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Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 • Self-reports: people’s own accounts of internal states and experiences; must be relied on by researchers in some instances; can be intentionally or unintentionally distorted; observer’s assessments can also be biased • Multi-method approach: use variety of methodologies to research abnormality • Scientific method: basic series of steps designed to obtain and evaluate information relevant to a problem in a systematic way o Select and define a problem o Formulate testable statement of what is predicted to happen (hypothesis)  Null hypothesis: expectation that there is no relationship between the phenomena being studied o Choose method for testing the prediction and implement  Variable: factor or characteristic that can vary within an individual or between individuals; ex: weight, sex, mood  Dependent variable: factor being predicted in the study; ex: depression  Independent variable: factor that is believed to affect the dependent variable; ex: stress  Operationalization: way a researcher measures or manipulates the variables in a study; definitions will influence how we operationalize o Collect and analyze data o Draw appropriate conclusions o Write results in research report • Case studies: detailed histories of individuals who have suffered a form of psychological disorder; try to understand individual experience and make general inferences about sources of psychopathology • Advantages: uniqueness of individual; nuances; honouring personal experience; sometimes only way to study rare problems (DID); generate new ideas and provide tentative support for those ideas (Freud); drug treatment research to report unusual drug reactions • Disadvantages: lack ability to apply what has been learned to other individuals or groups (generalizability); lack of objectivity for patient and researcher; one case study may not be able to replicate the conclusions of another Correlational studies • Correlational studies: examine relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable without manipulating either; most common type of study in psychology/medicine; don’t tell us anything about causation • Continuous variable: study of two or more continuous variables; measured along a continuum (such as 0-100) rather than falling into a discrete category (ex: diagnosed with depression); ex: scale measuring severity of depression with scale for number of recent stressors • Group comparison study: focus on relationship between people’s membership in a particular group and their scores on some other variable; ex: people who lost loved one vs. people who haven’t (measure depression levels in each); group membership not a continuous variable • Cross-sectional: observe people at only one point in time • Longitudinal: observe people on two or more occasions over time; major advantage because they can show that the independent variable precedes and predicts change in the dependent variable over time • Correlation coefficient: statistic used to represent the relationship between variables; usually denoted with symbol r; can fall between -1 and +1; • Positive correlation: as values of the independent variable increase, values of the dependent increase • Negative correlation: as values of independent variable increase, values of the dependent decrease • Zero correlation: no relationship between variables • Medium correlation: relationship between variables but values of independent are not perfectly predicted by values of dependent • Magnitude: size; degree to which the variables move in tandem with each other; indicated by how close correlation coefficient is to -1 or +1; r = 0 indicates no relationship between variables but r = 1 indicates perfect relationship • Statistical significance: index of how likely that result occurred simply by chance; ex: p < 0.05 means that the probability is less than 5% that the result occurred only by chance; larger correlations/sample sizes increase likelihood of achieving statistical significance • Third variable problem: possibility that variables not measured in a study are the real cause of the relationship between the variables measured in the study • Sample: group of people taken from the population that we want to study • Representative sample: highly similar to the population of interest in terms of sex, ethnicity, age and other important variables; if not representative, sample is biased; need to be able to generalize; random; consider how samples are recruited, especially for matched comparison group • External validity: extend to which a study’s results can be generalized to the phenomena in real life • Advantages: focus on situations real world; differences between groups; short and long term reactions • Disadvantages: cannot tease apart what is a cause and what is a consequence; potential for bad timing; time consuming and expensive to run; third variable problem • Epidemiological studies: frequency and distribution of a disorder or group of disorders in population; asks how many people in population have disorder and how the number varies across important groups; focus on prevalence, incidence and risk factors • Prevalence: proportion of population that has the disorder at a given point/period in time o Lifetime prevalence: number of people who will have the disorder at sometime in their lives; much larger o 12 month prevalence: proportion of population who will be diagnose with the disorder in any 12 month period • Incidence: number of new cases of the disorder that develop during a specific period of time; ex: one year incidence of a disorder is number of people who develop disorder in one year period • Risk factors: conditions of variables that are associated with a higher risk of having the disorder • Structured clinical interviews: interviewers use a specific set of questions with every participant to assess whether he or she has the symptoms that make up the disorders and risk factors • Advantages: information on prevalence, incidence and risk factors; who is at highest risk in population • Disadvantages: cannot establish that any risk factor causes a disorder; third variables Experiments • Experimental studies: researchers attempt to control the independent variable any potentially problematic third variables rather than simply observing them • Human laboratory study: goal of inducing conditions that we predict will lead to outcome of interest in people • Analogue study: another name for human laboratory study; researchers attempting to create conditions in lab that resemble certain conditions in real world but are not exactly like those conditions • Internal validity: changes in the dependent variable can be confidently attributed to the manipulation of the independent variable, not to other factors; must ensure participants in both groups are similar • Control group: participants have all the same experiences as group of main interest in study except that they do not receive key manipulation • Experimental group: would receive key manipulation • Random assignment: each participant has an equal chance of being assigned to the experimental or control group • Demand characteristics: situations that cause participants to guess the hypothesis of the study and change their behaviour as a result; experimenters who interact with participants should be unaware of which condition the participants are in • Filler measures: embed questions/scales in others so as to obscure purpose of study • Cover stories: participants are told false stories to prevent them from guessing the true purpose of the experiment and changing their behaviour accordingly • Disadvantages: cannot know if our results generalize to what happens outside the laboratory; ethical issues (human participants committee) o Process debriefing: experimenters draw out participants’ assumptions about experiments and their performances; conduct extended conversations about purposes and procedures; behaviour not a reflection of their abilities • Therapy outcome study: researcher wants to reduce the conditions leading to the outcome of interest so as to reduce that outcome (ex: decreasing stress to decrease depression); intervening with patients • Simple control group: participants who do not receive the experimental therapy but are tracked for the same period of time as the participants who do receive the therapy • Wait list control group: participants do not receive therapy when the experimental group does but they go onto a wait list to receive the intervention at a later date when the study is complete; both groups assessed at beginning and end • Placebo control group: used in studies for drug effectiveness; same interactions with experimenters but take pill that contain inactive substances; difficult to construct a psychological placebo • Double blind experiment: both participants and experimenters are unaware of what conditions the participants are in to prevent demand effects • Advantages: help people while obtaining information; determine effectiveness of experimental therapy • Disadvantages: uncertainty about what precisely in the therapy works; ethical issues surrounding withholding or providing treatment; therapist’s obligation to respond to patient’s needs; hard to generalize results (highly controlled setting) for efficacy of therapy • Single-case experimental design: one individual or a small group of people is studied intensively; individual put through a manipulation or an intervention and his behaviour is examined before and after this to determine effects; behaviour measured through standard method (repeatedly over time) • Reversal design or ABAB: intervention is introduced, withdrawn and then reinstated and behaviour of patient is
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