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Chapter 2

Psychology 2660A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Hawthorne Effect, Meta-Analysis, External Validity

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Natalie J Allen

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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
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

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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
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
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
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
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