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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 - Reading Notes
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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC 2130
Professor
Frank Marchese
Semester
Winter

Description
Study Notes: Chapter #2 – Methods of Personality Research and Assessment  There are 3 methods of study of personality: o 1) experimental o 2) correlational o 3) case study The Experimental Methods  Experimental method -> aka. The true experiment. It requires two criteria to be met: o 1) a factor that is hypothesized to cause the behavior being studied is systematically varied while o 2) all other possible causative factors are held constant  Independent variable -> factor held constant in an experiment. o Ex. Study of TV violence, TV violence is independent variable – it’s either present or experimental subjects) or absent (for control subjects)  Dependent variable -> behavior that is to be observed in an experiment o It’s expected to be caused by or depend on the independent variable  In simplest experiment, two groups of otherwise similar subjects are used  Subjects in the experimental group are exposed to the independent variable (hypothesized causal factor or treatment) and subjects in a control group are not o in all other respects, the groups are treated alike o hence, of the two groups differ on the independent variable, (the behavior being measured), the difference must be due to the independent variable  to eliminate effects such as confounding variables (like in TV violence on aggression, confounding variable could be naturally aggressive subjects) groups in an experiment must be equivalent in such matters as subjects’ personal characteristics o usually this is done by random assignment o Confounding variables -> factors inadvertently allowed to co-vary with group assignment. o Random assignment -> every subject has an equal chance of being placed in each group  Intended result is that differences in subjects’ personal characteristics, such as “natural aggressiveness” will tend to equalize across groups  Thus, no group has a disproportionate number of subjects with any particular characteristic o Matched random assignment -> a way to enhance our confidence that subjects’ personal characteristics are equally distributed in each group  relevant characteristics (i.e., those that may cause changes in the behavior being studied) are assessed before the subjects are assigned to groups  then subjects are paired, so that each member of a pair has the same value of the characteristic and then one member of each pair is assigned to each group  experimental method provides a high degree of control over content, environment and subject characteristics o control in this context means systematically varying, randomizing, or holding constant the conditions under which observations are made o it increases probability that treatment groups are equivalent across conditions on all but the presence of the variable(s) of interest o such control makes logical demonstration of cause-and-effect relationships more plausible o presence of these control contributes to the confidence that we have in our conclusion that the variable under study and not some other extraneous factor, caused the observed effect  in studies that use groups of subjects, average performance is examined o in TV violence study, on average, children exposed to a violent TV program were more aggressive than those exposed to nonviolent TV program o but the amount of aggression varied, some in experimental group exhibited less aggression than some control subjects  true experiments can have more than two groups and a no treatment control group is not always required  instead of just having independent variable present or absent, there can be different amounts or levels of the independent variable present o random assignment still necessary Evaluation of the Experimental Method:  major advantage of experimental method: it increases our confidence that the relationships observed are, in fact, cause-and-effect relationships  changes in dependent variable can be causally linked to independent variable because all other relevant variables (influences) are controlled  experiments often conducted in psych lab where tight control over conditions is possible  price paid for such control may be artificiality because context is so different from real life o ex. Watching TV in psych lab not the same as watching TV at home o hence why experimental conditions must be similar enough to real-life circumstances o most experimenters want to generalize what is found in experiment to real life The Correlational Method  correlation -> co- or joint relationship  questions of the relationship are often asked about personality o Problems toilet training related to compulsiveness in adulthood?  Correlational method makes observations of all subjects under the same conditions o (note the contrast with the experimental method where conditions under which subjects are observed are systematically varied)  In correlational study, pair of observations is collected for each member of group subjects  Knowing that two variables are correlated is usually not sufficient, we also want to know: o 1) the strength of the relationship o 2) the way the variables relate  The magnitude (Strength) of a correlation tells us how well one variable can predict the other variable o Higher magnitude of correlation, the more accurate the prediction  two variables can be related directly or inversely, referred to as direction of correlation  direct or positive correlation -> between X and Y, means that high scores on X tend to be associated with high scores on Y and low score on X tend to be associated with low scores on Y o ex. IQ scores on parents and children – brighter parents tend to have brighter children  inverse or negative correlation -> high scores on X are associated with low scores on Y, and low scores on X go with high scores on Y o age and quickness of reflexes are negatively correlated  correlation of scores can be visually represented by plotting them on a scatter diagram o magnitude of correlation is reflected by how closely the points in the scatter diagram conform to a straight line, the line of perfect correlation o knowing person’s score on variable enables perfect prediction of the person’s score on the other variable o with high or strong (but not perfect) correlations, there is some scatter (deviation) around the line of perfect correlation, but points tend to fall within a narrow ellipse, making predictions of one variable from the other reasonably accurate o lower or weaker the correlation, more scatter there is o where no systematic (linear) relationship exists between the variables, the points are scattered all over, making it impossible to predict one variable from the other o bottom left to top right = positive, top left to bottom right = negative  correlation coefficient -> (abbreviated r) is a numerical index of correlation between two variables o correlation coefficients range from +1.00 to -1.00 o 0 means no relationship Evaluation of the Correlational Method  Method involves making observations without controlling the subjects’ behaviors or varying the circumstances under which the subjects are observed o Natural environment of situation is preserved, which may bring research closer to real life than experimental method  Collecting data on variable as it naturally occurs – as is done in correlational studies – may allow researcher to examine variable over broader range than in experiments o Ex. In studying effects of stress, not ethical to induce more than brief, mild stress in research subjects, but in eternally induced stressful situations  Correlational studies allow researchers to examine a large number of variables simultaneously o Important because in real life, people’s behavior are always influenced by multiple factors  Correlational studies often more economical than experiments in terms of time, effort and expense o Frequently collected data under preexisting conditions, no need to set up situations Correlation and Causation:  Major limitation of correlational research relative to experimental research is that conclusions about cause-and-effect relationships usually cannot be convincingly drawn  Knowing two variables are related doesn’t tell researcher what is the cause of the other aka directionality problem o Does X cause Y or does Y cause X o or is there another variable or multiple variables responsible for the relationship observed between X and Y – third variable problem o In many correlational studies, this issue cannot be resolved  Longitudinal studies -> research in which data are collected over time from the same subjects o May address directionality problem  Temporal precedence -> for one factor to cause (or effect change) in another factor, first factor must be present in time before the dependent change occurs o this alone does not rule out possibility that some other variable intervening to cause the effect  causation cannot be inferred directly from correlational evidence does not mean that a cause- and-effect relationship does not exist o just means that correlational method doesn’t permit identification of the nature of causal relationship  sometimes it’s unnecessary to know whether one variable causes the other or whether a third variable is responsible, particularly in applied areas of psych where only prediction of criterion is required o ex. High school grades as criterion for success in college/uni The Case Study Method  provide rich, detailed accounts of significant events in an individual’s life  it’s mainly descriptive and its data are qualitative  it’s the least systematic and least controlled research method o this has advantages and disadvantages  many case studies deal with abnormal personality where they are used to present data concerning unusual cases o case of multiple personality well known account of 25 yr. old married woman, Eve White, who played three distinct personalities – more discovered over course of case study – 22 total  case studies sometimes used to support theories  psychoanalysts use case studies extensively to support their theoretical claims o but because case studies are completely uncontrolled, it’s dubious to use them this way Life Histories  life history or narrative approach -> method uses descriptions provided by subjects (as opposed to direct observations) of their personal histories  data consists of past events recalled by individual and are by their nature more subjective than the accounts described (usually by professional observers) in form of case studies  some theorists argue that to try to understand the complexity of the person through only objective and abstract techniques is to overlook subtle but very important features of the individual’s self-perception and perception of his or her life  issue of biased reports coming from individuals but this can be seen as providing valuable info about the person rather than a limitation of accuracy of report o how particular people perceive their lives and which events are recalled, elaborate on or suppressed reflect their own subjective views of themselves and their world around them o adequately processing and fo
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