Why do many people believe in palm reading, alien abductions, past-life regression therapy, and ghosts? Can what you see in an inkblot reveal hidden aspects of your personality? Is it true that some people have the power to see into the future? The scientific method will be examined as a unique tool for overcoming cognitive biases. The distinctions between science and pseudo-science will be explored, including the gray areas or “borderlines” of science and science’s potential limitations.
Illustrations of concepts will be drawn primarily from psychology and medicine. Among the specific topics to be covered include extrasensory perception (ESP), recovered memories of childhood abuse and alien abduction, hypnosis, homeopathy, multiple personality disorder, the Rorschach inkblot test, and controversial mental health treatments (e.g., re-birthing therapy for children, facilitated communication for autism, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for post-traumatic stress disorder, and “energy” therapies). A skeptical perspective will be encouraged: keeping an open mind, while insisting on an adequate level of evidence, for ultimately accepting unusual phenomena. Dual mottoes of this course include Hume’s dictum that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and James Oberg’s warning that one should keep an open mind, “but not so open that one’s brains fall out."
By the end of this course, you will:
• Learn to identify the common cognitive heuristics and biases that influence thinking.
• Learn the differences between science and pseudoscience and will be able to distinguish between the two.
• Develop critical thinking skills by examining controversial topics in psychology and evaluating available research.
• Apply critical thinking to reach tentative conclusions about controversial topics based on logical reasoning and sound evidence.
Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.