Chapter 2: Studying Behavior Scientifically
Psychologists are Scientists
1. They are precise
2. They are skeptical
3. They rely on empirical evidence (conduct study)
4. They are willing to make “risky” predications (uncommon ideas)
5. They are open and transparent
Two approaches to Study Psychology (p.31)
1. Hindsight (After-the-Fact Understanding)
Attempting to explain behaviour after it occurs. We can arrive at reasonable after-the-fact explanations for almost any result.
Past events could be explained in too many ways and there is no sure way to know which is correct.
2. Understanding through Prediction, Control, Theory Building
Preferred method. Test their understanding of “what causes what”.
Theory building generate an integrated network of predictions
Gathering Evidence: The Scientific Method (p.29)
Step 1: Identify a Question. Curiosity. Ask a question of interest.
Step 2: Gather Information and Form Hypothesis. Hypothesis: a specific prediction about some phenomenon, usually in an “IF-
THEN” statement. Eg If shown different pics, and child communicate the pic, then FC works.
Step 3: Test Hypothesis by Conducting Research
Step 4: Analyze Data, Draw Tentative Conclusions, and Report Findings Data: information gathered through the research
Step 5: Build a Body of Knowledge; Ask further questions, conduct more research, develop and test theories.
Theory: a set of formal statements that explains how and why certain events are related to one another
Ethnical Principles in Research (p.35)
Five Broad Ethnical Principles
1. Beneficence: seeking to benefit other people
2. Responsibility: performing professional duties with utmost care
3. Integrity: being honest and accurate in conducting experiment/recording
4. Justice: enhancing all people’s access to the benefits of psychological knowledge. (Everyone gets a chance to participate, get
access to result)
5. Respect: respecting people’s dignity and rights to confidentiality and self-determination
Before people agree to participate in research, they should be informed about:
1. The study’s purpose and procedures
2. The study’s potential benefits
3. Potential risks to participants
4. The right to decline participation and withdraw at any time without penalty
5. Whether responses will be confidential and, if not, how privacy will be safeguarded.
Is when participants are misled about the nature of a study.
1. Violates the principle of informed consent, but may be the only way to obtain natural responses.
2. Deception is only permitted if there are no other alternation available
3. Study must have scientific, educational, or applied benefits that clearly outweigh the ethical costs of deceiving participants
4. Requires adequate debriefing
5. True purpose of study must be revealed to participants after its over Ethics of Animal Research
7-8% of all psychological research
Animals must be treated humanely
Study goals, procedures and benefits must be clearly explained and defined
Benefits must outweigh costs, only allowed if no other alternative is available (research must be reviewed and approved
Debate remains controversial
Defining and Measuring VARIABLES (p.33)
Variables: any characteristics/factor that varies
Psychologists study variables and the relations among them. Eg eye color, gender, age, income, GPA.
Psychologists usually study abstract concepts that cannot be observed. Eg self-esteem, stress, intelligence
Operational Definition: defines a variable in terms of the specific procedures used to produce or
Variable may mean differently to different people, so variables must be define clearly. So scientists define variables
Operational definitions translate abstract concepts into something observable and measureable. Eg self-esteem test score
Measurement Techniques (of variables) (P.33)
1. SELF REPORT AND REPORT BY OTHERS
ask people to report their own knowledge, experience, attitudes, feelings or behavior
can be gathered through interviews or questionnaires. Have problems such as honesty or subjectivity (Eg definition of pain?)
Sensitive topics (sex, drugs) can be distorted by social desirability bias: the tendency to respond in a
socially acceptable manner rather than according to how one truly feels or behaves .
Researcher try to minimize bias by establish rapport and ensure confidentiality
Alternative is to get reports from others. Eg parents, spouses, teachers, roommates, job supervisors
2. MEASURES OF OVERT BEHAVIOUR
Record Overt Behaviour: directly observe
They develop Coding Systems to record different categories of behavior. Observers are trained to make sure measurements
will be reliable (consistent). Eg: They need to agree what ‘helping’ means.
Unobtrusive measures: record behavior in a way that keeps participants unaware they are
To avoid people acting differently, researchers camouflage themselves
Archival measures: records/documents that already exist
Example: researchers assessing a program to reduce drunk driving could examine police records before and after program was
3. PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS
Designed to measure and evaluate participants’ personality, intelligence, emotional states, interests, abilities, values etc.
personality tests, intelligence tests (IQ test), neuropsychological tests (3D test)
4. PSYSIOLOGICAL MEASURES
Used to measure a participant’s physiological response to a situation. Eg heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate etc.
Problem: can be hard to interpret what the results indicate about a person’s feelings or thoughts Method of Research
A. DESCRIPTIVE RESEARCH: Recording Events (p.37)
Descriptive research: Seek to identify how humans and other animals behave, particularly in
natural settings (also called non-experimental research)
Non-experimental, non-invasive, NOT manipulated, variables are measured.
1. CASE STUDIES
Definition: an in-depth analysis of an individual, group, or event
Data is collected through observation, interviews, psychological test, task performance
Allows scientists to study rare circumstances (and Does not allow cause and effect conclusions. Cannot prove
sometimes otherwise unethical) certain factors as fact or coincidence, or pre-existing
Sometimes provides exception to widely held beliefs or condition.
theories Very little generalizability. Can theory hold true for other
people or in other situations?
Provides foundation for new, better controlled Can be a lot of bias in the data collection. Is the result what
the researcher think he will he see? Are there special
interactions between the researcher/participant?
Often relies on the researcher’s subjective interpretation
2. Naturalistic Observation
Definition: researchers observe behaviour as it occurs in a natural setting, and avoid
influencing that behavior
Advantages: can provide detailed information about the nature, frequency and context of naturally occurring behaviours.
Disadvantages: cannot establish cause-effect relations, bias, researcher presence.
Example: school bullying
3. Survey Research
Definition: information about a topic is obtained by administering questionnaires or
interviews to a population
Example: census, political polls, Statistics Canada surveys, surveys about attitudes towards sensitive issues
Population: all the individual we are interested in drawing a conclusion about, Eg “American adults”
Sample: a subset of individuals drawn from the larger population
Representative sample: one that reflects the
important characteristics of the population
To draw valid conclusions about a po