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Chapter 5

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Konstantine Zakzanis

Abnormal Psychology: Chapter 5- Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Behaviour Science & Scientific Methods  science is the pursuit of systematized knowledge through observation  the term which comes from the Latin scire, "to know" refers to both a method (the systematic acquisition and evaluation of information) and to a goal (the development of general theories that explain the information) Testability and Replicability  a scientific approach requires first that propositions and ideas be stated in a clear and precise way  statements, theories, and assertions must be testable in the public arena and subject to disproof  closely related to testability is the requirement that each observation that contributes to a scientific body of knowledge be replicable or reliable  whatever is observed must be replicable; it must occur under prescribed circumstances not once, but repeatedly The Role of Theory  theory - a set of propositions meant to explain a class of phenomena  the results of empirical research allow the adequacy of theories to be evaluated  a theory permits the generation of hypotheses - expectations about what should occur if a theory is true- to be tested in research  theories are constructions put together by scientists  in formulating a theory, scientists must often make use of theoretical concepts: unobservable states or processes that are inferred from observable data  repression is a theoretical concept, theoretical concepts are inferred from observable data  advantages using theoretical terms; for ex. in abnormal psychology, we may want to bridge temporal gaps with theoretical concepts, theoretical concepts can also summarize already observed relationships  judging the legitimacy of a theoretical concept; operationism - proposed that each concept take as its meaning a single observable and measurable operation --in this way each theoretical concept would be nothing more than one particular measureable event  if each theoretical concept is operationalized in only one way, its generality is lost  theoretical concepts are better defined by sets of operations than by a single operation The Research Methods of Abnormal Psychology  all empirical research entails the collection of observable data The Case Study  most familiar and time honoured method of observing others is to study them and record detailed information  clinicians prepare a case study by collecting historical and biographical information on a single individual, often including experiences during therapy sessions 1 Abnormal Psychology: Chapter 5- Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Behaviour  a comprehensive case study would cover family history and background, medical history, educational background, jobs held, marital history and details concerning development, adjustment, personality , life course and current situation  the role of the clinician's paradigm in determining the kinds of information actually collected and reported in a case study Providing Detailed Description  because it deals with a single individual, the case study can include much more detail than is typically included with other research methods  the case study fares less well as evidence in support of a particular theory or proposition  case studies do not provide the means for ruling out alternative hypotheses  the data yielded by the case study do not allow us to determine the true cause of changes Generating Hypotheses  clinicians may notice similarities of circumstances and outcomes and formulate important hypotheses that could not have been uncovered in a more controlled investigation  case study is an excellent way of examining the behaviour of a single individual in great detail and of generating hypotheses that can later be evaluated by controlled research  it is useful in clinical settings, where the focus is just on one person  but when general, universal laws are sought to explain phenomena, the case study is of limited use  case studies may not reveal principles characteristic of people in general and is unable to provide satisfactory evidence concerning cause-effect relationships Epidemiological Research  epidemiology is the study of the frequency and distribution of a disorder in a population  this information can then be used to give a general picture of a disorder, how many people it affects, etc.  epidemiological research focuses on determining three features of a disorder:  prevalence: the proportion of a population that has the disorder at a given point or period of time  incidence: the number of new cases of the disorder that occur in some period; usually a year  risk factors: conditions or variables that, if present increase the likelihood of developing the disorder  knowing these 3 features is important for planning health care facilities and services and for allocating provincial and federal grants for the study of disorders  knowledge about risk factors can give clues to the causes of disorders  the results of epidemiological research may provide hypotheses that can be more thoroughly investigated using other research methods 2 Abnormal Psychology: Chapter 5- Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Behaviour The Correlational Method  a great deal of research in psychopathology relies on the correlational method  this method establishes whether there is a relationship between or among two or more variables  in correlational research, the variables being studied are measured as they exist in nature - this feature distinguishes the method from experimental research in which variables are actually manipulated and controlled by the researcher  correlational studies then address the questions of the form "are variable X and variable Y associated in some way so that they vary together (co-relate)?" Measuring Correlation  first step in determining a correlation is to obtain pairs of observations of the variables in question - once such pairs of measurements are obtained, the strength of the relationship between the two sets of observations can be calculated to determine the correlation coefficient, denoted by the symbol r  this statistic may take any value between -1.00 and +1.00, and it measures both the magnitude and the direction of a relationship  the higher the value of r, the larger or stronger the relationship between the two variables  an r of either +1.00 or -1.00 indicates the highest possible, or perfect relationship  an r of 0.00 indicates that the variables are unrelated  if the sign r is positive, the two variables are said to be positively related; as the values for variable X increase, those for variable Y also tend to increase  when the sign r is negative, variables are said to be negatively related; as scores on one variable increase, those for the other tend to decrease Statistical Significance  statistical significance refers to the likelihood that the results of an investigation are due to chance  a statistical significance correlation is one that is not likely to have occurred by chance  in psychological research, a correlation is considered statistically significant if the likelihood or probability that it is a chance finding is 5 or less in 100  this level of significance is called the .05 level, commonly written as p= .05 (p stands for probability)  as the size of the correlation coefficient increases, the result is more likely to be statistically significant  the greater the number of observations, the smaller r (the correlation) needs to be to reach statistical significance  for example; a correlation of r= .30 is statistically significant when the number of observations is large - say 300 - but it would not be significant if only 20 observations were made 3 Abnormal Psychology: Chapter 5- Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Behaviour Applications for Psychopathology  when the correlational method is used in research on psychopathology, one of the variables is typically diagnosis; for ex. whether the participant is diagnosed as having a disorder or not  to calculate a correlation between this variable and another one, diagnosis is quantified so that having a disorder is designated by a score of 1 and not having a disorder by a score of 2  the diagnosis variable can then be correlated with another variable, such as the amount of stress that has been recently experienced  variables such as having a disorder or not are called classificatory variables - ex. of classificatory variables are age, sex, social class, and body build - these variables are naturally occurring patterns and are not manipulated by the researcher Problems of Causality  the correlational method has a critical drawback; it does not allow determination of cause-effect relationships  a sizeable correlation between two variables tells us only that they are related or ten to co-vary with each other, but we do not really know which is cause and which is effect or if either variable is actually the cause of the other The Directionality Problem  correlation does not imply causation  determining whether two variables correlate may serve to disconfirm certain causal hypotheses; causation does imply correlation  one way of overcoming the directionality problem is based on the idea that causes must come before effects  according to this idea, studies investigating the hypothesized causes of psychopathology would use a prospective, longitudinal design in which the hypothesized causes are studied before a disorder has developed - this way, the hypothesized causes could be measured before the effect  the high risk method overcomes this problem  with this approach, only individuals with greater than average risk of developing schizophrenia in adulthood would be selected for study - this methodology studies individuals who have a parent diagnosed with schizophrenia The Third-Variable Problem  the correlation may have been produced by a third, unforeseen factor The Experiment  the experiment is generally considered the most powerful tool for determining causal relationships between events  it involves the random assignment of participants to the different conditions being investigated, the manipulation of an independent variable, and the measurement of a depen
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