User:JREverest/sandbox/Approaches to Knowledge/Seminar group 1/Evidence

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Evidence in Human Nature[edit | edit source]

Assumptions of human nature form the basis of a variety of theories in numerous theories. Whether it be Psychology, philosophy or neuroscience, each discipline uses a different method, looking to provide evidence to support their view of human nature.

For instance, Psychology can be seen collecting data in small 'sample' groups of individuals, generalising this to a wider population, usually through qualitative research - this often takes the form of observational experiments. On the other hand, philosophy often uses thought experiments (with the use of reason) to logically arrive at a conclusion of human nature. Famous thinkers such as Karl Marx, David Hume and many more have done this, with the key philosophers over the years building entire fields of political and moral thought off of a simple assumption of human nature. Marx in particular shows an interesting example of this, with his theory of human nature proposed in 'the communist manifesto'. Marx deduces that human nature is malleable, largely a function of the economic system in which people live under - thus, a communist revolution is necessary to overthrow capitalism, ridding of the egocentric, materialistic ideals instilled in individuals by capitalism, with this being transform to a more altruistic form of human nature in Marx's 'communist utopia'. Finally, neuroscience uses a more scientific-method in order to deduce facts about human nature. This is often in the form of MRI scans which see which part of the brain 'light up' when an individual endures certain emotions, using this data to deduce information about human nature.


It is likely that a Neuroscientist would deem the philosophers' method as illegitimate for a number of reasons. Mainly, it lacks any sort of confirmation in the real world - the ideal is simply a train of thought. Due to the lack of empirical evidence in the philosophers' theory of human nature, it cannot be taken seriously. However, the a Philosopher is likely to reply, arguing that the use of reason is sufficient in deducing information about human nature. Furthermore, this information has come from inside humans themselves, giving their method further legitimacy. The psychologists' method can be seen as an ideal between these two methods, more scientific than the philosophers' experiment, yet less so than the neuroscientist.

Overall, these differing methods in finding evidence to support a viewpoint make it very difficult for interdisciplinary work to occur in the field of human nature.

Evidence in the Neurosciences[edit | edit source]

Traditional Approach to Evidence[edit | edit source]

In Neuroscience, evidence is usually used to support or refute an argument. As Neuroscience is concerned with the nervous system and cognition, the evidence used to support or disprove certain claims are usually of physical nature (e.g. physiological brain processes) that are then related to mental events [1]. As a Natural Science, Neuroscience tends to predominantly rely on quantitative evidence, evidence that aims to be as objective as possible and generalizable to a greater population than the one used to gather the evidence.

Evidence as not entirely objective[edit | edit source]

However, the evidence gathered is often not as objective, as credible as people would like it to be. One of the main goals of Neuroscience is, for instance, to explain qualia (subjective experience). Yet, we are far from understanding how brain processes translate into qualia [2]. Research, however uses exactly such neurological processes to explain mental states.

The process of data gathering, furthermore, is not void of errors. As evidence does not exist on its own but must be interpreted by people, data can be misinterpreted or exxagerated. This becomes evident considering how findings about the brain are represented when communicated. For instance, figures illustrating statistical differences in experimental conditions tend to focus on extremes instead of representing the average: scales can be adjusted to display diverging results more clearly. Similarly, colour representing brain activity is determined by the researchers, yet it is not an objective truth that 'red' always represents greatest activity[3] Interpreting data from brainimaging studies, furthermore, relies on implicit assumptions about the brain and its functioning. It is often assumed that greatest activity of one area translates into its biggest implication in the measured mental state. However, the resolution of the brain imaging techniques is still far from being able to depict the entire complexity of neuronal activity patterns [4]. As such, evidence in Neuroscience is often less certain, less objective than the scientific community would like it to be. Its credibility is limited by occasional distortions in illustrations and by the technology's restraints in detecting the brain's approximal activity instead of its actual activity.

Evidence in Law[edit | edit source]

--> Definition of evidence in Law and Justice : name as the "law of evidence", the judge relies on it when taking a decision at the end of a trial, it "encompasses the rules and legal principles that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding", the rules vary by jurisdiction but also depending on under what circumstances the trial is held ; criminal court, civil court, family court...[5]

The "law of evidence" also governs what can be presented in court, it rules the admission of evidences for a trial, therefore has a crucial role in the Law department.

General Definition : The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid[6], in a court room, evidences establish guilt or innocence of a person

--> Tension encountered : How can we surely determine if an evidence is incriminating enough ? Is it always possible to verify the quality of an evidence ? And so on... In law, truth and evidence are very close and is at the center of the tensions that can occur or the issues faced. A trial or an arrestation are systematically based on evidence (so on truth) so the matter of judgement in general is very complex. A judge (rational individual) is responsible for the sentence of another one (accused) and this responsability is based on the trustfulness on evidences, encompassing proofs, testimonies, alibis, information... Tension can also be caused by the interpretation of evidences by a judge, as interpretation is subjective and he or she can then choose to question the whole case.

Evidence in Nutritional Science[edit | edit source]

When it comes to evidence in nutritional science there is are several ongoing debates about the impacts of certain diets and foods on the body. As nutritional science is mostly based on the disciplines of (bio)chemistry, physics and biomedical science, so exclusively natural sciences, it may come as a surprise that there are numerous scientific controversies and unsolved issues.

(Possible issues to examine: effect of soy, effect of gluten, effects of animal products, low carb vs. high carb)

Evidence in Statistics[edit | edit source]

When we consider evidence, we often think that this means data in the form of statistics, or results from studies or experiments. However, these examples of evidence do not cooperate with the definition of evidence as "a form of data that proves truth". When conducting certain statistical tests, for example the Chi squared test, we can state statistical significance according to whether or not the p value is greater or less than the critical value at any given significance level. However, we can never say that these results prove a certain hypothesis, only that they provide evidence for this significance. Unless the value of p is zero, there will always be some probability, however small, that the results are due to chance. In circumstances where truth cannot be proved, or it would be very difficult to prove a hypothesis completely, we can only say that evidence gives us significant grounds for belief that the hypothesis is true.

Evidence in Art History[edit | edit source]

Art History often deals in non-typical forms of evidence; sculpture, painting, objects and more recently video and sound. Often the object itself is more important than the artwork. For example, a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period could act as a source for comparing painting techniques and stylistic decisions with others paintings of Picasso’s. However, when looking at the canvas and frame the painting is on, more data can be collected; signs of aging on the canvas or a label on the back of the painting can give an exact age of the painting, and it’s auction history could reveal previous owners that might’ve interacted with (and affected) the artist.

Often original sources are unable to be viewed, however. For example, they may be on another continent, or owned in a private collection. In this case, art historians are able to use reproductions of artworks (often photographic) as an alternative. This however has several flaws. The size and scale of the original piece is immediately lost, hence any knowledge that could’ve been garnered from these aspects is immediately lost.[7]

Evidence in Law and Criminal Conviction[edit | edit source]

The jury plays an important role in criminal trials in determining with a judge whether someone accused of a crime is guilty or not guilty. It is the role of the jury not to interpret the laws themselves but to interpret evidence in context of a legal definition of a crime [8]. Although one of the most prevalent forms of information used as evidence in convictions globally [9], it is biased by influences of human psychology and memory. Visual, emotional and perceptual factors affects how we see an event, while 'perceptual experiences are stored by a system of memory that is highly malleable and continuously evolving '[10], thus degrading the objective nature of a memory. Eyewitness testing is less objective than DNA testing or video testing which are unbiased by human intervention and demonstrate tangible and visible results, as opposed to relying on human interaction, which is more subjective as evidence. 358 people have been sentenced to death and exonerated since 1989 with the use of DNA evidence [9][11], 71% of these wrongful convictions had been made on primary account of eyewitness testimony before a jury. Moreover, it has been heavily documented to be the primary source of wrongful convictions across the US[12] A moral dilemma arises between the use of these types of evidence. Despite the fallibility of human experience and memory, eyewitness testimony is a convincing form of evidence for a jury. Moreover, even if the memory is incorrect that an eyewitness experiences it appears real in recollection. Therefore, eyewitnesses may be convinced of a false narrative and thus appear convincing to a jury, swinging the course of justice. Traumatic events are assumed to be easily memorable[9], but modern psychological evidence demonstrates the reformatting of memories even after the event. The same mechanism of reshaping false memories and correcting them can falsify the evidence in a memory [13].

Evidence in the context of memory[edit | edit source]

The 'Misinformation effect' describes a phenomena of reshaping memories and adding fictional details through suggestions of fictional details ('Misinformation can cause people to falsely believe that they saw details that were only suggested to them'). Moreover, it has been shown [13] that 'as we retrieve and reconstruct memories, distortions can creep in without explicit external influence, and these can become pieces of misinformation'. \Misinformation has been demonstrated by verbal cues after watching a video. Targeted questions and leading questions have been demonstrated [14] [13]to change the likelihood of

Organisational impact on the efficacy of eyewitness evidence[edit | edit source]

Different organisational patterns and recognitions of misidentification lead to uncertain consequences for victims of wrongful misidentification [10] and different procedures for rectifying it. It has not thusfar been shown to be self evident that either juries or judges in general understand the biases of eyewitness evidence, thus adding to its convincing nature. The lack of 'scientific experts' in memory and eyewitness evidence[12] in US courts despite the abundance of 'scientific experts' in other fields demonstrates a perception of eyewitness evidence as objective, self evident, and undisputable, or at least of lay understanding, denying the fallibility of eyewitness evidence suggested by the 'Misinformation effect' (Loftus).

Evidence in Treatment of Depression[edit | edit source]

Nature of Depression[edit | edit source]

The innately subjective experience of depression presents a huge challenge to the medical and scientific community, with respect to finding evidence for it and obtaining evidence for treatments. Indeed, the WHO's description of depression, as a state of melancholy to be eligible to be categorized as depression when the definitive symptoms of; sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration, are sustained for at least 2 weeks [15] reflects how loosely defined and qualitative the measures of depression are. This creates a challenge to attempt to quantify depression so that it can be addressed in the same way as other issues within medicine.

Quantification of Evidence[edit | edit source]

2 methods of attempting to quantify the experience of depression have been employed to produce a form of evidence which can then be used in statistical analyses.

One is the use of the QIDS-SR-16 depression, Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology [16], requiring patients to answer a series of questions regarding their subjective experience of depression and answering these based on a numerical scale to produce quantitative results. However, the strength of this evidence in testing depression [17]and changes in the experience is undermined by how subjective the scale - how differently patients can interpret the questions and how inconsistent their memory of symptoms are.

Another method is to use brain imaging techniques to observe the neural correlates to certain features of depression[18] however this form of evidence is limited. It depends on assuming depression exists as one illness that presents itself physiologically in different patients, and that the key features of its subjective experience are aptly expressed through neural mechanisms. Fundamentally, the evidence is based on correlation which highlights the lack of a bridge between the qualitative and quantitative facets of depression to unify the subjective experience and neural mechanisms.

Evidence in Treatment of Schizophrenia[edit | edit source]

Schizophrenia is a severe and chronic mental illness that affects the way people behave, think, and feel. Those suffering from schizophrenia may look like they are losing touch with reality. Schizophrenic illness is not as common as other mental diseases but the presenting symptoms can be disabling. It involves a range of problems associated with thinking, emotions, or behaviors. The symptoms of schizophrenia are normally categorized as either positive or negative. Positive symptoms include delusions, hallucinations or racing thoughts. Negative symptoms are however difficult to detect since they are not outwardly conveyed. They entail lack of speech, lack of empathy, flat affect, incapability to take part in organized activities, and lack of interest in daily activities[19].

The main cause of Schizophrenia has not been clearly identified but several factors are believed to contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia. Scientists believe that genes and the environment play a significant role in the development of the mental disorder. Schizophrenia sometimes runs in families. Inherited genes make a person vulnerable to the disorder. At the same time, it is believed that an interaction between a person’s environment and genes facilitates the development of schizophrenic conditions. Stress, during pregnancy or even at the development stage, is a key environmental factor. Psychological stress may result from aspects such as early parental loss or separation, sexual or physical abuse during childhood, among many more. To prevent, alleviate or cure Schizophrenia, it is critical for medical professionals to collect various evidence to make a diagnosis and effectively provide intervention measures. When a patient presents at a hospital, physicians must monitor the vital signs and undertake a physical examination to determine the patient’s condition. Diagnosis of schizophrenia entails ruling out other mental conditions and establishing that the presenting signs and symptoms do not result from substance abuse, medical abuse or a medication[20]. The physician also conducts tests and screenings to rule out other illnesses with comparable symptoms and screen for drugs and alcohol. If symptoms are noted, the attending physician will undertake a complete physical examination and medical history[21]. Even though no laboratory tests exist to explicitly diagnose schizophrenia, the practitioner may use different diagnostic tests like CT scans and MRI or blood tests to disqualify physical illnesses as the major reason for the presenting symptoms (Beidel, Bulik & Stanley 2013). A mental health professional or doctor examines the mental status of the patient by observing the appearance and behavior and ask questions touching on moods, delusions, thoughts, substance abuse, hallucinations, and the likelihood of suicide attempts or violence. This may also entail a discussion of personal and family history.

In case the doctor does not find a reason for the symptoms, the patient may be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. If the patient is diagnosed with schizophrenia, it normally requires all-time treatment even when the presenting symptoms have diminished. Treatment with psychotic therapy and medications helps in the management of the condition. Medications are usually the basis for the treatment of schizophrenia and antipsychotic medications are the most prescribed drugs[22]. The major aim of schizophrenia treatment with antipsychotic drugs is to manage the symptoms using the minimal dose.

Evidence in Anomalistic Psychology[edit | edit source]

Anomalistic psychology etymologically means the science of all unusual behaviors, though scholars instead define this discipline as "the study of extraordinary phenomena of behavior and experience, including (but not restricted to) those which are often labelled paranormal."[23] Anomalistic psychology is the branch of psychology which receives the most pieces of evidence or proofs of a paranormal (paranormal means in this context what is "beyond normality") manifestation. However, the discipline as always considered that every evidence from a person's point of view could be false, and therefore is not considered. As this discipline remains a psychological discipline, it demonstrates how many psychological effects can explain many "unexplained" phenomenon. It states for example that a subject in a particular setting (alone, at night, in an unfamiliar place) might feel nervous and therefore would be very likely to see things, as a natural survival response from the brain, which thus counters many eye-witnessed pieces of evidence of a supernatural manifestation.[24]

Anomalistic psychology is also used to deconstruct a patient's memories to prove to him that he is neither possessed or haunted. This deconstruction operates by giving to the patient shreds of evidence that his "haunting" is, in fact, a psychological construction, a false reality.[23]

Pieces of evidence that cannot be countered by this discipline are video footages or recordings. On the topic of paranormal recordings, however, the discipline argues that it is very likely for someone to try to hear voices and words, whereas they are in fact no words pronounced at all in the recording.

Anomalistic psychology is also the very first academic field of study (even though it was called psychology at that time) which gave a piece of proper evidence on how ouija boards work. During an ouija experiment, which consists of using a wooden board to communicate with the dead, or during a seance of automatic writing, psychologists found out that since the person is expecting results (the pallet actually to move on the ouija board for instance), they will therefore make an unconscious movement.  The movement causes the pallet to move, which is considered by the subject himself as a "proof" that a paranormal manifestation is occurring, while they are directly the cause of it.

Anomalistic psychology also helps to demystify other supernatural events, like paranormal healing, for instance, by giving evidence to it. By applying the psychological concept of placebo, researchers were able to determinate that a subject willing to heal and mentally fragilized, could feel like they were paranormally "healed" by an unknown entity. Some patients were so desperate to be healthy that it triggered a placebo effect, which is considered by the patient himself as a paranormal intervention. The discipline notes that this works best if the patient already believes in the paranormal world.

Anomalistic psychology is therefore one discipline which regards evidence in a plural, though fundamental way. By using psychological concepts, the discipline aims to demonstrate that many pieces of evidence, though not strictly scientific since it depends on a subjective point of view, can be used to explain and to demystify unknown or previously unexplainable events. It also helps individuals to change their relation to the event by finding and making legitimate pieces of evidence that will help them to see through what really happened. However, it remains a discipline judged negatively since it is seen as the academic field of study "which legitimates the paranormal".

The Conflict of how Evidence is perceived in Science and Climate Inaction[edit | edit source]

Empirical data e.g. ice berg analysis, dendrochronology used as evidence of climate change.

Reject the “deficit model” of climate inaction

Human Psychology[edit | edit source]

Three main branches: perception, cognition and action

Human have difficulty with:


  • Fast change vs slow change e.g. insect decline, size of fish caught
  • Magnitudes: understanding data intellectually but not visually e.g. carbon offsetting scheme, tree planting for every plane ticket
  • Poor estimation of risk: Risk perception not tightly coupled to reality e.g. The “white male effect”


  • Positivist view as rational and veridical
  • Loss aversion
  • Temporal discounting e.g. Marshmallow test
  • Confirmation of Bias e.g. Hypothesis test
  • Identify that belief is not only based on logic and rationality, belief is shaped by one’s social affiliations e.g. profession, nationality, religion, political views.


  • Individual benefits outweigh shared / distributed cost e.g. Tragedy of the Commons, Concept of Nash Equilibrium

Evidence in Medicine[edit | edit source]

To prevent, alleviate and cure diseases, it is important for medical professionals to collect a variety of evidence for diagnoses to be made and interventions to be performed competently. The types of evidence collected include both positivist and interpretivist evidence.

Positivist Evidence in Medicine[edit | edit source]

Positivism is a theory of knowledge asserting that all existing things are verifiable through experimentation, observation, logical and mathematical proofs, while everything that does not conform to this principle is non-existent. [25] Positivist interpretations of evidence are more widely seen in natural sciences such as mathematics & science.

When a patient presents at a hospital, doctors monitor the patient's vital signs and perform physical examinations to determine the condition of the patient and the nature of the presenting infirmity. Vital signs are measurements of the body's basic functions, including body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate and blood pressure. [26] All these values are measured objectively using instruments such as thermometers, heart rate monitors, respiratory monitors and sphygmomanometers. Furthermore, in a physical examination the doctor evaluates objective anatomic findings using various methods such as observation, palpation, percussion and auscultation. [27] Physical examination techniques yield a lot of evidence, such as gross abnormalities, palpable mass, resonant percussion sounds and breathing sounds. As such evidence is obtained objectively through experimentation and observation, it can be said that positivist evidence is dominant in the medical discipline.

Interpretivist Evidence in Medicine[edit | edit source]

Interpretivism is a theory of knowledge that favours qualitative analysis over quantitative analysis, while focusing on the meaning of issues and utilising multiple methods to reflect different aspects and viewpoints of a single issue, while appreciating the differences between individuals. [28]

Apart from physical examinations, patients presenting with illnesses are asked for symptoms to aid the diagnostic and therapeutic process. Symptoms can be defined as perceived abnormalities that can only be recognised by the person experiencing them, such as stomachache, lower back pain and fatigue. Given their subjectivity, symptoms cannot be objectively observed by a third party such as a doctor, and can only be informed to others by the patients themselves. [29] Symptoms are important in providing evidence to supplement that obtained from objective measurement and observation to facilitate diagnosis and management. As symptoms are subjective, qualitative and perceived differently between individuals, symptoms are an example of how interpretivist evidence is used in medicine.

Evidence in Labor Economics[edit | edit source]

The study of labor economics seeks to understand the relationship between workers and employers. It's important to society as it determines wages, the causes of discrimination, the impact of migration on employment, and how governments should manage recessions.

One of the most important evidence during the study of the labor economics is the empirical analysis of the labor market (or job market). Labour markets or job markets function through the interaction of workers and employers. Labour economics looks at the suppliers of labour services (workers) and the demanders of labour services (employers), and attempts to understand the resulting pattern of wages, employment, and income.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Evidence and Theory in Neuroscience (2019). Retrieved from
  2. Choudhura, S., & Slaby, J. (2016). Critical Neuroscience: a handbook of the social and cultural contexts of NeuroscienceWest Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell
  3. Choudhura, S., & Slaby, J. (2016). Critical Neuroscience: a handbook of the social and cultural contexts of NeuroscienceWest Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell
  4. Harpaz, Y. (2019). Misunderstanding in cognitive brain imaging. Retrieved from
  6. Oxford Dictionary
  7. Benjamin, Walter (1969), The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (PDF), New York: Schocken Books
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  10. a b National Research Council. 2014. Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  12. a b Benton, T. R., Ross, D. F., Bradshaw, E., Thomas, W. N., & Bradshaw, G. S. (2006). Eyewitness memory is still not common sense: comparing jurors, judges and law enforcement to eyewitness experts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 115–129. doi: 10.1002/acp.1171
  13. a b c Loftus, E. F. (2005). Planting misinformation in the human mind: A 30-year investigation of the malleability of memory, Learning & Memory, 12, 361- 366. 2005 Jul 18. doi: 10.1101/lm.94705
  17. Carhart-Harris, Robin L., et al. "Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six-month follow-up." Psychopharmacology 235.2 (2018): 399-408.
  18. Chen, Chi-Hua, et al. "Brain imaging correlates of depressive symptom severity and predictors of symptom improvement after antidepressant treatment." Biological psychiatry 62.5 (2007): 407-414.
  19. Beidel, D. C., Bulik, C. M., & Stanley, M. A. 2013. Abnormal Psychology (3rd Ed.).
  20. Beidel, D. C., Bulik, C. M., & Stanley, M. A. 2013. Abnormal Psychology (3rd Ed.).
  21. Gregory, R. J. 2014. Psychological testing: History, principles, and applications (7th Ed.).
  22. Gregory, R. J. 2014. Psychological testing: History, principles, and applications (7th Ed.).
  23. a b What is Anomalistic Psychology? [Internet]. Goldsmiths, University of London. [cited 2019Dec2]. Available from:
  24. Durieux G. 2017
  25. Positivism [Internet]. Philosophy Terms. 2019 [cited 27 November 2019]. Available from:
  26. Vital Signs (Body Temperature, Pulse Rate, Respiration Rate, Blood Pressure) [Internet]. John Hopkins Medicine. 2019 [cited 27 November 2019]. Available from:
  27. Campbell E, Lynn C. The Physical Examination [Internet]. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 1990 [cited 27 November 2019]. Available from:
  28. Interpretivism (interpretivist) Research Philosophy [Internet]. Research-Methodology. 2019 [cited 27 November 2019]. Available from:
  29. 5. Signs and symptoms: Definition, importance, and uses [Internet]. Medical News Today. 2019 [cited 27 November 2019]. Available from: