PSYCH354R Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Sociosexual Orientation, Construct Validity, Operationalization
SchoolUniversity of Waterloo
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Chapter 2: Tools of Relationship Science
Asking and Answering Questions
- Relationship science a set of tools for answering questions about intimate
- Social scientists differ from all others who write about intimate relationships in
that they determine which claims about relationships are true by systematically
observing and then identifying the claim that best describes what actually
- Our primary tool for evaluating competing claims to the truth is the scientific method, a
set of procedures for making predictions, gathering data, and comparing the validity of
competing claims about the world.
- Three different kinds of questions, which correspond to three different kinds of research
goals, motivate most research on intimate relationships.
- The first kind of question focuses on description and asks: What happens? Many
of the initial questions researchers ask about intimate relationships are of this
- Ex. Which states in the U.S. have the highest and lowest divorce rates?
- Addressing descriptive questions helps scientists identify the nature and
scope of problems being studied, so it is a critical first step for research.
- The second kind of question focuses on prediction and asks: When does it
happen? More specifically, predictive research asks whether knowing something
about a relationship at one point in time can help us know what the relationship
will be like at some future time.
- The third kind of question focuses on explanation and asks: Why does it
happen? Predicting whether a relationship will stay happy is not the same thing as
understanding why relationships deteriorate or remain satisfying.
- Ex. Why are the children of divorced parents at greater risk of getting
- Research aimed at explanation ideally provides the support for
interventions designed to help people improve or change their
- Identifying the possible answers to be evaluated requires a theory, or a general v
- The elements of a theory are often referred to as variables because scientists
tend to theorize about aspects of the world that vary across individuals or across
- One measure of a good theory is that it is falsifiable: that is, it suggests testable
predictions that can be confirmed or disconfirmed through systemic observation.
- The specific predictions suggested by a theory are called hypotheses.
- While a theory provides a broad explanation that directs attention toward
particular variables, a hypothesis is a concrete prediction about how
different variables are likely to be associated.
- The scientific method values replication, the repetition of research that
examines the same questions multiple times.
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- Researchers gradually develop confidence in theories that accumulate
consistent support and reject theories that do not.
Choosing a Measurement Strategy
- One difference between theories in the social sciences and theories in the physical
sciences is that social scientists tend to theorize about variables that are intangible.
- Relationship research addresses questions about abstract ideas like love, conflict,
support and trust.
- These ideas, central to thinking about intimate relationships, are known
as psychological constructs (all products of human thought).
- We cannot directly measure psychological constructs such as love.
- Operationalization the translation of an abstract construct into
concrete terms in order to test predictions about that construct.
- Ex. The ratings in the love scale are an operationalization of
- Research can only measure operationalizations of constructs.
- Construct validity describes how well an operationalization represents
a particular construct.
- When an operationalization’s construct validity is high, the
specific thing a researcher is measuring is an excellent signifier of
the construct being studied and vica versa.
- Self-reports form partners – their own descriptions and evaluations of their experiences
– are the most commonly used source of data in research on intimate relationships.
- In every case, a self-report is an operationalization of a construct.
- Example of direct: sociosexuality people vary in their willingness to
contemplate sex outside the context of a committed intimate relationship
(developed Sociosexual orientation inventory to measure sociosexuality).
- Example of indirect: ask partners to report on specific information the
researcher believes to indicate some construct (ex. Marital Locus of
- The Sociosexual Orientation Inventory, the Marital Locus of Control Scale, and
other survey instruments like them are known as fixed-response scales because
the researcher determines all of the specific questions and possible answers.
- An alternative approach is the open-ended question, in which the researcher
asks a question and the respondent gives any answer that comes to mind.
- These questions are helpful when studying something they do not know
much about, or something that has not been studied before.
- Qualitative research an approach that relies primarily on open-ended
questions and other loosely structured information.
- However, they are more complicated and time-consuming.
- Pros of Self-reports:
- Require little in the way of fancy equipment
- Often the only way of measuring constructs of great interest to
- May have high construct validity
- Cons of Self –reports:
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