In an article in Psychological Science, psychologist Robert Rosenthal (1994) examined the relationship between a researcher’s methods and the ethical implications of these methods. One subject he examined in particular was what he termed ‘causism,’ defined as “the tendency to imply a causal relationship where none has been established (i.e., where the data do not support it)” (p. 128). He goes on to state that ‘causism’ can arise from the language chosen to describe the results of hypothesis tests, especially when authors use words such as consequence or cause instead of related to or inferred from. He argues that the stronger language can be misleading, causing the result to “appear more important or fundamental than it really is” (p. 128). This idea, in turn, misleads the public into drawing conclusions or implementing policies that could be based on faulty assumptions. With these ideas in mind, read the following “excerpt” from the Discussion section of an imaginary, hypothetical research study by Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe (2000) linking prenatal vitamins with a certain birth defect called Birth Defect X, and answer the questions that follow, in at least 250 words. As shown in the previous section, our results were significant at the .05 level (p = .047, n = 23). These highly significant results prove the research hypothesis that there is a higher incidence of Birth Defect X in babies of mothers who consume prenatal vitamins daily, versus babies whose mothers do not consume such vitamins. Thus, we can state with some certainty that taking daily doses of prenatal vitamins during pregnancy can cause the birth defect in question in many cases. This is a landmark study, the first of its kind that examines the link between prenatal vitamins and the consequent appearance of Birth Defect X. (Dewey, Cheatum, & Howe, 2000) 1. Based on the lectures and reading this week, discuss the errors in the conclusions the authors have drawn from their statistical tests. (The readings of the week can be found as Chapter 7 and 8 in the book Essentials of statistics for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Nolan, S. A., & Heinzen, T. E. (2014). 2. Imagine that these results are disseminated to the general public through publication and media coverage. Write about one possible harmful consequence that these conclusions could have in the “everyday” world. 3. Look up and read Psalm 15. This passage describes how God wants his followers to live. How do these verses apply to the obligation of Christian psychologists to care for the public interest when wording and reporting their findings?
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