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Chapter 2

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Kelley Robinson

Chapter 2: Methodology 20/09/2013 4:04:00 PM Methodology: How Social Psychologists Do Research  1993 11 year old girl assaulted/murdered o Her sister was convinced that TV violence caused the event, and 1.3 million people signed for a boycott of TV violence o 11 members of parliament ruled that there was no concrete evidence to support that TV violence is the cause of assault on innocent people  1995 study by Wendy Josephson stated that television violence does increase aggressive behaviour in children predisposed to aggression o She analyzed scientific evidence, whereas in 1993 the conclusion was reached by reports and interviews with individuals (many of which were from the TV industry) Social Psychology: An Empirical Science  Fundamental principle of social psychology is that many social problems (i.e., the causes of and reactions to violence) can be studied scientifically  Results may seem obvious because we are all familiar with social behaviour and social influence; this is what separates social psychology from other sciences o The results that may appear to have been predictable, and this is a human tendency called hindsight bias  That is where people exaggerate how much they could have predicted an outcome after knowing that it occurred; “hindsight is 20/20”  Roese and Olson, 1996: study at UWO where students read a story based on WW1 about a young British soldier who devised a plan to save a small village about to be invaded  One group was told that the soldier managed to convince others in the military to accept his plan and the village was saved  One group was told that the soldier’s plan was rejected and the village was destroyed  Both groups thought the outcome was obvious! – the trick is to predict what will happen in an experiment before you know how it turns out  Social psychology is an empirical science with a well-developed set of methods to answer questions about social behaviour; the observational method, the correlational method, and the experimental method o Choosing the right method, maximizing its strengths, and minimizing its weaknesses are part of the creativity in conducting social psychological research Question Answer Suppose an authority figure asks university students to In studies conducted by Stanley administer near-lethal electric shocks to another student Milgram (1974), up to 65% of who has not harmed them in any way. What percentage of participants administered what they these students will agree to do it? thought were near-lethal shocks to another subject. If you give children a reward for doing something they (c) Rewarding people for doing already enjoy doing, they will subsequently like that something they enjoy will typically activity (a) more, (b) the same, or (c) less. make them like that activity less in the future. Who do you think would be happiest with their choice of a (b) Wilson et al. (1993) found that consumer product, such as an art poster? (a) People who people who did not analyze their spend several minutes thinking about why they like or feelings were the most satisfied with dislike each poster. (b) People who choose a poster their choice of posters when contacted without analyzing the reasons for their feelings. a few weeks later. Repeated exposure to a stimulus, such as a person, a (a) Under most circumstances, song, or a painting, will make you like it (a) more, (b) the repeated exposure increases liking for a same, or (c) less. stimulus (Zajone, 1968) You ask an acquaintance to do you a favour – for example (a) More (Jecker & Landy, 1969) lend you $10 – and s/he agrees. As a result of doing you this favour, the person will probably like you (a) more, (b) the same, or (c) less. When making a complex decision, is it best to (a) decide (c) Research by Dijksterhuis and right away without further thought, (b) think carefully Norgden (2006) found that people who about the different options, or (c) find something to were distracted made the best choices, distract you for a while, then make up your mind? possibly because distraction allowed them to consider the problem unconsciously. In Canada and the US, female university students tend not (a) Research in Canada (Walsh, Hickey, to do as well as male students on math tests. Under which & Duffy, 1999) and in the US (Spencer, of the following circumstances will women do as well as Steele, & Quinn, 1997) has found that men? (a) They are told that there are no gender when women think there are sex differences on a test. (b) They are told that women tend to differences on a test, they do worse do better on a difficult math test, because under these because of stereotype threat – the fear circumstances, they rise to the challenge. (c) They are toldthat they might confirm a negative that men outperform women under almost all stereotype about their gender. When circumstances. women are told that there are no gender differences in performance on the test, they do as well as men. Which statement about the effects of advertising is most (b) There is no evidence that subliminal true? (a) Subliminal messages implanted in messages in advertising have any advertisements are more effective than normal, everyday effect, whereas there is substantial advertising. (b) Normal, everyday advertising, such as evidence that normal, everyday television ads for painkillers or laundry detergents, are advertising is quite effective. more effective than subliminal methods implanted in ads. (c) Both kinds of advertising are equally effective. (d) Neither type of advertising is effective. In public settings, (a) women touch men more, (b) men (b) Men touch women more than vice touch women more, or (c) there is no difference – men versa. and women touch each other equally. Which things in their past do people regret the most? (a) (c) In the short run, people regret acts Actions they performed that they wish they had not. (b) of commission (things they did that Actions they did not perform that they wish they had. (c) they wish they hadn’t) more than acts It depends on how long ago the events occurred. of omission (things they didn’t do that they wish they had). In the long run, however, the opposite is true. Method Questions Answered Observational/Archival Description: What is the nature of the phenomenon? Correlational Description: What is the relation between variable X and variable Y? Experimental Causality: Is variable X a cause of variable Y? Formulating Hypotheses and Theories  Scientific lore states that brilliant insights come all of a sudden (i.e., Archimedes), however science is a cumulative process where researchers typically generate hypotheses from previous theories and research  Many studies stem from dissatisfaction with existing theories/explanations -> theory refinement  Theory is not the only way to derive a new hypothesis in social psychology; often researchers observe a phenomenon in everyday life that they find curious, and then construct a theory about why it occurred and study to see if they are right o Ex. Murder of Kitty Genovese: she was attacked while walking to her car and murdered in apartment complex alley; the attack lasted 45 minutes; 38 people in the complex heard the screams but did nothing to help, including not phoning the police o The murder received a lot of publicity, and many theories were stated about why bystanders did nothing, including most commonly the apathy/callousness/indifference that big-city life breeds o Darley and Latane (social psychologists) theorized that diffusion of responsibility was to blame; the idea that the more people witnessing an emergency, the less likely everyone is to intervene (they would have assumed that someone else had already called the police) The Observational Method  If the goal of observing human behaviour is to describe what a particular group of people or type of behaviour is like, the observational method is very useful o This is where a researcher observes people and systematically records measurements of their behaviour o The method varies according to the degree to which the observer actively participates in the scene (unobtrusive vs. active participant)  Ex. bullying behaviour study at Queens University where children wore pouches with microphones in them to observe physical/psychological aggression (this would be hard with more traditional methods, such as watching from the sidelines)  Problem: will the children change their behaviour based on the fact that they know they are being observed? Bullies tend not to act aggressively when there are adults present…  Bullying is only classified if there is a power imbalance between the individuals (intent to cause hard, or if the victim shows distress)  Clearly defining behaviours of interest applies to all psychological research, not just observational studies  Observational research has fueled development of anti-bullying programs  Problem: schools vary in terms of support and peer intervention seems to be the most effective method of stopping bullying, however, students are hesitant to intervene o Operational definition refers to the precise specification of how variables are measure or manipulated  Operational definition of a power imbalance in bullies/victims is classified as a discrepancy in size (height/weight)  Operational definition of a power imbalance in a corporate boardroom is classified as a discrepancy in status in the corporation (CEO vs. manager)  Ethnography, the chief method of cultural anthropology, is about observing a cultural group from an insider’s perspective WITHOUT imposing any preconceived notions o Ethnography is being used increasingly in social psychology to generate hypotheses based on descriptions of different cultures  Ex. 1950s US: group of mid-westerners decided that the world would end in a violent cataclysm on a specific date, and that they would be rescued by a spaceship that would land in the leader’s backyard  Leon Festinger decided to observe what would happen when their beliefs were disconfirmed, and was unable to “watch from the other side of the fence”, so he joined the cult and pretended to have the same belief system as the group  When the world didn’t end, the cultists were still adamant about their beliefs and tried to recruit new group members  How can we be sure that the observers are presenting an accurate portrayal of social behaviour? o It is important to establish interjudge reliability, the level of agreement between 2+ people who independently observe and code a set of data  This ensures that the observations are objective, not subjective Archival Analysis  Archival analysis is where the researcher examines accumulated documents (archives) of a culture, i.e., diaries, novels, suicide notes, music lyrics, movies, magazines, etc. o this allows a unique look at the values and interests of a culture  Ex. Analyzing of women’s absenteeism in the workplace o Over the past 100 years, women’s absenteeism in the workplace has been shown in the NY Times as a result of familial and domestic obligation o This was viewed negatively and perpetuates gender stereotypes -> may lead to discrimination in the workplace  Ex. Analyzing of “Playmates of the Year” and ideal body types o In times of social/economic deprivation, larger body types are preferred o In times of social/economic prosperity, smaller body types are preferred  Analyzing actual average body types of women shows that the media ideal is now underweight, and the average weight of women is further from the ideal than 40 years ago -> weights have increased over the past 4 decades  Ex. Analyzing body types of men have shown the ideal type has increased in muscle, and yet the average man has increased in fat  Does the thin ideal perpetuate body dissatisfaction and destructive behaviours? o To answer this, researchers must use correlational/experimental methods to study the relation The Correlational Method  Social psychologists strive to understand relations between variables, and to be able to predict when different kinds of social behaviour will occur; i.e., is there a relation between the amount of violence children see on television and their aggressiveness? o To answer this question, social scientists would approach with the correlational method  Correlational method is the technique where two variables are systematically measure and the relation between them (how much you can predict one from the other) is assessed  To assess the relation, you calculate the correlation coefficient, a statistic that assesses how well you can predict one variable based on another, i.e., predicting someone’s weight from their height o A positive correlation means that increases in the value of one variable are associated with increases in the value of the other variable  Height and weight have a positive correlation: the taller people are, the more they tend to weigh o A negative correlation means that increases in the value of one variable are associated with decreases in the value of the other variable  Class attendance and low grades are a negative correlation: the number of classes skipped goes up, and the mark goes down o Correlation coefficients are expressed as numbers that range from -1.00 to +1.00 -> perfect correlation is rare, and 0 means no correlation at all  +1.00 means that two variables are perfectly correlated in a positive direction  +0.47 correlation to height/weight  -1.00 means that two variables are perfectly correlated in a negative direction  -0.47 correlation to absences/grades Surveys  Correlational method is often used in surveys  Surveys are research in which a representative sample of people are asked questions about their attitudes/behaviour o Ex. Telephoning people to find out election statistics or finding out about social issues  Correlational method is used to predict how people’s responses to one question predict their other responses o Political scientists are interested in whether people’s attitudes toward a specific issue (i.e., gun control) predict how they vote o Psychologists are interested in understanding social behaviour, i.e., if there is a correlation between men’s attitudes towards women and the amount of pornography they watch  Advantages to surveys: o They allow researchers to judge the relationship between variables that are often difficult to observe  1993 Herold/Mewhinney: study on whether people who have positive attitudes toward condom use would be more likely to engage is safe sex o They allow the ability to sample representative segments of the population  Researchers go to great lengths to make sure the representative sample is typical; age, education, religion, gender, income  Random selection is important, as it gives everyone equal chance of being selected for the sample  Disadvantages to surveys: o Lack of random selection  1936 Literary Digest: pre-election poll was published when sample was taken from phone directory/automobile registration lists  Republican seemed to be the majority, BUT since most of the population was poor and didn’t own cars or telephones, they were more likely democrat  Democrat ended up winning, and Literary Digest went out of business o Inaccuracy of responses  When participants are asked a straightforward yes/no question, the results may be skewed  2002-2008 Brandon MB poll about casino: over 50% of voters voted NO to the erection of a casino, so no casino was built  when further questions were asked the response scale was important; the degree to which they believed YES or NO  1996 university study on hours of TV watched:  when scale ranged from ½ hour to 2 ½ hours, most people responded with over 2 ½ hours  when scale ranged from ½ hour to over 4 ½ hours, more people responded with over 4 ½ hours Limits of the Correlational Method: Correlation Does Not Equal Causation  The major shortcoming of the correlational method is that it only tells us that two variables are related, not the cause of social behaviour  Correlation suggests three possible causes: A causes B, B causes A, or C causes A/B o Ex. Correlation between violent (A) TV shows and (B) aggression  Third variable could be (C) neglectful parents  Common methodological error is to forget that correlation does not prove causation o Ex. Tilly Goren the rainmaker: stepped off a plane, and then believed that she ended the drought as it started to rain  This is a not a harmful correlation o 1992 study in STD clinics: research showed that women who visited the STD clinics who used condoms had more STDs than women who used diaphragms and sponges  this research was published and people were urged to switch from condoms to other methods  THIS is a harmful correlation! Question Answer Is there a negative correlation No: 3 rdvariables such as between Scouting and frequency of socioeconomic class coul
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