CHAPTER 2 NOTES: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
A good theory produces wide variety of testable hypothesis.
Early 20 century, psycho Jean Piaget
- theory: cognitive development occurs in a fixed series of stages from birth to
- one test: children of different ages compare volume of equal amounts of liquid in
- found: responses consistent within an age group! Only children at certain age/stage
able to see all equal
- studies in psycho science have SUBSEQUENTLY show some aspects of this
theory were WRONG.
-begins with question, designs and conducts study to answer the question
- whether study is useful answer depends on how well it is DESIGNED.
Skepticism: being wary of SUBJECTIVE beliefs, such as INTUITION, that can be biased.
Intuition helps guide scientific QUESTIONS, not answers!
- to answer, follow OBJECTIVE systematic procedures
Science ASSUMES that world works in orderly fashion based on physical laws: gravity,
Bernoulli principle explains how aircraft can fly.
- all fields share general approach, scientific method
o an objective examination of the natural world
o has FOUR goals
when it happens
what causes it to happen
why it happens
Essence of scientific inquiry: fully understanding a phenomenon by examining it at many
different levels of analysis
Scientific Questions can be objectively answered
Scientific inquiry: the study of empirical questionsquestions that can be answered by
observing and measuring the world around us
Can psychics communicate with the dead? - assess what dead people were saying, assuming dead people can speak, which is
impossible to investigate by scientific method.
Does alcohol impair ability to drive?
- CAN be answered by measurement
- Answer is YES: review of 112 studies found that the skills necessary to drive a car
can become impaired after people consume even small amounts of alcohol
(Moskowitz and Fiorentino 2000)
KEY POINT: scientific questions can be tested and either confirmed or shown to be false.
The answer to an empirical question does NOT depend on what respondent or scientist thinks
about the question.
- whether researcher believes that consuming alcohol is a good or bad thing is
Since empirical question can be answered objectively, all people should get same answer.
- studies that are properly designed get same findings if repeated by anyone
- replication: repetition of an experiment to confirm results
o when other researchers repeat and confirm results of earlier studies
Poorly designed experiment or those that get positive results due to chance will not be
replicated and viewed with skepticism.
- reflects dynamic interaction between THREE elements
o Idea or model of how something works. Interconnected ideas and concepts
that explain what is observed and makes predictions abut future events.
o Specific prediction of what should be observed if the theory is correct.
o Serves as a direct test of the theory!
o Which involves systemic and careful collection of data, or objective
information, to examine or test whether the given hypothesis and
corresponding theory is tenable.
Once findings are in, go back to theory to evaluate implications of data. Either 1. they support
the theory OR 2. require theory to be modified to take them into account.
- good research reflects a DYNAMIC, CYCLIC interaction among three elements.
How to decide whether theory good?
-good theory produces wide variety of TESTABLE hypotheses Interpretation of Dreams Sigmund Freuds theory: all dreams represent the fulfillment of a
- not good theory
- because few if any TESTABLE hypothesis of function of dreams
- no way to evaluate if reasonable or accurate
IMPORTANT to note: research does NOT ALWAYS neat and orderly fashion
- many significant findings are result of serendipity: the unexpected stumbling
upon something important
- chance findings typically occur when some event happens was NOT part of
original plan of study
- EXAMPLE (important story):
- Late 1950s Harvard physiologists Torsten Wiesel and David Hubel
o Original plan: recording activity of cats nerve cells in brain areas
associated with vision, hoping to find that these cells respond when cats
observe slides of dots
o After no significant activity in these cells, projector suddenly jammed
between slides, cells unexpectedly fire at astonishing rate
Jammed slide produced visual edge on screen
Discover that instead of responding to simple dots, cells n
the brain area they studied respond to lines and edges
Got Nobel prize for this serendipitous finding
After hypothesis: three main types of studies in psycho research:
Choose design: 1) experimental 2) correlational 3) descriptive
- differ in extent of control over variables, therefore over in extent to which
the research can make conclusions about causation
Variables: can be measured and that can vary
- can refer to something you either measure or manipulate
must define variables in precise ways that reflect methods used by operational definitions:
quantification of a variable that allows it to be measured
- how will you quantify coordination to judge whether it is affected by
o maybe measure how easily people can touch their fingers to their
nose with eyes closed
o operational definition for coordination: number of inches by people
o operation definition allows for replication
experimenter has MAXIMAL control over situation
experiment: study wherein variables are both measured and manipulated
The conditions of an experiment: the experimental group a participant assigned
- what is manipulated is independent variable
- what is measured is dependent variable
- so CONDITIONS refer to the different levels of the independent
variable (impaired or sober) participant is assigned