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Chapter 4

PSYB01 - Chapter #4 Notes.docx

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Anna Nagy

Chapter #4 Notes: Studying Behaviour: Variables:  Variable – any event, situation, behaviour or individual characteristic that can take more than one value  2 specific instances – levels/values of the variable o A variable must have 2 or more levels  4 categories of variables: o Situational variable – characteristics of a situation or environment o Response variable – the responses or behaviours of individuals, such as reaction time, performance on a cognitive task and degree of helping a victim in an emergency o Participant variable – the characteristics of ind that they bring with them to a study o Mediating variable – psychological process that occurs between a situational variable and a particular behavioural response that helps to explain the relationship b/w them  Diffusion responsibility - as # of bystanders increase, ind responsibility to help decreases Operational Definitions of Variables:  Operational definition – a definition of the variable in terms of the operations or techniques the researcher uses to measure or manipulate it  Operational definitions helps us communicate our ideas to others  May be several levels of abstraction which adds complexity to a variable  Researchers must always translate variables into specific operations to manipulate them  Technology can change the operational definitions and research questions available to researchers Non-Experimental and Experimental Methods Overview:  2 general approaches to study relationships among variables: the non-experimental method and experimental method  Non-experimental method – relationships are studied by observing or otherwise measuring the variables of interest o a relationship b/w variables is established when the 2 variables vary together  Experimental method – involves direct manipulation and control of variables o Researcher manipulates the 1 variable (often situational) and then observes the response Non-Experimental Method:  Both variables are measured when using the non-experimental method  Also often called the correlational method – we can examine whether the variables correlate or vary together  REMEMBER: cannot make statements of causation Relationships between Variables:  Do the levels of the 2 variables vary systematically together?  Some variables have true numeric categories while other are simply diff categories  4 most common relationships found in research: positive linear relationship, negative linear relationship, curvilinear relationship and the situation in which there is no relationship b/w the variables *Draw graphs from pg 73 here: Positive Linear Relationship:  Increases in the values of one variable are accompanied by increases in the values of the second variable Negative Linear Relationship:  Increases in the values in one variable are accompanied by decreases of the values of the other variable Curvilinear Relationship:  Increases in the values of one variable are accompanied by both increases and decreases in the values of the other variable  The direction of the relationship changes at least once No Relationship:  The graph is simply a flat line  Unrelated variables vary independently of one another  Flat line = lack of relationship b/w 2 variables  Correlation coefficient – a numerical index of the strength of relationship between variables o Important b/w we need to know how strongly variables are related to one another Relationships and Reduction of Uncertainty:  Purpose of correlation is to show the overall trend, deviation from the trend are likely  Uncertainty – there is a randomness in events; scientists refer to this as random variability or error variance in events that occur in the world  Research is aimed at reducing random variability by identifying systematic relationships b/w variables  One way to reduce this random/error variability is to conduct additional research Interpreting Non-Experimental Results: Caution!  A relationship is established by finding that the two variables vary together – the variables covary or correlate with each other  Covariation is one of 3 criteria for causal claims  2 problems preventing research from making causal statements when the non-experimental method is used: o It can be diff to determine the direction of cause and effect o The third-variable problem – that is, extraneous variables may be causing an observed relationship Direction of Cause and Effect:  Temporal precedence  The direction of cause and effect is often not crucial because for some pairs of variables the causal pattern may operate in both directions  The problem of direction of cause and effect is NOT the most serious problem  The third-variable problem is a much more serious fault of the non-experimental method The Third-Variable Problem:  Any variable that is extraneous to the 2 variables being studied  An alternative explanation for the observed relationship between the variables  The ability to eliminate alternative explanations for the observed relationship between 2 variables is another important factor when we try to infer that one variable causes another  Media reports often oversimplify the case and make causal claims without considering the impact of potential third variables Experimental Method:  Independent/dependent variable – to refer to the variables being studied  The variable that is considered to be the “cause” is the independent variable and the variable that is
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