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Chapter 2

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Western University
Psychology 2660A/B
Natalie J Allen

Chapter 2: Research Methods in I/O Psychology  Research – a formal process by which knowledge is produced and understood  Generalizability – the extent to which conclusions drawn from one research study spread or apply to a larger population  3 goals of science: description, prediction, explanation The Empirical Research Process  Steps in conducting empirical research: 1. Statement of the problems 2. Design of research study 3. Measurement of variables 4. Analysis of data 5. Conclusions from research  And back to #1. This is an important feedback factor: results from step five influence the first step in future studies  Statement of the Problem  Theory – a statement that proposes to explain relationships among phenomena of interest  Inductive method – a research process in which conclusions are drawn about a general class of objects or people based on knowledge of a specific member of the class under investigation  After conducting research on a topic, researchers may propose a theory about why the behavior occurs  Deductive method – a research process in which conclusions are drawn about a specific member of a class of objects or people based on knowledge of the general class under investigation  Here, the researcher forms a theory first and then tests the theory by collecting data  Accurate theory: data will support it; inaccurate theory: data will not support it  Psychology is difficult to investigate – people are far too variable  Lewin – a theory is useful for conducting research; it synthesizes info, organizes it into logical components, and directs the researcher’s efforts in future studies  Skinner – too much effort is spent on “proving” theories; productive research doesn’t require a theory – extreme empiricism  Chan – researchers become too committed to proving their theories and become blinded to info that doesn’t conform to the theory they want to believe  A theory is an important way to specify research questions, but it is only one of many ways to formulate a research problem  Design of the Research Study  Research design – a plan for conducting scientific research for the purpose of learning about a phenomenon of interest  Research strategies may be compared on these two important dimensions: 1. The naturalness of the research setting 2. The investigator’s degree of control over the study  Internal validity – the degree to which the relationships evidenced among variables in a particular research study are accurate or true o The extent to which the results are attributed to the variables investigated rather than to other possible explanations  External validity – the degree to which the relationships evidenced among variables in a particular research study are generalizable or accurate in other contexts o The extent to which findings from a study are relevant to individuals and settings beyond those specifically examined o Synonymous with generalizability  If a study lacks internal validity, it can have no external validity  Naturalness of the Research Setting  Studying the problem in the environment in which it naturally occurs is desirable because we don’t want the research strategy to distort the phenomenon under study  Hawthorne study was conducted in a natural environment  Some studies don’t need to be conducted in a natural setting though, because the behavior under investigation is assumed to be independent of the setting  Ex. A study to test whether people react faster to red or green lights  Degree of Control  High degree of control – controlling the exact amount of lighting in the Hawthorne study  Low degree of control – you can’t control the age of the people in your class  Low control is endemic to the questionnaire research method Primary Research Methods  Primary research methods – a class of research methods that generates new info on a particular research question  No one method is perfect; none offers a high degree of both naturalism and control  Four primary research methods: 1. Laboratory Experiment  Laboratory experiment – a type of research method in which the investigator manipulates independent variables and assigns subjects to experimental and control condition  Conducted in a contrived setting; unnatural  Researcher has a high degree of control  The lab setting must mirror certain dimensions of the natural environment where the behavior normally occurs; omits those conditions that wouldn’t be present  Random assignment to enhance control and facilitates drawing causal inferences  Study: effects of alcohol intoxication on visual-motor performance  Error rates were dramatically higher under conditions of alcohol consumption  Under the effects of alcohol, some people became more cautious and sacrificed speed for fewer errors  Reduced speed of response may decrease errors, but it also may prevent engaging in needed defense maneuvers 2. Quasi-experiment  Quasi-experiment – a type of research method for conducting studies in field situations where the researcher may be able to manipulate some independent variables  Less control  Participants do not perceive the setting as having been created to conduct research  Random assignment of study participants is often not possible in a field setting o Leads to less generalizable conclusions  Study: how a one-day training program on goal setting affected the job performance of pulpwood workers o Results showed that the crews who were trained to set production goals for themselves harvested significantly more wood than the other crews o This study supported the use of goal setting in an industrial context o Major strength of the study: it was real; not in a lab o Weakness: some workers decided not to participate; few I/O psychologists are able to influence a company to change its work operations for research purposes 3. Questionnaire  Questionnaire – a type of research method in which subjects respond to written questions posed by the investigator  Rely on individuals’ self-reports as the basis for obtaining info  Classified as a “non-experimental” research method since no independent variables are controlled  Most frequently used in I/O psychology  Study on college-aged students and older students to indicate the degree to which they view testing for illicit drug use as justified in each of 35 different jobs o Results indicated that the degree to which different jobs involved danger to the worker, coworkers, or the public was most strongly correlated to the acceptability of employee drug testing o Responses by both students were similar  Practical limitations: people unwilling to complete questionnaires and return it to researcher (return rate is usually less than 50%) – raises the question of how representative/unbiased the responses are for the group as a whole  Questionnaires administered through the Internet are a more efficient means of obtaining data than via the mail o Internet = efficient means of collecting survey data  Another limitation: the truthfulness of the responses given by respondents o Questions perceived to be sensitive or threatening are more likely to produce distorted responses  They’re still used extensively in I/O psych 4. Observation  Observation – a method in which the investigator monitors subjects for the purpose of understanding their behavior and culture  Used when the research is examining overt behaviors  Not used frequently in I/O psych because it requires a lot of time and energy  Study: behaviors that differentiate effective and ineffective work supervisors o Results indicated that the primary behavior that differentiated them was the frequency with which they monitored their employees’ performance o Effective managers spent more time sampling their employees’ work  Webcams may be useful for observational studies in the future Laboratory experiment Quasi-experiment Questionnaire Observation Control High Moderate Low Low Realism (naturalness ofLow High Moderate High setting) Cross-Cultural I/O Psychology  Motivational process: setting goals for yourself, directing own behavior, making evaluations o Highly individualistic (US)  Eastern cultures – motivation is an exchange process between a supervisor and subordinate  In the US, questionnaires are a very popular approach for conducting research o Not for Russians, they worked on a questionnaire as a group Secondary Research Methods  Primary research gathers/generates new info on a particular research question  Secondary research methods – a class of research methods that examines existing info from research studies that used primary methods  Meta-analysis – a quantitative secondary research method for summarizing and integrating the findings from original empirical research studies into a single result/outcome o Increases the likelihood of achieving more accurate conclusions than could be reached in an individual study by reducing errors of measurement o Involves subjective decisions – determining which studies to include (only good quality ones); “file drawer effect” – studies that yield negative results are not published (becomes biased toward the direction of positive outcomes)  Level of analysis – the unit or level (individuals, teams, organizations, nations, etc.) that is the object of the researchers’ interest and about which conclusions are drawn from the research o Issue: be careful not to meta-analyze studies focusing on different topics (level)  M
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