Chapter 2- Studying Behavior Scientifically
Scientific Principles In Psychology
There are other ways we learn about the world and ourselves- through reason intuition and common sense- religion and
spirituality; the arts and the teachings of family friends and others.
The scientific method was used by physicist and chemists for several centuries to make great progress in determining the
laws of physical science.
Curiosity, skepticism, and open-mindedness are driving forces behind Scientifics inquiry
show me your evidence
John Darley and Bibb Latane- experiment in a murder where people saw a murder but did not call 911, assuming that
another individual had called 911 already. Darley and Latane also were skeptical of the medias bystander apathy
Darley and Latane reasoned that the presence of multiple bystanders produced a diffusion of responsibility, a
psychological state in which each person feels decreased personal responsibility for intervening. They performed several
experiments to test their explanations.
Gathering Evidence: Steps In The Scientific Process
Science involves a continuous interplay between observing and explaining events
There are 5 steps
o Identify: Questions Of Interest
Curiosity sparks the first step: identifying a question of interest. From personal experiences, news
events, scientific articles, books and other resources, scientists observe something that piques their
o Gather information And Form Hypothesis
Scientists determine whether any studies, theories, and other information that might help answer
their question already exist. Then they form a hypothesis.
Hypothesis- a specific prediction about some phenomenon that often takes the form of an If- then
A diffusion of responsibility may have occurred
o Test Hypothesis By Conducting Research
Create an emergency in a controlled setting
Manipulate (control) the perceived number of bystanders
Measure how quickly each participant helps the victim
o Analyze Data, Draw Tentative Conclusions And Report Findings
Here researchers analyze the information (called data) they collect, draw tentative conclusions, and
report their findings to the scientific community
Publishing research is essential to scientific progress. To allow fellow scientists to learn about how
new ideas and findings, to evaluate the research and to challenge or expand it.
o Build A Body Of Knowledge, Ask Further Questions, Conduct More Research, Develop And Test
Scientists build a body of knowledge about the topic in question, formulate new hypothesis, and test
those hypothesis by concluding more research. As evidence mounts, scientists may attempt to build
Theory- is a set of formal statement that explains how and why certain events are related to one
another. Theories are broader than hypothesis, and in psychology theories typically specify lawful
relations between certain behaviors and their causes.
Theory of Social Impact- has been used to explain a variety of social behaviors.
Scientists use theories to develop new hypothesizes derived from a theory, confidence in the theory
increases. If predictions made by the theory are not supported then it will need to be modified or
Hindsight (After- the- Fact- Understanding.)
life is lived forward, but understood backwards
Hindsight= after the fact reasoning
There is a problem with using hindsight explanations based in common sense and folk knowledge to understand behavior.
The main problem with relying on hindsight reasoning is that related past events can be explained in many creative,
reasonable and sometimes contradictory ways. There is no such way to determine which- if any- of the alternatives is
correct. Despite this problem, hindsight reasoning can provide valuable insights and is often the foundation on which
further scientific inquiry is built.
Theory development is the strongest test if scientific understanding because good theories generate an integrated network
of predictions. A good theory has several important characteristics:
o It incorporates existing facts and observations within a single broad framework. In other words, it organizes
information in a meaningful way.
o It is testable. It generates new hypothesis and predictions whose accuracy can be evaluated by gathering new
o The predictions made by the theory are supported by the findings of new research.
o It conforms with the law of parsimony. If two theories can explain and predict the same phenomenon equally
well, the simpler theory is the preferred one.
Even when many successful predictions support a theory, it is never regarded as an absolute truth. It is always possible that
future observation will contradict it, or that a newer more accurate theory will displace it. The displacement of the old
beliefs and theoretical frameworks by new ones is the essence of science.
Defining And Measuring Variables Variable- quite simply is any characteristic or factor that can vary. Example people
Scientists must define their terms clearly. And when conduction research scientists must also define variables
Operational Definition= defines a variable in terms of the specific procedures used to produce or measure it. Operational
definitions translate abstract concepts into something observable and measurable.
Measurements are challenging because psychologists study incredibly varied and complex processes. Some processes are
directly observable but others are not,
Self-Reports And Reports By Others
Self Report measures ask people to report on their own knowledge, beliefs, feelings, experiences or behavior. This
information is often gathered through interviews or questionnaires. The accuracy of self- report measures hinges on
peoples ability and willingness to respond honestly when research questions focus on sensitive topics, such as sexual
habits and drug use.
Social Desirability Bias- the tendency to respond in a socially acceptable manner rather than according to how one truly
feels or behaves.
We also can gather information about someones behavior by conducting interviews with administering questionnaires to
other people, such as parents, spouses and teachers who know the person.
Measures Of Overt Behavior
Another measurement approach is to record overt behavior. In an experiment on learning, we might measure how many
errors a person makes while performing a task.
Reaction Time- how rapidly they respond to stimulus.
Coding Systems- to record different categories of behavior.
Observers may be trained to use the coding system properly so that their measurements will be reliable- CONSISTENT
OBSERVATIONS. If 2 observers watching the same behavior repeatedly disagree in their coding, then the data is
unreliable and of little use.
Unobtrusive Measures-, which record behavior in a way, that keeps participants unaware that certain responses are being
Archival measures-, which is records or documents that already exist.
Psychological Tests- Psychologists develop and use specialized tests to measure many types of variables.
Personality Tests- Asses personality traits often contain questions that ask how a person typically feels and behaves.
Intelligence Tests- may ask people to assemble objects or solve arithmetic problems.
Neuropsychological Tests- helps to diagnose normal and abnormal brain functioning by measuring how well people
perform mental and physical tasks, such as recalling lists of words