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Chapter 2

CHAPTER 2 Research Methods Focus on Data

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Wagner Denton

1 CHAPTER 2: Research Methods in Psychology: Focus on Data Descriptive vs. Correlational Studies  Descriptive Studies: o Involve observing and classifying behaviour  E.g., Cultural anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath in the 1970s  E.g., Festinger et al., 1956, Marian Keech & the Seekers o In psychology, descriptive/observational studies are often the first step in a line of research, or done as part of a larger research project  Correlational Studies: o Involve examining how variables are related (without manipulating any of the variables)  E.g., Depression and cell phone/computer use among teenagers  E.g., Academic success and self-esteem o Allow researchers to make claims about associations between variables, but not causal claims The third-variable problem and confounds  The third-variable problem: Is specific to correlational research, because it arises when researchers cannot manipulate the variable they believe is causing changes in another variable o E.g., pre-school and reading skills  Confounds: Can also be thought of as “third variables”, but arise in the context of experimental studies  as anything apart from the independent variable that varies between the different conditions in a study Good research requires data that is…  Accurate o Accuracy refers to the extent to which an experimental measure is free from error o Two types of error: Random error vs. Systematic error o E.g., Measuring reaction times on the Stroop task  Valid o Validity refers to the extent to which the collected data address the research hypothesis in the way intended  Are you measuring what you mean to measure?  Reliable o Reliability refers to the extent to which a measure is stable and consistent over time Validity  E.g., Does processing speed increase as people age? o Hypothesis: University students will have faster reaction times on the Stroop test than elementary school students o Our collected data (reaction times from the Stroop task) would be a valid way to address our question 2  However, if our question was “do people enjoy completing the Stroop test more as they age?”, then our reaction time data would not be valid data to answer this question  Constructs: Internal attributes or characteristics that cannot be directly observed but are useful for describing and explaining behaviour  Construct validity  The degree to which the independent and dependent variables in a study truly represent the abstract, hypothetical variables (i.e., constructs) in which the research is interested o I.e., How valid are your operational definitions? o E.g., Mood manipulations Internal and External Validity  Internal validity  The extent to which your findings provide compelling evidence of causality o Laboratory experiments tend to be high in internal validity because they eliminate confounds  External validity  The extent to which your findings accurately describe what happens in the real world o Generalizability with respect to people, as well as situations Reliability  Inter-observer agreement (or inter-rater reliability)  The degree to which different judges independently agree upon their observations or judgments o E.g., In a descriptive study, the extent to which different observers would code behaviour in the same way  Internal consistency  The degree to which all the specific items or observations in a multi-item measure behave the same w
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