The Scientific Approach to
• What are the goals of the scientific enterprise?
There are three goals; measurement and description, understanding
and prediction, application and control.
Measurement is the requirement of having a means to measure the
subject or thing you are trying to prove. How would you measure the
difference of sexual arousal during circumstance A and circumstance B (for
Understanding and Prediction is about being able to understand why
and how a certain thing is affected by the other. You can show this
understanding by forming a prediction, or hypothesis.
Application and Control is about knowing how to control or change
certain behaviours that are caused by the circumstances studied.
Hypothesis is a statement about the relationship of two variables. A happens
when B is negative.
Variables are anything relating to the outcome of the thing in question that
can be controlled. High temperature and loud music are variables in a study
regarding the effects of uncomfortable environments while studying.
Theory a system of interrelated ideas used to explain a set of observations.
Personal history, DNA, etc are interrelated ideas that can be used to explain a set of
observations about the origin of human personality.
• A psychological theory must always be able to be tested. Psychology is an
• What are the steps in a scientific investigation?
First of all scientific investigation is systematic and will thus have a set
system of followed steps.
(1)Form a prediction that can be tested. Translate your idea and theory
into something that be shown through proven data. You must have
clearly defined variables. This is achieved by providing operational
definitions (description of the actions or operations that will be used to
measure or control a variable).
(2) Select the type of research method you would like to use. Should it
be an experiment, a case study, a survey, observation or the like?
(3) Data collection can be done in numerous ways. Data collection
techniques are the procedures for making empirical observations and
(4) Analyze the data and make your conclusions. If your hypothesis is
proven by the data, you can go on to report your findings. If the data
does not support the hypothesis, your experiment is either re-fined or
discarded. Statistics are used in analyzing data.
(5)Report your findings, to a journal or the like; where it will come
under the dissection of many other individuals in your field.
• What are the advantages to the scientific approach? There are two; one is that the scientific approach offers clarity and
precision. Clearly stated definitions of ideas are required. Secondly, is
that there is no toleration of error. Any inconsistencies will be
thoroughly weeded out and explained.
• Psychologists use different types of research methods to prove their
hypothesis. A research method is a certain kind of approach to the
observation, measurement, manipulation, and control of variables in
empirical studies. There are two basic types: Experimental research and
• Is about two variables and controlling one, or two, or more different kinds of
variables (very carefully) to see if any changes occur in the other set of
• Allows to see cause-and-effect relationships
What are Independent and Dependent Variables?
The two variables are under question of how one affects the other. How does X
affect Y.? What is their relationship? X would be in the independent variable, the
one that is rigorously controlled and changed in order to see its effect on the
dependent variable, variable Y. The dependent variable is usually the thing that is
measure, like emotion.
What are Experimental and Control Groups?
They are used in order to test the hypothesis. The two groups must be identically
alike and only differ in the way they are treated in regard to the independent
variable. This would be the experimental group. The control group is the group that
gets no special treatment against the independent variable.
What are Extraneous Variables?
The two groups must be alike in the dimensions that are relevant to the study. This
way, we know that it is only the differentiation of the independent variable that
causes any differences. There are, however, extraneous variables, or
nuisance/secondary variables. These are variables apart from the independent one
that can be considered to influence the dependent variable in any given study. Let’s
say you are doing a study to prove that violence in the home will cause teenagers
aged 13-17 to be more aggressive towards any authorities in their life. Independent
variable is the violence in the home. The dependent variable is the teenagers. The
nuisance variables would be things like ethical standings, religious beliefs, self
esteem, etc. This is a very broad example, but to clarify; you would have to select
teenagers who are similar in their beliefs, ideals, self-image and the life before you
could say that it is violence in the home that makes them behave aggressively
towards other authorities.
What is a confounding of variables?
This occurs when two variables are so closely linked that it is hard to tell which is
affecting the dependant variable. To take example from the “aggression study”; a
confounding of variables could be self-esteem on aggression towards authorities.
What can be done to control these extraneous variables?
One of the many ways is using random assignment. This is when the people who go
to the control and experimental group are randomly assigned.
What are some variations in designing experiments? At times only one group is used. The control group is the experimental group and
vice versa. The same group go through two, or three or more different conditions.
Those conditions would be the independent variable. The outcome of those
conditions on, say, emotions, would be the dependent variable.
You can manipulate a various amounts of independent variables. This allows for the
researcher to see whether or not two independent variables interact. They interact
when the effect of one variable depends on the effect of another.
More than one dependent variable may be used as well (a questionnaire and
• What are the advantages of Experimental Research?
It permits conclusions about cause-and-effect relationships between
variables. The high amount of control exerted over all variables makes
it easy to neutralize secondary variables and isolate the relationship
between X and Y
• What are the disadvantages of Experimental Research?
• Because experiments are highly artificial and constructed, it is sometimes
called into doubt whether or not the findings would be applicable to everyday
behaviour. Secondly in regards to some areas of interest, this method is
completely useless due to the inability to control the certain variables in said
area. These variables may not be controlled due to ethical and technological
Descriptive or Correlational Research
• Is used when controlling the variables of a certain interest is not possible due
to ethical reasons or technological innovations (etc).
• Use of observation, case studies and surveys is implemented.
• There is no control of variables, hence no ability to show cause-and-effect
• Can only be used to describe patterns of behaviour and discover links or
associations between variables.
What is Naturalistic Observ