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New Course Supplement 2016

PSYC 81.09 Storytelling with Data

In a world plagued by “alternative facts” but flush with “big data,” how can we find truth? For example, can truth be objectively defined, or are there many equally valid truths?  And does truth depend on the question we’re asking, or is it a fixed property that we could somehow uncover with the right analysis?  These sorts of question align with other deep questions about how we can really “know” something.  For example, can we really ever hope to prove that the universe works in a particular way?  If so, how?  Or if not, what’s the point of observing the world around us at all, or of becoming a scientist?  In this course we will define truth from a (somewhat cynical, but embarrassingly practical) psychological perspective: truth is the story about data that others find most convincing.  To that end, we will examine (from this psychological perspective) tools and strategies for finding patterns in complex datasets, crafting convincing stories about those patterns, and communicating them to others.

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