reports you come into contact with every day. By knowing how to identify trustworthy information, you can become an informed psychological consumer.
People tend to believe that they can easily spot a “fake news” story, but research shows that they are surprisingly bad in this regard.
Knowing more about how to identify good sources can help you better distinguish authoritative and accurate sources from false and sensational sources.
1. Consider the source
Whenever you read the results of psychological research in popular media resources, you should always consider the original source of the information.
Some things to consider:
- Research published in professional psychology journals undergoes a rigorous review process, starting with original research conducted by reputable researchers, and usually supported by educational institutions, hospitals, or other organizations. These journals are also peer-reviewed, which means that other psychologists proficient in research methods and statistics survey the research before publication.
- Another reason for viewing the original source is that many popular reports misunderstand or fail to explain the key elements of the survey results. Writers and journalists with little or no experience in research methods may not fully understand how the research is conducted and all possible effects of the research. By viewing the research yourself, you can have a more comprehensive and richer understanding of the meaning of the research results.
2. Be suspicious of sensational or shocking statements
When evaluating any type of scientific information, one should always remain skeptical. When you encounter scientific claims in the media, there are some important things to remember:
- Remember, the goals of these popular media reports are to attract attention, sell issues, improve ratings, and get page views.
- The reporter may focus on specific elements of the research and ignore other important information that is critical to understanding the results.
- Statements made by researchers may be used out of context in a way that greatly exaggerates the original results of the research.
When reviewing a study, be especially alert to claims or findings that seem sensational or unrealistic.
3. Evaluation research methods
In order to be a wise consumer of psychology, it is important to understand some basic knowledge of psychology research. Elements such as operational definitions, random sampling, and research design are important for understanding the final results of the research.
For example, a particular study may only focus on specific individuals in the population, or it may only consider narrow definitions of specific topics. Both of these factors can affect the significance of research results to the general population and how the results can be used to understand psychological phenomena.
4. Remember that anecdotes are not equal to data
Be wary of stories or reports that rely solely on anecdotes to support their claims. Just because a small group of people came to similar conclusions does not mean that most people agree with this view.
Scientific research uses random sampling and other research methods to help ensure that research results can be generalized to other populations. Any report that relies on “this is true to me, so it must be true to others” reasons should be skeptical.
5. Consider who funded the research
When evaluating psychological research, it is also important to consider the financial backers who support the research. Funding can come from a variety of sources, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and large companies.
When research results seem to support the agenda of an organization whose goal is to sell products or persuade people to share their opinions, be cautious. Although such funding sources do not necessarily invalidate research results, you should always be aware of potential conflicts of interest.
6. Realize that correlation does not equal causation
Many popular scientific research reports draw conclusions directly and imply that there is a causal relationship between variables.However, the relationship between two variables does not necessarily mean a change in one variable reason In another change.
Some useful tips:
- Never assume that there is a causal relationship between two factors.
- Look for key phrases, such as “Researchers have found a connection”, “Research shows that there is a relationship between the two” and “There seems to be a link” To help determine relevant research.
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Newspapers, magazines, books, and online resources are full of information about the latest psychological research. In order to determine the credibility of these reports, it is important to know how to evaluate the stories you read.
Although finding original research is the best way to evaluate information, you can also apply some basic scientific common sense. Be wary of sensational claims, pay attention to the false meaning of causality, and remember that when evaluating any scientific report, suspicion is the rule.