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Thread: Is this a Scientific Hypothesis?

  1. #1 Is this a Scientific Hypothesis? 
    Forum Freshman ImplicitWeevil's Avatar
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    Right, so this is the situation described to me. Imagine you have a friend who has gone to an exhibit of paintings by Mary Cassatt at the Art Institute of Chicago. Your friend says to you, "Boy, those paintings by Mary Cassatt are really beautiful!" Would your friend's statement be considered a scientific hypothesis? Why or why not?

    I responded with, "It can be. My friend might have wondered why there was an exhibit for those paintings and came to the conclusion that they are beautiful (or at least most people think they are); a conclusion that could be tested by asking random passing people what they thought of the paintings and finding the percentage of people who thought they were beautiful. However, judging from the informal speech my friend was just expressing their feelings."

    I think this is a possible revision. "It can be, but I don't think that's the case. Judging from the informal speech my friend was just expressing their feelings. However, my friend might have wondered why there was an exhibit for those paintings and came to the conclusion that they are beautiful (or at least most people think they are); a conclusion that could be tested by asking random passing people what they thought of the paintings and finding the percentage of people who thought they were beautiful."

    I think this is pretty much my answer. Please correct me if I'm wrong, or provide possible revisions. My textbook feels kind of vague when it comes to hypotheses. Though I'm sure it works for a lot of students, I'm just having a hard time clicking with it. So please, feel free to explain to me why I'm wrong, or even right. I don't want to be right from random guesses, haha.

    Thanks!

    Also, in regaurds to a hypothesis. I know that a hypothesis has to answer a question and be testable but does it have to be a statement stating why something is so. Maybe this will be a better explanation. Let's say a popcorn brand claims to leave fewer unpopped kernels than the other. I might wonder if this is really true and ask, "Does Brand A's popcorn leave fewer unpopped kernels than Brand B?" Now does my statement have to be Brand A's popcorn leaves/doesn't leave fewer unpopped kernels than Brand B because of X? Is it instead possible to only state, "Brand A's popcorn leaves/doesn't leave fewer unpopped kernels than Brand B." It's still testable right? It's still answering the question. The other example might involve the original question I posted. Would it have to be, "The paintings by Mary Cassatt are beautiful, so they have an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago." If that's true then I think I need to change my answer.


    Last edited by ImplicitWeevil; November 17th, 2013 at 09:46 PM.
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  3. #2  
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    I don't think an opinion about the beauty of any work of art - or happenstance of nature for that matter - can ever be scientific in and of itself.

    There's the possibility of a scientific, psychology investigation into people's perceptions of beauty in art or nature or people. And why they differ from person to person or item to item and what's common or rare in people's perceptions or descriptions. (Maybe all the shortsighted people in the subject group preferred Picasso to Rembrandt - is that a real difference or just a feature of this sample? Maybe most people preferred (or disliked) paintings that included a particular colour or colour combination.)

    There's a possibility of technical investigation into the quality of a painting - brushwork, pigments, hand skills and the like - which would say nothing about its visual appeal.

    An opinion is an opinion, not a hypothesis. Once you get to questions about why so many people are attracted to a particular piece or to a named artist you're no longer expressing an opinion about an artwork, you're thinking about art or artists or people's responses to art. You then need to formulate a hypothesis that's capable of investigation in a systematic way.

    Your possibility " my friend might have wondered why there was an exhibit for those paintings and came to the conclusion that they are beautiful (or at least most people think they are); a conclusion that could be tested by asking random passing people what they thought of the paintings and finding the percentage of people who thought they were beautiful. " is much further along the path towards formulating a testable hypothesis.

    The most important feature of a hypothesis is that the way you frame it leaves open the possibility that testing the hypothesis will negate it. If it can't be negated, it doesn't make the grade as a hypothesis. And that's why an opinion isn't a hypothesis.

    "I like it and I don't care what you say about it, I like it!" or
    "I don't like that. Don't bother telling me how good it is or any of that other guff. It just doesn't appeal to me."

    Neither of these opinions give anyone anything to test or even to talk about.


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  4. #3  
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    The subjectivity is a problem but I stopped well before considering that point.

    The most obvious problem with the statement is there is no plausible explanation or even variables associated with the observation, both being necessary in an hypothesis.

    A good simple rhetorical rule of thumb you might try is would her statement fit into a "If......(a variable condition)....than ........ (an observable condition)."
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  5. #4  
    Forum Freshman ImplicitWeevil's Avatar
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    Thanks for this reply! I've read it a few times and it's definitely helping me!

    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    The most important feature of a hypothesis is that the way you frame it leaves open the possibility that testing the hypothesis will negate it. If it can't be negated, it doesn't make the grade as a hypothesis. And that's why an opinion isn't a hypothesis.

    "I like it and I don't care what you say about it, I like it!" or
    "I don't like that. Don't bother telling me how good it is or any of that other guff. It just doesn't appeal to me."

    Neither of these opinions give anyone anything to test or even to talk about.
    Nice. This is something that I'll be storing up there. So I'm assuming that both "Brand A's popcorn leaves/doesn't leave fewer unpopped kernels than Brand B because of X? along with "Brand A's popcorn leaves/doesn't leave fewer unpopped kernels than Brand B." are possible answers to "Does Brand A's popcorn leave fewer unpopped kernels than Brand B?" the latter possible being a building block for the former? (This actually relates to another question I need to answer if I seem obsessed with this popcorn haha.)

    I have more questions and I plan on rewriting my answer; unfortunately I don't have time left today. Dinner is ready and I have to go eat, however I plan on being back tomorrow. I think some of my other queries will take more time, while others I might be able to solve tonight before I sleep.

    Thanks again!
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  6. #5  
    Forum Freshman ImplicitWeevil's Avatar
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    Lynx, I unfortunately really have to go eat so I haven't much time to consider this, but a few questions already came to mind and I'll see what comes from tomorrow. I also have something to propose tomorrow and I want to see what you guys think. This has always been one of my weaknesses and this course is one of the few really going on about it, thanks for helping me improve. ^^
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  7. #6  
    Forum Freshman ImplicitWeevil's Avatar
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    This is pretty much my answer now.

    No; beauty is something unique to an individual and cannot be tested or disproved. I, or my friend, might be able to test the amount of people who hold the opinion that the paintings are beautiful, but even if we were to approach it like this the statement would need to be changed. Plus, results might be unique to the testing group. Though, this would show itself in repeated testing.

    Sorry I'm late. Life stuff, haha.

    Thanks for the help Ade and Lynx! I have a better understanding of hypotheses now, at least I hope.

    Oh by the way, Lynx, does a hypothesis have to include the explanation in it? Say the question of, "Does one brand of popcorn leave fewer unpopped kernels than the other?" is answered with, "Brand A leaves fewer unpopped kernels than Brand B." Would this be incorrect? Even if you're not testing why, you're still answering the question. To me it would seem like a necessary beginning as well. It's something to build off of and spawn more hypotheses. After proving it maybe you find that one brand cooks the popcorn for longer. Using your example, "If you increase the time you cook the popcorn, then there will be fewer unpopped kernels."

    If I seem obsessed with popcorn it's because this is the next thing that I have to answer. I have to design an experiment around this question and I wanted to first see if that (Brand A leaves fewer than Brand B) is an acceptable hypothesis. Anyone feel free to answer, I directed it at Lynx since his answer got me thinking about that more.
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    Forum Professor Daecon's Avatar
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    I think a scientific hypothesis has to be about something objective, whereas beauty and other forms of aesthetic quality are all subjective. Therefore, I would conclude that discussion about aesthetic qualities can't (by definition) be considered a scientific approach.
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  9. #8  
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    Deacon is right. (also deacon, who's picture is that on your avatar?)

    A hypothisis goes something like this, when its raining or snowing you look out your window and see water

    drops. You think to yourself ,since they are falling the must be coming from the sky. So you think there

    might be a moisture collection that causes it,an the origin might have started from the water on the ground

    somehow. That would be a hypothisis. Now upon further research you formulate an idea supported by

    observation that moisture evaperates from the ground and sea and lakes becomes water vapor and

    accumulates in the sky after reaching a saturation point it falls raining or snowing. That would be a theory.

    A fact is that theories are almost never concidered to be fact. At least not at first. Now your friend viewing

    a painting and saying its pretty, is the same as you looking out your window and seeing water drops and

    thinking they are pretty. So not hypothisis. There is some objective and subjective usually nesessary.

    Science is testable facts theories and such.
    Last edited by Hill Billy Holmes; November 22nd, 2013 at 12:22 AM. Reason: Typos
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  10. #9  
    Forum Professor Daecon's Avatar
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    That's me. I changed it for the member's picture thread as I don't have a photobucket account or anything.
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