PSY220H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Psychometrics, Scientific Method, Counterfactual Thinking

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4 Feb 2013
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Chapter 2: The Methods of Social Psychology
The Scientific Method
Social psychologists are interested in understanding spontaneous social behaviour, which is difficult to
study in tightly controlled settings
Scientific method: a set of tools that scientists use to find out about the world; an objective, efficient way
to answer questions
Theories and Hypotheses
Theory: a scientist’s explanation of why an event or outcome occurs; it identifies the underlying cause of
something the scientist has observed
Hypotheses: a scientist’s prediction about what should occur if a theory is valid
A process of evaluating theories by confirming or disconfirming hypotheses forms the core of the
scientific method.
Most theories build on prior scientific work, including previous theories that have been shown to be
inaccurate or limited.
Theories often rely on scientists’ intuitive analysis of problems, including their personal experiences.
Some theories are the result of collaborations between scientists who have different perspectives.
In developing a theory, scientists often aim for simplicity, coherence, and testability because these
features make it more likely that the theory will generate new ideas and new discoveries.
Just world theory (Melvin Lerner): humans need to believe that the world is a fair and just place; we are
all motivated to believe that people usually receive what they deserve: hard work and honesty bring
rewards while laziness and dishonesty don’t pay. If we believed that the world is unjust, then we would
fear that our own hard work might be in vain.
Lerner’s prediction: suffering victims threaten the belief that the world is fair, unless the victims are either
responsible for their suffering or are bad people who in some sense deserve their suffering
Translating Theoretical Ideas into Testable Questions
Theories and hypotheses in soc. psych. are typically expressed in conceptual terms: they refer to abstract
ideas that cannot be observed directly. To test theories/hypotheses, researchers must somehow translate
these ideas into concrete, objective measures.
Operational definition: specific, observable response that will be used to measure a concept
Ex: concept: attitudes towards religion, the operation definition (measure): scores from 0-10 on a
response scale
Concept
Description
Example
Theories
Explanations of why an outcome
People who believe that they can
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