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PSY210H1 Lecture Notes - Naturalistic Observation, Scientific Method, Scientific Theory

Course Code
Justin Mc Neil

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PSY210H1F L3, Sept 25, 2012
Essay don’t assume reader knows everything that you’re talking
about (unfamiliar w topic)
o Adequately address alternatives to refute them
o One pt should flow into the next pt logically
o Don’t use block quotes (MLA)
o Use In-Text citations as few as possible
o Proper citations list at end in APA format
Research Methods
“Psychology is caught btwn a rock & a soft place. The rock is
rigor. The soft place is relevance”.
-- Urie Bronfenbrenner
Psychologists: Conduct expts based on hypotheses
describe what is really occurring
o Don’t simply look at neuron interactions
Apply medical research to everyday life
A friend of yours is trying to justify his recent infidelity. He
states that his drive to have sex is a basic biological reality,
and that his Id processes were simply too strong for hi
Superego to control, and that therefore his Ego was simple
selecting the most rationl method of satisfying his craving.
Since the strength of one’s Superego...
Was this wrong Did he have control?
What is a Scientific Theory?
Freud: development occurs in the unconscious
We all have biological drives and can’t always be on guard
against them
Ego, Id, Superego
Life, death instincts
Explains everything
But is it science?
o Method thru w it explains the world is too simplistic,
some ideas not empirically validated, bedrock not
A friend of yours is trying to justify his recent infidelity. He
states that, evolutionarily speaking, it is most adaptive for
men to have sex w as many women as possible in order to
ensure that their genes survive until the next generation since
he was only acting in a biologically rational way, his
indiscretions were not really his fault. Do you agree?
What is a Scientific Theory?
Evolutionary Psychology
Traits develop as a means of survival
All traits have an adaptive purpose
Variation, evolutionary niche, mutation
Explains everything - problem
o Can account for alternative explanations has well ex.
Faithful men adaptive to help offspring grow into
o no human bhvr that can’t be explained
states any trait passed down must be adaptive
But is it science?
o Defined this way is not a scientific theory
Scientific Method
Scientific theory can only be generated using scientific
Define a question
Form an explanatory hypothesis
Test hypothesis by collecting data
Analyze data, interpret results
o Cause & Effect
o Theory must be falsifiable
o Control
o Must have a consistent, accepted method of
explaining reality
All hypotheses have to be evaluated using certain
methods & set of criteria
Rational, why scientific method very dominant
Use best model at time allows for change
Freud unfalsifable since keeps adjusting his theory
No methods are perfect
o Infinite amt of variability in humans so can’t ever
discover everything can’t be absolutists like physicists
1st method: Systematic Observation
Naturalistic observation
o Field research: watch children in their natural envt
o Clear, accurate picture of how a phenomenon occurs
o Highly generalizable pic of psychological reality of
chidren can think will prob be every day
Seeing children at their most honest may not know
being watched
o But may not always observe the situation/phenomenon
you want to observe, so...
Structured Observation
o Bring kids in to lab, research setting
o Produce some situation, watch how children react
A bit more controlled (extraneous variables)
2-way mirror
o Introduces envtal control, guarantee instance of studied
o Not as generalizable not real world, may act dif in
Difficult to control envt
What (systematic can’t develop cause & effect as well),
not why
Observer bias (naturalistic)
o Observers not objective
Observers often see what they want to see
o Sol’n: Double-blind design not told hypothesis
Observer influence (structured)
o Bhvr changes as it is being observed
o More of an issue w older children who understand
social rules & codes of conduct

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Younger kids often unwilling & unable to even care
that others have expectations, so more honest
Inter-rater reliability
o Will both ppl give same ratings
Important in systematic observation, qualitative research
Do two people agree about what they are seeing?
Tell A Story
Ex: child telling story
Answering checklist
o Thin Slice can look at small clip of a specific bhvr
(1-3min), enough to form reasonable assessment of
o Strong agreement in class
o Not told what we were looking for, context of story
o Inter-rater reliability high
Some say gymnastics not a sport since rated, no
winner/losers; about a judge’s subjective eval
Inter-rater reliability in 2008 Gymnastics:
o Correlation btwn judges = 0.93 so agreed w one
another almost all the time
Know what they’re looking for
So not subjective
Problem: can tell us what happens, but not why, so ask:
2nd Method: Self-Report: Interviews
Clinical Interview
o Unstructured conversation w child
o Natural form of self-report: children can just talk about
o Can provide a great deal of info if done skillfully, ex.
Versus questionnaires
o Can have Rater problems (some better than others),
take long time
Structured Interview
o Standardized set of questions, probes
Ex. Telemarketer, most pp can do this
o Eliminates between-interviewer variability
o Relatively easy to administer
o Comparatively less info
Clinical Interviews
Used by Piaget a lot
Ex. Studies on morality:
One boy is playing near a table in which 15 cups are stacked.
While playing, he accidentally knocks over the table &
smashes all 15 cups. Another boy picks up a single cup to play
w it, even tho he was told not to touch the cup. Once he’s done
w it, he throws it away, & it smashes.
Which boy is more naughty?
Clinical Interview: Piaget
“(after given standard stories) Which of them would you
punish most severely? The one who broke the fifteen
cups(interviewer changes course) Have you ever broken
anything? A cup. How? I wanted to wipe it, and I let it drop.
What else have you broken? Another time, a plate. How? I
took it to play with. Which was the naughtiest thing to do? The
plate, because I oughtn’t to have taken it.(here the child
understand intentions) And how about the cup? That was
less naughty because I wanted to wipe it. Which were you
punished most for, for the cup or for the plate? For the plate.
Listen, I am going to tell you two more stories. A little girl was
wiping the cups. She was putting them away, wiping them
with the cloth, and she broke five cups. Another little girl is
playing with some plates. She breaks a plate. Which of them
is the naughtiest? The one who broke the five cups.
Child when evaluating own actions is correct, but not
others even in same interview (instant reactions)
Cognitive limitations to children
o No other method can make distinctions in judgement this
o Could say subjective, but not useless
Interview Limitations
Pre-verbal children?
Evidence suggests children’s understanding of events lags
behind verbal ability
o Doesn’t mean linguistic & cognitive abilities match up
completely knowledge not readily transmitted
Children often better at understanding than
o Children often inaccurate in reporting about own
thoughts, feelings, experiences
Might not rmbr, human memory extremely fallible
Might make things up bad eye-witness testimony
Subjective or objective?
o Need to look at more implicit measures what is quickly
going on in brain
o Interpretations of an interview could be subjective
Interviewer may be channeling, fixating on
probing certain things
Less so in a structured interview
Research Issue: Social Desirability
Answer following Qs (1-7 scale)
Consider self racist?
Would help fallen person on street?
Own gender superior?
Certain areas of brain may activated can’t control
3rd Method: Neurobiological Measures
How do nervous system processes predict phenomena?
o Physiological measures more honest, harder to fool
o Useful as supplement to bhvr’al measures to say
what’s going on biochemically when presented to
Can be used on all ages, populations
o Populations that aren’t usually observable – ex.
Babies, children who can’t speak (can’t be interviewed)
Can measure implicit, unconscious processes
Looking at:
Temporal resolution
o How quickly is something occurring?
Spatial resolution
o Where is activity located?
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