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Lecture 6

Psychology 1000 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Natural Sciences And Engineering Research Council, Visual Acuity, Canadian Psychological Association

Course Code
PSYCH 1000
Derek Quinlan

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Chapter 2 Psych 1000 Week 1
Scientific Principles in Psychology
Psychologists adopted scientific method late, because subject matter not tangible
Scientific Attitudes
Driving forces behind scientific inquiry:
1. Curiosity
2. Skepticism
3. Open-mindedness
Darley & Latané study on bystanders (victim: Kitty Genovese)
Presence of multiple bystanders produced a diffusion of responsibility
Gathering Evidence: Steps in the Scientific Process
Step 1: identify a question of interest
Step 2: gather information and formulation of hypothesis
Hypothesis: specific prediction about some phenomenon (“If-Then”)
Step 3: test hypothesis by conducting research
Step 4: analyze data, draw tentative conclusions, and report findings
Publishing allows fellow scientists to:
o Learn about new ideas and findings
o Evaluate research
o Challenge/expand on published research
Step 5: build a body of knowledge
Ask further questions, form new hypotheses, test new hypotheses
As evidence mounts, theories develop
Theory: set of statements explain how/why events are related to each other
Two Approaches to Understanding Behavior
1. Hindsight
2. Understanding through prediction, control, & theory building
Hindsight (After-the-Fact Understanding)
“Life is lived forwards, but understood backwards” – Søren Kierkegaard
e.g., high school sweethearts promise to marry, but going off to university:
Turkey dump: “out of sight, out of mind”
Come back, married: “absence makes the heart grow fonder”
Main problem: related past events and be explained in many creative, reasonable,
and sometimes contradictory, ways; can’t to determine if alternatives are correct
Benefit: can provide valuable foundation to build scientific inquiry
e.g., bystander study was first based on hindsight reasoning
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Chapter 2 Psych 1000 Week 1
Understanding Through Prediction, Control, & Theory Building
In most cases, psychologists want to study “what causes what” more directly
If we understand causes, we should be able to predict future behavior
Strongest test of scientific understanding = theory development
Good theories generate an integrated network of predictions
Important characteristics of good theories:
Incorporates existing facts/observations within single broad framework
Testable, generates new hypotheses/predictions whose accuracy can be
evaluated by gathering new evidence
Predictions made by theories are supported by findings of new research
Conforms to law of parsimony: if two theories can explain/predict the
same phenomena equally well, the simpler theory is preferred
Theory is never regarded as an absolute truth
Newer/more accurate theories can displace an existing theory
Displacement of old beliefs by new ones is the essence of science
Prediction does not always require understanding
Ancestors knew which plants not to eat because it would make them sick
Prediction based on understanding has important advantages:
Satisfies our curiosity
Increases knowledge
Generates principles that we can apply to new situations
Defining & Measuring Variables
Variable: any characteristic/factor that can vary
Vary from one person to another
May vary within a given person over time
Operational definition: defines variable in terms of the specific procedures used
to produce/measure it
Translates abstract concept into something observable/measurable
Self-Reports & Reports by Others
Self-report measures: report on own knowledge, beliefs, feelings, experiences
Gathered through (a) interviews, or (b) questionnaires
Accuracy depends on people’s ability/willingness to respond honestly
Social desirability bias: tendency to respond in a socially acceptable manner
rather than according to how one truly feels/behaves
Minimize via:
o Wording questions so that social desirability is not relevant
o Anonymity
Over-Claiming Questionnaire
o Measures degree of social desirability
o Large number of items that do not exist
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Chapter 2 Psych 1000 Week 1
Can also gather info from other people (e.g., family members) on questionnaires
Measures of Overt Behavior
Overt = directly observable
e.g., RT: how rapidly someone responds to a stimulus
Researchers can develop coding systems to record different categories of behavior
e.g., “praises child”, “assists child”, “criticizes child”
Coding systems must be reliable, i.e., must be consistent observations
Research subjects may behave differently when being observed; how to avoid?
Unobtrusive measures: recording behavior in a way that keeps
participants unaware that certain responses are being measured
o e.g., thermal imaging is a good predictor of mood state; however,
subjects don’t know that mood state is being measured
Researchers also gather info via archival measures (i.e., records/documents)
Psychological tests:
Measure many types of variables
e.g., personality tests; “T or F: I prefer to be alone”
Other personality tests involve interpretation of ambiguous stimuli
Other psychological tests consist of performance tasks
e.g., intelligence tests; assemble object/solve arithmetic problems
e.g., neuropsychological tests; diagnose normal or abnormal brain
functioning; recall list of words
Physiological measures:
Assess what people are experiencing (HR, RR, BP, hormone secretion)
Can have interpretive problems
o HR can be high, but we don’t know what emotion is being felt
Methods of Research
Choice of method depends upon:
Problem being studied
Investigators objectives
Ethical principles
Descriptive Research: Recording Events
Descriptive research: seeks to identify how humans behave in natural settings
Provides info about the diversity of behaviors
May yield clues about potential cause-effect relations
These are later tested using experimental methods
Three types:
1. Case studies
2. Naturalistic observations
3. Surveys
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