PSY 120 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Confirmation Bias, Falsifiability, Criterion Validity
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Psych 120 – Winter 2016
Module 2 – How Psychologists Do Research
What makes research scientific?
oPrecision – scientific method is used to answer questions; a method of gathering data
with specific guidelines. Usually start with a general theory, then derive a hypothesis.
Systematic process – follows an orderly pattern of action.
Operational definitions – state how variables will be observed and measured;
Theory – system of principles that aim to explain certain phenomena and how
they are related
Hypothesis – states the relationship between variables
oScepticism – balanced caution & openness. All conclusions treated with caution.
oReliance on empirical evidence – based on direct experience or observation
oWillingness to make risky predictions – must resist confirmation bias (only paying
attention to information that confirms belief)
Principle of falsifiability – theory specific enough to be disproven; must also
predict what won’t happen
oOpenness – willing to tell others where they got their ideas, how they tested them and the
results. Peer review, publishing, replication research – gives science a system of checks
Descriptive Studies Allow researchers to describe and predict behavior
oCase studies – detailed description of an individual being studied/treated. May be used at
the start of a study or when practical/ethical reasons prevent use of other methods. May
miss vital info, author/observer/participant bias, subject may be unreliable, can’t be
generalized (unrepresentative). Commonly used by clinicians.
oObservational studies – carefully observing & recording behavior, taking care not to
interfere. Usually has many participants and is often the first step in research (need to
describe behavior before trying to explain it). Naturalistic (find out how people act in real
world; common with ethology & anthropology), participant (living in a population to
learn how it works from the inside out) and laboratory (more control, allows use of
sophisticated equipment, set up situations) observation. Often a stepping stone as each
observation is a one-time occurrence – uncontrolled, can’t be generalized, not cause and
Rosenhan –danger of diagnostic labels. Sane people indistinguishable in hospital
Insight – step back and reframe a problem when stumped; remove mental block
oPsychological tests – used to measure and evaluate personality traits, emotional states,
aptitudes, etc. Include personality & achievement tests. Subject answers oral/written
questions -> translates to score. Must be valid (tests what it’s designed to measure;
content & criterion validity) and reliable (consistent)
Objective tests – measures things participant is aware of. Standardized, written
Projective tests – measures unconscious feelings or motives. Presented with
ambiguous pictures/words that subject must interpret.