Our brains can be logical and compassionate -- just not at the same time
By George Dvorsky
The human brain is unquestioningly an amazing thing. But for all its strengths, it can be pretty glitchy at times. And indeed, as new research from Case Western Reserve has revealed, our brains have two very important functions that tend to work quite well — just not simultaneously. It turns out that when we’re being analytical, the empathetic parts of our brain shuts down, and vice versa. The insight may help to explain not just the limits to human cognition, but also what may be going wrong in the brains of people with social disorders.
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Research Methods: Deduction and Induction
In logic, we often refer to the two broad methods of reasoning as the deductive and inductive approaches.
Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. Sometimes this is informally called a “top-down” approach. We might begin with thinking up a theoryabout our topic of interest. We then narrow that down into more specifichypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses with specific data — a confirmation (or not) of our original theories.
Inductive reasoning works the other way, moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, we sometimes call this a “bottom up” approach (please note that it’s “bottom up” and not “bottoms up” which is the kind of thing the bartender says to customers when he’s trying to close for the night!). In inductive reasoning, we begin with specific observations and measures, begin to detect patterns and regularities, formulate some tentative hypotheses that we can explore, and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories.
These two methods of reasoning have a very different “feel” to them when you’re conducting research. Inductive reasoning, by its very nature, is more open-ended and exploratory, especially at the beginning. Deductive reasoning is more narrow in nature and is concerned with testing or confirming hypotheses. Even though a particular study may look like it’s purely deductive (e.g., an experiment designed to test the hypothesized effects of some treatment on some outcome), most social research involves both inductive and deductive reasoning processes at some time in the project. In fact, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we could assemble the two graphs above into a single circular one that continually cycles from theories down to observations and back up again to theories. Even in the most constrained experiment, the researchers may observe patterns in the data that lead them to develop new theories.
We listen to the same music, but how many of the words really mean anything to you? We can like the same things, but like them for different reasons. I will like them with purpose. I will like the things I like with feelings. I will never like something because it is “in” or because it looks cool or to get attention. I will do what I do not as a show, but as a remark of my life. I will not listen to things I don’t want to hear. I won’t do something just because someone else does. I won’t do something just because someone wants me to. There will always be more than that. I won’t give in because it’s easy if it’s worth something to stand for. There are a lot of things to stand for. I’ll care a lot, and I won’t care at all. And none of this will be done through other people’s influences. May I remind, that art, music, entertainment, are different from people. Those are keys to the mind, doors and passageways to finding something valuable or something you’re looking for or maybe yourself. Those types of influences will change me. Worthy people may change me. The difficult part is deciding who is worthy, and who isn’t.