Chapter 1 : Scientific understanding of behavior
Methods of acquiring knowledge:
Intuition – Unquestioning acceptance of what your personal judgement or a single story about
one person’s experience tells you about the world.. A problem with intuition is that many
cognitive and motivational biases affect our perceptions, and so we are likely to draw erroneous
conclusions about cause and effect. Can be biased and inaccurate
-A cognitive bias called
illusory correlation-that occurs when we focus on two events that stand out and occur together.
Authority –As an alternative to the scientific method of acquiring knowledge, accepting
anything learned from supposed authority figures. We are more likely to be persuaded by a
speaker that seems prestigious, trustworthy and respectable.
Skepticism, science and the empirical approach –
scientific skepticism: The concept that ideas must be evaluated on the basis of careful logic and
results from scientific investigations
Empiricism is knowledge based on structured, systematic observations. Use of objective
observations to answer a question about the nature of behavior
-Four steps that guide the process of scientific inquiry-First is that studies are published for all to
see, and other scientists can replicate a study to observe their outcome. This detects explanations
such as confounding variables. Second scientists enthusiastically search for observations that
will help them make accurate discoveries about the world. Third science flourishes when there is
an open system for the exchange and competition of ideas – researchers are only interested in
falsifiable ideas. Fourth, peer review is very important in increasing the likelihood that only the
most rigorous research is published.
-This provides an objective set of rules for gathering, evaluating, and reporting information
-Pseudoscience: Claims that are made on the basis of evidence that is designed to appear
scientific; but such evidence is not based on the principles of scientific method. Uses scientific
terms to substantiate claims without using scientific data ex) salespeople and astrologers
-Warning signs of pseudoscience
-Hypotheses generated are not falsifiable -If scientific tests are reported, methodology is not scientific and accuracy of data is
-Supportive evidence relies heavily on “experts”
-Claims ignore conflicting evidence
-Claims are stated is scientific sounding terminology and ideas
-Tend to be vague, rationalize strongly help beliefs and appeal to preconceived ideas
-Claims not revised to account for new data
Goals of scientific research in psychology: Four main ones are to describe behaviour, to predict
behavior, to determine the causes of behavior and to understand or explain behavior
1. description of behavior – can provide a foundation for future work
2. prediction of behavior – to anticipate events
3. Determining the causes of beh – although we might accurately predict the occurrence of a
beh, we might not have correctly identified its cause. It is not enough for these things to
occur together, to conclude causation these things must occur:
4. Explanation of beh – explain why the events and beh occur
Covariation of cause and effect: part of casual inference, observing that a change in one
variable is accompanied by a change in a second variable. When the cause is present, the effect
occurs, when the cause is not present, the effect does not occur.
Temporal precedence: Part of casual inference; the cause precedes the effect in a time
sequence. There is a temporal order of events in which the cause precedes the effect
Alternative explanation: part of casual inference; a potential alternative cause of an observed
relationship between variables.
Elimination of alternate explanations: nothing other than a casual variable could be responsible
for the observed effect. This is called elimination of alternate explanations.
Basic vs. applied research
Basic research: Relates much to the four goals of psychology. Attempts to answer fundamental
questions about the nature of beh. Studies are often designed to address theoretical issues
concerning phenomena such as cognition, emotion, motivation, learning, psychobiology,
personality development, and social behavior. Usually can’t predict the ultimate applications of
Applied research: Is conducted to address practical problems and potential solutions. Major
area of applied research is Program evaluation: research designed to evaluate programs that are
designed to produce certain changes or outcomes in a target population. Evaluates the social
reforms and innovations that occur in government, education and criminal justice systems, ect Chapter 2: Where to start
Hypothesis: a statement that makes an assertion about what is true in a particular situation;
often, a statement asserting that two or more variables are related to each other. Statement about
something that may be true. Sometimes phrased as an informal research question. Must be a
Predictions: statement that makes an assertion concerning what will occur in a particular
research investigation. Turn the hypothesis into a specific prediction of this particular
-When the results of a study are consistent with a prediction, the hypothesis is only supported,
not proven. Researchers often study the same hypothesis using a variety of methods.
Falsifiability: The principle that a good scientific idea or theory should be capable of being
shown to be false when tested using scientific methods.
Sources of ideas:
-questioning common assumptions – can be valuable as such notions are not always
-Observation of the world around us – can provide many ideas for research.
-Practical problems – trying to find a solution to a practical problem
-Past research – can use the studies from before to refine and expand our knowledge –
add to it. Can investigate inconsistencies.
Theory: a framework that attempts to organize and explain various findings related to a
particular phenomenon, and in doing so generates new, testable hypothesis about that
phenomenon. Consists of a system of logical ideas proposed to explain a particular phenomenon
and its relationship to other phenomena. Theories have two important functions – they organize
and explain a variety of specific facts or descriptions of behavior & generate new knowledge by
focusing our thinking so that we notice new aspects of behavior.
-If multiple theories are equally successful at explaining the same phenomenon, the scientific
Parsimony dictates that the least complex theory is most desirable, because it is the most easy
to entirely falsify.
Anatomy of an empirical research article:
Researcher – develops a hypothesis, has designed at least one study to test the hypothesis, and
has found the support for the hypothesis, he then writes the project in report format and submits it for publication in a professional journal. After being peer reviewed, they are published if meets
the high standards. These research reports are considered primary sources.
Parts of a research report
1. Abstract – is a summary of the research report, about 120 words.
2. Introduction – the researcher outlines the problem that has been investigated, the
specific hypothesis being tested, past research relative to the problem is described.
3. Method – provides info about exactly how the study was conducted, including any
details necessary for the reader to replicate the study. Often in subsections – overview
of the design to prepare reader, describe characteristics of participants, details
procedure used in study
4. Results – researcher presents findings, usually in three ways, descriptive narrative,
statistical language, and tables and graphs are used. Scientist not supposed to give a
conclusion to bias the reader – the them figure out the conclusion
5. Discussion – researcher considers the research results from various perspectives.
Concludes the article, reviews the research from various perspectives.
PsycINFO: American psychological association’s searchable computer database system
Web of science: Another search resource, can be accessed directly though the database
Chapter 3: Ethical research
Confederate: a person posing as a participant in an experiment who is actually part of the
-Stanley milgram – Obedience to authority (Told to shock participants, see if they keep going).
Had a confederate (pretends to be in the study, actually and accomplice) pretending to be
shocked. 65% of ppl shocked to 450 volts.
Tri council policy statement (TCPS) –Canadian official ststement of ethical conduct for
research involving humans. First Canadian ethics code to guide all human research
-WWII was a catalyst for modern international debate and policies for respecting human dignity.
General aim of ethics code is research is conducted in a way that respects the dignity and
inherent worth of all human beings. Three basic principles:
To show respect for persons –Respect autonomy; enabling ppl to choose
participation freely and without interference. Informed consent: in research ethics the principle that participants in an experiment be
informed in advanced of all aspects of research that might influence their decision to participate.
Special pops – minors, patients, mentally retarded, require extra precautions. An asset is the
added consent of parent/guardian.
Concern for welfare – Minimize risks. Cost-benefit analysis. Risks – physical
harm, stress, risk of losing privacy and confidentiality, ect.
To show justice – Offer participation to ppl from a diverse range of social groups
– only exclude groups when scientifically justifiable
Risk benefit analysis: researchers evaluation of the potential hazards of conducting a study,
weighed against the potential benefits to participants and society.
Informed consent form: (1) the purpose of the research (2) procedures that will be used, time
involved (3) risks and benefits to participant in general (4)any compensation (5) how
confidentiality will be protected (6) Assurance of voluntary participation and permission to
withdraw (7) contact info for questions
Deception: any time a researcher misleads participants into believing something about the study
that is not true. active misrepresentation of info.
Debriefing: After the study, deal with any deception, potential effects & further educate
Role-playing: describe a situation and participants say what they think they could do. Really
Simulation studies: real world situation. -Stanform prison exp. By zimabrdo
Honest experiments: speed dating, exp where ppl are seeking out info or services that they need
Justice: principle that all individuals and groups should have fair and equal access to the benefits
of research participation as well as potential risks of the research. Addresses issues of fairness in
receiving the benefits of research as well as bearing the burdens of accepting risks
Tuskegee syphilis study – which 399 African American’s were not treated for syphilis in order to
track the long term effects of the disease.
It is unethical to study a group of ppl to advance science if that group will not have access to the
benefits associated with the research.
Research ethics board (REB) an ethics review committee established to review research
proposals within a uni, made of scientists, non-scientists, and legal experts
Exempt research: no risk for anyone involved and does not need to be submitted to REB Minimal risk research – Risks are no greater than risks encountered in everyday life. Greater
than minimal risk research – Must be submitted to REb for screening
-Animal research benefits us in ways not possible without animal research even though it is a
controversial topic. Canadian council on animal care (CCAC) – oversees the use of animals in
science in Canada. Uses the Three “R”’s
Replacement: involves replacing animals or avoiding using animals all together
Reduction – Minimize the number of animals being used
Refinement: modify procedures to minimize pain and stress
Ethics code: documents created by research organizations and nations that offer guidance to
researchers on ensuring safety and welfare of participants. An overview of how far professional
ethics extends for all psychologists
The fabrication of data is fraud: intentional misrepresentation of any aspect of research
Anonymous: data is anon when, once collected, no one including researcher is able to identify
Belmont report: American report from 78 that outlined ethical principles and underlines for the
protections of human in research
Chapter 4: studying behavior
Variable: is any situation, beh, or individual characteristic that can take more than one value – it
varies, has at least 2 values. There will be at least two specific instances called the levels or
values of a variable. Four general categories
Situational variable: characteristic of a situation or environment
Response variable: Refers to the responses or beh of individuals, such as reaction time
Participant variable: Describes the pre-existing characteristics that the individual brings
into the study i.e. Sex, intelligence
Mediating variable is a psychological process that occurs between a situational variable
and a particular beh response that helps to explain the relationship between them Operational definition – definition of a variable in terms of the operations or techniques the
researcher uses to use or manipulate it.
Experimental method vs non-experimental
Non-experimental method: Relationships are studied by observing or otherwise measuring the
variables of interest. Sometimes called the correlational method – cannot make statements of
Relationships between variable
-Linear means the relationship is constant/ a straight line. Most relationships are not and
therefore lines are curved
Positive linear relationship: increases in the value of one variable are accompanied by
increases in the values of the second variable (up and to the right)
Negative linear relationship: increases in the value of one variable are accompanied by
decreses in the value of the other variable (down and to the right)
Curvilinear relationship: Increases in the values of one variable are accompanied by
both increases and decreases in the value of the other variable (Curve going up then down – half
No relationship: flat line
Correlation coefficient: Numerical index of the strength of relationships between variables
-random/error variability exists within all relationships. Scientists try to minimize this by
conducting more research
Third-variable problem; extr