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Chapter 2


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Steve Joordens

PSYA01 PSYCHOLOGY CHAPTER 2 – METHODS IN PSYCHOLOGY  Louise Hay o You Can Heal Your Life o Believes that everything that happens to us is a result of the thoughts we choose to think Empiricism: How to Know Stuff  Ancient Greeks had to choose between two doctors. Dogmatists, those who thought the best way to understand illness was develop theories about the body’s functions, or empiricists who thought the best way was to observe sick people.  Dogmatism: The tendency for people to cling to their assumptions  Empiricism: The belief that accurate knowledge can be acquired through observation The Scientific Method  Empiricism is the essential element of the scientific method: A set of principles about the appropriate relationship between ideas and evidence  When we have an idea about something, we should gather empirical evidence relevant to that idea and then modify the idea to fit with the evidence  Theory: Hypothetical explanation of a natural phenomenon  Rule of Parsimony: When developing a theory, start out with the simplest one o Only complicate things if you must  Theories are ideas on how and why things work the way they do o Usually about what we should and should not be able to observe  Hypothesis: Falsifiable prediction made by a theory  “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right, but a single experiment can prove me wrong.” –Albert Einstein  Observations can be consistent with the theory, but does not prove it  Only able to observe a certain amount of cases, not all cases, and one unobserved case can prove a theory wrong  Develop theories, derive hypotheses from them, test those hypotheses by gathering evidence, and then use evidence to modify theory The Art of Looking  Muybridge knew that we have to do a lot more than just look if we want to know the truth about the world  Empiricism is the right approach, but to do it properly, it requires Empirical Method: a set of rules and techniques for observation  Three Things Which Make Humans Difficult to Study 1. Complexity: difficult to explain all the neurons’ functions 2. Variability: No two individuals ever do, say, think or feel exactly the same thing under exactly the same circumstances. This means you have not seen it all 3. Reactivity: People often think, feel and act one way when they are observed and a different way when they are not PSYA01 PSYCHOLOGY  Two methods to meet the challenges 1. Methods of Observation: Determine what people do 2. Methods of Observation: Help determine why people do it Observation: Discovering What People Do  Observe: To use one’s senses to learn about the properties of an event or an object  Casual observations are unstable nor does it disclose all the properties of the object or event and therefore cannot be used for science Measurement  Measurement is the basis of science and modern life  In order to measure, two things must be done 1. Define the property we wish to measure 2. Find a way to detect it Defining and Detecting  Every unit of time has an operational definition: a description of a property in concrete, measurable terms  Measure: A device that can detect the condition to which and operational definition refers  Steps made to measure a physical property are the same steps made to measure a psychological property o Develop an operational definition of that property  Specifying some concrete, measurable event that indicates it  Happiness: frequency of smiles with an electromyography: A device that measures muscle contractions under the surface of a person’s skin  Operational definition and something to measure the event Validity, Reliability, and Power  Good measures have three properties: validity, reliability and power  Validity: The extent to which a measurement and a property are conceptually related. o Smiling to define happiness has validity o Number of friend to define happiness has no validity  Reliability: The tendency for a measure to produce the same measurement whenever it is used to measure the same thing PSYA01 PSYCHOLOGY  Power: The ability of a measure to detect the concrete conditions specified in the operational definition  Valid, reliable, powerful measures consistently detect concrete conditions that are conceptually related to the property of interest when and only when those conditions actually exist Demand Characteristics  Demand Characteristics: Those aspects of an observational setting that cause people to behave as they think they should  Makes it hard to measure behaviour as it should naturally be  Naturalistic Observation: A technique for gathering information by unobtrusively observing people in their natural environments  Naturalistic observation isn’t always viable, o some of things which psychologists want to study do not occur naturally o Some things require direct interaction  Can avoid demand characteristics by giving the subjects anonymity  Can avoid demand characteristics by measuring behaviours which are not voluntary  One of the best ways to avoid demand characteristics is to keep the people who are being observed from knowing the true purpose of the observation o Psychologists use cover stories: misleading explanations, to keep people from guessing the true purpose o Filler Items: Pointless measures that are designed to mislead you about the true purpose of the observation Observer Bias  Expectations can influence observations  Expectations can influence reality  Psychologists can just see what they want/expect to see o E.g. maze-dull vs. maze bright rats  Observers’ expectations, can have a powerful influence on both their observations and on the behaviour of those whom they observe  Double-Blind: An observation whose true purpose is hidden from both the observer and the person being observed. o Measurements are often made by research assistants and not the psychologist Descriptions  Two techniques for making sense of big pages full of numbers o Graphic Representations o Descriptive Statistics Graphic Representations  Humans typically find it easier to understand things visually than numerically or verbally  Most common kind is Frequency Distribution: A graphic representation of measurements arranged by the number of times each measurement was made PSYA01 PSYCHOLOGY  Most common shape is the bell curve aka Normal Distribution: A mathematically defined frequency distribution in which most measurements are concentrated around the middle Descriptive Statistics  Descriptive Statistics: Brief summary statements that capture the essential information from a frequency distribution. o Central Tendency: Statements about the value of the measurements that tend to lie near the center of midpoint of the frequency distribution  Mode: The value of the most frequently measurement  Mean: The average value of all the measurements  Median: The value that is “in the middle” ->Greater than or equal to half the measurements and less than or equal to half the measurements  Normal distribution is when mean, median, and mode are even  When distributions become positively skewed: Mode, Median, Mean  When distributions become negatively skewed: Mean, Median, Mode  Mode is always the hump  Range: The value of the largest measurement in a frequency distribution minus the value of the smallest measurement (Description for variability) o However it is dramatically affected by one measurement  Standard Deviation: A statistic that describe the average difference between the measurements in a frequency distribution and the mean of the distribution. (On average, how far are the measurements from the center of the distribution?) o Less susceptible to the dramatic change from a single measurement Explanation: Discovering Why People Do What They Do  Scientific research’s ultimate goal is the discovery of casual relationships between properties o Whether or not something is actually the cause of an outcome  Correlation: Relation  Causation: Causal PSYA01 PSYCHOLOGY Correlation Patterns of Variation  Learn about relationships between objects and events by comparing the patterns of variation in a series of measurements  Variables: Properties whose values can vary across individuals or over time 1. Measure a Pair of Variables  Not insulted vs. Insulted  Refused vs. Agreed 2. Repeated step 1, to make a series of measurements 3. Try to Discern a Pattern in Series of Measurements  Covariation (synchrony in patterns of variation)/Correlation: Two variables said to be correlated when variations in the value of one variable are synchronized with variations in the value of the other  Correlations describe the past and also allows for prediction  Once correlations are determined, knowing one variable will allow for the prediction of the other variable Measuring Correlation  When making predictions based on correlations, there can be errors  Correlation Coefficient: Measure of the direction and strength if a correlation -> ‘r’ o ‘r’ ranges from -1 to 1 o Perfect Positive Correlation: Increase by fixed amount and increase by fixed amount (r=1) o Perfect Negative Correlation: Decrease by fixed amount and increase by fixed amount (r=-1) o Uncorrelated: Increase by fix amount and does not increase or decrease systematically (r=0) o Imperfect Correlation o Direction and strength of the relationship between two variables Causation  Sometimes humans see cause relationships that don’t actually exist The Third-Variable Problem  Natural Correlations: The correlations we observe in the world around us o Tells whether or not there is a relationship, but doesn’t tell which kind o Possibility of third-variable correlation c
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