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Chapter 2 – Where to Start
The motivation to conduct scientific research derives from a natural curiousity about
Hypothesis and Predictions
•Hypothesis – a statement, formulated by the researcher, which makes an
assertion about what is true in a particular situation; often a statement
asserting that two or more variables are related. Therefore, it is only a
tentative idea waiting for evidence to support or refute it.
•Hypothesis can be general, informal questions (ie. “Do males and females
differ in their drinking ability”). In such cases, the researchers develop a
procedure for collecting data to answer the questions. These are informal
hypotheses or simply questions about behavior.
•Formal hypotheses state that two or more variables are related (ie. “Crowding
results in reduced performance on cognitive tasks”).
•Such hypotheses are formulated on the basis of past research and theoretical
considerations. The research will then design an experiment to test the
•At this point the experimenter will make a specific prediction concerning
the outcome of the experiment.
•If the prediction is confirmed by the results, the hypothesis is supported; if
the prediction is not confirmed, we will either reject the hypothesis or conduct
further research using different methods.
•A hypothesis can only be supported is cannot be proven.
Who we Study: A Note on Terminology
•Participants are also referred to as subjects. The publication Manual of the
American Psychological Association recommends using the term
“participants” when describing humans who take part in psychological
•Respondents – individuals who take part in survey research.
•Informants – people who help researchers understand the dynamics of
particular cultural and organizational settings – the term originated in
anthropological and sociological research.
Sources of Data
Five sources of ideas are:
2.observation of the world
•Common sense – the body of knowledge of things we all believe to be
true (ie. “do opposites attract”)
•Testing common sense is valuable because such notions don’t always
turn out to be true or research may show the real world is much more
complicated than our common sense ideas would have it.
•Conducting research to test common sense often makes us go beyond
the common sense theory of behavior.
Observation of the World
•Curiousity sparked by observation often leads to asking questions about
phenomena (ie. “When I hide something in a special place I often forget
where I put it”). This is what leads most students to engage in their first
•There is a great diversity of the ideas that can be generated in this way.
•Fried suggested that the negative reaction to rap music may arise because it
is associated with Black music. To test this he asked participants to read
lyrics to a folk song with a violent message and he told them it was either a
rap song or a country song. He found they had more negative reactions when
they were told it was a rap song.
•Lynn was a waiter through university and during that time formed many
hypotheses about what increased tips. He took this further and used a
scientific approach to test his ideas, making an entire career out of it and
making many new discoveries. Lynn exemplifies that taking a scientific
approach to a problem can lead to important applications.
•Serendipity – sometimes the most interesting discoveries are the result of
accident of sheer luck. Pavlov (and the salivating dog) is an excellent
example of this. Such discoveries can only be made by luck when you are
studying the world with an inquisitive eye.
•Theories serve two important functions in increasing our understanding of
• They organize and explain a variety of specific facts or descriptions of
behavior. Such facts are meaningless on their own, so theories impose a
framework on them, making the world more comprehensible by providing a
few abstract concepts around which we can organize and explain a variety of
behaviors (ie. Darwin’s theory of evolution).
•They generate new knowledge by focusing our thinking so we notice new
aspects of behavior – they guide our observation of the world.