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Chapter 5

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Mark Schmuckler

Abnormal Psychology – 4 Canadian Edition Chapter 5 – Research Methods in the Study of Abnormal Behaviour Science and Scientific Methods - Science is the pursuit of systematized knowledge through observation - Testability and Replicability o Statements, theories, and assertions must be testable by the public and subject to disproof o Each contributing observation must be replicable or reliable; must occur under prescribed circumstances repeatedly o If observation cannot be reproduced, observation’s legitimacy is questioned - The Role of Theory o Theory: set of propositions meant to explain a class of phenomena o Guide research by suggesting collection of certain data o Permits generation of hypotheses o Constructions put together by scientists; in forming theories, scientists must often make use of theoretical concepts (unobservable states or processes that are inferred from observable data (i.e. repression)) o Theoretical concepts are better defined by sets of operations than by a single one The Research Methods of Abnormal Psychology - Methods vary in the extent to which they allow researchers to infer causal relationships - The Case Study o Historical and biological information on a single individual o Clinician’s paradigm determines what information is collected and reported in study o Providing Detailed Description  Case studies typically include more details than other research methods  Information validity sometimes questionable o The Case Study as Evidence  Case studies are useful when they negate an assumed universal relationship or law which can be done with just a single case  Not strong evidence in support of a particular theory or proposition; do not provide means for ruling out alternative hypotheses o Generating Hypotheses  Through exposure to a great number of case studies, clinicians may notice similarities of circumstances or outcomes and formulate hypotheses that could not be uncovered in controlled investigations  Case studies are useful for examining the behaviour of a single individual in great detail and generating hypotheses that can later be evaluated by controlled research  Case studies have limited use in terms of universal laws - Epidemiological Research o Epidemiology: study of frequency and distribution of a disorder in a population o Focuses on determining prevalence (proportion of population that has the disorder), incidence (number of new cases of the disorder), and risk factors (variables that increases the likelihood of a disorder) o Results may provide hypotheses that can be investigated with other research methods - Canadian Perspectives 5.1 – Early Risk Factors and Psychological Disorders… o Parental mental disorder and severe abuse are the strongest risk factors o 38% of those with two or more disorders reported experiencing severe sexual or physical abuse as a child - The Correlational Method o Establishes whether there is a relationship between or among two or more variables o Variables are studied as they are in nature, which distinguishes the method from experimental research (where variables are manipulated) o Addresses questions like “are variable X and Y associated in some way so that they vary together?” o Measuring Correlation  Obtain pairs of observations of the variables in question, calculate strength of relationship between sets of observations with correlation coefficient, r (which takes a value between -1.00 and +1.00, indicating magnitude and direction) o Statistical Significance  The likelihood that the results of an investigation are due to chance; statistically significant correlation did not likely occur by chance  p=.05 – correlation is statistically significant if the probability that it is a chance finding is 5 or less in 100  The greater the number of observations, the smaller r needs to be to reach statistical significance o Applications to Psychopathology  In psychopathology research, a variable of the correlational method is often diagnosis  Most research on causes of psychopathology is correlational o Problems of Causality  Correlational method does not allow determination of cause-effect relationships; tells us that variables are related, but not know which is the cause and which is the effect  The directionality problem  Correlation does not imply causation (but causation implies correlation)  To overcome problem, use idea that causes precede effects; or high-risk method where only individuals at a greater risk of developing a disorder would be selected for the study  The third-variable problem
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