Nonscientific and Scientific Research: Definitions and Differences Video

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  • 0:07 Nonscientific &…
  • 1:01 Tradition & Personal…
  • 2:09 Intuitive Knowledge
  • 2:54 Logic
  • 3:45 Authority
  • 5:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

Explore the way people 'know' information without using a scientific methodology. Have you ever fallen for nonscientific research and then presented it as fact?

Nonscientific and Scientific Research

Those of you who are familiar with research might be scratching your heads right now, because the words 'nonscientific research' seem oxymoronic. But historically, this oxymoron has actually been used more than the scientific research model. Scientific research is a logically stepped process used for investigating and acquiring or expanding our understanding. The findings of scientific research can be reproduced and demonstrated to be consistent.

Nonscientific research is acquiring knowledge and truths about the world using techniques that do not follow the scientific method. For instance, Plato was a large proponent of some of these, and Freud's theories use several of them as well. Let's look at several of the more oft-used nonscientific methods to see what pitfalls are out there.


Tradition is knowledge and understanding that is believed to be true because it has been traditionally accepted. No one has stopped to say, 'Hey, wait a minute. That's not right.' For instance, how much of your brain do you use? If you say 'only 10%,' then you have fallen victim to a common fallacy passed through tradition. We actually use 100% of our brain and nearly all the time.

Personal Experience

Personal experience is information or understanding derived from experiencing something firsthand. There doesn't seem to be a problem with this at first, but it is actually incredibly flawed because experience is subjective and not reproducible.

For instance, dreams seem to predict the future. Everyone has had the déjà vu experience of having dreamt something before, but does that mean you have prophetic dreams? Not really. Most likely, you had a dream that was similar to the event and your mind just filled in the blanks to make it seem like it all happened before.


Intuitive knowledge comes from understanding and believing in an idea based on a gut instinct or through personal insight. This is the 'I know it because I know it' category of knowledge, where someone cannot offer a good reason for something, but they just know it to be true.

For instance, eyewitnesses to a crime appear more accurate when they are more confident. This is false and has been found time and again by researchers. Confidence has nothing to do with a person's accuracy when recalling something in the past. But, many people rely on what they feel is the right answer, and someone who is confident must be right!


Logic is the application of thought and reasoning to come to a conclusion. But, much like personal experience, the process is flawed by a person's limited viewpoint. You cannot think about something you don't already know.

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