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psyc 100 class notes

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McGill University
PSYC 100
Daniel J Levitin

September 9 2010Has everybody read the chapter on experimental designabout half of you Well we are at the beginning of the semester and you dont want to fall behind and so I am not going to lecture you and wag my finger at you like I just did but trust me you are going to want to do the readings before the lecture that is the way the course is designed So when it says on the syllabus that the experimental design chapter is for today and in fact for Tuesday you should finish the reading before the first lecture on the topic so that the lecture will make a little more sense Im building on the reading Im not regurgitating the reading and also you dont want to get behind There has been a lot of research over the past 10 years about the best way to learn and the best way to learn is in little bits and pieces every day rather than cramming because your brain needs time to assimilate the information and your dreams and your sleep need to incorporate and consolidate the information and if you grab it all at once it is not going to stick Im telling you this because I want all of you to get As even if it gets me in trouble with the Dean Enough said about that I want to talk some more about experimental design Last time as you remember we designed an experiment Does anybody have any questions or comments lingering left over from last timeMidori points out that when we were talking about ethics at the end of the last class I didnt cover every possible ethical concern and in fact I am not going to be able to cover everything in the lectures I just cant talk fast enough and we dont have enough time But the real learning for this course isnt going to happen here I mean I hope you learn something from the lecture but I think that the bulk of what you learn will be from the book because there is a lot more information there and it is denser and as Ive said before you can read faster than I can talk Ill try to not leave out important things in the lecture One of the ethical considerations in doing experiments with human participants is that under most circumstances participants have the right to privacy confidentiality and anonymity as Midori points out What that means is that when you participate in an experiment they shouldnt write a news report about you and your funny brain or anything like that and you should be assured that your name is going to be kept separate from your data unless they tell you otherwise That is a pretty widespread principle in research There are exceptions of course We do case studies and we sometimes get permission from subjects to talk about them individually Usually when you read a case study though they use the persons initials like HM the famous memory patient who now after his death we know his name is Henry Molaison but before that he was just HM or to some people just Mr M So anonymity is important and one of the reasons it is important is actually scientific not ethical Its that we believe you are more likely to get good data from somebody who can just be honest and be themselves and who wont have to worry about what you might think of them or what other people might think by seeing the responses that they give Does that make sense So in the pain study if no one knows its you then after 2 seconds you pulled your hand out and said I cant stand this anymore then you could actually behave honestly you dont have to put on a show for somebody Im going to post this slide after class I want to talk about the 4 goals of scientific research at least in my opinion So I dont think this is in the book and its just my view Youre certainly welcome to disagree Science progresses through stages and what I am saying here applies to all of the sciences so not just to psychological science but to physics chemistry biologyall of the empirical sciences and to some extent even mathematics 1The first goal is description of behaviour You are trying to describe something and we psychologists often doengage in descriptive studies Were just trying to describe the nature of the world So I might go into McGill registration records and try to figure out how many Canadians there are how many nonCanadians how many completed an accredited high school I dont really have a hypothesis Im not trying to test anything Im just trying to describe whatIve got Or I might bring a bunch of people into the laboratory and see how long they can hold their hand in ice water without any manipulation at all of the variables Im just collecting data and trying to describe a phenomenon Indeed in our pain study that might be a nice thing to do just bring in a whole bunch of different people dont give them any instructions no manipulation you dont keep track of anything but how long they can hold their hand in the ice water to get some kind of a baseline Youre trying to describe the state of the world 2A more sophisticated goal beyond description is prediction With all of this description eventually youll want to be able to predict behaviour To do that you need to first observe Often what psychologistsexperimental psychologists do is that theyll just observe behaviours in a classroom or in a prison or in a hospital or in some group setting in order to understand what is going on and build a hypothesis about what kind of data they will have to collect I had an experience once where I went to a summer camp for individuals with a genetic disorder called Williams syndrome and the very first thing we didmy colleagues and I just spent a week watching the kids and talking to their parents because we were given the opportunity to do experiments with the kids I dont mean experiments where we are going to put their hands in cold water but experiments like various tests of intelligence sociability and things like that But relatively little was known about Williams
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