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Chapter 14

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University of Guelph
PSYC 2360
Carol Anne Hendry

Chapter 14: Generalizing Results Generalizing to Other Populations of Research Participants • Participants rarely selected from general population • People that participate in studies are usually selected because they’re available • Most available population: university students o Studied in over 70% of articles in a variety of psychology journals in the mid-60s and mid-80s o Potential problem: highly restricted population o Tend to be young, with sense of self that’s still developing, varying social and political attitudes, high need for peer approval, unstable peer relationships o Also have high cognitive skills and know how to win approval from authority • What we know about “people in general” may really be limited to highly select group • If populations other than students are being studied, then researchers are highly dependent on volunteers, who differ in various ways from non- volunteers (tend to be highly educated, have higher socio-economic status, etc.) • Gender considerations: o Given possible differences between males and females, study results may not be generalizable o Solution: be aware of gender biases and include both genders in study o Recognize ways in which males and females may differentially interpret independent variable manipulations or questions in questionnaires o Consider location: participants in one locale may differ from ones in another locale results found may not generalize to people in other settings or regions • Problem of generalization → interaction in factorial design o An interaction occurs when a relationship between variables exists under one condition but not another; or, when nature of relationship is different in one condition than another o Eg. in study of relationship between crowding and aggression among males, the presence of an interaction indicates that the results for males can’t be generalized to females o Researchers can address issue of generalization by including subject type (eg. gender, age) in study • Criticism of research doesn’t mean that results can’t be generalized o Criticisms of the use of any particular type of research subject in a study should be backed with good reasons that a relationship wouldn’t be found with other types of subjects o Replication of research provides safeguard against limited generalizability • Internet samples used increasingly in research Cultural Considerations • When using university students as research participants, most samples are ethnically diverse → increases external validity of results • Cultural research often focuses on identifying similarities/differences that might exist in personality and other psych characteristics; also, how individuals of different cultures respond to same environments o Eg. series of studies investigating perceptions of female physical attractiveness: ratings highly similar across groups, but with certain cultural differences • This type of research helps inform us about generality of findings across cultural groups; these cultural perspectives should be incorporated into research hypotheses • Traditional theories of self-concept are based in North American/European cultures; “self” is an individualistic concept, vs. “self” is a collective concept in other cultures • Also important to consider the ways in which operational definitions of the variables being studied are grounded in particular cultural meanings Generalizing to Other Experimenters • Must make sure that any influence that experimenter has on subjects (eg. their personality, gender, amount of practice as role of experimenter) is constant throughout experiment • Still a possibility that the results are only generalizable to certain types of experimenters o Eg. results obtained by warm, friendly experimenter vs. those obtained by cold, unfriendly experimenter o Influence may also depend on characteristics of subjects • Potential solution: use 2+ experimenters preferable both male and female Pretests and Generalization • Researchers often must decide whether or not to give a pretest o Usually seems like a good idea: researcher can be sure that groups are equivalent on pretest o May limit ability to generalize to populations that haven’t been pretested • Important reason for using a pretest: help researcher determine mortality effects when it is likely that some participants will withdraw from a study o Can determine whether the individuals who withdrew are different from those who actually completed the study • Researcher can examine whether there is an interaction between the independent variable and the pretest variable → ie. are post-test scores on the dependent variable different depending on whether the pretest was given? Generalizing from Laboratory Settings • Research conducted in lab setting has advantage of allowing experimenter to study impact of independent variables under highly controlled conditions • However, question arises as to whether the artificiality of the lab setting limits the ability to generalize results to real-life settings • Field experiments → one way of counteracting artificiality o Researcher manipulates independent variable in natural setting • Unwise to consider laboratory resear
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