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10 Feb 2011
The Scientific Method
- social comparison experiment conducted by Lockwood and Kunda (1997)
- hypothesized that exposure to information about a successful person would make
participants feel negatively about themselves
- also predicted other participants would feel better about themselves
- critical factor is whether people think they themselves have the potential to be very
Theories and Hypotheses
- theories=explanations, hypotheses=predictions
- theory is a scientists explanation of why an event or outcome occurs, identifies underlying
causes of something the scientist observed
- typically focus on psychological processes to explain events
- hypotheses are specific predictions about what should occur if a theory is valid, provide a
means for testing the theory
- most theories build on period scientific work, involve applying a concept/principle from one
field, rely on scientists intuitive analyses of problems
- Melvin Lerner (1977, 1980) just world theory: humans need to believe that the world is a fair
and just place
- we are all motivated to believe that people receive what they deserve, hard work &
honesty brings rewards, laziness & dishonesty dont pay
- if we didnt believe in a fair world, we would fear our own efforts might not pay off
- possibility is anxiety-provoking so we protect our belief in a just world
- as a theory, explains why people want to believe in a just world
- provides basis for hypotheses e.g. people will blame victims whose suffering is expected
to continue
Translating Theoretical Ideas into Testable Questions: Operational Definitions
- conceptual terms: abstract ideas or concepts that cant be observed directly
- researchers must translate abstract ideas into concrete, objective measures
- operational definition of a concept is a specific, observable response that will be used to
measure the concept
-measures most common in social psychology: self-report measure, behavioural measures
Self-Report Measures
- easiest strategy is to ask people directly
- makes sense so long as a concept is something that people are able and willing to report
- researchers must be careful to express questions clearly
- subtle changes in phrasing/wording can affect responses
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- e.g. physicians interviewing patients must avoid leading questions to diagnose
accurately, should ask patient to describe symptoms rather than inadvertently focusing
patients attention on particular sensations
- sometimes assumption that people are able and willing to report a concept is not valid
- e.g. people may not be aware of some internal states (unconscious motives) or forgotten
- socially desirable responding: giving answers that portrays respondent favourably
- strategies to limit social desirability motives: avoid phrasing that make some responses more
socially desirable than others, obtain a measure of participants tendencies to respond in a
desirable manner on all measure
Behavioural Measures
- measure concepts by observing individuals behaviours
- often unobtrusive measures, participants dont realize that the measure is being taken
- disadvantage: can be difficult or time-consuming to obtain, impossible for some concepts
- e.g. require complex cover story, help of confederates
- e.g. measure emotional responses to a past event, measure thoughts in response to a
persuasive message
- goal is to measure the concept accurately
- psychometrics: understanding and refining methods for psychological measurement
- the consistency or stability of scores on a measure
- a reliable measure produces consistent scores, is free from “random”/unexplained fluctuations
- consistency over time, produces stable scores for the same object on repeated uses
- consistency across judges, object receives similar scores from different judges
- the extent to which scores on the measure really represent the underlying concept they are
intended to represent
- commonly demonstrated by showing scores on a measure correspond well to scores on other
related measures
- other measures assess some aspects of the same concepts, showing overlap with social
measure suppose the validity of that measure
- e.g. to establish validity of a measure of attitudes towards religion, researcher shows
correspondence to score of how often one attended a religious service
Correlational Research
- researchers measure two or more concepts and see whether concepts are associated with
one another, focus on whether measures are associated with one another
- when two measures are correlated, means the scores on the measures are systematically
related, as scores on one measure change, scores on the other measure also change
- when two measures are correlated, the cause of this association cant be known with certainty
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