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Chapter 5

chapter five notes

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Steven Brown

ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY Chapter 5 – Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Behaviour Science & the Scientific Method It is important scientific methods be reliable (replicable) and testable (open to systemic probe) Theory: A set of prepositions meant to explain a class of phenomena Hypothesis: Expectations of what should occur if the theory is true Scientists must often use theoretical concepts (unobservable states or processes that are inferred by observable data) to come up with a theory In abnormal psychology, theoretical concepts are used to fill in information that are unaccounted for based on a theory (i.e. if a person goes though a traumatic event, and their attitude suddenly changes we can use the theoretical concept of applied fear to fill the gap) Operationism, an earlier school of thought, suggested that each theoretical concept take as tis meaning, only observable and measurable operation (i.e. the concept of anxiety could be thought as schoring over 50 on an anxiety test) The problem with that was each concept was too specific, and it lost its generality. A concept did not include events, only one specific one Research Methods of Abnormal Psychology The Case Study The most familiar and time-honoured method; Therapists gather historical and biographical information on a single individual (i.e. background, family/medical history, educational background, jobs held, marital history, life course etc.) However, how the therapist gathers information and what they focus more attention on is determined by what paradigm they chose to adopt Case studies are beneficial because...  They provide detailed descriptions of rare/unusual phenomenon and of important methods of interviewing, diagnosing and treatment  Disconfirm allegedly universal aspects of a particular theoretical proposition  General testable, controlled hypotheses They can also be effective by combining a series of cases of unusual phenomenon using a method called constant comparative method, which consists of the identification of relevant information (unitization), placing the units in categories that immerge from the data (categorization), and providing organizational themes for the information (identifying themes) Case studies are especially effective (as evidence) if they disprove an assumed universal relationship/law. However, case studies are not useful in ruling out the possibility of alternate hypotheses i.e. if a clinician diagnoses a person with depression and comes up with a treatment method which significantly reduces the depression in 10 weeks, it is not enough to conclude that the treatment worked, it is possible other factors could have contributed to the loss of depression (a stressful situation could have solved itself, the depression could have been naturally time limited etc.) the case study does not rule out these possibilities Therefore case studies are great for studying in great detail the phenomena of one individual as well as forming hypotheses but it is not useful in general studies where universal laws are used Epidemiological Research Epidemiology: The study of the frequency and distribution of a disorder in a population Data is gathered about the rates of a disorder and its possible correlates in a large sample or population Epidemiological research tries to determine: 1. The proportion of a population that has the disorder at a given point (prevalence) 2. The number of new cases of the disorder that occurs in some period of time, usually a year (incidence) 3. Conditions or variables that, if present, increase the likelihood of developing the disorder The Correlation Method This method establishes whether or not there is a relationship between 2 or more variables This method differs from experimental methods because the variables are observed in their natural states; they are not manipulated/controlled. So there would be no need to recreate stress in a lab Correlation is measured by comparing the variable being studied for each of the participants in a group, then the relationship between the 2 sets of observation are calculated to find out the correlation coefficient, r. In finding the relationship, it is to find out whether variable X & variable Y are associated in some way so they vary together (changing one changes the other) The correlation coefficient is measured on a scale from -1.00 to + 1.00. the higher the absolute value of ‘r’, the stronger they are correlated (-1.00 and + 1.00 are perfectly correlated and 0 indicates no correlation at all) If the sign for ‘r’ is positive, it is positively correlated (increasing one, increases the other) and if the ‘r’ is negative (increasing one decreases the other) Statistical Significance Statistical significance refers to the likelihood that the results of an investigation are due to chance To be statistically significant, the likelihood of it occurring due to chance must be 5 or less out of 100 (p=.05). Usually the higher the correlation coefficient, the more likely it is statistically significant Also, the greater number of observations, the smaller the r needs to be to reach statistical significance (i.e. r=.30 would be significant if it were from a large number of observations-like 300-but not significant for a small number of observations, like 20) **remember it must be 5 or less out of 100 to be significant Applications for psychopathology The correlational method is widely used in abnormal psychology. It is used whenever people with one diagnosis are compared to people with another one or without one When correlational studies are used in psychology, one of the variables is usually the diagnosis (whether they have the disorder or not) which are separated by assigning them a number. 1 is for those who do have a disorder and 2 for those who don’t Usually the other variable(s) are classificatory variables, (variables which were already present which the researcher is simply measuring i.e. age, sex, class, body build, etc.) these variables are no
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