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Chapter 4

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University of Toronto Scarborough

Psychology

PSYB01H3

David Nussbaum

Fall

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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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