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CLAA05H3 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Random Assignment, Jean Piaget, Internal Validity

Classical Studies
Course Code
Steve Joordens
Study Guide

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PSYB01- Chapter 4
- Is any event, situation or individual characteristic that can take more than one value (i.e
it varies)
- Each of these variables represent a general class within which there will be at least two
specific instances
oThese specific instances are called the levels or values of the variable
oA variable must have two or more levels
The values will have true numeric, or quantitative, properties
Values can be non-numeric but are simply different categories
An example is sex; male and female
- There are 4 types of ways to classify variables:
oSituational variable- Describes characteristics of a situation or environment
For example, length of words you read in a book, number of people
squeeze in a classroom, credibility of person whom is trying to persuade
oResponse variable- Refers to responses or behaviours of individuals
such as reaction time, performance on a cognitive task, and degree of
helping a victim in an emergency
oParticipant variable- Describes characteristics of individual that they bring with
them to a study
For example, sex, intelligence, and personality traits such as extraversion
oMediating Variable- Psychological process that occurs between a situational
variable and a particular behavioural response that helps to explain the
relationship between them
For example, it was found that helping is less likely when there are more
bystanders to an emergency
Number of bystanders in a situational variable; helping behaviour was a
response variable

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Mediating variable is called diffusion of responsibility was used to explain
Operational Definitions Of Variables
- Researcher has to decide on method to study variables of interest
- A variable is an abstract concept that must be translated into concrete forms of
observations or manipulation
oFor example, a variable such as “self-esteem”, “amount of reward” etc. must be
defined in terms of specific method used to measure or manipulate it
- Scientists refer to it as the operational definition of a variable- a definition of the variable
in terms of the operations or techniques the researcher uses to measure or manipulate it
- Variables must be operationally defined so that they can be studied empirically
oFor example, “speak credibility” might be conceptually as having two levels and
operationally defined as a speaker who is described to listeners as either a
“Nobel Prize recipient” or a “substitute teacher”
oAnother example is “hunger” where it can be operationally defined as the number
of hours since one’s last meal; alternatively it can be defined as participants
rating on a 7 point scale where 1 means “not hungry” and 7 means “extremely
oDifferent researchers might operationally define similar variables in different
ways, depending on the research questions, resources they have, and their own
- Operational definitions help us communicate our own idea to others:
oIf someone wants wishes to tell us about aggression, we need to know what
exactly is what is meant by this term as they’re many ways of operationally
defining it
For example it can be defined as: 1) number and duration of shocks
delivered to another person, 2) number of time child punches an inflated
toy down, etc.
Communication will be easier if we agree on exactly what we need by
term “aggression” in the context of our research
- There might be several levels of abstraction when studying a variable which adds
complexity when researchers try to operationally define it

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For example “word length” is concrete and easily operationalized in terms
of numbers of letters of syllables but exact words for the study must be
Also “stress” is a concept that is very general and more abstract- noise,
crowding, major health problems, etc.
Thus a researcher interested in stress would probably choose 1 type of
stressor to study and then develop operational definitions of that specific
oThe key point is that researchers must translated variables into specific
operations to manipulate or measure them
- Concepts that were once untestable are not operationally defined as advances in
oFor example “brain activation” can be measured using CT scans and fMRI
oTechnology can also change the operational definitions- and research questions-
that are available to researchers
- There is a rarely a single, infallible method for operationally defining a variable
oA variety of methods can be available, each which has its own advantages and
oResearchers need to decide which one o use given particular problem under
study, goals of research, and other considerations such as ethics and cost
oSometimes researchers disagree about whether an operational definition is an
acceptable approximation of the variable under investigation
Non-experimental and Experimental Methods Overview
- Two general approaches to the study of relationships among variables:
o1) Non-experimental Method
Relationships are studied by observing or otherwise measuring the
variables of interest
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