Research Methods in Social Psychology

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Research Methods in Social Psychology

  1. 1. Research Methods in Social Psychology
  2. 2. Last Time • psychology relies on empirical methods • theories are general propositions about causal relationships amongst constructs • hypotheses are conceptual statements that require operationalization • science is a process of “conjecture and refutation”
  3. 3. Our Proposition • Hypothesis: Southern white males are more prone to aggression than are Northern white males. (conjecture) • We’ll look at different strategies to examine hypotheses. (refutation)
  4. 4. Refutation • putting theories to the test • What evidence supports (and, more importantly, disconfirms) our theories?
  5. 5. Descriptive Research • assesses the amount or average level of a given variable in a population – e.g., public opinion surveys • not a true test of an hypothesis – What is the white male homicide rate in the South?
  6. 6. Descriptive Research • What is the white male homicide rate in the South? Region Homicide Rates (WhiteMale OffenderRate) New England 2.62 Middle Atlantic 1.90 Midwest 2.92 Pacific 4.62 Mountain 4.67 Southwest 5.13 South 8.23 adapted from Nisbett (1993)
  7. 7. Descriptive Research • critical issues – random sampling – basis of comparison • informative, but not a hypothesis test – What else could account for the findings?
  8. 8. Correlational Research • investigates whether changes in one variable are related to changes in another variable – What is the relationship between being from the South and aggressive behavior?
  9. 9. Correlational Research • correlation coefficients – range from +1.00 to -1.00 – positive correlation: increase/decrease in the same direction
  10. 10. Correlational Research 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  11. 11. Correlational Research • correlation coefficients – range from +1.00 to -1.00 – negative correlation: increase/decrease in opposite directions
  12. 12. Correlational Research 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  13. 13. Correlational Research • correlation coefficients – range from +1.00 to -1.00 – strength of the relationship: closeness to +1.00/- 1.00, not by the valence (+/-) – Which indicates a stronger correlation: -.74 or +.21?
  14. 14. Correlational Research 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  15. 15. Correlational Research • What is the relationship between being from the South and aggressive behavior? – Nisbett (1993) • homicide rate and “southernness”: rs = .37 & .52 – in the social sciences (Cohen, 1992) • r = .50 (strong) • r = .30 (moderate) • r = .10 (small)
  16. 16. Correlational Research • strengths of this approach – can be a random sample – actual behavior – has good generalizability (i.e., external validity) – potential for numerous variables
  17. 17. Correlational Research • weakness of this approach – cannot infer a cause-effect relationship • factors for inferring causality – association -- yes – temporal priority -- no – rule out a spurious relationship -- no
  18. 18. Correlational Research • temporal priority southernness homicide rates time
  19. 19. Correlational Research • temporal priority southernness homicide rates homicide rates southernness or time time
  20. 20. Correlational Research • temporal priority • direction of causality problem southernness homicide rates homicide rates southernness or time time
  21. 21. Correlational Research • rule out a spurious relationship southernness homicide rates another variable spurious
  22. 22. Correlational Research • rule out a spurious relationship southernness homicide rates poverty rs = .38 & .42 (Nisbett, 1993)
  23. 23. Correlational Research • rule out a spurious relationship • 3rd variable problem southernness homicide rates another variable spurious
  24. 24. Correlational Research • strengths – potential for numerous variables – good generalizability • weaknesses – cannot make causal conclusions • direction of causality • 3rd variable problem
  25. 25. Addressing Problems with Correlational Research • direction of causality problem – Does “southernness” lead to more aggression or does a propensity for aggression lead to more “southernness”? – solution: we cause (i.e., manipulate) one of the variables • insult one group on Southerners, but not another
  26. 26. Addressing Problems with Correlational Research • direction of causality problem – if we control who is insulted, then measure aggressiveness, we know the direction of causality – but, we still have the 3rd variable problem • SES • poor social skills
  27. 27. Addressing Problems with Correlational Research • random assignment to condition – if SES or social skills have an effect on aggression, it should be equal for both groups – We can address the problems of correlational research by doing experiments.
  28. 28. Experimental Design • characteristics – manipulation of a variable • solves the direction of causality problem – randomly assign to conditions • solves the 3rd variable problem
  29. 29. Experimental Design • language of experiments – independent variable – dependent variable – operational variable – random assignment
  30. 30. Experimental Design • testing theory – Does the independent variable cause changes in the dependent variable? southernness aggression cause
  31. 31. Experimental Design • the Southern culture of honor hypothesis – Cohen et al. (1996) – 2 (Southern/Northern) X 2 (insult/no insult) – “chicken”, cortisol, testosterone
  32. 32. Experimental Design 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Northern Southern Insult No Insult Distanceatwhichparticipantsgavewayto confederate(inches)
  33. 33. Experimental Design 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Northern Southern Insult No Insult Distanceatwhichparticipantsgavewayto confederate(inches)
  34. 34. Experimental Design 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Northern Southern Insult No Insult PercentageChangeinCortisolLevel
  35. 35. Experimental Design 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Northern Southern Insult No Insult PercentageChangeinCortisolLevel
  36. 36. Experimental Design 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Northern Southern Insult No Insult PercentageChangeinTestosteroneLevel
  37. 37. Experimental Design 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 Northern Southern Insult No Insult PercentageChangeinTestosteroneLevel
  38. 38. Experimental Design • strengths – allows for causal conclusions to be made -- best test of theory • weaknesses – not all questions are amenable to experiments – concerns about generalizability
  39. 39. Methodological Challenges • expectancy effects • demand characteristics of the situation • social desirability concerns • ethical dilemmas
  40. 40. Summary • refutation: process of testing theories • descriptive research is informative, but limited in theory testing • correlational research is more informative, but does not allow for causal explanations • experiments are the best test of theories
  41. 41. Next Time • social cognition – how we think about the social world

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