Peudoscientific thinking is a pervasive problem. This unit will provide students with an understanding of how people come to form beliefs that appear scientifically sound but are not supported by evidence, and why those beliefs can be resistant to change. Specifically, there will be a focus on beliefs about human health, with a view to explaining how common and potentially harmful misconceptions have become so prevalent, such as the efficacy of homeopathy for cancer treatment. Psychological principles will be applied to specific examples of common pseudoscientific beliefs. Students will learn about basic theories of causal learning and belief revision, and will be encouraged to use them to devise methods for challenging false beliefs in everyday contexts. Students will be encouraged to reflect on how learning biases may impact their own beliefs and assumptions, and understand the commonalities and differences in their own beliefs and beliefs across cultures. The knowledge gained will provide students with critical thinking skills that are applicable to evaluating evidence in any field of study or presented in the media and thus will be beneficial to their future studies and lives more generally. Students will do research into a particular pseudoscientific health practice or false belief and propose research about how to change people's practices and beliefs.
8 hours of online lectures
Research Paper on Belief Change (40%), 8x Interactive reading exercises (15%), Group analyses/criticisms (15%), Final Exam (30%)