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Chapter 2

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Kathy Foxall

Chapter 2: How Psychologists Do Research  What makes psychological research scientific? o Precision  Theory  Organized system of assumptions and principles that explain a specified set of phenomena  Some accepted by nearly all scientists  Hypothesis  Attempts to predict or to account for a set of phenomena  Operational definition  Precise definition of a term in a hypothesis, specifies observing and measuring the process defined o Skepticism  Treat things with caution, still must be open o Reliance on empirical evidence o Willingness to make risk prediction  Must state an idea that can be refuted  Principle of falsifiability  Scientific theory must make predictions that are specific enough to expose the theory to the possibility of disconfirmation, theory must predict not only what will happen, also what will not happen  Confirmation bias  Tendency to look for or pay attention only to information that confirms ones belief o Opennesss  Scientists must be willing to tell other about their idea, so it can be challenged o Peer review  Work lives up to scientific standards  Research community acts as jury, scrutinize and sift evidence  Descriptive Studies: Establishing the Facts o Representative sample  Group of individuals, selected from a population for study, which matches the population on important characteristics such as age and sex o Descriptive methods  Yield descriptions of behaviour but not necessarily causal explanations  Case Study o Detailed description of an individual being studied or treated o E.g. case of Genie’s grammar and pronunciation o Suggests critical period for language development o Serious drawbacks  Information is missing  Certain biases that influence which facts get noticed  Person who is study may be selective or inaccurate  Observational studies o Study where researchers carefully observe and record behaviour without interfering with the behaviour o Involve many participants unlike case study o Naturalistic observation  find out how people or animals act in a normal social environment  e.g. people drink more at bars when together rather than alone o laboratory observation  researchers have more control of the situation  e.g. parents and infants come to lab and play together  however people behave differently under presence of researchers  easier to describe behaviour than explain it  drinking more because comfortable with others or it interest them  Tests o Psychological tests  Procedures used to measure and evaluate personality traits, emotional states, aptitudes, interests, abilities, and values o Projective  Designed to tap unconscious feelings or motives o Objective tests  Measure beliefs, feelings, or behaviours of which an individual is aware o Improvement over self evaluation, many people have distorted view of own abilities and traits o Standardized  To develop uniform procedures for giving and scoring a test o Norms  Established standards of performance o Reliable  Consistency of scores derived from a test, from one time and place to another o Validity  Ability of a test to measure what it was designed to measure o Test retest reliability  Test twice to same group of people, compare the two sets of scores  Test is reliable individuals score will be similar o Alternate forms reliability  Different version of the same test to same group o Content validity  Represent trait in question o Criterion validity  Ability to predict independent measures, or criteria  E.g. criterion test of shyness for behaviour in social situations  TOEFL shouldn’t be used as admission tool for university but rather test of English proficiency  Surveys o Questionnaires and interviews that ask people directly about their experience, attitudes, and opinions o Sampling problems often issue o Volunteer bias  Shortcoming of findings derived from a sample of volunteers may differ from those who do not volunteer o People often lie about touchy subjects in surveys o Must consider how question asked or phrased o Alfred Kinsey sex research how he phrased the question made it more honest o Computerized questionnaires reduce lying  People feel more anonymous  Carry certain risks, hard for researchers to know whether participants understand instructions and question, or take them seriously Correlation Studies: Looking For Relations  Correlational study o Descriptive study that looks for a consistent relation between two pheonmena  Measuring Correlations o Variables  Any characteristic that can be measured o Positive correlation  High values of one variable associated with high values of another o Negative correlation  High values of one variable means low values of another  E.g. the more time spent watching TV, the lower the GPA o Coefficient of correlation  A measure of correlations that ranges from a value of -1.00 to 1.00  Cautions About Correlations o Illusory correlations  Apparent association between two things that are not related  Claims of an association between autism and vaccination for childhood diseases alarmed many parents  Turns out their was no connection, just coincidence o A CORRELATION DOES NOT ESTABLISH CAUSATION  When two variables are associated, one may not be causing the other  Experiments: Hunting for Causes o Experiment  A controlled test of a hypothesis in which the researcher manipulates one variable to discover its effect on another  E.g. driving accidents while on cellphone, does it lead to increase in accident, or are they just lousy drivers o Independent variable  A variable that an experimenter manipulates o Dependent variable  A variable that an experimenter predicts will be affected by manipulation of the independent  Experimental and Control Conditions o Control condition  In an experiment, a comparison condition in which participants are not exposed to the same treatment as in the experimental condition  E.g. those driving with phones make up experimental group, those who just drive make up control group o Random assignment  A procedure for assigning people to experimental and control groups in which each individual has the same probability as any other of being assigned to a given group o Several experimental or control groups may be used o Placebo  An inactive substance or fake treatment, used as a control in an experiment or given by a medical practitioner to a patient o Control groups crucial in non experimental studies  E.g. self esteem problems with girls hitting adolescence  Experimenter Effects o Single blind study  An experiment in which part
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