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Chapter 2

PSY210 Chapter 2 Research Strategies.docx

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Justin Mc Neil

Chapter 2 Research Strategies From Theory to Hypothesis o Research usually begins with a hypothesis  A prediction drawn from a theory o Sometimes research pits a hypothesis taken from one theory against a hypothesis taken from another  Example) a theorist who emphasized the role of maturation in development would predict that adult encouragement will have little effect on the age at which children utter their first words, learn to count. A socialcultural theorist, in contrast would speculate that these skills can be promoted through adult teaching o Other research test predictions are drawn from a single theory o Other research is not based on any previous theory Common Research Methods How does a researcher choose a basic approach to gathering info about children? Common methods 1) Systematic Observation 2) Self reports 3) Clinical/ case studies 4) Ethnographies of the life circumstances of a specific group of children Systematic Observation o Observations of the behaviour of children and of adults who are important in their lives, can be made in different ways o Naturalistic Observation  going into the field, or natural environment, and recording the behaviour of interest o example  Observing 3 or 4 years olds in child care centre, the researchers recorded each instance of crying, reactions of nearby children (ignored, watched, commented), caregiver reaction (explaining why child was upset, offering comfort), were noted to see if adult sensitivity was related to children’s caring responses o The great strength of naturalistic observation is that investigators can see directly the every behaviours they hope to explain o Major limitations  not all children have the same opportunity to display a particular behaviour in everyday life  example ) some children might have witnessed a child crying more often than others or been exposed to more cues for positive social responses from caregivers o So researchers came up with Structured Observations  In which the investigator sets up a laboratory situation that evokes the behaviour of interest so that every participant has an equal opportunity to display the response o It permits greater control over the research situation than does naturalistic observation o The method is especially useful for studying behaviour (parent-child, friendship-interaction that investigators rarely have an opportunity to see in everyday life)  Example) when aggressive and nonaggressive 10 year old boys were observed playing games in lab, the aggressive boys and friends violated game rules, cheated and encouraged eachother to do so, they were angrier then the non aggressive friends o Disadvantage  Most of the time, we cannot be certain that participants behave in the lab as they do in their natural environments Collecting Systematic Observations o The procedures used to collect systematic observations vary, depending on the research problem posed o Some investigators choose to describe the entire behavior stream – everything said and done over a certain time period o When researchers need info on only one/few kinds of behaviour, they can use more efficient procedures o One approach - Event sampling  The observer records all instances of a particular behaviour specified time period  In the study of preschoolers’ responses to their peers’ distress reported earlier, the researchers used event sampling by recording each instance in which a child cried, followed by other children’s reactions o Another approach – Time sampling  The researcher records whether certain behaviours occur during a sample of short intervals  First a checklist of the target behaviours is prepared  Then the observation period is divided into a series of brief time segments  Example ) a half hour observation period might be divided into 120 fifteen- second intervals  The observer watches the target person and checks off behaviors during each interval, repeating process until observation period is complete  There are ingenious ways to observe children’s difficult to capture behaviorus  Recording, video cameras Limitations of Systematic Observations o Observer influence  The effects of the observer on the behaviour studied  The presence of a watchful unfamiliar individual may cause both children and adult to react unnaturally  Older children and adults often engage in more socially desirable behaviour knowing they are watched (would be taken by investigators as best behaviour they can display under the circumstances)  To minimize observer influence, and adaptation period, in which observers visit the research setting so participants can get used to their presence can be helpful  Or to ask individuals who are part of child’s usual environment to do the observing  Example) in some studies, parents have been trained to record their children’s behaviour and their own sometimes  this limits the amount of time needed to gather observations, as some info can take long to obtain o Observer Bias  When observers are aware of the purpose of a study, they may see and record what they expect to see rather than what participants actually do  People who have no knowledge of the investigators hypotheses – or t least, have little personal investment in them – are best suited to collect the observations Self – Reports: Interviews and Questionnaires Self reports ask research participants to provide info on their perceptions, thought, abilities, feelings, attitudes beliefs, past experiences. They range from unstructured (Piaget) to highly structured Clinical Interviews o Researchers use a flexible, conversational style to probe for the participant’s point of view o First question would be the same for more than one child to establish a common task, indiviudalized prompts are used to provide a fuller picture of each child’s reasoning o 2 major strengths  Permits people to display their thoughts in terms that they are as close a possible to the way they think in everyday life  Provide a large amount of info in a fairly brief period Limitations of Clinical Interviews o A major limitations of c. Interview has to do with accuracy with which people report their thoughts, feelings experiences o Some want to please the interviewer and may make up answers that don’t represent what they’re actually thinking o There may be trouble recalling their past if asked about it o Because the c. I depends on verbal ability and expressiveness, it may underestimate the capacities of individuals who have difficuluty putting their thoughts into words o To minimize these problems  They word questions carefully  They have watch cues indicating that the participant may not have clearly understood question or may need extra time to feel comfortable in the interview situation o Some topics in the interview may be vulnerable to distortion o Its also been criticized because of its flexibility  When questions are phrased differently for each participant, variations in responses may reflect the manner of interviewing rather than real differences in the way individuals think about a topic  To reduce this, researches can use a second self report method, the structured interview Structured Interviews, Tests, Questionnaires Structured interview  Each individual is asked the same set of questions in the same way o This eliminates the possibility that the interviewer might press and prompt some participants more than others o Much more efficient than clinical interviews o Answers are briefer, and researches can obtain written responses from an entire group at same time o BUT it can still be affected by inaccurate reporting  Do no yield the same depth as a clinical interviews  Current interviews are combined  Least emotional Neurobiological Methods Researchers’ desire to uncover the biological bases of perceptual, cognitive and emotional responses has led to the use of neurobiological methods, which measure the relationship between nervous system processes and behaviour o Investigators use these methods to find out which nervous system structures contribute to the development and individual differences o Help researchers infer the perceptions, thought and emotions of infants and young children, who cannot report their psychological experiences clearly o Involuntary acitivites of the autonomic nervous system – changes in heart rate, blood pressure respiration, pupil dilation, electrical conductance of skin, and stress hormone levels are highly sensitive to psychological state o Cortisol provides info about children’s stress reactivity Method Description Electroencephalogram (EEG) o Electrodes embedded in a head cap record electrical activity in brain’s outer layers (cerebral cortex) o Researchers use a took called geodesic sensor net (GSN) to hold interconnected electrodes in place through a cap that adjusts to head shape, yielding improved brain wave detection Event – related potentials o Using the EEG, the frequency and amplitude of brain waves in (ERPs) response to particular stimuli (pictures, music, speech) are recorded in multiple areas of the cerebral cortex o Enables identification of general regions of stimulus – induced activity Functional magnetic o While person lies inside tunnel shaped apparatus that creates a resonance imaging (FMRI) magnetic field, a scanner magnetically detects increased blood flow and oxygen metabolism in precise areas of the brain as the individual processes particular stimuli o The scanner typically records images every 1-4 seconds; these are combines into a computerized moving picture of activity anywhere in the brain o Children under 5-6 cannot use (too hyper) o Costs more Positron emission o After injection/inhalation of a radioactive substance, the person lies tomography (PET) on an apparatus with a scanner that emits fine streams of x-ray, which detect increased blood flow and oxygen metabolism in areas of the brain as the person processes particular stimuli o As with fMRI, the result is a computerized moving picture of “online” activity anywhere in the brain, but not appropriate for children younger than age 5-6 and high in cost Near – infrared spectroscopy o Using thin, flexible optical fibers attached to the scalp, infrared (NIRS) (invisible) light is beamed at the brain; its absorption by areas of the cerebral cortex varies with changes in blood flow and oxygen metabolism as the individual processes particular stimuli o The result is a computerized moving picture of active reas in the cerebral cortex o Unlike fMRI and PET,NIRS is appropriate for babies who can move within limited range The Clinical, or Case Study Method An outgrowth of psychoanalytic theory, the clinical, or case study, method, brings together a wide range of information on one child, including interviews, observations, test scores and sometimes neurobiological measures o The aim is to obtain as complete a picture as possible of that child’s psychological functioning and the experiences that led up to it o The clinical method is well suited to studying the development of certain types of people who are few in number but vary widely in characteristics  Example) extremely gifted children who attain adult competence in a field before age 10  Adam, deeply mastered human symbol systems by age 4, his parents provided a home with affection firmness and humour and searched schools that would enrich abilities, this may have helped Adam realize his potential (special gifts and nurturing played a role) o The clinical method yields richly detailed case narratives that offer valuable insights into the many factors affecting development o But has DRAWBACKS  Because information often is collected unsystematically and subjectively, researchers’ theoretical preferences may bias their observations and interpretations  Investigators cannot assume that their conclusions apply, or generalize to anyone other than the child studies  Even when patterns emerge across several cases, it is wise to confim them with other research strategies Methods for Studying Culture o To study the impact of culture, researchers adjust the methods just considrerd or tap procedures specifically devised for cross cultural and multicultural research o Sometimes researc3hers are interested in characteristics that are belived to be universal but that vary in degree from one culture to the next o Are parents warmer or more directive in some cultures than in others o Several cultural gps will be compared and all participants must be questions o Therefore researchers draw on observational and self report procedures , adapting them through translation so they can be understood in each culutural context o At other times researchers want to uncover the cultural meanings of childrnes’ and adults’ behaviorus by becoming as familiar as possible with their way of live  To achieve this , investigators rely on ethnography o like clinical methods, ethnographic research is a descriptive qualitative technique. But instead of aiming to understand a single individual, it is directed at understnanding a culture or a distinct social gp through participant observation  Typically the researcher spends months and sometimes years in the cultural community participating in its daily life, extensive field notes are gathered, consisting of a mix of observations, self reports from members of culture and careful interpretations by the observer  Later these notes are put together into a description of the community that tries to capture its unique values and social processes  The ethnographic method assumes that by entering into close contract with a social gp, researchers can understand the beliefs and behaviours of its members in a way that is not possible with an observational visits, interview, questionnaires  Some ethnographies take in many aspects of children’s expeirnce, as one rsearcher did in describing what it is like to grow up in a small American town  Others focus on one or few settings, home, school, neighbourhood life  And still others are limited to particular practice, such as uncovering cultural and religious influences on children’s make believe play  Example) ethnographic findings reveal that East Indian Hindu parents encourage preschoolers to communicate with invisible characters, karma, and believe that the child may be remembering a past life. Christian fundamentalist parents discourage it because it may promote dangerous spiritual idas  Researchers may supplement traditional self report and observational methods with ethnography if they suspect that unique meanings underlie cultural differences as the Cultural Influences box on the following page reveals  Ethnographers try to minimize their influence on the culture they are studying by becoming a part of it  But theoretical commitments sometimes lead them to observe selectively or misinterpret what they see  Cannot be assumed to generalized beyond the people and settings in which the research was conducted Reliability and Validity: Keys to Scientifically Sound Research Reliability o Refers to the consistency , or repeatability of measures of behaviour o To be reliable, observations and evaluations of peoples’ actions cannot be unique to a single observer, but all observers must agree on what they see o And an interview, test, questionnaire when given ahain within short time, must yield similar results on both occasions o It is determined in many ways  In observational research, observers are asked to evaluate the same behaviours, and agreement between them – called inter-rater reliability – is obtained  Reliability of self report and neurobiological date can be demonstrated by comparing children’s responses to the same measures on separate occasions, an approach called test- retest reliability  In self reports, researchers can also compare chiildren’s answers on different forms of the same test or questionnaire  And if needed, reliability can be estimated from a single testing session by comparing children’s answers on the different halves of the test  Because clinical and ethnographic studies do not yield quantitative scores that can be matched with those of another observer or test form, other procedures must be used to determine the reliability of these methods  After examining the qualitative records, o
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