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Chapter 2

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Western University
Psychology 2720A/B
Clive Seligman

CHAPTER 2: THE METHODS OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Theories and Hypotheses • Theory: an explanation of why an event or outcome occurs; it identifies the underlying causes of an event or phenomenon • Hypothesis: a specific prediction about what should occur if a theory is valid; it provides the means by which a theory can be tested • Most theories build on proper scientific work • In developing a theory, scientists aim for simplicity, coherence, and testability Translating Theoretical Ideas into Testable Questions: Operational Definitions • Theories and hypotheses in social psychology are typically expressed in conceptual terms: they refer to abstract ideas or concepts that cannot be observed directly • Operational Definition: a specific, observable response that is used to measure a concept • Two types of measures are most common in social psychology: self-report measures and behavioural measures • Self-Report Measures • To measure many social psychological concepts, the easiest strategy is to ask people directly • When people are able and willing to report a concept, researchers must be careful to express self-report questions clearly • The same question can often be asked in different ways, and subtle changes in phrasing or wording can significantly affect responses • Physicians interviewing patients must avoid leading questions if they want to diagnose problems accurately; they should ask patients to describe their symptoms, rather than inadvertently focusing patients attention on particular sensations • Sometimes the assumption that people are ale and willing to report a concept is not valid • Participants in social psychological research may not want to report some things honestly • Socially Desirable Responding: a form of responding that involves giving answers that portray the respondent in a positive light • Strategy is to avoid phrasing items in ways that make some responses more socially desirable than others • A second strategy is to obtain a measure of participants general tendencies to respond in a desirable manner on all measures, which can then be used to control desirable responding on a specific measure • Behavioural Measures • Becuase people may be unable or unwilling to report some things accurately, researchers sometimes measure concepts by observing individuals behaviours • One advantage of behavioural measure is that they are often unobtrusive measures • Unobtrusive Measures: assessments that are taken without the realization of participants, thereby minimizing socially desirable responding • If participants are unaware that a measure is being taken, then presumably the will not try to alter their actions to create a favorable impression CHAPTER 2: THE METHODS OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY • A disadvantage of behavioural measures is that they can be difficult or time- consuming to obtain • A second disadvantage is that behavioural measures are very difficult or impossible for some concepts • No matter how a concept is operationally defined the goal is to measure the concept accurately • Psychometrics: a subdiscipline within psychology that is devoted to understanding and refining methods for psychological measurement • Reliability • Reliability: the extent to which a measure is free of ‘random’ fluctuations, both over time and across judges • We can think of consistency in at least two distinct ways • The first is consistency over time • The second is consistency across judges • Validity • Validity: the extent to which a measure really assess what it is supposed to assess- whether scores on the measure actually reflect the assumed underlying concept • The most common way to demonstrate validity is by showing that scores on a measure correspond reasonably well to scores on other measures that should be related • If the scientific method produces support for a theory, then scientists begin to accept the theory as a valid basis or understanding the events to which it applies Correlational Research • Correlational Research: studies in which investigators measure two or more concepts and see whether the concepts are associated with one another • The various kinds of correlational studies differ primarily in how researchers obtain the data • When two measures are correlated, it means that scores on the measures are systematically related • Correlations do not show that measures are causally connected • It is even possible that some unidentified third factor causes correlation • The reason correlational research is ambiguous about cause is that the investigators does not control other factors in the environment that might partly or completely explain an obtained correlation • Correlational research is quite flexible and can be designed to explore many different issues • Also, obtaining correlational data is often easier than trying to set u an experiment • Correlational measures are sometimes obtained in naturalistic settings • Surveys • Most common kind of correlational research • Survey: a correlational study in which the researcher asks questions to respondents, either in a printed questionnaire, on a computer, over the telephone, or during an interview • Representative Samples CHAPTER 2: THE METHODS OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY • Representative Sample: a group of respondents that accurately reflects a larger population form which it was drawn and to which the researcher wants to generalize the results • Random Sampling: a recruitment process in which every person in a particular population has exactly the same probability of being in the study; it produced a representative sample • Random sampling is a difficult and time-consuming procedure • Typically, social psychologists do not obtain random samples. Instead they rely on replications of a study with different samples to assess whether research findings generalize to other groups • Archival Research • Archival Research: correlational investigations that are based on pre-existing information obtained by researchers, such as historical records, newspaper articles, or other forms of public data • Observational Studies • Observational Studies: correlational investigations in which researchers watch participants and code measures form the observed behaviour, either ‘live’ or from videotapes • Participants in observational studies are sometimes aware that they are being observed and sometimes unaware • Observational studies can focus on behaviour in either a naturalistic setting or a laboratory setting • Participant-Observation Research • Participant-Observation Research: a special type of observational study in which a researcher actually joins an ongoing group to observe the members behaviour Experimental Research • It is primarily through experimental research that social psychologists have been able to develop compelling theories about the causes of many important social behaviours • Experimental Research: investigations in which the researcher manipulates one concept (or more than one) and assess the impact of the manipulation(s) on one or more other concepts • Independent, Dependent, and Extraneous Variables • The basic structure of experiments is quite simple: the researcher manipulates independent variables, measure dependent variables, and control extraneous variab
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