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Chapter 3

Chapter 3 Personality Psychology as a Science - Textbook Notes

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McMaster University
Richard B Day

Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee Part I: Research Methods Chapter 3: Personality Psychology as Science: Research Methods Psychology Emphasis on Method  Sometimes said that the main thing psychologists know is not content but method o Firm answers to questions about the mind and behaviour are not provided often o Psychologists never expect to reach final answer to question – thrill is the chase not capture; goal is to improve on tentative answers  Psychologists are sensitive and even self conscious about research methodology, the way they use statistics, and basic procedures used to draw theoretical inferences from empirical data Scientific Education and Technical Training  Technical Training – conveys what is already known about a subject so that the knowledge can be applied  Scientific Education – teaches not only what is known, but also how to find out what is not yet known o Research – exploration of the unknown, gathering data Quality of Data  Two aspects of data quality are paramount o Reliability o Validity o Combined into a third  Generalizable Reliability  Reliability – measurements that reflect what you are trying to assess and are not affected b anything else  Eg/ Unreliable if the same person takes the same test multiple times and scores differently on each test – test unreliable; test score being influenced by things it shouldn’t be  Measurement Error (or error variance) – cumulative effect of such extraneous influences o Less of measurement error, more reliable measurement  Influences that are considered extraneous depend on what is being measured o Eg/ Trying to measure mood – a current and presumably temporary state  Fact that individual won lottery 10 minutes ago is relevant and not extraneous o Eg/ Trying to measure persons trait level of emotional experience  Fact that individual won lottery 10 minutes ago is sudden and extraneous – measurement will be misleading  Trait – stable attribute of personality o When measuring – can you get the same result more than once? o Reliable method or instrument – repeatedly provide the same comparative information  Four things can undermine reliability o Low precision – measurements should be taken as exactly and carefully as possible o State of the participant – might vary for reasons that are not related to the study (eg/ participant shows up tired)  Variations in the state of the participants are a source of error variance or random “noise” in almost every psychological study o State of experimenter – variation due to the experimenter is as inevitable as variation due to participants  Experimenters try to treat all participants the same  Participants may respond differently to experimenter depending on whether experimenter is male/female, race, dress etc o Environment – minor variations in environment are constant an inevitable  Eg/ noise levels, temperature, weather etc  Four things to enhance reliability o Care with research procedure – double check all measurements, have someone proofread that data-entry sheets, make sure procedures for scoring data are understood clearly o Standardize research protocol – use constant scripted procedure for all participants o Measure something important (rather than something trivial) – experiments that engage participants will yield better data than those that fail to involve them o Aggregation (averaging) – random influences tend to cancel on another out; random influences, by definition, sum to 0  Spearman-Brown formula in psychometrics (technology of psychological measurement) – quantifies how aggregation works  More error filled your measurements – more measurements you need 1 Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee Reliability of Psychological Measurement Factors that undermine Low precision reliability State of the participant State of the experimenter Variation in the environment Techniques to improve Care with research procedure reliability Standardized research protocol Measure something important Aggregation Validity  Validity – the degree to which a measurement actually reflects what one thinks or hopes it does it does  For a measurement to be valid, it must be reliable - results must be consistent o Even if it is reliable, it may not be valid – could get consistent results, yet wrong consistent results  Concept of validity seems to invoke a notion of ultimate truth – if a measurement matches ultimate, true reality, it is valid (eg/ IQ tests intelligence; but what is intelligence?) o Constructs – something that cannot be directly seen or touched, but which affects and helps to explain many different things that re visible  Eg/ Intelligence, sociability, gravity o Construct Validation – the process of testing the theory behind a construct  Research strategy – gathering as many different measurements as you can of the construct interested in; measurements that start to “hang together” or pick out the same people as being in the construct, begin to validate each other as measurements of the construct and at the same time validate the construct as relevant to each of the measurements  Eg/ Give participants sociability test, ask acquaintances how sociable they are, count the parties they attend and count the number of phone calls they make – if 4 measures correlate, then you may believe that each has some degree of validity as a measure of the construct of sociability Generalizability  Generalizability – the degree to which two tests, that are supposed to be “the same”, yield the same result when compared  Eg/ Constancy between cores on one form of a test and scored on another form of the same test is a gauge of reliability  If the two tests are different, then their relationship is taken to indicate the first tests degree of validity o Eg/ Sociability test and # of phone calls – if they correlate, validity is indicated  Tend to view validity and reliability concepts as aspects of generalizability  Measurement or results of an experiment; asks o What does your result or measurement generalize? o Is the result you get with one test equivalent or generalizable to the result you would get using a different test? o Does your result also apply to other kinds of people than the ones you assessed, or does it apply to the same people at other times, or would the same result be found at different times in different places?  Generalizability Over Participants – do your results apply to everyone or just the participant being studied? 1. Gender Bias o Females are more likely than males to sign up for experiments o Two issues  Theoretical – why are men less likely to sign up? (Eg/ university students; perhaps women are more conscientious and cooperative than men in that age range)  The difference raises work about the participants that the researchers recruit – because men are less likely to volunteer than women, the men who do sign up are unusual men, but researchers generalize results from these willing-to-participate men to men in general 2. Shows vs. No-Shows o The results depend on the participants who show up to the experiment – presents a problem if the no shows and the shows are different o Exp/ 1442 students signed up, 283 never shows up; personality descriptions of all students was given  Shows; histrionic (emotionally expressive), compulsive, self-sacrificing, needy  No Shows; narcissistic (self adoring), low on assertiveness 3. Cohort Effects o Aspects of personality can be affected by the specific historical period in which one lives o Cohort Effect – the tendency of a group of people living at a particular time to be different in some way from those who live earlier or later 4. Ethnic and Cultural Diversity 2 Psych 2B03 Jasmyn Lee o Most empirical research in psychology is based on a limited subset of the modern population (predominantly white, middle class, college students) o The pressure to include minority participants is political and scientific  The Burden of Proof o Getting facts straight about members of own culture in own time is difficult enough; resist making facile and simplistic generalizations about members of other cultures (including jumping to conclusions that they might be different) o Burden of poof should be shared between those trying to do generalizable research, and those who claim it is not generalizable to show when, how and why it is not  To observe that psychological data are limited and to conclude all that research and theory is worth less is “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” Research Design  Data gathering must follow the research design (some sort of plan)  Three basic types; case, experimental, correlational Case Method  Case method involved closely studying a particular event or person of interest in order to find out as much as possible  Not only explanations of particular events, but also general lessons and even scientific principles  Advantages o Feels as it if does justice to the topic; describes whole phenomenon and not just isolated variables o Can be a source of ideas o The method is absolutely necessary (eg/ patient becomes sick; must be dealt with, cannot say “more research needed”)  Disadvantage o Not controlled; each case contains numerous specific facts and variables o Experiment and correlation study is used to check the case results An Experimental and a Correlational Study  Experimental – get a group of research participants and randomly divide them into two groups; do same test on both o Experimental Group – change a factor of situation o Control Group – keep constant o Eg/ Anxiety vs. performance; tell experimental group that their life depends on the test, while the control group is just given the test o Statistics: Put results in a table then graph; do statistical test (eg/ t-test; see if the difference between the means is larger than one would expect form chance variation alone)
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