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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Notes

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The goal of psychology as a science is the explanation of behaviour. The vast majority of
psychologists believe that behaviour, like other natural phenomena, can be studied
objectively. The scientific method permits us to discover the nature and causes of behaviour.
The Scientific Method In Psychology
The scientific method consists a set of rules that dictate the general procedure a scientist
must follow in his or her research. Rules were originally devised by philosophers who were
attempting to determine how we could understand reality.
Three major types of scientific research: Naturalistic observation and clinical observation
Correlational studies
Naturalistic observation: the observation of people or animals in their natural
Clinical observation: observation of the behaviour of people who are undergoing
diagnosis or treatment.
The two methods above are the least formal and are constrained by the fewest rules.
Naturalistic observations provide the foundations of the biological social sciences.
Maria Montessori formed many of her ideas about child development by watching
children in a classroom. And Paul Broca suggested that language was located in a specific
region of the brain after treating a man who had lost his ability to speak.
Correlational studies: observation in nature but involves more formal measurement.
Researchers examine the relations of these measurements in an attempt to explain the
observed behaviours.
Experiments: go beyond a mere measurement. A study in which the researcher changes
the value of an independent variable and observes whether this manipulation affects the
value of a dependent variable. Only experiments can confirm the existence of cause-
and-effect relations among variables.
The three classes of research often occur in progressive sequence, and provide increasingly
more compelling evidence.
5 Steps of the scientific method that apply to experiments

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1)Identify the problem and formulate hypothetical cause and effect relations among
2)Design the experiment.
3)Perform the experiment.
4)Evaluate the hypothesis by examining the data from the study.
5)Communicate the results.
Identifying the Problem: Getting an idea for research
Hypothesis is a tentative statement about a cause and effect relation between two or more
A theory is a set of statements that describes and explains known facts, proposes relations
among variables, and makes new predictions. In a sense, a theory is an elaborate form of
Naturalistic and clinical observations as sources of hypotheses and theories
Much of what we know about behaviour comes from ordinary experience: observing other
people, listening to their stories, watching films, and reading novels. In effect we perform
naturalistic observations throughout our lives.
Naturalists are people who carefully observe animals in their natural environment,
disturbing them as little as possible. Naturalistic observations are then what naturalists
see and record.
Much can be learned through careful observation of animals in their natural
environment. The results of such observations often suggest hypotheses to be
tested by subsequent studies.
Clinical observations: in the course of diagnosis or treatment, clinical psychologists can
often observe important patterns of behaviour. They often report the results of their
observations in detailed descriptions known as case studies. As with naturalistic
observations, these could form the basis of hypotheses about the causes of behaviour.
Unlike a naturalist, however, a clinical psychologist most likely does not remain
in the background, because the object of therapy is to change the patient`s
behaviour and to solve problems.
Survey study: a study of people`s responses to standardized questions.

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Designing an Experiment:
A variable is anything capable of assuming any of several values.
Measure dependent variable while we manipulate the independent variable. A hypothesis
describes how the value of a dependent variable depends on the value of an independent
Nominal fallacy is the false belief that one has explained the causes of a phenomenon by
identifying and naming it; for example, believing that one has explained lazy behaviour by
attributing it to `laziness. Classifying behaviour does not explain it; classifying only
prepares us to examine and discover events that cause behaviour.
The task of psychologists is to determine which of the many events that occurred
before a particular behaviour caused that behaviour to happen.
Operational definitions: independent and dependent variables are defined in terms of
the operations a researcher performs to set their values or to measure them. The definition
of a variable in terms of the operations the researcher performs to measure or manipulate
The validity of operational definitions refers to how appropriate they are for testing the
researcher`s hypothesis how accurately they represent the variables whose values have
been manipulated or measured.
When conducting an experiment, the researcher must manipulate the value of the
independent variable and ONLY the independent variable.
Confounding of variables inadvertent simultaneous manipulation of more than one
variable. The results of an experiment involving confounded variables permit no valid
conclusions about cause and effect.
Habituation when a stimulus is presented repeatedly.
Counterbalancing a systematic variation of conditions in an experiment which prevents
confounding of independent variables with time dependent processes such as habituation or
A procedure described by an operational definition that produces consistent results under
consistent conditions is said to have high reliability. Reliability is the repeatability of
an experiment; the likelihood that if the measurement was made again it would
yield the same value.
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