Chapter 1- Scientific Understanding Of Behaviour
Methods of acquiring Knowledge;
o Intuition; accept unquestioningly what personal judgment of experience tells you about the world
Illusory Correlation; focus on two events that stand out and occur together
Jumping to conclusions/motivated to see causal relationships
o Authority; people are more willing to believe authoritative people
o Scientific Scepticism; ideas must be evaluated on the basis of careful logic/results from the investigations
o The fundamental characteristic of the scientific method is empiricism; knowledge is based on
structured, systematic, observations. After developing a hypothesis a scientist carefully collects data to
evaluate whether that hypothesis accurately reflects the nature of the world.
Characteristics of Scientific Inquiry;
o Others can replicate the method used and get the same results
o Develop theories with old data and for new data
o Falsifiable ideas (can be proven wrong/right)
o Peer review; ensures that only best research is published
Pseudoscience; uses scientific terms to substantiate claims without using data
o Hypotheses generated are falsifiable
o If scientific tests are reported, methodology is not scientific and accuracy of data is questionable
o Supportive evidence tends to be anecdotal/relies heavily on “experts” (genuine peer reviewed scientific references
are not cited)
o Claims ignore conflicting evidence
o Claims are stated in scientific sounding terminology
o Claims tend to be vague, rationalize strongly held beliefs and appeal to preconceived ideas
o Claims are never revised to account for new data
Goals Of Scientific research;
o Describe behaviour; events which involve observation/measurement
o Prediction of behaviour; Once it has been observed with some regularity that two events are
systematically related to one another, it becomes possible to make predictions and, therefore, to
o Determining the cause of behaviour;
Co-variation of cause and effect; cause occurs=effect occurs/cause doesn’t occur=effect doesn’t
Temporal precedence; cause precedes the effect
Elimination of Alternative explanation; there should be no other explanation for the
relationship apart from the causal effect
o Explanation of behaviour should be possible
Basic research; attempts to answer fundamental questions about the nature of behaviour/four goals of scientific
Applied research; conducted to address practical problems and find potential solutions
o Program evaluation; evaluates the social reforms/innovations that occur in government, education,
Chapter 2: Where to Start
Hypotheses and Predictions Hypothesis; is a statement about something that may be true. It is a tentative idea about how two or more
variables relate to each other that is waiting for evidence to support or refute it.
Once the hypothesis is proposed, data must be gathered and evaluated in terms of whether the evidence is
consistent or inconsistent with the hypothesis.
The researcher would then translate the more general hypothesis into a specific prediction concerning the
outcome of this particular experiment.
o It is important to note that when the results of a study are consistent with a prediction, the hypothesis is
only supported, not proven.
Falsifiability; means that data can show that a hypothesis is false, if in fact it is false.
Source of Ideas
Researcher starts with an idea-consider five sources of ideas: common assumptions, observation of the world
around us, practical problems, theories, and past research.
o Questioning Common Assumptions; testing a widely held assumption can be valuable because such
notions don’t always turn out to be correct/ the real world is much more complicated than our
assumption show. For example, despite the common belief that opposites attract, decades of research
have shown that people tend to be attracted to others who are similar to themselves.
o Observation of the World Around Us; Observations of personal and social events can provide many
ideas for research. The curiosity sparked by your observation and experiences can lead you to ask
questions about all sorts of phenomena.
o Practical Problems; Research is also stimulated by practical problems that can have immediate
o Theories; Much research in the behavioural science test theories of behaviour. A theory consists of a
system of logical ideas proposed to explain a particular phenomenon and its relationship to other
Theories organize and explain a variety of specific facts or descriptions of behaviour. Facts are
not very meaningful by themselves so theories are needed to provide a framework that relates
them to each other in meaningful ways.
Theories guide our observations of the world. Theories are more general and abstract than
hypothesis (which in turn are more general than predictions).
If multiple theories are equally successful at explaining the same phenomenon, the scientific
principle of parsimony dictates that the least complex theory is most desirable, because it is
easiest to entirely falsify.
o Past Research; Because the results of research are published, researchers can use the body of past
literature on a topic to continually refine and expand our knowledge.
Virtually every study raises questions that can be addressed in subsequent research. The
research may lead to an attempt to apply the findings in a different setting, to study the topics
with a different age group, or to use a different methodology to replicate the results.
Anatomy of an Empirical Research Article
For empirical research, after a researcher has developed a hypothesis, has designed at least one study to test it,
and has found support for the hypothesis, it is time to write up the project in a report format.
The researcher then submits the article for publication in a professional journal. There are an enormous number
of professional journals. In these journals, researchers publish the results of their research investigations. Once the researcher has submitted an article for publication consideration, the journal’s editors solicits reviews
from other scientists in the same field, and then decides whether the report is to be accepted for publication.
Across all sciences, research articles being submitted for publication typically follow a consistent format.
o Abstract; Summary of the research report. It typically runs no more than 120 words in length, although
the word limit can vary by journal. It includes information about the hypothesis, the procedure, and the
broad pattern of results.
o Introduction; the researcher outlines the problem that has been investigated. Past research and
theories relevant to the problem are described in detail. In other words, the investigator introduces the
research project by building a logical case that justifies why this study and the expected results make an
important contribution to understanding behaviour.
o Method; The method section provides information about exactly how the study was conducted,
including any details necessary for the reader to replicate or repeat the study. It is often divided into
First subsection presents an overview of the design to prepare the reader for the material that
Next subsection describes the characteristics of the participants.
Next subsection details the procedures used in the study. In describing any stimulus materials
presented to the participants, the way the behaviour of the participants was recorded, and so
on, it is important that no potentially crucial detail be omitted.
Other subsections may be necessary to describe in detail any equipment or testing materials
that were used.
The individuals who take part in survey research are usually called respondents. Informants are
the people who help researchers understand the dynamics of particular cultural and
organizational settings, or who report on the personality characteristic of other people.
o Results; In the results section, the researcher presents the findings, usually in three ways.
Description in narrative form. Researchers try to avoid commenting on the meaning of these
results so that the reader can consider them without being biased. Comments about meaning
are typically reserved for the discussion section.
The results are described in statistical language that reflects the analyses that were conducted
to test the hypothesis.
Third, the material is often depicted in tables and graphs.
o Discussion; In the discussion section, the researcher reviews the research from various perspectives. Do
the results support the hypothesis? If they do, the author should give all possible explanations for the
results and discuss why one explanation is superior to another.
The researcher may speculate on the broader implications of the results, propose alternative
explanations for the results, discuss reasons that a particular hypothesis may not have been
supported by the data, and/ or make suggestions for further research on the problem.
Finding Existing Research; Before conducting any research project, an investigator must have thorough knowledge of
pervious research findings. Even if the basic idea has been formulated, a review of past studies is a critical step in the
research process. Investigating past research helps the researcher clarify the idea and design the study, and ensures that
the study is making a new contribution to understanding behaviour.
Most psychology journals specialize in one or two areas of human or animal behaviour.
Conducting a PsycINFO Search
o The most common way to locate scientific research is to search computer database that contain the
abstracts, and often link to full-text PDF versions of the articles. There are many databases that cover a wide range of academic disciplines. The American Psychological Association’s searchable computer
database system is called PsycINFO, which includes coverage of journal publications from the 1800s to
o The full name of each field is included here; many systems allow abbreviations. You will almost always
want to see the Tittle (abbreviated as TI), Author (AU), Source (SO), and Abstract (AB)
o The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) field can be helpful in finding full-text sources of the article, and is
included in the latest APA style referencing format mentioned earlier in this chapter.
o Another helpful search tool is the wildcard asterisk (*). The asterisk stands for any set of letters in a
word and so it can expand your search. The wildcard can be very useful with the term child* to find
child, children, childhood, and so on.
Web of Science ; Another search resource is the Web of Science, which can be accessed directly or through the
Web of Knowledge database. Web Science allows you to search through citation information such as the name
of the author or article. The most important feature of this resource is the ability to use the “cited reference
search.” Here you need to first identify a key article on your topic, usually one published a while ago that is
particularly relevant to your interest. You can then search for more recent articles that cited the key article.
Review Articles; Not all articles follow the five-section format described above. Articles that review and
summarize the research in a particular area are also useful. Depending on the way the research is summarized,
this type of article might be called a literature review or a meta-analysis.
Other Electronic Search Resources; Other major databases include Academic Search Complete, Sociological
Abstracts, MEDLINE, PubMed, and ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center). In addition, services such as
PsychEXTRA, Canadian Newsstand Complete, and Access World News allow you to search general media
resources such as newspapers.
Chapter 3: Ethical Research
Ethical Research In Canada
The Tri-Council and Its Policy Statement
o In Canada, researchers and institutions adhere to the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct
for Research Involving Humans. “Tri-Council” is a common way to refer to the three federally funded
research granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences
and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the Natural Science and Engineering
Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
o In 1998 the Tri-Council published the first Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS), which became the
first standard Canadian Ethics Code to guide all research involving humans, and replacing all
guidelines developed by some individual agencies as early as the 1970s.
Historical, Legal, and International Context
o The Nuremberg Code, which was developed in response to horrific human experimentation during
WWII, was a catalyst for modern international debate and policies for respecting human dignity in
medical and behavioural research.
Core Principles Guiding Research with Human Participants
o The aim of research ethics codes generally, including the TCPS, is to ensure that research is
conducted in a way that respects the dignity and inherent worth of all human beings. Three basic
ethical principles express the value of ensuring human dignity, and are specified in the TCPS and
other documents: respect of persons, concern for the welfare, and justice.
To show respect for persons, researchers must respect the autonomy of research
participants, and protect those who have “developing, impaired or diminished autonomy.” Respecting autonomy means enabling people to choose participation freely and without
To show concern for welfare, researchers must attempt to minimize risks associated with
participating in research, while maximizing the benefits of that research to individual
participants and to society.
To show justice, researchers must treat people fairly and equitably by distributing the
benefits and burdens of participating in research.
Promote Concern for Welfare by Minimizing Risks and Maximizing Benefits
In decisions about the ethics of research, we must calculate potential risks and benefits that are likely to result;
this is called a risk-benefits analysis.
Risk of Physical Harm: Some procedures could conceivably cause some physical harm to participants.. The risks
in such procedures require that great care be taken to make them ethically acceptable. (e.g. Sleep Deprivation)
Risk of Stress: Participants may experience psychological stress during research. (e.g. causing anxiety)
Risk of Losing Privacy and Confidentiality: Another risk is the loss of expected privacy and confidentiality.
Promote Respect for Persons through Informed Consent
The TCPS principle of respect for person’s states that participants are treated as autonomous; they are capable
of making deliberate decisions about whether to participate in research.
Potential participants in a research project should be provided with all information that might influence their
decision about whether to participate.
Informed Consent Form: Potential participants are usually provided with some type of informed consent form
that contains the information they need to make their decision. The content will typically cover:
1) The purpose of the research
2) Procedures that will be used, including time involved
3) Risks and benefits to the participants and in general
4) Any compensation
5) How confidentially will be protected
6) Assurance of voluntary participation and permission to withdraw
7) Contact information for questions about the research and about the ethics of the research.
Researchers do not need to tell participants exactly what is being studied, but the consent form must include all
information that could affect a participant’s choice to participate.
Autonomy Issue: The first concerns lack of autonomy; special populations such as minors, patients in psychiatric
hospitals, or adults with cognitive impairments require special precautions.
Information Issues: Withholding Information and Deception When planning research, it is important to make
sure that you do have good reasons not to have any informed consent. If informed consent is considered
impossible to achieve the goal of science, the researcher’s responsibilities to participants are increased.
The Importance of Debriefing: Debriefing occurs after the completion of the study. It is an opportunity for the
research to deal with issues of withholding information, deception, and potential harmful effects of
participation, as well as to further education participants about the nature and purpose of the research.
Role-Playing: In one role-playing procedure, the experimenter describes a situation to participants and then asks
them how they would respond to the situation.
Features of the experiment that may inform participants about the hypothesis are called demand
Simulation Studies: A different type of role-playing involves simulation of a real-world situation Honest Experiments: Honest experiments include any research design that doesn’t try to misinform or hide
information from participants.
Promote Justice by Involving People Equitably in Research; the principle of justice addresses issues of fairness receiving
the benefits of research as well as bearing the burdens of accepting risks.
Monitoring Ethical Standards at Each Institution
Each institution that receives any funding from any of the Tri-Council agencies must have in place a Research
Ethics Board (REB), whose mandate is to review all research projects for compliance with ethical standards.
Exempt Research; Research in which there is absolutely no risk is typically exempt from REB review. According
to the TCPS, exempt research does not require REB review when it:
1) Only employs publicly available information that is legally accessible
2) Only involves observing people in public places without any intervention by the researcher, and no
individuals can be identified when presenting the results
3) Uses data that have already been collected and are completely anonymous.
Minimal Risk Research; According to the TCPS minimal risk research means that the risk of harm to participants
are no greater than risks encountered in daily life.
Greater Than Minimal Risk Research; Any research procedure that places participants at greater than minimal
risk is subject to thorough review by the full REB committee. In addition to informed consent, other safeguards
may be required before approval is granted.
Ethics and Animal Research; The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) is an organization sponsored primarily
by CIHR and NSERC and whole purpose it to “oversee the ethical use of animals in science in Canada”. It is
responsible for certifying institutions and specif