PSYC100 Chapter 2: Research in Psychology

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Ch 2
Thinking Critically About Psychology (or Anything Else)
Critical thinking - process of assessing claims and making judgments on the
basis of well-supported evidence (can be approached with 5 questions)
o (1) What am I being asked to believe or accept?
o (2) What evidence is available to support the assertion?
o (3) Are there alternative ways of interpreting the evidence?
o (4) What additional evidence would help evaluate the alternatives?
o (5) what conclusions are most reasonable?
Hypothesis: a specific, testable proposition about something psychologists want
to study; precise, clearly worded statement about what researchers think might
be true and how they will know if it is not
Operational definitions: descriptions of the exact operations or methods they’ll
use in their research to make it easier to understand and evaluate the hypothesis
Variables: specific factors or characteristics manipulated and measured in
research
Data: numbers that represent research findings and provide basis for research
conclusions; objective
Statistical reliability (reliability): degree to which the data are stable and
consistent
Statistical validity (validity): degree to which the data accurately represent the
topic being studied
Theory: set of statements designed to account for, predict, and suggest ways of
controlling certain phenomena
Research Methods in Psychology
4 main goals of psychologists: describe behavior and mental processes, make
accurate predictions about them, demonstrate some control over them, explain
how/why they occur
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Observational methods: watching behavior in order to summarize it for
scientific analysis
o Naturalistic observation: watching without interfering as behavior occurs
in the natural environment
Case studies: intensive examinations of behavior or mental processes in a
particular individual, group, or situation
o Especially useful to study something new, complex or relatively rare
o Unlikely to be representative of people in general, but vital sources of info
for particular people and provide valuable raw material for further research
Neuropsychology: study of the relationships among brain activity, thinking and
behavior
Survey: involves giving people questionnaires or special interviews designed to
gain descriptions of their attitudes, beliefs, opinions and intentions
o Validity depends on who is included it, whether the wording is clear and
how questions are phrased
o People may also not want to reveal embarrassing/personal info even if
they can’t be identified
Correlational studies: examine relationships b/w variables in order to describe
research data more fully, test predictions, evaluate theories and suggest new
hypotheses about why people think and act as they do
Experiment: researcher manipulates 1 variable and observes the effect of that
manipulation on another variable, while holding all other variables constant
o Experimental group: group that receives the experimental treatment
o Control group: group that receives no treatment or provides some other
baseline against which to compare the performance or response of the
experimental group
o Independent variable: variable manipulated by the researcher
o Dependent variable: factor affected by the independent
o Confound: any factor that affects the dependent variable, along with or
instead of the independent variable (3 kinds)
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