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Psychology

PS295

Roger Buehler

Fall

Description

Behavioural Research Methods Laura Briggs
Basic research: conducted to understand the psychological processes
without regard for whether or not the knowledge is immediately applicable
Applied research: conducted to find solutions for certain problems rather
than to enhance general knowledge
Evaluation research: assess the effects of social or institutional programs on
behaviour (also known as program evaluation) (type of applied research)
Applied research rests on basic research
Behavioural research is often approached with one of these goals in
mind: description, prediction, or explanation (of behaviour)
Benefits of a background in research
1. Knowledge about research methods allows people to understand
research relevant to their field
2. A knowledge of research methodology makes one a more intelligent
and effective “research consumer”
3. Helps develop critical thinking
4. Helps one become an authority on topics thanks to knowledge
The Scientific Approach
Empiricism refers to the practice of relying on observation to draw
conclusions about the world
Observations must be systematic in order to be able to draw
conclusions about human nature
Systematic empiricism allows researchers to draw more confident
conclusions
Scientific investigation results must be available for public
verification (able to be replicated with the same results by others)
Scientific investigation must only deal with solvable problems
The Scientist’s Two Jobs: Detecting and Explaining Phenomena
A theory is a set of propositions that attempts to explain the
relationships among a set of concepts. It attempts to explain how
and why the relationship exists. A good theory in psychology :
o Proposes causal relationships
o Is coherent by being clear, straight-forward, logical and
consistent
o Uses as few concepts and processes as possible to explain the
target phenomenon
o Generates testable hypotheses that are able to be
disconfirmed through research
o Stimulates other researchers to conduct research to test the
theory
o Solves an existing theoretical question
A model only describes how concepts are related.
Research Hypotheses
Post hoc explanations: theories made in a “hindsight” manner; not
preferred among scientists because everything makes sense in
hindsight
Researchers can often explain results post hoc which they were not
able to predict before collecting data
To provide a convincing test of the theory, scientists make specific
research hypotheses a priori
Scientists must deduce a hypothesis from a theory
Going from a general proposition (theory) to the implications of that
proposition (hypothesis)
Ask yourself: IF the theory is true what do we expect to observe
Scientists can also arrive at a hypothesis through induction, that is,
to abstract a hypothesis from a collection of facts
Empirical generalizations are hypotheses based on previously
observed patterns of results
Hypotheses must be:
o formulated in a manner that leaves them open to be falsified
by the data that will be collected
o open to methodological pluralism, that is, to be tested using
many different designs and methods o able to be pitted against another opposing theory. The data
will support and at the same time disprove a theory. This is
called the strategy of strong inference
Conceptual and Operational Definitions
In order for a theory to be able to be falsified, the terns used in the
hypothesis must be clearly defined
Conceptual definition: more or less a dictionary definition of a term,
not specific enough for research purposes
Operational definition: definition of a concept by specifying
precisely how it is measured or induced in a particular study
Proof, Disproof and Scientific Progress
It is logically impossible to prove something
It is invalid to prove the antecedent of an argument (the theory) by
affirming the consequent (the hypothesis)
Disproving a theory poses practical impossibilities
You can logically disprove a theory but the method in doing so
poses practical issues
Improper measuring, biased samples, not controlling extraneous
variables…
Null findings: results showing that certain variables are not related
to behaviour
Failure to publish null findings is often called the file-drawer
problem
The Scientific Filter
ALL IDEAS
Filter 1:
Scientific training, concern for
professional reputation,
availability of funding.
Filters out: Nonsense.
Initial Research Projects
Filter 2: Self-judgement of viability
Filters out: Dead ends, fringe
topics
Research Programs
Filter 3:
Peer review
Filters out: Methodological biases
and errors, unimportant
contributions
Published Research
Filter 4:
Use, replication and extension by
others
Filters out: nonreplication,
uninteresting and useless stuff
Secondary Research
Literature – Established
Knowledge
Strategies of Behavioural Research
- Descriptive Research
describes the behaviour, thoughts or feelings of a particular group
of individuals
provides the foundation on which all other research rests
- Correlational Research
investigates relationships among psychological variables
does not determine causation
- Experimental Research
determining whether certain variables cause changes in behaviour,
thought or emotion
the researcher manipulates the independent variable to see
whether is it causes any change in the dependant variable
the word experiment refers to experimental research; do not use
interchangeably with research or study
- Quasi-Experimental Research the researcher can study the effect of some variable or an event
that occurs naturally, or control the independent variable without
controlling extraneous variables
Chapter 2
- Variability
behaviour varies across:
o situations
o time
o individuals
the five ways in which variability is central to the research process
1. psychology and other behaviour sciences involve the study of
behavioural variability
2. research questions in all behavioural sciences are questions
about behavioural variability
3. research should be designed in a manner that best allows the
researcher to answer questions about behavioural variability
4. the measurement of behaviour involves the assessment of
behavioural variability
5. statistical analyses are used to describe and account for the
observed variability in the behavioural data
descriptive statistics are used to summarize and describe the
behaviour of participants in a study
inferential statistics are used to draw conclusions about the
reliability and generalizability of one’s findings
- Variance: an index of variability
variance is the numerical index indicating statistical variability
the difference between the largest and the smallest score is called
the range
the average of the scores in a data set is called the mean
- A statistical explanation of variance
the total sum of squares in the sum of the squared deviations of the
scores from the mean
to calculate total variance:
1. calculate the mean of the data
2. subtract the mean from each score 3. square the difference of deviation scores
4. sum the squared deviation scores
5. divide the number of scores minus 1
- Systematic and error variance
the total variance in a set of data can be split in two parts:
o total variance = systematic variance + error variance
systematic variance is that part of the total variability in
participants’ behaviour that is related in an orderly, predictable
fashion to the variables the researcher is investigating
error variance is variance which remains unaccounted for in the
participants’ behaviour; that which is variable due to extraneous
variables
- Effect size: assessing the strength of relationships
effect size is a measure used to show how strongly variables are
related to one another
by averaging effect size across many studies, a more accurate
estimate of the relationship between variables can be obtained
Chapter 3
- Types of measures
observational measures of behaviour involve the direct observation
of behaviour
physiological measures evaluate some sort of bodily function
self-report measures involve the replies people give to
questionnaires and interviews
o cognitive self-reports measure what people think about a
particular thing
o affective self-reports involve participants’ responses regarding
how they feel
o behavioural self-reports involve participants’ reports of how
they act
psychometrics is devoted to the study of psychological
measurement
- Scales of measurement
there are four different scales of measurement
the simplest type is a nominal scale o with this scale all numbers that are assigned to participants’
behaviours or characteristics are essentially representative
labels
o the numbers used for this scale do not have the properties of
real numbers, therefore it would be meaningless to do
mathematical equations with them
the ordinal scale
o the rank ordering of a set of behaviours or characteristics
o tells us the relative order of our participants on a particular
dimension
o does not indicate the distance between participants on the
dimension being measured
the interval scale
o with this scale, equal differences between the numbers reflect
equal differences between participants in the assessed
characteristic
o there is no true zero point indicating the absence of the
characteristic
the highest level of measurement is the ratio scale
o has a true zero point
o involves real numbers that can be “mathematized”
o ex. Weight, height
- The reliability of Measurement
reliability refers o the consistency or dependability of a measuring
technique
Measurement error:
o The true score is the score that the participant would have
obtained if our measures were perfect (without error)
Observed score = true score + measurement error
o Virtually all measures contain measurement error
o 5 major categories of measurement error:
1. transient states (participant’s current state does not
represent his average state)
2. stable attributes (participant’s stable disposition
contributes to biased or untruthful answer) 3. situational factors (friendliness of experimenter, room
temp, lighting, etc.)
4. characteristics of the measure (ambiguous questions,
lengthy boring testing
5. actual mistakes (miscounting because of a snee

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