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Research Methods

PSYC 230
18, 23 January 2019
Based on the title, how accurate
would you say this study is?
O Lack of Sleep May Shrink Your Brain (CNN, February
O Your Lousy Handwriting Might Actually Make You
Smarter (Fortune, April 2016)
O Murder Rates Affect IQ Test Scores (Reuters, June
O Facebook Users Get Worse Grades in College
(LiveScience, April 2009)
O Loud Bar Equals More Beer (Scientific American,
August 2008)
O Deep-Voiced Men Have More Kids (BBC, September
Why are we talking about research
methods in Developmental Psychology?
O Understanding how a study was done and
how people came to their conclusions will
help you as you progress in your field.
O Throughout the semester, we will discuss
the basis for specific findings. You will need
to be well-versed in the types of studies.
O Independent Variable: the variable that is
manipulated in an experiment
O Dependent Variable: variable that is measured
in a study
O Control Group: the group of people not treated
the same as experimental group
O Random Assignment: when people are
randomly assigned to the control or
experimental group.
Review of Research Methods
O The Scientific Method
O Forming a hypothesis
O Operationalizing a concept
O Sampling
O Methods and Measures
O Conclusions
 Hypothesis: a prediction drawn from a theory
 Research can:
 Test a prediction of one theory against that of
 Test a prediction of one theory
 Start with a research question, if there is no theory

 Some research questions and hypotheses can be

tested with multiple research methodologies.
Others are better tested with one particular
Applying it to PSYC 230

O Let’s create a hypothesis with the classic

example of violence and aggression with
children and video games.
O This step is commonly looked over by many
in the earlier stages of research.

O Operationalizing: refers to creating a simple,

valid, and reliable measure to confirm or
deny our hypothesis.

O What do we mean by aggressive?

O What is our violent video game?
O Having an accurate representation of the
population we would like to measure.

O This can be especially difficult in

Developmental Psychology
O Specific populations
O Control groups
O Recruiting issues

O Who do we want to have in our study?

Control is important.
O Internal Validity: accurate test of the hypothesis can
be related to the conditions internal to the study
O External Validity: the degree to which the findings
generalize to the settings and participants outside
of the study.

O How will we ensure internal and external validity in

our video games study?
How will we get this data?
Observational Methods
Naturalistic Structured
 Occurs in natural  Often in lab, set
contexts up to provoke
 Reflects everyday desired behaviors
 All participants
 Conditions cannot be have equal
controlled (hard to
observe low chance to display
frequency behaviors) behavior
 Possible observer  Possible observer
influence and bias influence and bias
Clinical Interviews
 Researchers use a flexible, conversational style to
probe for participant’s point of view
 Pros
 Insight into how people understand their
 Lots of information
 Cons:
 Accuracy of participants’ expressions
 Distortions in participants’ recall, judgments
 Flexibility may make responses too varied.
Structured interviews, tests, and questionnaires
 Each participant is asked the same questions in the same way.
 Pros:
 Eliminates most interviewer bias
 Efficient
 Answers from entire group at same time
 Cons:
 Can still be affected by inaccurate reporting
 Not as in-depth
Neurobiological Methods
 Measures relationship between nervous
system processes and behavior
 Helps infer perceptions, thoughts,
emotions of infants and young children
 Measures of autonomic nervous system
activity sensitive to psychological state
 Heart rate, blood pressure, respiration,
pupils, stress hormones
 Numerous ways to measure brain
Neurobiological Methods
O Cons:
O Electrical activity in a part of the brain
doesn’t translate to thought process
O Artifacts?
O Need to work with other research methods
Clinical/Case Study
 Brings together a wide range of information
on one child
 Interviews
 Observations
 Test scores
 Neurobiological measures
 Pros:
 Good for studying rare cases
 Rich data
 Cons:
 Unsystematic/ subjective
 Observer biases
 Descriptive, qualitative technique
 Goal to understand a culture or
social group
 Participant observation
 Researcher lives in community for
months or years
 Works to capture unique values
and social processes- meanings
behind behavior
Is age an important factor?
How can we control for it?
Longitudinal Design
Advantages: Problems:
O Permits study of O Biased sampling
common patterns and O Selective attrition
individual differences in O Practice and cohort
development effects
O Permits study of
O May become outdated
relationships between due to changes in
early and later events theories and methods
and behaviors
Cross-Sectional Design
Advantages: Problems:
O Efficient O Does not permit
O Not plagued by study of individual
selective attrition, developmental
practice effects, or trends
theoretical and O Age difference
methodological may be distorted
changes in the because of cohort
field effects.
What kind of study design do
we want to use for our video
games study and why?
Generating Conclusions
O Say we found that children who played violent video
games appeared more aggressive.
O Does this really mean that the video games made them
more aggressive?
O How did we study the behavior (i.e., correlational study,
true experiment, observation)?
O Perhaps aggressive children are attracted to more
violent video games.
O These are the types of questions a researcher must
think about when making their conclusions.
Now you! Get into groups of 3-
4 & write down your responses.
O Group 1: Design a study looking at the effects of
a child going to child care on attachment to their

O Group 2: Design a study that looks at the

relationship between sociability and

O What method(s) would be best for your study?