Chapter 2: The Foundations of Psychological Research
Experimental – researcher able to exercise control over variables that are assumed to be the causal
agents producing predicted effect
Nonexperimental – actions and events carefully measured and catalogued, but independent variable
cannot be directly manipulated
Eg. naturalistic observation, quasiexperiment, correlational, survey, & single-subject or small-
The Goals of Science
Paul Ekman: Conducted Nonexperimental study showing people from developed and underdeveloped
countries photographs of facial expressions; everyone interpreted it the same. Thus, facial expressions of
emotions are not socially or culturally learned, rather they are universal products of evolution.
Goal of research is to provide scientific understanding which includes: description and explanation
Conceptual Definition – provides the meaning, often rather broad in scope, of an abstract term, such as
intelligence, anxiety or emotion.
Eg. Emotion – a rapid and coordinated response system that evolved to enable humans to react
quickly and effectively to events that affect their welfare “communication”
Operational Definition – Indicates how concept is coded, measured, or quantified
Eg. Gender: female = 1, male = 2
It’s among several possible objective and measurable indicators of a concept
FACS Facial Action Coding System – provides the operational definition of various facial expressions of
emotions. It defines specific combinations of facial muscle movements that are universally and discretely
generated when certain emotions are elicited. predictive relationship for replication and more studies
Ekman found 7 discrete emotional expressions that humans in different cultures recognize: happiness,
sadness, fear, anger, surprise, disgust, contempt
Explanation – prediction as well as establishing cause and effect
Cook & Campbell: Causality needs 3 kinds of evidence:
1. Temporal Precedence – establishes that the cause precedes effect
i. Eg. smoking first then lung cancer
2. Covariation of the Cause and Effect – when cause is present, effect occurs; when cause
absent, effect doesn’t
i. Eg. People who smoke must be the ones getting lung cancer
3. Alternative explanation – must show there is nothing other than a causal variable
responsible for effect
i. Eg. If social class affected the contraction of lung cancer
Impossible to have this kind of evidence or to control all Confounding/Third Variables.
Basic research – addresses questions about nature of abstract or concrete mechanisms and processes
psychological process and ideas, such as emotion, intelligence, reasoning and social behaviour.
Applied research – addresses questions that are thought to be immediate relevance in solving practical
problems, such as what TV ads cause drug use, what is the most effective math teaching method.
Program Evaluation – studies the effects on behaviour of large scale policy changes and as
well social reforms and innovations occurring in government, schools, courts, prisons,
businesses, health care, housing, etc.
Basic and applied research is on a continuum, & research is sometimes the combined efforts of both.
Sources of Research Ideas Starting With Observation
Observation was the driving force of many findings including Darwin’s natural selection and his finding
that all mammals regularly display emotion in their face.
Strack: showed how two simple positions of holding a pen either gently between the teeth or tightly
between the lips induced facial expressions of smiling and frowning.
Serendipity Effect – observation prepared with an open mind increases the chances of accidentally
discovering something fortunate.
Eg. Isaac Newton’s universal law of gravity discovered by the apple falling on his head.
Starting With Theory
Autonomic System – regulated bodily reactions to stress: such as perspiration, rapid heartbeat,
muscular tension and dryness of mouth
James-Lange Theory – addresses the chicken-and-egg question by stating that physiological changes
come first, followed by experience of emotional feelings.
Cannon-Bard Theory – emotions come first, followed by bodily changes
Embodiment Theory of Emotion: when we perceive and think about emotions, we experience or re-
experience in ourselves those subtle physical and mental changes of the relevant emotions. This re-
experiencing involves perceptual, somatic, and motoric re-experiencing of relevant emotion; dynamic
interplay of specific bodily states and their associated emotions.
A. when people adopt emotion-specific postures they report experiencing associated emotions
B. when people make facial expressions or gestures, their perceptions and impressions are
C. inhibiting people’s motor movements can interfere with experience of emotion
Journals – constitute scientific literature of various empirical peer-reviewed studies
Primary Sources – the first-hand empirical report published in a peer-reviewed journal
Peer-reviewed publications have 2 categories:
o Empirical Articles – report particular study and is written in certain format divided
into sections with abstract, intro, method, result, and discussion
o Review Articles – examines several studies of particular phenomenon; evaluates
methodology used across different studies, examines degree to which findings are
robust across various conditions, settings, and procedures, and comments on extent to
which empirical findings allow for general theoretical conclusions.
Secondary Sources – second-hand media accounts of scientific work
Popular Science – written by eminent scientists who aim to explain science for general
Science Journalism – focus on recent developments in science that are judged newsworthy
Popular Science and Science Journalism can often “oversell” and abandon the scientific
approach BUT they can be used as inspiration for further scientific investigation.
Abel & Kruger: smile intensity in photographs predicted longevity (they focused on baseball players but
controlled for other factors) Correct prediction
Searching the Literature
Internet provides a wide basis for research Online Serendipity
Google Scholar (FREE), PsycINFO & PsycLIT – specialized, noncommercial search engines sponsored by
the American Psychological Association to serve as databases for citations and abstracts of the world’s
literature in psychology and related fields, Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) – articles from
psychology and related fields, such as sociology and criminology.
These websites are not free and are Proprietary – open only to subscribers. Let the Searcher Beware!
Kirk “Never use information that cannot be verified by other independent sources”
Many argue that the Internet limits scientific validity and reliability and instead focuses on popularity
Deductive Research – starting with a psychological theory and testing some of its implications with
data; used by experimental studies
Inductive Research – develop a connection between psychological theory by first systematically
collecting observations, measurements or data and then developing a theory that explains the patterns in
the data; used by nonexperimental studies
Two of the most important elements of all scientific research strategies are DATA & THEORY.
Data – empirical observations that allow for evaluating a theory
Theory – a set of propositions that explains a variety of occurrences while performing 3 major
functions: organization, explanation and prediction.
Good example: Naturalistic Observation in both types of research.
Qualitative Research – emphasis is on the understanding context W5H. It yields data regarding
meanings, concepts, definition, characteristics, metaphors, symbols, and descriptions of events or actions.
Eg. Ethnography – study of people that must be detailed allowing for consistent or reliable
cataloging of data and the orderly classification and analysis of that information.
Quantitative Research – also in naturalistic observation
Wilson & Kniffin: conducted a study showing photographs to people and rated on physical
attractiveness. Evolutionary interpretation was that attractiveness is largely determined by
non-physical features such as trustworthiness and respect, as knowing these qualities of a
person is vital for adaptation, fitness and reproduction.
o Eg. Abraham Lincoln was thought to be “ugly” but after his history, character,