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Chapter 2


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Wilfrid Laurier University
Lawrence Murphy

CHAPTER TWO: The Research Enterprise in Psychology THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO BEHAVIOUR Goals for Scientific Enterprise: psychologists and other scientists share three interrelated goals… 1. Measurement and Description - develop measurement techniques that make it possible to describe behaviour clearly and precisely 2. Understanding and Prediction - hypothesis- a tentative statement about the relationship between two or more variables - variables- are any measurable conditions, events, characteristics or behaviours that are controlled or observed in a study 3. Application and Control - once information is gathered, scientists try to understand it that way they gain more control over the phenomenon being examined - today, research is applied to practical problems (school, business, etc) Theory- constructed to build a better understanding of behaviour. A theory is a system of interrelated ideas used to explain a set of observations - develop from a description of behaviour to the understanding of behaviour Scientific Theory- theory used as a commitment to putting ideas to an empirical test (experimental); thus, must be testable. The following are the systematic steps taken in a scientific investigation… 1. Formulate a Testable Hypothesis - translate a theory into testable hypothesis (formulated precisely) - variables are clearly defined o operational definition- describes the actions or operation that will be used to measure or control a variable; establishes what is meant by each variable, in the case of the study 2. Select the Research Method and Design the Study - put the hypothesis into an empirical test by examining the pros and cons of various methods, and selecting the strategy most practical 3. Collect the Data - Data Collection Techniques- are procedures for making empirical observations and measurements: o Direct Observation (watch and record behaviour) o Questionnaire (subjects complete written questions designed to get info about opinions, attitudes and specific aspects of their behaviour) o Interview (face-to-face dialogue, about subject’s behaviour) o Psychological Test (administered a standardized measure to obtain behaviour sample) o Physiological recording (instrument used to monitor and record a physiological process- ex. blood pressure) o Examination of Archival Records (analysis of existing institutional records – ex. census, economic/business work) 4. Analyze the Data and Draw Conclusions - “raw data” is usually converted into numbers (statistics) 5. Report the Findings - write up a concise summary of the study and its findings - journal- a periodical that publishes technical and scholarly material, usually in a narrowly defined area of inquiry (submitted here for publication) - allows other experts to evaluate and critique Advantages of the Scientific Approach - clarity and precision o requires people to specify exactly what they are talking about when they formulate a hypothesis - relative intolerance of error RESEARCH METHODS Research Methods- consist of various approaches to the observation, measurement, manipulation and control of variables in empirical studies; strategies for conducting studies. Two basic research methods used in Psychology are… 1. EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH Experiment- a research method in which the investigator manipulates a variable under carefully controlled conditions and observes whether and changes occur in a second variable as a result Independent Variable- (variable being controlled or manipulated) a condition or event that an experimenter varies in order to see its impact on another variable Dependent Variable- (a measurement of some aspect of the participant’s behaviour); the variable thought to be affected by manipulation of independent variable Experimental Group- the subjects who receive some special treatment in regard to the independent variable (ex. some people are given caffeine and blood tested) Control Group- the similar subjects who do not receive the special treatment given to the experimental group (ex. some people have their blood tested – no caffeine) - both experimental and control must be alike Extraneous Variables- any variables other than the independent variable that seem likely to influence the dependent variable in a specific study Confounding of Variables- occurs when two variables are linked together in a way that makes it difficult to sort out their specific effects (cannot tell which is having the effect on the dependent variable) Random Assignment- all subjects have an equal chance of being assigned to any group or condition in the study Variations in experiments… - it is sometimes advantageous to use only one group of subjects who serve as their own control group (one group experiences both as the experimental and control variable) - it is possible to manipulate more than one independent variable in a single experiment - it is possible to use more than one dependent variable in a single study Disadvantages in experiments… - are often artificial o require great control over proceeding
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