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Chapter 4

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University of Toronto Scarborough
David Nussbaum

Chapter 4 Conceptualization and measurement Measuring mental health and mental illness 1. Mental health and mental illness are two distinctive concepts a. Not having mental illness does not mean you have mental health b. Not having mental health does not mean you are mentally ill Developing and defining constructs 2. Psychological theory is important because it will provide a conceptual framework for your study a. Identifies the conceptual meaning of key term b. Identifies how variables are to be measured or operationalized c. Explains rationale for the importance of particular concepts that are under study d. Explains why particular variables and their measurements are chosen 3. Conclusion a. Conceptual framework can be thought of as a network of interlocking relationships linking theoretical ideas to concrete variables and their measurements Theoretical constructs 1. Theory a. Unites concepts with their corresponding variables and their distinct forms of measurements b. Does so by translating abstract concepts into particular calculable variables i. Each of which will include a form of objective measurement ii. Abstract concepts = constructs 2. Constructs a. Specified in a theory in order to describe, explain and predict a wide range of related empirical findings b. Constructs are not directly observable material entities c. The quality of a construct depends on the extent to which data collected from its multiple indicators cohere into consistent and logical patterns of relationships Operational definitions of constructs 1. A construct needs to be translated into an operational definition 2. An operational definition provides a recipe for specifying variables that are to be used to measure a construct a. E.g. measuring construct of anxiety i. Three dependent variables 1. Psychophysiology 2. Observational ratings 3. Self report b. Operational definition is not limited to specifying how to measure it c. Instead it may be used to spell out the conditions under which the construct is expected to occur i. i.e. identifies the independent variables that are expected to produce the construct 3. Summary a. The structure of a scientific theory begins with abstract constructs i. Constructs in turn are operationalized into measurable independent and dependent variables 1. Sound program of research depends on the extent to which these operations capture the nature of the theoretical constructs under investigation a. The scientific validity of a theory or a theoretical construct hinges on the extent to which it describes, predicts and explains those empirical relationships that are uncovered between independent and dependent variables i. Relationships between independent and dependent variables may be linked or mediated by intervening variables 1. Hypothetical internal states that are critical components of the deductive structure of a theory Building constructs 1. Positive psychology a. Seeks to learn about human thriving, flourishing, optimism, resilience, joy, and capabilities b. Ask: i. What is the nature of the effectively functioning human being who successfully applies evolved adaptations and learned skills c. Provides a theoretical framework to study attitudes, actions, and feelings 2. Validity of constructs rests on two important findings a. The extent to which different measured variables of the same construct coalesce, converge, or correlate b. The extent to which these different variables distinguish or discriminate the construct of mental health from the construct of mental illness Measurement of psychological constructs 1. Measure whether hypothetical constructs reflect objective reality 2. Variables are selected as indicators to measure a given construct 3. Variable will specify the form of measurement a. E.g. measuring anxiety  psychophysiological variable  using galvanic skin response (GSR) to measure Advantages of multiple methods 1. Multiple methods of measurement are essential in order for us to develop a complete understanding of a phenomenon a. By using different forms of measurement of the same construct, you can test whether these measurements are related as well as the degree to which they add to our understanding of a given construct Levels of measurement 2. A variable can have four scales of measurement a. Nominal i. Categorical or qualitative level of measurement ii. No mathematical interpretation iii. Vary in kind or quality but not amount iv. No ranking involved v. Classifies data in terms of categories vi. Although the attributes of categorical variables do not have a mathematical meaning, they must be assigned to cases with care 1. The attributes we use to measure or categorize cases must be a. Mutually exclusive i. A variable’s attributes or values are mutually exclusive if every case can only have one attribute b. Exhaustive i. A variable’s attributes or values are exhaustive when every case can be classified into one of the categories c. i.e. every case corresponds to only one attribute vii. Dichotomies 1. Variables having only two values a. E.g. gender i. Male ii. Female 2. Can assign numbers (male = 1 / female = 2) but does not change its meaning b. Ordinal i. Ranks on a scale 1. Degree of agreement 2. Frequency of occurrence ii. Numerical degrees iii. Distances unequal 1. Cannot say for sure that distance from 1-5 is 5x the distance from 1-2 in terms of ranking iv. Examples of ordinal measurement 1. Grades 2. Military rank 3. Socioeconomic status v. Must be mutually exclusive and exhaustive c. Interval i. Gives a category for each observation ii. Orders responses in terms of ranking iii. Distances between two numbers are measured 1. However, since there is no zero point, cannot say one rank is a multiple of another 2. E.g. celcius vs kelvins a. Celcius example of interval measurement i. Cannot say 40 degrees is 2x as hot as 20 degrees, since the scale does not start at 0 b. Kelvin example of ratio measurement i. Can say that kinetic motion at 10 is 2x greater than motion at 5, since it has a zero point 3. Therefore there is a fixed measurement in units, however, ratios are not meaningful because there is no zero point iv. Must be mutually exclusive and exhaustive d. Ratio i. Represent fixed measuring units and an absolute zero point ii. Examples 1. Money 2. Kelvin scale 3. Age iii. Must be mutually exclusive and exhaustive Comparison levels of measurement 1. Nonparametric statistics a. Test for variables that use either a nominal or ordinal scale of measurement b. Example: chi-square test c. Likert scale i. Five choices 1. All of the time 2. Most of the time 3. Some of the time 4. Little of the time 5. None of the time d. Use of the median as a statistic that indicates the middle position among responses i. Does not distinguish between distance, only position 2. Parametric statistics a. Used with variables that are measured on either an interval or ratio scale b. Example: t-test statistic c. Parametric statistics are preferable because they provide a more powerful test than do nonparametric statistics of a research hypothesis i. i.e. provide the best chance of establishing whethe
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