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Chapter 2

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Steve Joordens

PSYA01 Chapter 2 – Methods in Psychology Empiricism: How to Know Stuff - Dogmatists – thought that the best way to understand illness was to develop theories about the body’s functions - Empiricists – thought that the best way to understand illness was to observe sick people - Dogmatism describes the tendency for people to cling to their assumptions - Empiricism describes the belief that accurate knowledge can be acquired through observation The Scientific Method - Scientific Method: a set of principles about the appropriate relationship between ideas and evidence - Theory: a hypothetical explanation of a natural phenomenon. They are ideas about how and why things work the way they do - Hypothesis: falsifiable prediction made by a theory The Art of Looking - Empirical method: a set of rules and techniques for observation - Three things make people especially different to study: a) Complexity – the brain gives rise to the thoughts, feelings and actions that are psychology’s core concerns b) Variability – people are as varied as their fingerprints. No two individuals ever do, say, think, or feel exactly the same thing under exactly the same circumstances c) Reactivity – when people know they are being studied, they don’t always behave as they otherwise would - Two kinds of methods that are designed to meet these challenges head on: a) Methods of observation – determine what people do b) Methods of explanation – determine why people do it Observation: Discovering What People Do Measurement - To measure, you have to define the property we wish to measure and then find a way to detect it - Operational definition: a description of a property to concrete, measurable terms - Measure: a device that can detect the condition to which an operational definition refers - Electromyograph: a device that measures muscle contractions under the surface of a persons skin - Good measures have three properties: a) Validity – the extent to which a measurement and a property are conceptually related PSYA01 b) Reliability – the tendency for a measure to produce the same measurement whenever it is used to measure the same thing c) Power – the ability of a measure to detect the concrete conditions, specified in the operational definition - Demand characteristics: those aspects of an observational setting that cause people to behave as they think they should - Naturalistic observation: technique for gathering information by unobtrusively observing people in their natural environment - There are ways to avoid demand characteristics  People are less likely to be influenced by demand characteristics when they cannot be identified as the originators of their actions  Another technique that psychologists use to avoid demand characteristics is to measure behaviours that are not susceptible to demand  Psychologists allow people to respond privately or anonymously  To avoid demand characteristics, keep the people who are being observed from knowing the true purpose of the observation - Expectations can influence observations, and can influence reality - 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 Descriptions - Frequency distribution: graphic representation of measurements arranged by the number of times each measurement was made - Normal distribution: mathematically defined frequency distribution in which most measurements are concentrated around the middle. The normal distribution is symmetrical - Descriptive statistics  brief summary statements that capture the essential information from a frequency distribution  Two kinds of descriptive statistics: those that describe the central tendency of a frequency distribution and those that describe the variability in a frequency distribution - Central tendency  statements about the value of the measurements that tend to lie near the center or midpoint of the frequency distribution - Three most common descriptions of central tendency: a) Mode: the value of the most frequently observed measurement b) Mean: the average value of all the measurements PSYA01 c) Median: the value that is in the middle - Range: value of the largest measurement in a frequency distribution minus the value of the smallest measurement - Standard deviation: statistic that describes the average difference between the measurements in a frequency distribution and the mean of that distribution Explanation: Discovering Why People Do What They Do - Scientific research goal is the discovery of causal relationships between properties Correlation - When performing studies, you do three things - First you measure the variables: properties whose values can vary across individuals over time - Then you continue doing this until you make a series of measurements rather than making just one - Discern a pattern in your series of measurements - Correlation  variations in the value of one variable are synchronized with variations in the value of the other  Correlations are the fundamental building blocks of knowledge  A positive cor
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