Psych 101 - Introduction to Psychology - Lecture 2


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This lecture provides an overview of the major research methods used by psychologists in their study of behavior and mental processes.

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Psych 101 - Introduction to Psychology - Lecture 2

  1. 1.
  2. 2.  Psychologists employ different research methods depending on the subject matter. Common research methods include:  Observation  Case studies  Self-report measures and surveys  Correlational studies  Experimental studies
  3. 3.  Psychologists frequently observe behaviour and events as they occur in their natural settings. Scientific observation is made in a systematic and objective manner, with careful record keeping. The primary goal of observational methods is to describe behaviour as fully and as accurately as possible.
  4. 4.  In order to observe behaviour in the real world, psychologists may employ one of two methods: 1) Naturalistic observation (observation without intervention)  Involves observing behaviour in normal, everyday settings in an unobtrusive manner  The observer acts as a passive recorder of events and tries to be as inconspicuous as possible  E.g. Observing the activities of children on a playground from a distance.
  5. 5.  2)Participant observation (observation with intervention)  Psychologists using this method observe people’s behaviour while actively participating in the situation they are observing.  E.g. joining a cult or sorority to observe the daily activities of its members.
  6. 6.  Inparticipant observation, the observer may be:  disguised - participants are not aware that they are being observed; or  undisguised – participants know that they are being studied
  7. 7. A case study is a research design in which one person or a small number of people are studied in depth, usually over an extended period of time. Case studies are ideal for studying rare phenomena and may be a useful tool when studying new research topics. These studies often involve collecting evidence from a wide variety of sources such as observations, interviews, documents and artifacts.
  8. 8.  A questionnaire is a structured pencil-and-paper interview, consisting of standardized written questions. Questionnaires are also called self-report measures. They are easy to administer and can be used to collect data from a large group of people fairly quickly. On the other hand, respondents may not answer questions truthfully: they may provide socially desirable responses and minimize negative attitudes and traits.
  9. 9.  The questionnaire is the primary research instrument used in surveys. Surveys involve the administration of a questionnaire to a large sample of people who are representative of the wider population being studied. They are often used in the study of public opinion, and to assess knowledge, beliefs and attitudes.
  10. 10.  In correlational studies, researchers examine the extent to which two variables are associated. Correlation is a mathematical way of determining the relationship between two sets of scores. Correlations can be positive, negative or zero. A positive correlation means that as the value of one variable changes, the other also changes in the same direction.  E.g. As level of education increases, income also increases (or vice versa)
  11. 11. A negative correlation means that as the value of one variable changes, the other changes in the opposite direction.  E.g. As self-esteem increases, social anxiety decreases.A correlation of zero means that the variables are not related.  E.g. A person’s weight might tell us nothing about their acting ability.
  12. 12.  Correlations reveal the existence and extent of relationships but do not necessarily indicate what causes what.  CORRELATION DOES NOT MEAN CAUSATION The only research design that allows researchers to make statements about cause and effect is the experiment.
  13. 13.  An experiment is a careful and controlled study of cause and effect through manipulation of the conditions to which participants are exposed. In a correlational study, researchers simply measure preexisting differences among participants (e.g. weight, aggression) but in an experiment, they manipulate variables to see whether these manipulations produce differences in participants’ behaviour.
  14. 14.  An experiment consists of two key components: 1) Random assignment of participants to conditions  Participants are randomly assigned to either the experimental group (which receives the manipulation) or the control group (which does not)  NB: random assignment means that each participant has an equal chance of being selected for either group.
  15. 15.  2) Manipulation of an independent variable:  The variable that is manipulated is called the independent variable (IV).  The dependent variable (DV) is the one which the researcher measures to see if the manipulation had an effect.
  16. 16.  Example: Researchers want to determine if Drug X is effective in treating anxiety.  IV: the presence vs absence of the drug X  DV: level of anxiety Researchers randomly assign half of the participants to the experimental group, which receives Drug X, and the other half to the control group, which does not receive the drug. After an appropriate length of time, researchers then measure the level of anxiety of participants in both groups to see if the drug caused a difference.
  17. 17.  Researchers must ensure that the experimental and control groups are treated equally in all respects, except for the manipulation of the IV. If not, there will be no way of telling if changes in the DV were caused by changes in the IV or some other variable.  E.g. If persons who received Drug X also received regular psychotherapy sessions, changes in their anxiety levels might be due to these sessions and not to the drug.