PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Dependent And Independent Variables, External Validity, Operational Definition
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January 21, 2014
1. Why should you learn about research methods?
Because common sense and intuitive ideas about social psychological issues can
be misleading and contradictory, it is important to understand the scientific
evidence on which social psychological theories and findings are based.
Studying research methods in psychology improves people’s reasoning about real-
life events and information presented by the media and other sources.
2. Developing Ideas: Beginning the Research Process
oQuestions can come from all kind of sources including reading about
research that has already been done.
Searching the Literature
oOnce the researcher has an idea, it is important to see what research has
already been done on this topic and related topics.
oOne of the best ways to search for published material on topics of interests
is by using an electronic database of published research.
oTreeing: going from one article to another.
oOften, the researcher’s original question is changed in one way or another
during the course of searching the literature.
oThe question should become more precise, more specific to particular sets
of conditions that are likely to have different effects, and more readily
Hypotheses and Theories
oHypothesis is an explicit, testable prediction about the conditions under
which an event will occur.
oFormulating a hypothesis allows us to move from the realm of common
sense to the rigors of the scientific methods.
oTheory is an organized set of principles used to explain observed
oTheories are evaluated with three criteria: simplicity, comprehensiveness
and their ability generate new hypothesis (generativity)
oSocial psychology concentrates in mini theories and specificity. (EX:
Bem’s self-perception theory, people infer to the situation when they are
ambiguous about their feelings, only applies to a specific situation)
oGood social psychological theories inspire subsequent research.
oA theory can be quite accurate but it will have little worth if it cannot be
tested whereas a theory might be wrong but could bring a great
contribution to the field.
Basic and Applied Research
January 21, 2014
oBasic research seeks to increase our understanding of human behavior and
is often designed to test a specific hypothesis from a specific theory.
oApplied research is to make use of social psychology’s theories or
methods to enlarge our understanding of naturally occurring events and to
contribute to the solution of social problems.
3. Refining Ideas: Defining and Measuring Social Psychological Variables
Conceptual Variables and Operational Definitions: From Abstract to the Specific
oConceptual variable: abstract, general form
oOperational definition: the specific procedures for manipulating or
measuring a conceptual variable.
oConstruct validity: the extent to which the measures used in a study
measure the variables they were designed to measure and the
manipulations in an experiment manipulate the variables they were
designed to manipulate.
Measuring Variables: Using Self-Reports, Observations, and Technology
oSelf-Reports: can consist of individual questions or set of questions that
together measure a single conceptual variable.
The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale: is a set of questions that
measures individuals overall self-esteem.
Self-reports give the researcher access to an individual’s beliefs
Self-reports are not always accurate and can be misleading
Self-reports are also affected by the way that questions are asked,
such as how they are worded or in what order or context they are
Self-reports can also be inaccurate because they often ask
participants to report on thoughts or behaviors from the past, and
participant’s memory for these thoughts or behaviors may be
Interval-contingent self-reports: respondents report their
experience s at regular intervals, usually once a day.
Signal-contingent: respondents report on a designated set of
events as soon as possible after such events have occurred.
Event-contingent: respondents report on a designated set of
events as soon as possible after such events have occurred
(Rochester Interaction Record)
Narrative studies: collect lengthy responses on a general
Interrater reliability: the degree to which different observers
agree on their observations.