Friday, October 7, 2011

Join the Empire!

The following is a short essay that I wrote for my first psychological statistics exam.  I was pretty happy with it, so I figured I'd subject all of you to my limited knowledge on this subject, as well.

This was a picture I drew on the back of my test.
It sort of makes more sense in context of some of
the earlier questions.

Let's talk about empiricism, which is learning through observation.  With empiricism, we are limited to studying what we can perceive through our physical senses.  So, when we get bored of measuring the grams of nickel in an asteroid and want to move on to much more interesting things (humans), we run into an issue: humans are what they are because of complex phenomena that psychologists term constructs--things such as love, anxiety, and aggression.  In order to empirically study these grand (and yet very real) abstract constructs, psychologists must resort to operational definitions of these constructs: defining them by observable behaviors for the purpose of the study (for example, the measure of anxiety could be the number of times a subject bangs his head against the wall).

The main problem with operational definitions is that they can never quite capture the entirety of the construct.  A man can give a woman flowers, chocolate, hugs, kisses, rides to the grocery store, and still not love her; conversely, a man might do none of these things for a woman and still be completely devoted to her.  There are many intangibles--things below [edit: or above] the observable surface of life and its workings--that empiricism must, by definition, leave out of its way of studying the world.  Anything that cannot be captured by a merely physical description nor be replicated cannot be studied empirically.  The Prophet Joseph Smith's first vision of God the Father and the Son, for example, cannot be reproduced on command for observation; yet Joseph and thousands or millions of others insist that they know it happened.


  1. I love hearing you talk about this stuff. Sometimes when people get all psycho (analeeze) it kind of grosses me out--like I'm watching something that shouldn't be dissected get dissected. Or like, "No, people aren't really like that!" It gets freaky. But this was really cool. And interesting. And fun.

    You're a neat person, my doge, and I love your drawing.


    Also, it's fun to think about this like it's character development/how it would apply to that, because I'm warped.


    "Cyclemol" is a fun Google I'm-not-a-computer word.

  2. Interesting thought . . . it's interesting to think how much science can't measure or touch. You can't apply units of measurement to abstract emotions, and yet something built into every human knows how to discern them. It seems like in your field you have an interesting dilemma- you know this stuff is real, but it can't be organized the same way as other sciences. Sort of like trying to scoop water out of a pond and use it to build a house. It just doesn't work the same way as other materials (let me know if I'm making no sense here lol). How do they deal with that in psychology?

  3. p to the s: is that a galapagos tortoise? :)

  4. My doge: I'm glad I don't freak or gross you out. Because psycho-analeeze is rapidly becoming one of my favorite things.


    (However, it still falls short of how much I like hearing about your story-ing. How would you apply empiricism in all its faulty glory to character development?)

  5. Josh: That's exactly it. The way psychology deals with this problem at this point is by continuing to use scientific methods and complaining that they don't actually work. There are some who submit that perhaps other methods (taking religion into account, for example) would be more effective. However, in moving away from empirical practice, psychology risks losing credibility with the scientific world; and we've worked so hard to prove to everyone that we're a legitimate science... I don't know if the field as a whole is ready to take that step yet, sadly.

    Also, probably. I saw one a few weeks ago and haven't quite gotten it out of my head since.

  6. Probably "empiricism" would work like making a list of categories of character or character traits and then giving the character a number of stars based on their personality. Or putting them on a spectrum.
    Like my favorite spectrum combo (spectra, I guess):

    Those are pretty much my starting points for characters right now, in some ways. So, like, Celeste would be like a 0 on the Q-L scale AND on the H-O scale. David might be in the middle of Q-L (f-five??) and all the way full (10???) on the H-O.
    Gallant would be all the way up to 11 on both spectrums. Probably Imogene, too, come to think of it.
    Let's add another scale! Or two!

    So, Imogene would probably be on the tough side. But then, there are a few things that turn her dial back to Soft, like the Gallant's--well, gallantry.

    I guess we might also have to make LAYERS out of these, and CHARTS and CROSS-REFERENCING and SEVEN APPENDICES.

    Coming soon, Character development--THE GATHERING?

    Er, okay. Nevermind.
    Anyway, the spectrums thing is something I tend to do. However, this tends to lead to monotony, as you can clearly see by my work. :)
    With villains, you generally have to work a little harder. There's usually some kind of defining. Maybe we should add ANOTHER SCALE ('cause that always helps, right?)
    Believable<-->Cartoony (guess this applies to the other people, too)
    And...well, actually, I guess the other scale I was thinking was sorta covered by Hidden<-->Open, but it had more to do with "Are they this slick villain who you don't know is the badguy or are they like Megamind and all like "I'm evil!!" (That's Evil Inc.)?"


    That's probably a long enough comment for now. :{

    But it was a fun thing to think about!!

  7. Yeah, essentially my character development is about as "empirical" as one of those magazine quizzes.

  8. Hahaha! Cool stuff, my doge. :)

    Also, I just now realized that I used the word 'subject' in two different ways right next to each other in my intro. Oops.

  9. As fun as those verification word things are, I'm kind of glad that I don't have to do them when commenting on my own blog.