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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Notes PSYA01.docx

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Steve Joordens

CHAPTER 2 The Ways and Means of Psychology The Scientific Method in Psychology The scientific method consists of a set of rules that dictate the general procedure a scientist must follow in his or her research (a set of rules that governs the collection and analysis of data gained through observational studies or experiments); these rules are not arbitrary; they are based on logic and common sense Psychologists conduct three major types of scientific research: - The first type includes naturalistic observation (the observation of the behaviour of people or other animals in their natural environment) and clinical observation (the observation of the behaviour of people who are undergoing diagnosis or treatment for a psychological condition) o These methods are the least formal and are constrained by the fewest rules o Naturalistic observations provide the foundations of the biological and social sciences - The second type, correlational studies, is observational in nature but involves more formal measurement of environmental events, of individuals physical and social characteristics, and of their behaviour (correlational study is the examination of relations between two or more measurements of behaviour or other characteristics of people or other animals) - Finally, experiments go beyond mere measurement; a psychologist performing an experiment makes things happen and observes the results (an experiment is 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); only experiments can positively identify the causal relations among events The following five steps summarizes the rules of the scientific method that apply to experiments the form of scientific research that identifies cause-and-effect relations 1. Identify the problem and formulate hypothetical cause-and-effect relations among variables this step involves identifying variables (particular behaviours and particular environmental and physiological events) and describing the relations among them in general terms 2. Design the experiment experiments involve the manipulation of independent variables and the observation of dependent variables; each variable must be operationally defined, and the independent variable must be controlled so that only it, and no other variable, is responsible for any changes in the dependent variable 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 Most research occurs in institutional settings such as universities, where scientists, students, and technicians are all involved in the effort; long-term projects require financial support Psychological research in Canada has historically been supported by the three major research-funding agencies of the Canadian government: the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research In this environment of competition and rigorous evaluation, a successful scientist needs to have good ideas; where do they come from? Hypothesis A hypothesis is the starting point of any study; a hypothesis is a statement, usually designed to be tested by an experiment, that tentatively expresses a cause-and-effect relationship between two or more events Theories A theory is a set of statements that describes and explains known facts, proposes relations among variables, and makes new predictions; it is designed to explain a set of phenomena; more encompassing than a hypothesis A good theory is also one that generates testable hypotheses hypotheses that can potentially be supported or proved wrong by scientific research Naturalistic and Clinical Observations as Sources of Hypotheses and Theories Naturalists are people who carefully observe animals in their natural environment, disturbing them as little as possible; naturalistic observations, then, are what naturalists see and record All sciences physical, biological, and social begin with simple observation Psychologists who are also naturalists apply observational procedures to questions of behaviour; the important feature of naturalistic observations is that the observer remains in the background, trying not to interfere with the people (or animals) being observed Clinical observations are different; 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 (a detailed description of an individuals behaviour during the course of clinical treatment or diagnosis); 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 patients behaviour and to solve problems; the psychologist is ethically constrained to engage in activities designed to benefit the patient; he or she cannot arbitrarily withhold some treatment or apply another just for the sake of new observations; so the clinician cannot interfere with the treatment regime prescribed for the patient In a survey study, researchers may ask people specially designed and controlled questions, perhaps about their beliefs, opinions, or attitudes; survey studies are designed to elicit a special kind of behaviour: answers to the questions; the observations, then, are usually descriptions of the classes of responses to these questions Designing an Experiment Although naturalistic or clinical observations enable a psychologist to classify behaviours into categories and provide hypothetical explanations for them, only an experiment can determine whether these explanations are correct Variables Scientists refer to components as variables: things that can vary in value, or anything capable of assuming any of several values; thus, temperature is a variable, and so is happiness Scientists either manipulate or measure the values of variables; manipulate li
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