PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Interpersonal Attraction, Stanley Milgram, Canadian Psychological Association

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2 Apr 2015
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Chapter 2: Doing Social Psychology Research Study Sheet
This chapter discusses social psychological research processes (how ideas are born and developed and how to begin the
research process) as well as social psych ethics and values.
Social psych poses questions on the courses of relationships, efficiency of working in groups and regret of action vs.
inaction.
How can social behavior (variable as it is) be studied scientifically?
1) Why learn about research methods?
It is easier to understand and remember rest of material in book if one reads about findings by a social
psychologist without having hard evidence to back them, one is more likely to have difficulty remembering what
was actually finding from what one inferred from it i.e. help distinguish correct from plausible (yet incorrect)
answers
Can improve reasoning about real-life events
Can make you better consumer much of info given by media and adds turns out to be wrong or misleading
trains us to look for evidence behind claims, i.e. puts us in a better position to critically evaluate info to which we
are exposed and separate fact from fiction
2) Developing ideas: beginning the research process
Research process = coming up with ideas, refining them, testing them, interpreting meaning of results obtained
a. Asking questions
Asking questions is beginning of all social psych study, a question can come from any distressing, curious or funny
observed event just as it can come from reading previous studies made by prior social psychologists (ex: Solomon Asch
read Muzafer Sherif’s demo on how individuals conform to others in groups when making judgment about weird
stimulus, which inspired Asch to study how people conform to a group even when perfectly clear that group is wrong)
b. Searching the literature
Important to verify what research has already been done on a specific topic before engaging further
Best way is by using electronic database of published research (for psych: PsycArticles and PsycINFO)
Treeing = going from article to article = valuable in searching info on related topics
This process may even tweak the researchers initial question by adding precision
c. Hypotheses and Theories
Hypothesis = explicit, testable prediction about conditions under which an even will occur (ex: “teenage boys are more
likely to be aggressive toward others if they have just played a violent video game for an hour than if they played a non
violent game for an hour”)
Theory = an organized set of principles used to explain observed phenomena (usually evaluated in terms of simplicity,
comprehensiveness and generativity or the ability to generate new hypotheses) comes after initial hypotheses have
proliferated and initial data has been collected
Social psychologists rely on precise mini-theories rather than large, all-encompassing ones (ex: Daryl Bem’s theory on
self-perception applied only to specific situations where people make inferences about own actions rather than be
applicable to all situations  though more limited, it did generate specific testable hypothesis)
Good theories often inspire additional research, or stimulate studies designed to test various aspects of theory as well as
specific hypotheses derived from them
Accurate theory is worthless without testability just as a theory can strongly contribute to the field despite turning out to
be wrong (through further research it inspires)
Fate of all scientific theories is to be criticized and surpassed
d. Basic and applied research
Is testing a theory the purpose of research in social psych?
Basic research = seeks to increase our understanding of human behavior, often by testing a hypothesis based on a theory
Applied research = makes use of social psych theories/methods to enlarge our understanding of naturally occurring
events and to contribute to solution of social problems
Social psychologist alternate between the two, Kurt Lewin encouraged basic researchers to get engaged in larger social
problems and applied researchers to recognize importance of good theories
3) Refining ideas: defining and measuring social psychological variables
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Process of defining and measuring variables is not always strait forward (ex: defining “alcohol intoxication” and
“aggression” when studying effects of alcohol intoxication on aggression)
a. Conceptual variables and operational definitions: from the abstract to the specific
When researchers develop hypotheses, variables are typically in abstract form (= conceptual variables, ex: prejudice,
conformity, attraction)
These variables must be transformed into variables that can be manipulated or measured = operational definition of a
variable
Operational definition = specific procedure for manipulating or measuring a conceptual variable
There are several ways of measuring a specific variable (ex: intoxication might be measured through blood alcohol level
or depending on whether the participant verbally indicates drunkenness)
Construct validity = used to evaluate the manipulation and measurement of variables using the extent to which
manipulations in an experiment really manipulate conceptual variables they were designed to and the extent to which the
measures used in a study really measure the conceptual variables they were designed to measure.
b. Measuring variables: using self-reports, observations and technology
Self-reports = going strait to source participants disclose thoughts, feelings, desires, actions through sets of questions
that measure a single conceptual variable (ex: Rosenberg self esteem scale = set of questions that measure individual’s
overall self-esteem) = largely used scale and considered to have good construct validity  self reports are biased and thus
can be misleading and inaccurate despite giving insight into an individual’s perceptions as people often want to make
themselves look good in front of others (ex: bogus pipeline experiment where people who believe there is infallible
method of detecting lies tell truth more readily)  self reports are also affected by manner in which question is posed (ex:
effectiveness of condoms against AIDS, when condoms were said to have 95% success rate 88% of participants indicated
that they thought condoms to be effective whereas only 42% did so when condoms were said to have a 5% failure rate)
even exact same question can sire different responses depending on context time lapse and memory recognition is also
major issue in confirming validity of a participant’s statement, some psychologists use interval-contingent report, where
respondents report their experiences at regular intervals or signal contingent self-reports where respondents report
experiences a.s.a.p. after being signaled to do so usually through beeper or even event-contingent self-reports where
respondents report directly after event (ex: Rochester Interaction Record = event-contingent self-report questionnaire used
by respondents recording every social interaction lasting ten minutes or more during course of study)
Narrative studies = collect lengthy responses on a general topic which is then analyzed in terms of a coding scheme
Observations = when researchers observe people’s actions  can be strait forward or can require intermediary of an inter-
rater reliability = level of agreement among multiple observers of the same behavior advantage = avoid passing
through erroneous recollections of individual, thus in some way more reliable BUT if individuals know they are being
observed can also impact their own behavior (therefore, in certain experiments participants were lied to in order to better
study them)
Technology = advances in technology offer researchers new tools with which to measure physiological responses
computers used to record speed of response to stimuli most recently, brain image technology such as functional
magnetic resonance imaging allows researchers to study which part of the brain is active while the participant thinks, acts,
responds to audio-visual stimuli (used in detecting subtle signs of racism or sexism within people, when participants show
increased activity in parts of brain associated with feelings of threat when see pictures of people from particular racial
group or gender)
4) Testing Ideas: Research Design
Qualitative research = collection of data through open-ended responses, observation and interviews
Quantitative research = collection of numerical data through objective testing and statistical analysis
Researchers don’t seek out evidence to support ideas, but rather test ideas in ways that could clearly prove them wrong
usually done through experimental approach other approach is correlational approach, where emphasis is put on
associations between two variables without establishing cause and effect this approach is descriptive research, notably
used in opinion polls, ratings, box scores, etc…
a. Descriptive research: discovering trends and tendencies
Goal is describe people and their thoughts, feelings (ex: can test questions such as: what percentage of people who
encounter someone lying on sidewalk would offer to help?)methods include observing people, studying records of past
events, behaviors, and surveying people
Observational Studies: learning about other people simply by observing (ex: Hawkins research on bullying among
schoolchildren in Canada, how common is it? How often do peers step in to defend another child? Researchers used
hidden cameras and mikes to observe children and found that bullying was much more pervasive than most believed)
observing people who are being unknowingly filmed mays also cause certain ethical issues, (ex: certain TV news
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