Single-Case Designs and Small-n Research

Week 7 10/21 & 10/23 Ch. 10

Single-Case Designs and Small-n Research
• So far, we have been focusing on group methodologies
– Large, diverse, representative samples

• These designs give us a great deal of info on 1 person or a small group
– Emphasis on manipulation of variables

Case Study Method
• Intensive description/analysis of a single individual • Can utilize various sources
– Naturalistic observation, interview, tests, archival records, etc.

• The famous example of Anna O

Characteristics of Case Study Method
• Often used in application and results of a clinical treatment • Often lack control
– e.g., several treatments applied simultaneously, do not control extraneous variables (environmenthome versus clinic) – Difficult for psychologists to make valid inferences about variables that influence behavior

• Often “exploratory”-- do not test specific hypotheses

Pros and Cons to Case Study
• Some Pros:
– Idiographic-- rich information
• Often used in conjunction with nomothetic approaches

– Testing new clinical techniques – Study rare phenomena/behavior – Challenge assumptions/provide support for theories

• Some Cons:
– No valid causal inferences-- lack of control – Observer bias – Hard to generalize

Single-Subject (Small-n)
• Experimental Analysis of Behavior (Skinner) --> Applied Behavior Analysis
– Use single-subjects or small groups – Experimental control-- individual’s behavior changes systematically with manipulation of IV

• Behavior continuously monitored over various stages of experimentation or treatment • Example: John Watson and Little Albert

Stages of Single-Subject Designs
• Baseline-- behavior prior to experiment
– Describe behavior of interest and predict future behavior without intervention – Want it to be “stable”

• Intervention-- observe behavior after experiment or treatment is added

Common Single-Subject Designs
• ABAB-- baseline (A) and intervention (B) alternate (AKA Reversal Design)
– Behavior changes systematically with and without intervention – Predict behavior will reverse when intervention removed
• Not always the case-- skill acquisition

– Evidence for intervention’s effectiveness

Example of ABAB
A B A B Follow-Up

Common Single-Subject Designs continued...
• Multiple Baseline
– No withdrawal of intervention – Obtain baselines over numerous settings – Introduce intervention in one setting at a time
• Monitor behavior across all settings-- behavior should improve in experiment situation, not others

– Begin implementing intervention across other settings

Variations of Multiple-Baseline Design
• Different variations of “settings”:
– Multiple-baseline design across situations
• e.g., home, school, grandma’s house

– Multiple-baseline design across individuals
• e.g., 4 children with behavioral problems

– Multiple-baseline design across behaviors (same individual)
• e.g., look at biting, scratching hitting in one child

Example of Multiple Baseline

Limitations of Single-Subject Designs
• Stability of baseline
– Hard to determine intervention had an effect of baseline is not stable

• Generalization (external validity)
– Hard to generalize experiences of one person to a population

• Ethical issues
– Is it ethical to withdraw treatment (ABAB) or not treat some individuals (Multiple-baseline across individuals)?

Homework 2
• A friend comes to you with a problem:
– Nail biting

• Design a Single-Subject Design to help with this problem • You may use ABAB or Multiple-Baseline • Briefly describe intervention (not the important part, but think about it) • Describe which method you will use, how you will establish baseline/intervention stages, how many stages you will include, how long each stage will be • How will you determine your treatment is effective? • Worth 10 points, due 10/30

Change of Pace
• Final Project • There are now resources including:
– APA Format Handout
• How to write in APA style • Will review this more in later weeks

– Sample rubric for Final Project grading
• Subject to slight changes

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