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Chapter 1

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York University
PSYC 2030
Krista Phillips

Research methods Chapter one: Behavioural Research and the Scientific Method – Why study research methods and Data analysis? -The scientific method = General expression for the methodology of science or a systematic research approach or outlook emphasizing the use of empirical reasoning -Among all branches of science, the way we apply this approach varies -But why do you need to know about this method if you are not becoming a researcher? 5 reasons: 1. Today, our life is surrounded by science and technology, and we enhance our understanding of the full range of this influence by learning about the logic and evidence used by researchers to open up the world to explanation and examination. EX: when we understand how conclusions are reached, we can attach more meaning to hearing that a study conducted by developmental psychologists found that higher quality child care is related to advanced cognitive and language skills 2. Studying the bases of various research methods and having the opportunity to conduct an empirical study and then to analyze and interpret the results under the supervision of an experienced guide, will begin to make you understand the difference between well-grounded scientific conclusions and bogus claims that lead to misleading generalizing facts -EX: Because a person had given credibility to misleading generalizations based on bogus data – they made a conclusion that there was a cure-all remedy, when there was not a shred of reliable evidence 3. To acquire information and skills you can use later EX: ability to analyze basic information; less likely to fall into the trap of mistaking statistical significance for practical significance; understand how to read statistics 4. To learn about the limits of particular studies and methods, but not only those used in behaviour research -EX: when participants behave differently because they know they are being watched; how experimental results can be unintentionally affected due to variables other than those measured 5. Some students will find this so much fun and will want to make a career out of it (Box 1.1 – pg. 3 –The provisional Natural of Scientific Knowledge) *Some scientists believe it is revolutionary or evolutionary *All scientists agree that scientific knowledge is relative and temporary What alternatives are there to the scientific method? -scientific method is not the only approach used to make sense of things and give information -Philosophers, novelists and theologians do not used scientific method to organize ideas and explain things -Charles Sanders Peirce believed there to be 4 distinctive approaches 1. The fixation of beliefs (the scientific method) 2. Method of tenacity 3. Method of authority 4. A priori method -Each is characterized by a formulaic way of thinking and behaving Method of tenacity – -most primitive approach of all -it is bound by tradition and involves clinging stubbornly (tenaciously) to claims or beliefs merely because they have been around for a while -these people go through life excluding anything that might challenge or alter their thinking -Still has an evil hold on many people’s beliefs and superstitions -“false consensus or “Pluralistic ignorance” = means that people have a tendency to misperceive and overestimate the extent to which others believe the same thing -They think that THEIR belief is correct and refuses anyone to change their mind -they seek out information that is consistent with their own biases about how the world should be understood -When psychologist Milton measured the degree of dogmatism or close-mindedness, he showed that the higher you scored on dogmatism the more defensive you were about your beliefs and the less like to alter their way of thinking even when presented with evidence Method of authority – -the presumption that something is true because someone in a position of authority says it is -Peirce saw that blind obedience to authority is similar in some ways to method of tenacity (Both imply conformity) -EX: Holocaust, cult leaders -Peirce thought this to be a small improvement on the method of tenacity because civilized society would stop to exist without people’s willingness to obey to laws and carry out reasonable orders -Some positive aspects: the rights and privileges given to participants in a research, a physician who prescribes drug or regimen to cure an illness etc… (Box 1.2 –flying saucers, big foot and other odd beliefs pg. 4) A priori method – -people rely primarily on their individual powers of reason and logic to make sense of the world and to explain it to others -But sometimes this can lead us to believe that we know more than we actually do -But Peirce argued that this is more intellectual and respectable than the first 2 precious methods -very effective for mathematicians and philosophy -thinking rationally and logically can be very useful in the real world Scientific method – -we cannot always just rely on our own reasons and logic to discover that A causes B -we need to figure out a way of drawing on nature to help us resolve our disagreement when someone believes that A doesn’t cause B -this is the role of the scientific method -to provide a framework of drawing on independent realities to evaluate claims rather than to rely on tradition, authority or armchair reasoning -scientific psychologists use this method to sort out what we know about human nature from what we only think we know -based heavily on the use of empirical research -But, this method is actually a misnomer (or misapplied name) -it is not a synonymous with a single, fixed empirical method; instead, it has many procedures and empirical techniques -can be distinguished from “empirical reasoning” How do scientists use empirical reasoning? -empirical reasoning = a combination of careful logic, organized observation and measurement that is open to examination by others -3 research strategies that use empirical reasoning = descriptive, relational and experimental (Read examples of empirical experiments that have been done pg. 6) (Box 1.3 –Empirical Reasoning in Ancient times) (Read about Feynman’s NASA experiment pg. 7) How is empirical reasoning used in behavioural research th -Empirical reasoning and experimentation entered into the scientific study of behaviour at the end of the 19 century -Wundt was the first to build a formal experimental laboratory for psychological behaviour in Leipzig Germany (around 1879) -Around the same time, William James had a graduate course in psychology at Harvard in which the students participated in demonstration experiments that he arranged -In the 1880’s experimental laboratories were established by two of Wundt’s students -Wundt was sensitive to the fact that not all aspects of human psychology could be addressed experimentally in a lab -Galton demonstrated the application of empirical reasoning to questions that had been previously thought to lie outside science -He used longevity data to test the efficacy of certain prayers -He asked “do members of royal families live longer than individuals of humbler birth?” -But his research could have been affected by indirect variables; like the personality of certain people (someone who is very anxious may not live as long as someone who is not); someone who lives under a lot of stress many not live as long as someone who does not live under stress etc… -Delgado conducted an experiment with a charging bull to prove that the electrical stimulation of a part of the brain results in decreased aggressive behaviour in animals -he also did studies with monkeys where they an electrode was inserted in the most aggressive monkey’s caudate nucleus and whenever the switch was turned on when he was being aggressive, he would become less aggressive immediately -Methodological pluralism = by necessity, researchers use different tools and designs because each is limited in some way -active deception = subject the research participants to false information (Read Sam Stone experiment pg. 80 (Read Box 1.4 – Methodological Pluralism and the “watcher” behind the “look”) *Methodological pluralism is a way of shifting our attention to different dimensions of a problem or phenomenon -Asch’s experiment about conformity concluded that people tend to conform for a number of reasons 1. Unawareness of being incorrect 2. Uneasiness about their own perceptions 3. Wanting to appear the same as the majority How do extraempirical factors come into play? -“extra” used in this context means “beyond”
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