American and British college students' epistemological beliefs about research on psychological and biological development

David Estes, Melanie Chandler, Keith J. Horvath, Diane W. Backus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Epistemological beliefs about the nature, sources, and limits of knowledge are often assumed to be similar across different domains of knowledge. This assumption was tested by comparing beliefs about scientific research on psychological and biological development. Undergraduates from the United States and the United Kingdom responded to a set of epistemologically relevant statements about each field and then compared the two fields directly in terms of their confidence in the conclusions and advice of experts. On all measures, more negative beliefs were expressed about research on psychological development. Although U.S. students were more skeptical about both fields, U.S. and U.K. students displayed similar response patterns. To justify their skepticism toward scientific research as a valid source of knowledge about psychological development, students in both countries gave similar reasons (e.g., the difficulty in accurately measuring psychological variables). These results demonstrate that epistemological beliefs can differ substantially between two closely related fields. They also highlight issues that must be addressed to make education about the validity of research in developmental psychology more effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-642
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Volume23
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

Keywords

  • Attitudes toward science
  • College students
  • Epistemological beliefs
  • Theory theory

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