o By organizing isolated facts, a theory simplifies.
- A good theory produces testable predictions, called hypotheses.
- Hypothesis: a testable prediction, often implied by a theory.
o Such predictions specify what results (behaviours or events) would support the theory
and what results would disconfirm it.
- Our theories may bias our observations.
o As a check on their biases, psychologists report their research with precise operational
definitions of procedures and concepts.
Operational definition: a carefully worded statement of the exact procedures
(operations) used in a research study. (ex. “sleep deprived” is defined as “X
hours less” than the persons natural sleep.
o By using these carefully worded statements, others can replicate the original
observations with different participants, materials and circumstances. If they get similar
results, then confidence in the findings reliability grows.
Replication: repeating the essence of a research study, usually with different
participants in different situations, to see whether the basic findings can be
extended to other participants/circumstances. Also to increase reliability.
Replication is confirmation and enables scientific self-correction.
- Thus, our theory will be useful if it:
1. Organizes a range of self-reports and observations
2. Implies predictions that anyone can use to check the theory or to derive practical
3. Stimulate further research that leads to a revised theory that better organizes and
predicts what we know
Description – the starting point of any science.
- Describing behaviour is the first step towards predicting it.
Case study: a descriptive technique in which one individual or group is studied in depth in the hope of
revealing universal principles.
- Cannot assume that case studies always reveal general principles that apply to all of us. To
discern the general truths that cover individual cases, we must answer questions with other
Naturalistic Observation: a descriptive technique of observing and recording behaviour in naturally
occurring situations without trying to manipulate and control the situation.
- Records behaviour in natural environments.
- Like case studies, these observations don’t explain behaviour, but it describes behaviour (which
can still be revealing).
Survey: a descriptive technique for obtaining the self-reported attitudes or behaviours of a particular
group, usually by questioning a representative, random sample of the group.