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Evidence that people underestimate the difficulty of psychology

February 12, 2010

Pertaining to the name of this blog

In 4 studies, the authors examined how intuitions about the relative difficulties of the sciences develop. In Study 1, familiar everyday phenomena in physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and economics were pretested in adults, so as to be equally difficult to explain. When participants in kindergarten, Grades 2, 4, 6, and 8, and college were asked to rate the difficulty of understanding these phenomena, children revealed a strong bias to see natural science phenomena as more difficult than those in psychology. The perceived relative difficulty of economics dropped dramatically in late childhood. In Study 2, children saw neuroscience phenomena as much more difficult than cognitive psychology phenomena, which were seen as more difficult than social psychology phenomena, even though all phenomena were again equated for difficulty in adults. In Study 3, we explored the basis for these results in intuitions about common knowledge and firsthand experience. Study 4 showed that the intuitions about the differences between the disciplines were based on intuitions about difficulty of understanding and not on the basis of more general intuitions about the feasibility or truth of the phenomena in question. Taken together, in the studies, the authors find an early emerging basis for judgments that some sciences are intrinsically more difficult than others, a bias that may persevere in adults in subtler forms in such settings as the courtroom.

Source: Keil, F. C., Lockhart, K. L., & Shlegel, E. (2010). A bump on a bump? Emerging intuitions concerning the relative difficulty of the sciences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 1-15. [pdf available]

I rest my case.

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