PSYC 101 Chapter Notes -Central Tendency, Psych, Demand Characteristics

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1 Feb 2013
Psych 101, 007 Chpt. 2 Ways & Means of Psychology
The Scientific Method in Psychology
Scientific method- a set of rules that governs the collection and analysis of data gained through observational
studies or experiments
Psychologists conduct 3 major types of scientific research:
1. Naturalistic & Clinical Observation
Naturalistic observation- observation of the behaviour of people or animals in their natural
Provide foundations of the biological & social sciences
Ex. Maria Montessori formed her ideas about child development by watching children in a
Clinical observation- observation of the behaviour of people who are undergoing diagnosis or
These methods are the least formal & least constrained
Observational evidence identifies the phenomenon & may indicate something about its
Problem of observational studies: behaviour is observed, NOT explained
Clinical psychologists often report the results of their observations as case studies
Case study- a detailed description of an individual’s behaviour during the course of clinical
treatment of diagnosis
Study a small number of individuals in greater depth
Problem: small number of individuals may not represent general population
in some cases, psychologists do interfere with a situation in a natural or clinical setting
Survey study- study of people’s responses to standardized questions
Study a large number of individuals in less depth
Problem: vulnerable to biased sample error, do not represent general population
2. Correlational studies- examinations of relations between 2 or more measurements of behaviour or
other characteristics of people or animals in attempt to explain the observed behaviours
Observational in nature but involves more formal measurement
Correlational evidence arises when relations between observations are observed
Correlation does not equal causation: Can determine if X & Y go together but not if X causes Y
Cannot imply causation due to: directionality problems & third variable
If A and B are correlated -> Possibility 1: A might cause B
If A and B are correlated -> Possibility 2: B might cause A
If A and B are correlated -> Possibility 3: A might influence B while B influences A in return.
Third Variables: Rather than A causing B or B causing A, third variable C causes A & B.
3. Experiments- studies in which the researcher changes the value of an independent variable &
observes whether this manipulation affects the value of a dependent variable
Only experiments can confirm existence of cause- and- effect relations among variables
Produce concrete evidence about psychological processes that affect behaviour & provide
general accounts of phenomena
5 steps that summarize the rules of the scientific method that apply to experiments:
1. Identify the problem & formulate hypothetical cause-and-effect relations among variables
2. Design the experiment
3. Perform the experiment
4. Evaluate the hypothesis by examining the data from the study
5. Communicate the results
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Hypothesis- a statement, usually designed to be tested by an experiment, that tentatively expresses a cause-
and-effect relationship between two or more events
Theory- a set of statements that describe & explain phenomena or known facts, proposes relations among
variables & makes new predictions
More elaborate form than hypothesis
Operates within the scientific method to organize a system of facts & related hypothesis to explain
some aspect of nature
Good theory generates a testable hypothesis- one that can be supported or proved wrong by scientific
research -> must be verifiable
In order to be scientific, a theory must make predictions that can be tested
Designing an Experiment
Variables- anything capable of assuming any of several values
Independent variable- one that is manipulated in an experiment as a means of determine cause-and-
Dependent variable- one that is measured in an experiment
A hypothesis describes how the value of a dependent variable depends on the value of an independent
Scientists can either manipulate or measure the values of variables
Manipulation- setting the values of an independent variable in an experiment to see whether the value
of another variable is affected
To test hypothesis with an experiment, scientists may assemble 2 groups of volunteers to serve as
Experimental group- the group of participants in an experiment that are exposed to a particular value
of the independent variable which has been manipulated by the researcher
Control group- a comparison group used in an experiment, the members of which are exposed to the
naturally occurring or zero value of the independent variable
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