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PSYC 101 CHPT. 2

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PSYC 101
Barbara Cox

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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 environments  Provide foundations of the biological & social sciences  Ex. Maria Montessori formed her ideas about child development by watching children in a classroom  Clinical observation- observation of the behaviour of people who are undergoing diagnosis or treatment  These methods are the least formal & least constrained  Observational evidence identifies the phenomenon & may indicate something about its magnitude  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 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- effect  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 variable  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 participants  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  Scientists want to understand the causes of behaviour in more than one specific situation  So variables are categories into which various behaviours are classified st  One of 1 steps is to name & classify behaviours but must avoid committing nominal fallacy  Nominal fallacy- false belief that one has explained the causes of a phenomenon by identifying 7 naming it i.e. explained lazy behaviour by attributing it to “laziness”  Classifying behaviour only prepares us to examine & discover events that cause a behaviour  Hypotheses are phrased in general terms, need to decide what particular variables to manipulate & measure when designing an experiment  Translation of generalities into specific operations is called an operational definition  Operational definition- the definition of a variable in terms of the operations the researcher performs to measure or manipulate it; procedures used to define research variables  Ex. Intelligence may be operationally defined as what an intelligence test measures  Ex. Intelligence may be operationally defined in terms of the amount of time it takes to solve selected problems  Which operational definition is correct? Which set of results should be believed? -> issue of validity  Validity- degree to which the operational definition of a variable accurately reflects the variable it is designed to measure or manipulate  Only experiments that use valid operational definitions of their variables can yield meaningful results Control of Independent Variables  If an effect is seen on dependent variable when value of independent variable is manipulated in an experiment, can conclude that there is a cause-and-effect relation between the variables  Researchers MUST only manipulate the independent variable  Confounding of variables- inadvertent simultaneous manipulation of more than one variable  Results of an experiment involving confounded variables permit no valid conclusions about case-and- effect
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