A CPA by trade, Matthews tapped Pittsburgh executives to learn what corporations and organizations want in an auditor and developed a course to cover the gamut—fraud prevention, detection, investigation and remediation. Many of her students have become prosecutors, though most work for banks, credit card companies, insurers or health care institutions.
“Unfortunately, fraud is just proliferating,” she says. “I think ethical behavior is not what it used to be.”
Stephen Paul is teaching “Methods in Behavioral Research,” “Cognitive Psychology” and “Sensation & Perception” this fall at Robert Morris University. His 14-week night class, “The Psychology of Paranormal Beliefs,” filled up fast. The elective course brings together topics from various fields of psychology to explain why people develop and maintain paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs.
Essentially, says Paul, he teaches students to doubt. He doesn’t try to change beliefs. He wants his students to examine where beliefs come from, and to look at standards of evidence.
“I think scientific critical thinking is where things should start,” Paul says. “I show them how easy it is to be fooled. They need to doubt, and especially they need to doubt themselves because a lot of belief comes from fooling yourself into thinking you know everything you need to know.”
But people can start out in their adult life with a belief in something that turns out to be fake, says Paul. “The internet and TV have just filled the world with these strange beliefs, changing the way people believe about the world that isn’t very sensible and opens them up to being tricked, or taken advantage of.”
He doesn’t rule out paranormal phenomena, however. “I think everybody has an experience, sometime in their life, they can’t explain or understand,” Paul says. “One of the things we talk about in class is how we deal with things like that.
“Humans do not like not knowing. We don’t like ambiguity. We look for something reasonable, and then if we can’t find that, the next best thing is to take something that turns out to be unreasonable. You can’t explain everything—there’s so much we don’t know.”