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Chapter 2

PSYC 1010 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Naturalistic Observation, Scientific Progress, Operational Definition

Course Code
PSYC 1010
Rebecca Jubis

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Ch 2- The Research Enterprise in Psychology
1:53 PM
Psychology is a scientific enterprise in which formal research methods are employed in an
attempt to answer various questions about human behaviour.
Example: bullying is just one type of interpersonal aggression that psychologists have
examined in their research.
This chapter is about how research in psychology is conducted.
Psychology is empirical - a variety of different research methods are used in answering
questions about human behaviour.
The Scientific Approach to Behaviour
Goals of the Scientific Enterprise
Psychologists and other scientists share these three sets of interrelated goals:
1. Measurement and Description: Science's commitment to observation requires that
an investigator figure out a way to measure the phenomenon under study. For,
example if you were interested in the effects of different situations on emotions, you
would first have to develop some means of measuring emotions. Thus, the first goal
of psychology is to develop measurement techniques that make it possible to describe
clearly and precisely.
2. Understanding and prediction: Understanding is a higher level goal in science.
Scientists believe that they understand events when they can explain the reasons for
the occurrence of the events. The evaluation process is done through a hypothesis- a
tentative statement about the relationship between two or more variables. Variables -
are any measureable conditions, events, characteristics, or behaviours that are
controlled or observed in a study.
3. Application and control: The end result should have some practical value in helping
to solve everyday problems. Once people understand a phenomenon, they often exert
more control over it, which applies in schools, businesses, factories, and mental
hospitals. Psychologists build toward a better understanding of behaviour, they
construct theories - a system of interrelated ideas used to explain a set of
observations. Theories permit psychologists to make a leap from the description of
behaviour to the understanding of behaviour. A scientific theory must be testable, as
the cornerstone of science is its commitment to putting new ideas to a empirical test,
however most theories are too complex to be tested all at once. Rather in a typical
study , investigators test one or two specific hypotheses derived from a theory. If
findings support the hypothesis, confidence in the theory grows; if findings in the
hypotheses fails, confidence in the theory diminishes and they theory may be revised
/discarded. Theory construction is gradual, iterative process that is always subject to
Steps in a Scientific Investigation

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1. Formulate a Testable Hypothesis:
- Translate a theory or an intuitive idea into a testable hypothesis
- To be testable, scientific hypothesis must be formulated precisely, and the variables under
study must be clearly defined.
- Researchers achieve these clear formulations by providing operational definitions of the
relevant variables. Operational definition- describes the actions or operations that will be
used to measure or control a variable.
- Operational definitions -which may be quite different from the concept's dictionary
definitions - establish precisely what is meant by each variable in the context of study.
2. Select the Research Method and Design the Study:
- To figure out how to put the hypothesis to an empirical test.
- The research method chosen depends to a large degree on the nature of the question under
- Example: experiments, case studies, surveys, naturalistic observation and ect, has its
advantages and disadvantages/ pros and cons. They select the method that appears to be
the most appropriate and practical.
- Participants or subjects - are the persons or animals whose behaviour is systematically
observed in a study.
3. Collect the Data:
- The research enterprise is to collect the data
- Researchers use a variety of data collection techniques- procedures for making
empirical observations and measurements.
4. Analyze the Data and Draw Conclusions:
-The observations made in a study are usually converted into numbers, statistics are used to
analyze data and to decide whether their hypothesis have been supported.
5. Report the Findings:
- Scientific progress can be achieved only if researchers share their findings with one
another and with the general public.
- The final step is to write up a concise summary of the study and its findings. Which is
typically a report that is delivered at a scientific meeting and submitted to a journal for
- Journal - is a periodical that publishes technical and scholarly material, usually in a
narrowly defined area of inquiry.
- This evaluation cprocess is a major strength of the scientific approach because it
gradually weeds out erroneous findings.
Advantages of the Scientific Approach
The scientific approach offers two main advantages:
1. The first is clarity and precision
- Commonsense notions about behaviour tend to be vague and ambiguous.
- The scientific approach requires that people specify exactly what they are talking about

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when they formulate hypotheses.
-This enhances communication about important ideas.
2. The second and perhaps greatest advantage offered by the scientific approach is its relative
intolerance of error.
- Scientists are trained to be skeptical.
-They subject their ideas to empirical tests.
- They scrutinize one another's findings with a critical eye
- They demand objective data and through documentation before they accept ideas
-They use additional research when two studies conflict.
Key Data Collection Techniques in Psychology
Direct Observation
Observers are trained to watch and record behaviour as objectively
and as precisely as possible (may use instrumentation such as,
stopwatch or video recorder)
Subjects are administered a series of written questions designed to
obtain information about attitudes, opinions, and specific aspects of
A face-to-face dialogue is conducted to obtain info about specific
aspects of a subject's behaviour.
Psychological test
Subjects are administered a standardized measure to obtain a sample
of their behaviour (tests are usually used to assess mental abilities or
personality traits)
An instrument is used to monitor and record a specific physiological
process in a subject (for example, measures of blood pressure, heart
rate, muscle tension, and brain activity)
Examination of
archival records
The researcher analyzes existing institutional records ( the archives),
for example census, economic, medical, legal, educational and
business records.
Research methods - consist of various approaches to the observation, measurement,
manipulation, and control of variables in empirical studies.
Looking for Causes : Experimental Research
Experiment - a research method in which the investigator manipulates a variable under
carefully controlled conditions and observes whether any changes occur in a second
variable as a result.
The experiment is a relatively powerful procedure that allows researchers to detect cause-
and- effect relationships. Psychologists depend on this method more then any other.
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