Psy100- Chapter 2.doc

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26 Mar 2012

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Chapter 2: Research Methodology
Scientific Inquiry
-Empirical questions: can be answered by observing and measuring the world around us, can be
proven T/F
-Many significant findings are result of serendipity: the unexpected stumbling upon something
-Chance findings typically occur when some event happens was NOT part of original plan of study
oAn objective examination of the natural world has FOUR goals
what happens (description)
when it happens (prediction)
what causes it to happen (causal control)
why it happens (explanation)
Empirical Process
1. Theory: idea or model of how something works
2. Hypothesis: specific prediction of what should be observed if the theory is correct
3. Research: involves systemic and careful collection of data (objective info) to examine or test
Jean Piaget
-Infant- child development
-Theory: cognitive development occurs in a fixed series of “stages” from birth to adolescence
-One test: children of different ages compare volume of equal amounts of liquid in different-sized
-Found: responses consistent within an age group! Only children at certain age/stage able to see
all equal
-Studies in psycho science have SUBSEQUENTLY show some aspects of this theory were WRONG.
Types of studies in psychological research
Choose design: 1) experimental 2) correlational 3) descriptive
-Differ in extent of control over variables, therefore over in extent to which the research
can make conclusions about causation
Variables: something you either measure or manipulate
Operational definitions: quantification of a variable that allows it to be measured
Experiment: a study that tests causal hypothese by measuring and manipulating variables
Conditions of an experiment
-Independent variable: what is manipulated
-Dependent variable: what is measured
-CONDITIONS: refers to the different levels of the independent variable
-BENEFIT of experiments: can study causal relationship between TWO variables
-If independent variable proves to influence dependent variable, assume to be cause of change in
dependent variable
-Crucial issue: whether it is desirable to show a causal relationship between two variables
-Confound: anything that affects a dependent variable that may unintentionally vary between the
different experimental conditions of a study
-Random assignment placing participants to conditions of an experiment in which each participants
has an equal chance of being assigned to any level of the dependent variable
Controlling confounds
-To minimize possibility of anything other than the independent variable having affect, rule of
alternative explanations
- change nothing but the independent variable
Selection Bias
-Occurs when participates differ between conditions in unexpected ways
-ONLY WAY to ensure equivalency in groups: random assignment: each participant has an equal
chance of being assigned to any level of the independent variable.
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odifferences average out, thus helps balance out BOTH known and unknown factors
Correlational study
-Examines how variables are naturally related in the real world without any attempt by the researcher
to alter them.
- CANNOT show causation
- Correlational design: examines how variables are naturally related in the reality world, without any
attempt to alter them
Third variable
Problem #1
- Third variable problem
-Occurs when you cannot directly manipulate the independent variable and therefore cannot be
confident that it was the actual causes of differences in the dependent variable
-Occurs in all correlational studies
oAlways possible some extraneous factor is responsible for apparent relation between your
-Some are obvious, some may not even be identifiable
-The simple possibility of a third-variable explanation rules out concluding a causal relationship
Problem #2
-Not knowing the direction of the cause-effect relation between variables
oBoth scenarios seem equally possible (ambiguity): directionality problem
Correlational studies widely used in psycho because show how variables are naturally related
-MOST research is psychopathology uses correlational studies. Use statistics to try to rule out potential
third variable and be more confident.
Descriptive studies
-Sometimes called observational studies because of how data is collected
-Involves observing and noting behaviour in order to provide a systematic and objective analysis
1) Naturalistic observation: observer is passive and apart from the situation, making no attempt to
alter it
2) Participant observation: researcher is actively involved in the situation, i.e. joins a cult
oProblem: observers may lose objectivity and participants may change their behaviour if they
know they are being observed
Especially valuable in early stages of research, when researchers are simply trying to see whether a
phenomenon exists
-Darwin: observed beak types in Galapagos Islands, credited adaption, later resulting in his theory of
Major Methods
Observation techniques
Need to make 3 decisions: 1) Conducted in lab/natural environment? 2) How data is to be collected? 3)
Observer be visible?
Reactivity: observation might alter behaviour of those being observed (people what to make positive
Hawthorne effect: changes in behaviour that occur when people know that others are observing them
Observer bias: the systematic errors in observation that occur due to an observer’s expectations (careful
with culture norms)
Experimenter expectancy effect: observer bias leads to actual changes in behaviour of those being
oRosenthal study, college students trained rats to run maze, half were told their rats were
genetically good, other half not told. Those who were told had rats who learned the task more
quickly, students expectations altered how treated their rats, in turn influenced speed at
which rats learned.
oTo prevent this: best if person running the study is blind to (unaware of) the hypothesis of
oAlso to have multiple observers to protect against idiosyncratic coding
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