Chapter 2: Where to start
Hypothesis and predictions
A hypothesis is a tentative idea or question that makes statement about something that may be
true. Sometimes, it is stated as informal research questions. An idea that two variables may be
related (gender and alcohol consumption).
Prediction: concerns the outcome of an experiment. If prediction is confirmed, the hypothesis is
supported, never say “proven”.
Who we study: A note on terminology
Participants = subject, used to describe human individuals.
-People who take part in survey research : respondents.
-People who help researchers understand the dynamics of particular cultural and organizational
settings are called informants (from anthro and socio research).
Sources of ideas
5 sources of ideas: common sense, observation of the world around us, theories, past research
and practical problems.
1. Common sense: the things we all believe to be true.
2. Observation of the world around us.
Ex: placing something in highly memorable or unlikely places is not a good idea; Tipping
*Role of serendipity: sometimes the most interesting discoveries are result of accident or
luck! (Pavlov’s classical conditioning was originally a study about dog’s digestive system)
3. Theories: a systematic body of ideas about a particular topic or phenomenon. Theories
serves two important functions:
A. organize and explain a variety of specific facts or descriptions of behaviour.
B. Theories generate new knowledge by focusing our thinking. Generate hypotheses~
*Alternative theories can be developed that may better explain the same findings (evolution
and the difference in mating strategies in male and female, vs. socio structure theory).
*Theories are usually modified as new research defines the scope of the theory. Ex: long
term memory is a storehouse of permanent and fixed memories vs. memories are easily
reconstructed and reinterpreted.
4. Past research: past literatures can be continually refine and expand our knowledge. Also,
inconsistencies in research results can be investigated, or can study alternative explanations
for the results.
Ex: “Facilitated communication” for children with autism. Found, perhaps the facilitators are
unintentionally controlling the communication.
5. Practical problems: research is also stimulated by practical problems that can have
immediate applications. Ex: city planners, citizens can survey bike riders to find the most
desirable route. Library research
The nature of journals
-Editor solicits reviews from other scientists in same field and then decides whether the report is
to be accepted for publication. This is the peer review process. Most papers are rejected, and if
accepted, it is published about a year later.
-Most psychology journals specialize in one or two areas of human or animal behaviour.
APA publish psych abstracts back in 1927, now you can get an electronic version on the web.
APA computer database online: psycINFO, and PsycFIRST.
Conducting a psycINFO search
-Most important task is to specify the search terms. It is best to use standard psychological terms.
“Thesaurus of psychological index terms” lists all the standard terms use