Chapter 5 - Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Behaviour.pdf

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Konstantine Zakzanis

PSYB32: Abnormal Psychology Meera Mehta Summer 2012 Chapter 5 – Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Behaviour Science and Scientific Methods - science – the pursuit of systematized knowledge through reliable observation TESTABILITY AND RELIABILITY st - A scientific approach requires 1 that propositions and ideas be stated in a clear and precise way - Statements, theories, and assertions, regardless of how plausible they may seem, must be testable in the public arena and subject to disproof o Closely related to testability is the requirement that each observation that contributes to a scientific body of knowledge be replicable or reliable  Whatever is observed must be replicable; that is, it must occur under prescribed circumstances not once, but repeatedly  If the event cannot be reproduced, scientists doubt the legitimacy of the original observation THE ROLE OF THEORY - theory – a formally stated and coherent set of propositions that purport to explain a range of phenomena, order them in a logical way, and suggest what additional information might be gleaned under certain conditions o I.O.W. a theory is a set of propositions meant to explain a class of phenomena - primary goal of science is to advance theories to account for data, often by proposing cause-effect relationships - theory permits the generation of hypotheses to be tested in research o hypothesis – the specific prediction about the outcome of an experiment; it is based on the assumption that the theory in question is accurate  I.O.W. hypotheses are expectations about what should occur if a theory is true - the generation of a theory is likely the most challenging part of the scientific enterprise o sometimes theories come to scientists in an epiphany - theories are constructions put together by scientists; in formulating a theory, scientists must often make use of theoretical concepts, unobservable states or processes that are inferred from observable data - a theoretical concept, such as acquired fear, is useful in accounting for the fact that some earlier experience can have an effect on current behaviour o theoretical concepts can be linked to several different measurements, each of which hits different aspects of the concept o theoretical concepts are better defined by sets of operations than by a single operation The Research Methods of Abnormal Psychology - all empirical research entails the collection of observable data - there are many research methods in the study of abnormal behaviour o the methods vary in the degree to which they permit the collection of adequate descriptive data and the extent to which they allow researchers to infer causal relationships THE CASE STUDY - case study – the collection of historical or biographical information on a single individual, often including experiences in therapy - a comprehensive case study would cover family history and background, medical history, educational background, jobs held, marital history, and details concerning development, adjustment, personality, life course, and current situation - case studies from practicing clinicians may lack the degree of control and objectivity of research using other methods, but these descriptive accounts have played an important role in the study of abnormal behaviour - case studies have been used to: o provide a detailed description of a rare or unusual phenomenon and of important, often novel, methods or procedures of interviewing, diagnosis, and treatment o disconfirm allegedly universal aspects of a particular theoretical proposition o generate hypotheses that can be tested through controlled research PROVIDING DETAILED DESCRIPTION - because it deals with a single individual, the case study can include much more detail than is typically included with other research methods - Eve White (Chris Sizemore) assumed at various times 3 very distinct personalities; she subsequently claimed to have had 21 separate personalities o Her personalities: Jane, Eve Black, Eve White 1 | P a g e PSYB32: Abnormal Psychology Meera Mehta Summer 2012  The Three Faces of Eve o Sizemore had dissociative identity disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder  In contrast to what her physicians Thigpen and Cleckley claimed about her showing 3 personalities, she stated she had 21, and that 9 of them had existed before Eve Black ever appeared. - Casati, Toner and Yu, from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, conducted focus interviews with seven women who met the diagnostic criteria for trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling) o Transcripts were analyzed using constant comparative method  the constant comparative method-- consists of the identification of relevant units of information (unitizing), placing the units into categories that emerge from the data (categorizing), and providing organizational themes for the information (identifying themes) - Casati et al. found 10 major themes related to trichotillomania: o 6 themes related to negative emotions o 3 themes related to issue of lack of control o Last theme related to triggers of the compulsive hair-pulling  Practitioners should address these themes when assessing and treating women with trichotillomania THE CASE STUDY AS EVIDENCE - case histories are especially useful when they negate (prove something is false) an assumed universal relationship or law - the case study fares less well as evidence in support of a particular theory or proposition - case studies do not provide the means for ruling out alternative hypotheses GENERATING HYPOTHESES - through exposure to the life histories of a great number of patients, clinicians gain experience in understanding and interpreting them o eventually they may notice similarities of circumstances and outcomes and formulate important hypotheses that could not have been uncovered in a more controlled investigation - the case study is an excellent way of examining the behaviour of a single individual in great detail and of generating hypotheses that can later be evaluated by controlled research o it is useful in clinical settings, where the focus is on just 1 person - but when general, universal laws are sought to explain phenomena, the case study is of limited use o a case study may not reveal principles characteristic of people in general and is unable to provide satisfactory evidence concerning cause-effect relationships EPIDEMIOLOGICAL RESEARCH - epidemiology – the study of the frequency and distribution of illness in a population - in epidemiological research, data are gathered about the rates of a disorder and its possible correlates in a large sample or population - this information can then be used to give a general picture of a disorder, how many people it affects, whether it is more common in men than in women, and whether its occurrence also varies according to social and cultural factors - epidemiological research focuses on determining 3 features of a disorder: o prevalence – the % (proportion) of a population that has the disorder at a given point or period of time o incidence – the rate at which new cases of the disorder occur in a given place at a given time (usually a year) o risk factor – a condition or variable that, if present, increases the likelihood of developing the disorder - knowing the prevalence and incidence rates of various mental disorders and the risk factors associated with these disorders is important for planning health care facilities and services for allocating provincial and federal grants for the study of disorders - knowledge about risk factors can give clues to the causes of disorders o depression is about twice as common in women as in men; thus, gender is a risk factor for depression - the results of epidemiological research may provide hypotheses that can be more thoroughly investigated using other research methods Canadian Perspective 5.1 – Early Risk Factors and Psychological Disorders in a Canadian Setting: The Role of Abuse - risk factors that are related to mental disorders are: the experience of severe physical or sexual abuse as a child, a history of parental mental disorder, and failure to graduate from high school - people with 2 or more disorders are especially disadvantaged, relative to both the healthy group and the single-disorder group, on all of the theorized risk and socio-demographic factors - parental mental disorder and severe abuse are the strongest risk factors from among all of the variables examined o parental mental disorder – the presence of a behavioural or psychological syndrome in one’s mother or father o severe abuse – the traumatic experience of extreme mistreatment by someone else (eg: childhood sexual abuse) 2 | P a g e PSYB32: Abnormal Psychology Meera Mehta Summer 2012 - in summary, the results of the major epidemiological study conducted in Ontario suggest that severe physical and sexual abuse and even spanking and slapping are risk factors for the onset and/or persistence of adult psychiatric disorders THE CORRELATIONAL METHOD - correlational method – the research strategy used to establish whether 2 or more variables are related o relationships may be positive – as values for one variable increase, those for the other do also – or negative – as values for one variable increase, those for the other decrease - in correlational research, the variables being studied are measured as they exist in nature; this feature distinguishes the method from experimental research, in which variables are actually manipulated and controlled by the researcher o correlational studies address questions of the form “are variable X and variable Y associated in some way so that they vary together (co-related)?” MEASURING CORRELATION - 1 step in determining a correlation is to obtain pairs of observations of the variables in question; once such pairs of measurements are obtained, the strength of the relationship between the 2 sets of observations can be calculated to determine the correlation coefficient - correlation coefficient – a statistic that measures the degree to which 2 variables are related o the correlation coefficient is denoted by the symbol r o this statistic may take any value between -1.00 and +1.00, and it measures both the magnitude and the direction of a relationship o the higher the absolute value of r, the larger or stronger the relationship between the 2 variables  an r of either +1.00 or -1.00 indicates the highest possible, or perfect, relationship, whereas an r of 0.00 indicates that the variables are unrelated o if the sign of r is positive, the 2 variables are said to be positively related; in other words, as the values for variable X increase, those for variable Y also tend to increase  for example, assume that the correlation between height and weight +0.88; this correlation would indicate a very strong positive relationship: as height increases, so does weight o when the sign of r is negative, variables are said to be negatively related; as scores on one variable increase, those for the other tend to decrease  for example, the number of hours spent watching TV is negatively correlated with GPA - a relationship can be plotted where each point corresponds to 2 values determined for a given person; the value of variable X and that of variable Y o in perfect relationships, all the points fall on a straight line  if we know the value of only one of the variables for an individual, we can state with certainty the value of the other variable o similarly, when the correlation is relatively large, there is only a small degree of scatter about the line of perfect correlation  the values tend to scatter increasingly and become dispersed as the correlations become lower o when the correlation reaches 0.00, knowledge of a person’s score on one variable tells us nothing about his/her score on the other STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE - statistical significance – a result that has a low probability of having occurred by chance alone and is by convention regarded as important o I.O.W. statistical significance refers to the likelihood that the results of an investigation are due to chance - a statistically significant correlation is one that is not likely to have occurred by chance - a correlation is considered statistically significant if the likelihood or probability that it is a chance finding is 5 or less in 100 o this level of significance is called the .05 level, commonly written as p = .05 (p means probability) - in general, as the size of the correlation coefficient increases, the result is more and more likely to be statistically significant o for example, a correlation of .80 is more likely to be significant than a correlation of .40 - the greater the number of observations, the smaller r (the correlation) needs to be to reach statistical significance o for example, a correlation of r = .30 is statistically significant when the number of observations is large – say, 300 – but it would not be significant if only 20 observations were made APPLICATION OF PSYCHOPATHOLOGY - the correlational method is widely used in the field of abnormal psychology o whenever we compare people given 1 diagnosis with those given another or with people without a psychological diagnosis, the study is correlational - when the correlational method is used in research on psychopathology, one of the variables is typically diagnosis 3 | P a g e PSYB32: Abnormal Psychology Meera Mehta Summer 2012 o for example, whether the participant is diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder or not - variables such as having an anxiety disorder or not are called classificatory variables; the anxiety disorders were already present and were simply measured by the researcher - classificatory variables – the characteristic that people bring with them to scientific investigations, such as sex, age, social class, body build and mental status; studied by correlational research and mixed designs o these variables (sex, age, etc.) are naturally occurring patterns and are not manipulated by the researcher - thus, most research on the causes of psychopathology is correlational PROBLEMS OF CAUSALITY - correlational method has a critical drawback: it does not allow determination of cause-effect relationships - a sizeable correlation between 2 variables tells us only that they are related or tend to co-vary with each other, but we do not really know which is cause and which is effect or if either variable is actually the cause of the other The Directionality Problem - directionality problem – a diff
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