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Week 2 9/16 & 9/18 Ch. 2
Much of the information © McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
What is the Scientific Method?
• Way to gain knowledge about behavior and mental processes
– Not a particular technique or tool – General approach to gaining knowledge
• There are many ways/approaches to gaining knowledge about ourselves and the world
– All share the same goal: Seeking the Truth!
• The scientific method is empirical and requires systematic, controlled observation • Scientists gain the greatest control when they conduct an experiment; in an experiment, researchers manipulate independent variables to determine their effect on behavior • Dependent variables are measures of behavior used to assess the effects of independent variables
Scientific Method continued...
• Scientific reporting is unbiased and objective; clear communication of constructs occurs when operational definitions are used • Scientific instruments are accurate and precise; physical and psychological measurement should be valid and reliable • A hypothesis is a tentative explanation for a phenomenon; testable hypotheses have clearly defined concepts (operational definitions), are not circular, and refer to concepts that can be observed
Scientific Method vs. “Everyday” Approaches
Nonscientific (Everyday) General Approach: Attitude: Observation: Reporting: Concepts: Instruments: Measurement: Hypotheses: Intuitive Uncritical, accepting Casual, uncontrolled Biased, subjective Ambiguous, surplus meanings Inaccurate, imprecise Not valid or reliable Untestable Scientific Empirical Critical, skeptical Systematic, controlled Unbiased, objective Clear definitions, operational specificity Accurate, precise Valid and reliable Testable
– Intuitive – Judgments based on “what feels right”
– Empirical – Judgments based on direct observation and experimentation
– Uncritical, accepting – Accept claims without evidence, ignore contradictory evidence
– Critical, skeptical
• Behavior and mental processes are complex • Human mistakes are made (even in science)
• The case of Clever Hans • Nonscientific
– Casual, uncontrolled – Personal and cognitive biases and other factors influence observation
– Systematic, controlled – Control = essential ingredient of science
• How we “control” the environment/observations to limit confounding variables
– Greatest control in an experiment
– Investigate factors one at a time in experiment – An experiment has at least
• One Independent Variable (IV) • One Dependent Variable (DV)
• Independent Variable (IV) Factor researchers control or manipulate in order to determine the effect on behavior
– Minimum of two levels • Treatment (experimental) condition • Control condition
– Example IV: putting people in a treatment condition (experimental condition) versus a placebo or wait-list control/no treatment (control condition)
• Dependent Variable (DV) Measure of behavior used to assess the effect of the independent variable
– Example DV: psychological well-being, psychopathological symptoms, satisfaction
– Most studies involve several dependent variables
– Biased, subjective – Personal impressions
– Unbiased, objective – Separate observations from inferences – Interobserver agreement
• Think about Uncle Traveling Matt and the Umbrellas
• What are “Concepts?”
– “Symbols by which we ordinarily communicate...” – Refer to things, events, relationships, characteristics... – Can be ambiguous or clear
– Ambiguous – Is the meaning clear?
– Clear, specific definitions – Researchers use a specific term for concepts: Constructs
• Constructs: a concept or idea • Examples: intelligence, aggression, memory, anxiety – Operational Definition: explains a concept based in terms of observable procedures used to produce and measure the concept/construct
– Inaccurate, imprecise
– Accuracy: difference between what an instrument says is true and what we know to be true – Precision: varying levels of how specific/detailed an instrument can measure something
• Example: a clock that counts in minutes versus a clock that can measure milliseconds
– Not valid or reliable – Measure of concepts is not accurate and is not consistent
– Validity: measures what it claims to measure-“truthfulness” – Reliability: measures something consistently-“consistency”
• Many different kinds of validity and reliability
– Measurements can be one or the other- do not have to be both
– Untestable – Hypotheses not testable if:
• Constructs are not adequately defined • Circular: when an event itself is used as the explanation of the event • Relies on ideas that are not recognized by science
– Testable – Concepts are clearly defined and measured (constructs, operational definitions)
Goals of the Scientific Method • Four research goals
– Description – Prediction – Explanation – Application
• Define, classify, catalogue, or categorize events and their relationships
– Example: psychologists describe symptoms of Autistic Disorder – One operational definition of depression: the list of symptoms in the DSM
• Most psychology research is Nomothetic, not Idiographic.
– Nomothetic: large sample sizes, “average” performance of a group – Apply broad generalizations and general laws that apply to a diverse population
• Nomothetic researchers emphasize similarities among individuals
– Idiographic: individual case studies – What are some examples of Nomothetic vs. Idiographic research? Some problems?
• Most psychology research is Quantitative, not Qualitative
– Quantitative: statistical summaries of behavior
• Will be discussed in further detail throughout the course
– Qualitative: verbal summaries of research findings
• Interviews and observations-- participants describe their experiences in ways that are meaningful to them
• Relationships among different variables allow us to predict processes and behavior
– If we know people’s score for one variable, we can predict their score for a second variable – Correlation: two different measures of the same subject vary together-- can be in the same direction (positive) or in opposite directions (negative/inverse)
• Correlation does NOT imply causation
• We can understand and explain a phenomenon when we can identify its causes • We conduct controlled experiments to identify the causes of a phenomenon (causal inference)
– Control= manipulate factors one at a time to determine their effect
• What type of variable is this?
• Scientists need 3 conditions for making causal inferences:
– Covariation of events
• The 2 events must covary together-- be correlated
– Time-order relationship (contingency)
• Presumed cause must occur before the presumed effect
– Elimination of plausible alternative causes
• Confounding-- when IV’s covary simultaneously
– Cannot determine which IV caused the effects of the DV
– Scientists also aim to generalize findings to the real world
• Scientists apply knowledge and findings to improve people’s lives (knowledge does not exist in a vacuum) • Basic versus Applied research
– Basic- understand behavior/mental processes
• “Seeking knowledge for its own sake” • Laboratories, goal is to test theories
– Applied- change people’s lives for the better
• “Real-world” or natural settings
– Both are valuable and necessary
Scientific Theory Construction and Testing
• Theories- proposed explanations for the causes of phenomena
– “Logically organized set of propositions... that serves to define events (concepts), describe relationships among these events, and explain the occurrence of these events”
• Vary in scope, focus, what they seek to explain • Theories developed from intuition, personal experience and observation, and known facts
• Successful theories
– – – – – Organize empirical knowledge Suggest testable hypotheses Guide research Survive rigorous testing (e.g., falsification) Internally consistent
• Good theories are:
– Logical: They make sense and predictions can be logically deduced – Precise: Predictions about behavior are specific rather than general – Parsimonious: The simplest explanation for a phenomenon is best
• Intervening variables
– “Hidden” processes represented by constructs
• Like computer software-- we push buttons and see what happens on the monitor, but something is missing
– Provide a link between IV’s and DV’s, even ones that seem dissimilar – Influence and explain relationships – Necessary to consider when developing theories
• Read the following descriptions of research and identify the independent and dependent variables: – 1. In the Pennebaker and Francis (1996) study on adjustment to college, students wrote about their emotions associated with beginning college or they wrote about superficial events that took place during their day. Pennebaker and Francis obtained information about the participants’ GPA and their frequency of visiting the student health center. – What is the independent variable and what are the dependent variables?
• IV: Type of writing: emotional (treatment) and superficial (control) • DVs: GPA and the number of health center visits • Results: Students who wrote about their emotions had a higher GPA and fewer health center visits than students who wrote about superficial events
• 2. In a study on factors that influence people’s willingness to help others, a researcher mimicked (copied) the behavior of participants (e.g., sitting position, posture) or did not mimic the participants’ behavior. The researcher then dropped pens and observed whether participants helped to pick up the pens. • What is the independent variable and what is the dependent variable?
• IV: Mimicry: present (treatment) or absent (control) • DV: Whether participants helped by picking up the pens (yes or no) • Results: van Baaren (2004) and his colleagues found that all of the participants whose behavior was mimicked helped, whereas only 33% of nonmimicked participants helped (see Chapter 9)
• Please get in groups of 4
Geller, E.S., Russ, N.W., & Altomari, M.G. (1986). Naturalistic observations of beer drinking among college students. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 19, 391-396.
• • • • • What is the research question the authors are asking in your journal article? What is it about this question that is interesting to you? Why might this question be scientifically important? To what extent will the science of psychology be advanced by knowing the answer to this research question? Why would anyone be interested in the results obtained by asking this question? What goal of psychological research (description, prediction, explanation, application) did the researchers try to meet?
• Sternberg, R. J. (1997). What do students still most need to learn about research in psychology? APS Observer, 14, 19.
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