Activity Booklet (2)
Methods and Techniques
Data Analysis and Presentation
The aim of this booklet is to provide you with practical activities to enhance your understanding of research
methods in psychology. Once completed it will provide a valuable revision tool…so take care of it!!
Candidates will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the following
research methods, their advantages and weaknesses:
Experimental method, including laboratory, field and natural experiments.
Studies using correlational analysis.
Self report techniques including questionnaire and interview.
Candidates should be familiar with the following features of investigation design:
Hypothesis, including directional and non-directional.
Experimental design (independent groups, repeated measures and matched pairs).
Design of naturalistic observations, including the development and use of behavioural
Design of questionnaires and interviews.
Operationalisation of variables, including independent and dependent variables.
Control of extraneous variables.
Reliability and validity.
Awareness of the British Psychological Society (BPS) Code of Ethics.
Selection of participants and sampling techniques, including random, opportunity and
Demand characteristics and investigator effects.
Candidates should be familiar with the following features of data analysis, presentation and
Presentation and interpretation of quantitative data including graphs, scattergrams
Analysis and interpretation of quantitative data. Measures of central tendency
including median, mean, mode. Measures of dispersion including ranges and
Analysis and interpretation of correlational data. Positive and negative correlations
and the interpretation of correlation coefficients.
Presentation of qualitative data.
Processes involved in content analysis.
Aim 1 IV ___________________ Aim 1 DV __________________
Aim 2 IV ___________________ Aim 2 DV __________________
Aim 3 IV ___________________ Aim 3 DV __________________
Creating Aims and Hypotheses:
What is an aim?
What about a hypothesis?
Aims are normally very straight forward. For example, what might the aim be for
the following research questions?
1. Does background noise affect memory?
2. Do students who revise perform better in AS exams?
3. Are blondes really dumb?
An aim of a study should include both the thing being manipulated (independent
variable) and the thing being measured (dependent variable).
What might the IV and DV be for the above aims?
It is very important to operationalise the variables to be studied, otherwise the
researcher will not know what they are looking for and this can reduce the validity and
reliability of their data.
How might the following variables be operationalised?
What is an extraneous variable and why is it important to control for them?
Identify the extraneous variable in each of the examples below:
1. The researchers were interested in the effects of time of day on memory recall.
They put all the young people in the morning condition and all the older people in
the evening condition.
2. The researchers were interested in the effects of age on memory recall. They
tested all the young people in the morning and all the old people in the evening.
3. Researchers were looking at the effects of noise on concentration. There were two
conditions and participants were either in the noisy or quiet condition. When the
researchers were conducting the quiet condition the thermostat broke on the
radiator and the room was very stuffy and airless.
NB: Extraneous variables can also include things such as demand characteristics and investigator
effects (more on these later).
There are two different types of hypothesis:
One tailed (directional)
Two tailed (non-directional)
A directional hypothesis states which direction the results will go in and
usually contains the words “there will be…” A non-directional hypothesis
is less clear of the direction the results will go in and tends to use the words
“there will be a difference…”
directional and one non-directional hypothesis below:
Once the researcher has chosen the experimental method which best suits the nature of the
study, they then have to choose what type of design it will have. The choices are repeated
measures, independent groupsand matchedpairs.
Task: Cut out paper men to identify repeated measures, independent groups and matched
Now fill in the table below:
Experimental Design: Strengths Weaknesses
The same PPs are used in
PPs are randomly allocated
to different groups which
represent the different
Pairs of PPs are closely
matched and are then
randomly allocated to one of
the experimental conditions.
Which design is being used here?
1) Researchers wanted to find out whether a new teaching method could improve
verbal reasoning ability in 5 year olds. In one condition the children weretaught
the new method and in the other they were taught a traditional method. Each
participant in the new method group was matched with a participant from the
2) Researchers were looking at whether people remembered more in the morning
or evening. They gave one set of participants free recall tests in both the
morning and evening and compared their results to the control group who only
took the test in the morning.
3) A researcher enrolled 20 participants into their experiment. All participants
completed a musical task and then a written task. Their abilities to perform
under pressure were compared.
So you’ve worked out your experimental design…but how are you going to get your
participants? These three ways seem to be the most successful…
Like with the correlations we looked at last week, observations are a
non experimental method of investigation. This means that there is no
manipulation of variables, and so observations are not technically
classed as experiments. A researcher will simply observe behaviour, and
look for patterns. Like all non-experimental methods, in an observation
we cannot draw cause and effect relationships. Observations are used
in psychological research in one of two ways, a method or a technique.
Observations as a research technique: This is when observations are used as part of
another research method such as a lab study or a field study. Nearly all research in
psychology involves some aspect of observation. For example, how did Ainsworth use
observations in her lab study?
Which other studies have we looked at where participants’ behaviour was also observed?
This means that when evaluating any study which uses observational techniques, you can
use many of the evaluation points that apply to observational research.
This is where the entire study is an observation. In this handout we will be focusing on
this use of observations.
For example, going to a playground an observing the
behaviour of children. In this example, maybe the
researcher is looking to see how many incidents of
aggressive behaviour are shown by the children. They
might simply observe the children in a playground, and
record how many aggressive acts are demonstrated.
There is no manipulation of variables, and no conditions.
The experimenter has not controlled the environment
and the children do not know that they are in a study.
Depending on the method of observation used (see below) the researcher may collect
qualitative data, quantitative data or both types.
Types of observation
There are different sub-types of
An observation can be
Naturalistic or controlled
Structured or unstructured
Participant or non-
Overt or covert
These can be combined in many different ways, to create many varieties of observation.
For example, you could have a naturalistic, structured, non-participant,covert
Naturalistic or controlled?
In a naturalistic observation, behaviour is studied in a natural situation where
everything has been left as it normally is.
In a controlled observation, some variables are controlled by the researcher,
reducing the naturalness of the behaviour being studied. Participants are likely to
know that they are being observed and the study may take place in a lab.
Participant or non-participant?
A participant observation is
In a participant observation, it may be difficult for the observer to record everything
as they have to wait for an opportune moment to write down their observations.
However, they may gain a deeper insight into behaviour.
A non- participant observation is
In a non-participant observation, it is easier to record data and the observer can
Overt or covert?
Structured or unstructured?
In an unstructured observation, the researcher will record all relevant behaviour
but has no system. This is because the behaviour that is being studied may be
unpredictable. An unstructured observation may be the first step in an
investigation, and the results may be used to create a coding system for further
structured observations. The majority of the data collected in an unstructured
observation will therefore be ________________________________.
A structured observation is when the researcher has a system that is used to
record behaviour. He will use a coding system (see below) to tally the number of
times a behaviour occurs, and he will also use various sampling procedures
(again, see below) to decide what to observe and when.
o Coding system: A coding system is when behaviour is operationalisedby
being broken into different categories. For example, when observing
infant behaviour a coding system might contain items like
o Sampling procedures: in a continuous observation, the observer should
record every instance of the behaviour being studied. However, in
practicality, there would be too much data to record, so therefore there
needs to be a systematic method of sampling.
Event sampling: counting each time a particular behaviour is
Time sampling: recording data at particular intervals. For example,
what is an individual doing every 30 seconds?
An example of a coding system
The Facial Action Coding System (FACS) is used for observing facial expressions. Using
the FACS, tally each time your partner shows a particular facial movement.
What difficulties did you encounter when making your observations?
How did you feel when you were being observed? Did you behave any differently?
1 Inner Brow Raiser 26 Jaw Drop
2 Outer Brow Raiser 27 Mouth Stretch
4 Brow Lowerer 28 Lip Suck
5 Upper Lid Raiser 41 Lid droop
6 Cheek Raiser 42 Slit
7 Lid Tightener 43 Eyes Closed
9 Nose Wrinkler 44 Eyebrow Gatherer
10 Upper Lip Raiser 45 Blink
11 Nasolabial Deepener 46 Wink
12 Lip Corner Puller 51 Head Turn Left
13 Sharp Lip Puller 52 Head Turn Right
14 Dimpler 53 Head Up
15 Lip Corner Depressor 54 Head Down
16 Lower Lip Depressor 55 Head Tilt Left
17 Chin Raiser 56 Head Tilt Right
18 Lip Pucker 57 Head Forward
20 Lip Stretcher 58 Head Back
22 Lip Funneler 61 Eyes turn left
23 Lip Tightener 62 Eyes turn right
24 Lip Pressor 63 Eyes up
25 Lips Part 64 Eyes down
Evaluation of Observations
Validity of observations
Observations tend to have ___________ ecological validity, as they involve more
natural behaviours. Ecological validity is especially high in ________________,
________________ observations where the participants are unaware that they
are being observed.
What people say they do is often different from what they actually do. Therefore,
observations may be more ______________ than questionnaires for example.
However, ecological validity may be lowered in ________________ observations,
as they do not take place in a natural environment. Also, ______________
observations where the participants know that they are being observed can lead
to ______________ behaviour from the participants, as can participant
observations where the person doing the observing may directly affect the
behaviour of those being observed.
Another issue is that depending upon the people being
observed, there may be a ___________________, meaning that the
sample is not ______________________ of all people, and the results
may not be generalisable.
A major issue with observations is the validity of the
______________________ used. For example, some observations
might belong in one or more category, or some behaviour may not be codeable,
and so are not recorded.
Validity is also affected by the ______________________ of the observer. If the
observer has an idea about what he expects to happen, he may record only that
data which fits with his theory. This is known as __________________________.
For example, a researcher who thinks that boys are more aggressive than girls
may over record instances of the boys behaving aggressively and under record
when girls are aggressive.
Often, there is little or no control of __________________________________,
meaning that something unknown could account for the participant’s behaviour.
Reliability of observations
Often, observations can be difficult to __________________, as they take place at
a specific place and time.
However, reliability can be _________________ using inter-observer reliability.
observer bias extraneous variables
Dealing with validity in observations
A researcher can assess the validity of his observations by conducting further
observations in different settings with varied people so that the results can be
By using more than one observer, observer bias can be reduced.
Observer bias can also be reduced by using a double blind technique, where the
person doing the observing does not know the aims of the study.
The validity of a coding system can be assessedthrough content, construct,
concurrent and predictive methods (see handout on “Validity and Reliability” for
a full explanation of these various terms)
Dealing with reliability in observations
In observational research, the issue is that any observations should be consistent.
If they are consistent, we would expect two observers to produce exactly the
same observations. The extent to which any two or more observers agree is called
inter-observer reliability. This is calculated by correlating the observations of two
or more observers. Generally, if there is more than 80% agreement between the
observers, the data has inter-observer reliability.
Reliability can also be increased by training the observers in the use of a coding
system through practice.
What ethical issues can be raised by the use of observations?
1: The school wants to know what kind of study behaviour the library is being used
for. To investigate this they install CCTV cameras in the library to video the
students during study breaks and at lunchtime. The researcher watches the TV
screens and marks down behaviour on a pre-set coding scheme every time he sees
Delete as appropriate (This is not an exam style question)
This experiment is
The following are exam style questions.
(a) Identify one advantage and one disadvantage of using an observation in this
(b) Identify one issue of reliability in this research, and describe how you could
deal with it. 
(c) Identify one issue of validity in this research, and describe how you could deal
with it. 
(e) Discuss one ethical issue that may arise in this research. 
The following is an example to show you how to answer these types of research method
2: A researcher wants to observe the aggression levels of players during a college under 18’s
rugby match. To investigate this, the researcher disguised himself as a rugby player and played
for one of the sides while observing the aggressive interactions during the match. During breaks
in play, at half time and following the match the investigator tallied the number of aggressive
events on a pre-made checklist.
This experiment is naturalistic/controlled,structured/unstructured,participant/non-participant,
and overt/covert. 
(a) Identify one advantage and one disadvantage of using an observation in this study. 
An advantage of using an observation in this study is that the behaviour shown by the
rugby players is likely to be more valid, as they are unaware that they are in a study.
Therefore there is no risk that they would act more or less aggressive due to the effect of
being observed. A disadvantage is that as the observer is also a participant in the rugby
game, he may inadvertently alter the behaviour of the players, leading to reduced or
(b) Identify one issue of reliability in this research, and describe how you could deal with it. 
One issue of reliability is that the researcher is the only person who is recording the
observations. Therefore there is no way to ascertain how reliable his data is as another
observer may have recorded different aggressive behaviour than him. To overcome this, a
second, non-participant observer could be at the side of the rugby pitch making their own
observations of aggressive behaviour. The two sets of observations could then be assessed
for inter-observer reliability.
(c) Identify one issue of validity in this research, and describe how you could deal with it. 
One issue of validity is that the coding system that the investigator is using to record the
aggressive behaviour may not actually be a valid measure of aggression. He may
actually be measuring physical fitness, or competence at rugby for example. To check for
content validity, the investigator could show his coding scheme to a panel of experts on
aggression, who may suggest improvements.
(e) Discuss one ethical issue that may arise in this research. 
An ethical issue in this research is that as this is a covert observation the participants are
unaware that they are in a study. They do not know that their aggressive behaviour is
being observed. This raises important ethical issues as they therefore have not given fully
informed consent, neither have they got the right to withdraw from the study. To overcome
this, the researcher could debrief them at the end of the match and gain retrospective
When assessing the reliability of a study, we generally need to ask two questions
1) Can the study be replicated?
2) If so, will the results be consistent?
Reliability and Validity
How do we use the words reliability and validity in everyday life? What do
these words mean? Is there a difference between them or do they mean the
Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure. A measure is considered reliable if we
get the same result repeatedly. A research method is considered reliable if we can repeat
it and get the same results.
Coolican (1994) pointed out
“Any measure we use in life should be reliable, otherwise it’s useless. You
wouldn’t want your car speedometer or a thermometer to give you different
readings for the same values of different occasions. This applies to psychological
measures as much as any other.”
A ruler for example would be reliable, as the results could be replicated
time after time and the same results would be gained (consistency). If you
measure the length of a book on Monday, and your ruler tells you its 25 cm long, it will
still tell you its 25cm long on Friday.
An IQ test however may be unreliable, if a person sits the test on Monday and scores 140,
and then sits the same test on Friday and scores 90. Even though it can be replicated, it
shows low consistency and therefore is an unreliable test.
Some research methods (such as laboratory studies) have high reliability as they can be
replicated and the results checked for consistency. Other research methods however
(such as case studies and interviews) have lower reliability as they are difficult or
impossible to replicate. As they cannot be replicated, we cannot check how consistent
the results are.
How can we measure reliability?
There are several different ways to estimate or improve reliability depending on the
research method used. Match the method of estimating reliability to the description
If the measure depends
upon interpretation of
behaviour, we can
compare the results from
two or more raters.
If the results in the two
halves are similar, we
can assume the test is
Split Half Reliability
Splitting a test into two
halves, and comparing the
scores in both halves
If the results on the two
tests are similar, we can
assume the test is
The measure is
administered to the same
group of people twice
If there is high
agreement between the
raters, the measure is
We will look in more detail of the specific reliability of various research methods throughout
A study may be high in reliability, but the results may still be meaningless if we
don’t have validity. Validity is the extent to which a test measures what it
claims to measure.
There are three main aspects of validity that we investigate in psychological research
Control, Realism and Generalisability.
This refers to how well the experimenter has controlled the experimental
situation. Control is important as without it, researchers can not establish
cause and effect relationships. In other words, without control, we cannot
state that it was the independent variable (IV) which caused the change in the
dependant variable (DV). The result could have been caused by another
variable, called an extraneousvariable(EV). These are variables which have not been
controlled by the experimenter, and which may affect the DV (see below).
The whole point of psychological research is to provide information about how
people behave in real life. If an experiment is too controlled, or the situation too
artificial, participants may act differently than they would in real life. Therefore, the
results may lack validity.
The term mundane realism is used to refer to how well an experiment reflects real life. If
an experimental situation has high mundane realism (in other words, it reflects real life)
it would be high in _______________________ validity
Can you see a potential conflict between control and realism?
The aim of psychological research is to produce results which can then be generalised
beyond the setting of the experiment. If an experiment is lacking in realism we will be
unable to generalise. However, even if an experiment is high in realism, we still may not
be able to generalise.
For example, the participants may be all from a small group of similar people, meaning
low population validity. Many experiments use white, middle class American college
students as participants. What issues with generalisability can you think of?
TYPES OF VALIDITY
Experimental Validity: is the study really measuring what it
INTERNAL VALIDITY refers to things that happen “inside” the study. Internal validity is
concerned with whether we can be certain that it was the IV which caused the change in
the DV. If aspects of the experimental situation lack validity, the results of the study are
meaningless and we can make no meaningful conclusions from them.
Internal validity can be affected by a lack of mundane realism. This could lead the
participants to act in a way which is unnatural, thus making the results less valid.
Internal validity can also be affected by extraneous variables (see below).
EXTRANEOUS VARIABLE HOW DOES IT AFFECT VALIDITY? HOW CAN IT BE
Situational variables (anything to do
with the environment of the
experiment): time of day,
temperature, noise levels etc
Something about the situation of the
experiment could act as an EV if it has an
effect on the DV. For example, poor
lighting could affect participants
performance on a memory test
Situational variables can be
overcome by the use of
which ensure that all
participants are tested under
the same conditions.
Participants variables (anything to
do with differences in the
participants): age, gender,
intelligence, skill, past experience,
motivation, education etc.
It may be that the differences between
the participants cause the change in the
DV. For example, one group may perform
better on a memory test than another
because they are younger, or more
Participant variables can be
completely removed by using
a repeated measures design
(the same participants are
used in each condition).
Matched pairs (participants
in each group are matched)
could also be used.
Investigator effects: this refers to
how the behaviour and language of
the experimenter may influence the
behaviour of the participants. The
way in which an experimenter asks a
question might act as a cue for the
participant. Also known as
Leading questions from the experimenter
may consciously or unconsciously alter
how the participant responds. For
example, the experimenter may provide
verbal or non verbal encouragement
when the participant behaves in a way
Investigator effects can be
overcome by using a double
blind technique. This is when
the person who carries out
the research is not the
person who designed it.
experimenter bias which supports the hypothesis.
Demand characteristics: participants
are often searching for cues as to
how to behave in an experiment.
There could be something about the
experimental situation or the
behaviour of the experimenter (see
investigator effects) which
communicates to the participant
what is “demanded” of them.
The structure of the experiment could
lead the participant to guess the aim of
the study. For example, participants may
perform a memory test, be made to
exercise, and then given another memory
test. This may lead the participants to
guess that the study is about the effect of
exercise on memory, which may cause
them to change their behaviour
When designing a study, it is
important to try and create a
situation where the
participants will not be able
to guess what the aim of the
Participant effects: participants are
aware that they are in an
experiment, and so may behave
They may be overly helpful and want to
please the experimenter. This leads to
artificial behaviour. Alternatively, they
may decide to go against the
experimenter’s aims and deliberately act
in a way which spoils the experiment. This
is the “screw you” effect.
Again, by designing a study
so that the participants
cannot guess the aims,
participant effects can be
A. A researcher wants to test whether people’s memories are better in the evening
or in the morning. He gives a group of participants a memory test at 9am, and
another test at 9pm. The researcher discovers that they scored higher in the
morning. He concludes therefore that people’s memories are better in the
Name the IV:_________________________ Name the
Name any extraneous variables that could have altered the DV?
How could these EVs have been controlled?
B. A psychologist is interested in the effect of age on how well people
cope under stressful conditions. Two groups of participants are used, one
group are under 25, and another group are over 50. Both groups are asked to
sit a difficult exam under timed conditions. After the exam, all of the
participants are given a questionnaire to assess how much stress they felt. The
older people reported more stress.
Name the IV:__________________________ Name the
Name any extraneous variables that could have altered the DV?
How could these EVs have been controlled?
Assuming that our experiment has high ____________________ validity (that we can be
sure that the DV was changed by the _____ and not an _____), we need to assess how
well our results can be _________________________ beyond the experimental setting.
Two issues here are how much ecological validity the study has, and whether it has
Ecological validity refers to how well the experimental situation reflects
_________ __________, and therefore how well the results can be
__________________________ to other places and settings. Ecological validity
can be assessed by looking at the ________________ of the experiment. For
example, a field experiment takes place in the participant’s own environment,
which would lead to ____________ ecological validity, as it is more naturalistic
than a _____________________ experiment. _____________ _______________
on the other hand looks at the tasks that the participants have to do and how
realistic these are. If the things that the participants are asked to do in the
experiment are artificial and contrived, the study would be said to have ______
_______________ ________________ and therefore _______ ecological validity.
Population validity refers to how well the ____________________ used
in the experiment represent the general population. Many psychological
studies use white, middle class male American students. Can we
legitimately take the results from these participants and apply them to
other nationalities, _______________, _______, or even different
Validity of psychological measures: how valid is the tool we use to measure?
When designing an experiment in psychology, we will need to decide upon
a way to measure our variables. If what we are measuring is height,
weight, or time for example we could use a tapemeasure, scales or
stopwatch respectively. However, what about if we want to measure
something like selfesteem, intelligence, conformity or linguisticability? These psychological
concepts need to be turned into numbers that can be measured and compared. The term
for this is operationalisation.
To create a measure, we first must define what it is we are measuring. For example, with
intelligence, we need to decide what we mean by intelligence and what sort of things we
wish to measure. We then decide upon a way to measure this (operationalising).
Examples of the types of measures used in psychology are:
A test which is given to the participants which produces a score
A questionnaire or interview
A checklist where participant’s behaviour can be recorded
A biological response (e.g. body temperature, hormone levels)
A possible issue with this is that by breaking down a concept into a numerical form, we
lose validity and we end up not measuring what we intended. However, there are a
number of ways we can assess the validity of a measure.
Does the method used actually seem to measure what you intended? For example,
does an IQ test actually measure levels of intelligence, or is it measuring ability to
To ensure content validity, a panel of experts (on IQ for example) may be
asked to assess the measure for validity.
How well does the measure agree with existing measures? For example, does our
IQ test agree with established tests of IQ?
We can ensure concurrent validity by testing participant with both the new
test and the established test. If our test has concurrent validity, there should
be high agreement between the scores on both measures.
Is the method actually measuring all parts of what we are aiming to test? For
example, if we use a maths test to test intelligence, we are missing out on other
factors involved such as linguistic ability or spatial awareness.
To maintain construct validity, we need to define what it is we are aiming to
measure, and ensure that all parts of that definition are being measured.
Is our measure associated with future behaviour? For example, if someone scores
high on our IQ test, we would expect them to perform well in GCSE exams, or do
well in their career. This is similar to concurrent validity.
We can investigate predictive validity by following up our participants to see
if future performance is similar to performance on our measure.
C. A researcher is looking into the effect of alcohol consumption on self esteem. He
develops a questionnaire to assess people’s attitudes towards themselves. How could
you see if this questionnaire had content validity?
D. An experimenter creates a questionnaire that measures homophobic attitudes. How
would you see if this test had construct validity?
E. A researcher wants to see if people who live healthy lifestyles have better romantic
relationships. He develops a checklist of what constitutes healthy behaviour. How do we
know if this checklist has concurrent validity?
Improving Validity - Pilot Studies:
Designing a pilot study is often one of the best ways to check that everything in your actual
experiment will run smoothly (as much as possible!).
A pilot study is a ___________ scale study conducted on a small sample. It helps the
researcher to identify any ___________ problems with the ___________ method, design,
_____________ given to participants and so on. Pilot studies can also check items on a
______________ to make sure that they are easy to answer and unambiguous.
Imagine you have been asked to carry out an experiment into the effects of music on the
ability to recall words from a list.
Why is it important to carry out a pilot study before conducting the actual experiment?
What elements of the experiment would you test in the pilot study (e.g. duration/volume
of music playing)?
ETHICAL GUIDELINES IN PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH
There are probably more major ethical issues in Psychology than in any other subject.
There are a number of reasons for this:
psychology involves the study of living creatures (human and animal)
results of psychological research may reveal unpleasant facts about human behaviour.
The key ethical guidelines
Means researchers should tell potential participants exactly what is going to happen
to them in the experiment, and ask them, without pressure of any kind, whether they are
willing to take part.
Sometimes, researchers feel that they cannot tell participants what the experiment is about
because they may show demand characteristics. Children are often considered to be too
young to give their own consent, and the consent of their parents or teachers is enough and
should be gained.
Means lying to people and deceiving them about something to do with the study.
The BPS guidelines say that you should try to avoid intentionally deceiving participants
about the purpose and nature of the investigation However in certain circumstances,
deceiving to your participants is acceptable and can be justified when:
it does not lead to harmful consequences for participants;
the study is potentially very useful to society or our understanding
not deceiving participants may make the research invalid - in some studies, if
participants are told exactly what the study is about, then they may behave
differently (this is called demand characteristics).
Right of withdrawal
This means giving people the opportunity to leave the study at any time if they no
longer want to take part.
This means that they can withdraw from the study and that the researcher will not use any of
their data. Participants should be told abut their right to withdraw and if they are being paid
for participating they should be informed that they will still be paid if they drop out.
Harm to participants
Participants should not be harmed, either physically or psychologically when
participating in research.
In practice, however, participants often suffer distress or pain during the course of an
experiment and his is considered acceptable as long as:
the harm is unavoidable, and the study could not be carried out in any other way;
the harm is short-term and relatively minor;
the participants are not allowed to leave the study with any residual harm or distress.
Debriefing means telling the participants what the study was about before they leave .
One way to make sure that participants leave the experiment without suffering on-going
distress or harm is to debrief, i.e. tell them exactly what the experiment was all about and
reassure them that their behaviour in the experiment was 'normal'.
Means keeping personal information confidential.
It is clearly important that personal information given by participants during the course of a
study, or the results of tests taken by participants, are kept confidential. Results can be
published, but they must not identify the individual, either by name, or by any other way.
Participants should always be told that personal data will be kept confidential.
Studies that observe people in their natural environment must respect the privacy and psychological
well-being of the individuals studied. Participants should either: (i) give their consent to being
observed or (ii) be observed in a situation where they would normally expect to be observed by
strangers.E.g. in a public park or on a bus.
In a very controversial experiment, Phillip Zimbardo broke the majority of ethical guidelines
set out by the BPS to protect both researcher and participants. Watch a clip of his research
to see what happened and answer the questions on the following page.
The main ethical
1) What is the purpose of ethical guidelines?
2) Why are they important to follow?
3) When can research be excused for not following some of these guidelines?
4) How would you, as a researcher, control for the following ethical issues:
Protection from Harm
Right to Withdraw
Consent: Have the subjects of the study made an informed consent to take part?
Deception: have the subjects been deceived? Was there any other way to carry out the
study other than deception? Have the procedures been approved by other
Debriefing: Have the subjects been effectively debriefed? Have any stress caused by
the procedures been removed?
Withdrawal from the investigation? Are the subjects clear that they can withdraw
from the study at any time without penalty or scorn?
Confidentiality: participants in psychological research have the right to expect the
information that they provide will be treated confidentially.
Protection of participants: investigators must protect participants from physical and
mental harm during the investigation.
Observational research: unless the participants give their consent to being observed,
observational research must only take place where those observed could normally be
expected to be observed by strangers.
Trick or Treat
In the group, pretend this was a psychological study. Discuss the costs and the
benefits of the study and make an assessment of whether the study was justified in
that the benefits outweigh the costs.
End of section assessment questions:
1) What is a directional hypothesis?
2) Is the independent variable in an experiment measured or manipulated?
3) How might the variable of time be operationalised?
4) Why is it important to control for extraneous variables?
5) How does an independent groups design differ from a repeated measures
6) What is a random sample?
7) What is the difference between a controlled and naturalistic
8) How do internal and external validity differ?
9) What are investigator effects?