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The Scientific Method

Science studies events that can be described objectively under similar

These observations = theories
Theory: An idea or conceptual model that is designed to
explain existing facts and make new predictions

Theories must be tested by generating a hypothesis

Hypothesis: A testable prediction that can be observed and
These should not be infallible - must be able to be disproved

2 focuses of the Scientific Method (often referred to as empiricism):

Verifiability - can be replicated
Objectivity - uninfluenced by emotions or personal points of
Empiricism: gaining of knowledge through observable facts
and experiences
Reliability - Results should be consistent;
anyone can find the same results under the same conditions
Validity - The extent to which the study actually
measures what it claims to measure

Introspection is not objective because it cannot create replicable observations

since they come from a subjective viewpoint - yourself

5 steps of the scientific method

Formulate hypothesis
Design a study
Collect the data
Analyze data and obtain results
Draw conclusions and possibly develop new hypothesis

To make phenomena objective, we must operationally define them

Operational definition: describes a concept in terms of
criteria that can be observed and measured; an operation that makes it so
Experimental Design

Most scientists look for either correlation or causation using dependent and
independent variables
Correlation: Association between variables - Why?
Causation: What independent variable causes a change in the
dependent variable? - How?
Independent variable: Variable manipulated by
the experimenter
Dependent variable: The measured variable
that depends on changes in other variables

Confound: An extra variable that is not

controlled but may influence the dependent variable

Types of Data Collection

Naturalistic Observation: Collecting data in natural surroundings, rather
than controlled; observing a phenomenon without directly influencing it
Case Study: Intensive examination of individual/single participants
Survey: Standardized set of questions; usually to determine a populations
response by extrapolation from a smaller sample
Correlational Study: Using a statistic to describe a relationship between 2
Experiment: Researchers manipulate one variable to determine if it causes a
change in another; strict control over variables is present
Ethical Considerations

Safety for participants

Benefits outweigh risks
Informed consent
Lack of coercion
Factors Affecting Studies

Subject Expectancy Effect: When the subject thinks they know what the
experimenter is looking for and consciously control their behaviour to account for it
Demand Artifact: Aspects of a study that reveal the hypothesis in some way
This is accounted for in double-blind studies - neither subject
nor researcher knows what to expect during the session
Placebo: A response to a treatment based on expectations despite there
being no actual change
Observer-expectancy effect: When scoring is unintentionally biased towards
what the researcher is expecting to happen
Data and Information

Data: Measurements or simple facts

Information: Data that has been organized to make it useful

Data is organized and summarized using descriptive statistics

Collapsing of data
Includes mean, median and mode
Mean: Adding together then dividing by number
of values; average
Median: Midpoint of the distribution
Mode: Which value appears most often?
Normal distribution = the bell curve - there will be most data
present around the middle of the range

Here, mean, median and mode should be close

or identical

Variability: Degree to which scores are distributed

Range: Difference between smallest and largest
Standard deviation: Extend to which each score differs from
the mean

Inferential statistics are required to figure out what the data means; can be
used to apply the data to a larger (outer) population
Variability: Degree to which scores are dispersed - the
It is important not to lie to oneself - one must take into account unlikely events
(outside bell curve) that may have important impact, despite them being uncommon
Statistically significant difference: One that is unlikely to have occurred by
chance, therefore there is a correlation
This can be tested by replicating the experiment
Generally, high degrees of variability or low correlation mean pure chance is
more likely
Correlation: how closely a scatter plot fits a line

The greater the value of correlation coefficient r, the stronger the correlation
r can go from +1 to -1
+1 = positive; -1 = negative
These are extreme values and signify a perfect
Correlation does not equal causation because we do not know direction of
cause and effect
Multiple variables must control possible influence of confounds and focus only
on the dependent and independent
This can be done by including confounds in a multiple
regression - a sequence of calculations that corrects for their influence
Sometimes, variables may be significant (follow a similar trend as another)
but meaningless (have no correlation) - here we must use common sense