CH 2: METHODOLOGY
Sept/20/11 – Pg 29-53
Social Psychology: An - When we study human behaviour, the results may appear to have been predictable – in
Empirical Science retrospect.
Hindsight bias - Hindsight bias: a human tendency whereby people exaggerate how much they could have
predicted an outcome after knowing that it occurred.
o Ex. After we know the winner of a political election, we look at the reasons why that
candidate won and the outcome becomes inevitable and easily predictable.
Inspiration from Earlier - Many studies stem from a researcher’s dissatisfaction with existing theories and explanations.
Theories and Research o Ex. Leon Festinger was dissatisfied with the ability of a major theory, behaviourism
to explain why people change their attitudes.
o Formulated a new approach – dissonance theory that made specific predictions about
when and how people would change their attitudes.
Hypotheses Based on
Personal Observations - Researchers often observe something in their lives or others’ lives that they find curious and
interesting, stimulating them to construct a theory about why this phenomenon occurred – and
to design a study to see if they are right.
o Ex. Latane and Darley examined the social situation of the Genovese case and
thought that the more people who witness an emergency, the less likely that any
given individual will intervene.
o Diffusion of responsibility – ‘someone else probably called the police’
Describing Social Behavior - If the goal is to describe what a particular group of people or type of behaviour is like, the
Observational method observational method is very helpful.
- This technique requires a researcher to observe people and records measurements or
impressions of their behaviour.
Ethnography o Ex. Ethnography: the method by which researchers attempt to understand a group or
culture by observing it from the inside, without imposing any preconceived notions
they might have.
o Ex. Festinger joined a cult that thought the world would end.
Interjudge reliability - It is important to establish interjudge reliability which is the level of agreement between two
or more people who independently observe and code a set of data.
- Archival analysis is when the researcher can examine the accumulated documents of a culture
o Ex. Diaries, novels, suicide notes, popular music lyrics…
- Archival analysis is a good tool for answering the question ‘what is defined as pornography?’
because it enables researchers to describe the content of documents present in the culture.
- Observational research can tell us a lot about a society’s values and beliefs, the fact that sexual
violence against women is common in pornography suggests that these images appeal to many
Limits of the Observational readers.
- Certain kinds of behaviour are difficult to observe because they occur only rarely or only in
- Social psychologists want to do more than just describe behaviour, they want to predict and
The Correlational Method:
Predicting Social Behavior - With correlational method two variables are systematically measured, and the relationship
between them – how much you predict one from the other – is assessed.
Correlation coefficient - Researchers look at relationships by calculating the correlation coefficient a statistic that
assesses how well you can predict one variable from another. - Positive correlation means that increases in the value of one variable are associated with
increases in the value of the other variable.
o Ex. Height and weight
- Negative correlation means that increases in the value of one variable are associated with
decreases in the value of the other.
- Correlation coefficients are expressed as numbers that can range from -1.00 to +1.00.
- A correlation of 1.00 means that two variables are perfectly correlated in a positive direction.
- A representative sample of people are asked questions about their attitudes or behaviour.
- Convenient way to measure people’s attitudes
- Allows researchers to judge the relationship between variables that are difficult to observe,
such as how often people engage in safer sex.
- Answers to a survey are useful only if they reflect the responses of people in general – not just
the people actually tested
- Using a random selection of people from the population at large is a way of ensuring that a
sample of people is representative of a population.
Limits of the Correlational
Method: Correlation does not
equal causation - Correlational method only tells us that two variables are related, not the causes.
o Ex. Correlation between the amount of violent television children watch and how
aggressive they are
o TV violence causes kids to become more violent themselves
o Kids who are violent to begin with are more likely to watch violent TV
o Or there might be no causal relationship between the two: both TV watching and