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Basic Research Methodologies

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Title: Basic Research Methodologies


1
Basic Research Methodologies
  • Psych 231 Research Methods in Psychology

2
Announcements
  • Exam 1 Sept 17 (a week from Wednesday)

3
An example
  • Claim People perform best with 8 hours of sleep
    a night.
  • How might we go about trying to test this claim?
  • How should we test it (what methods)?
  • What are the things (variables) of interest?
  • What is the hypothesized relationship between
    these variables?

4
General research approaches
  • Descriptive Describe variables as they exist
  • Observational
  • Survey
  • Case studies
  • Correlational - measures two (or more) variables
    in order to describe the relationship between
    them
  • Experimental Systematic manipulation and
    observation of non-naturally occurring events

5
Observational methods
  • The researcher observes and systematically
    records the behavior of individuals
  • Naturalistic observation
  • Participant observation
  • Contrived observation

6
Naturalistic observation
  • Observation and description of behaviors within a
    natural setting
  • It is generally used with naturally occurring and
    ongoing phenomena with little experimenter
    intervention

7
Naturalistic Observation
  • Can be difficult to do well
  • A lot of work is often needed to develop coding
    systems of behavioral categories
  • Need to be careful not to influence the behaviors
    as a result of being observed

8
Naturalistic Observation
  • Can be difficult to do well
  • Good for behaviors that dont occur (as well) in
    more controlled settings
  • Walking example

9
Naturalistic Observation
  • Can be difficult to do well
  • Good for behaviors that dont occur (as well) in
    more controlled settings
  • Often a first step in the research project
  • helps to identify what some of the important
    variables are
  • then the next step is to move into more
    controlled settings for further tests

10
Participant Observation
  • The researcher engages in the same behaviors as
    those being observed
  • May allow observation of behaviors not normally
    accessible to outside observation
  • Internal perspective from direct participation
  • But could lead to loss of objectivity
  • Potential for contamination by observer

11
Contrived observation
  • The observer sets up the situation that is
    observed
  • Observations of one or more specific variables
    made in a precisely defined setting
  • Much less global than naturalistic observations
  • Often takes less time
  • However, since it isnt a natural setting, the
    behavior may be changed

12
Observational methods
  • Advantages
  • may see patterns of behaviors that are very
    complex and realized on in particular settings
  • often very useful when little is known about the
    subject of study
  • may learn about something that never would have
    thought of looking at in an experiment

13
Observational methods
  • Disadvantages
  • Causality is a problem
  • Threats to internal validity because of lack of
    control
  • Every confound is a threat
  • Lots of alternative explanations
  • Directionality of the relationship isnt known
  • Sometimes the results are not reproducible

14
Survey methods
  • Widely used methodology
  • those annoying things in the mail and by phone
  • US Census
  • Can collect a lot of data
  • Lots of participants in a short amount of time
  • Can collect subjective information
  • Done correctly, can be a very difficult method
  • constructing good questions, rating scales, etc.
  • Doesnt provide clear cause-effect patterns

15
Case Histories
  • Intensive study of a single person, a very
    traditional method
  • Get a very detailed description
  • Fits well with clinical work
  • Typically an interesting (and often rare) case
  • The man who mistook his wife for a hat
  • NA (fencing accident, amnesia)

16
Case Histories
  • This view has a number of disadvantages
  • There may be poor generalizabilty
  • There are typically a number of possible
    confounds and alternative explanations

17
Correlational Methods
  • Measure two (or more) variables for each
    individual to see if the variables are related
  • Used for
  • Predictions
  • Reliability and Validity
  • Evaluating theories
  • Problems Cant make casual claims

18
Causal claims
  • Wed like to say
  • variable X causes variable Y
  • To be able to do this
  • The causal variable must come first
  • There must be co-variation between the two
    variables
  • Need to eliminate plausible alternative
    explanations

19
Causal claims
  • Directionality Problem
  • Airplanes and coffee spills
  • Happy people sleep well
  • or is it that sleeping well when youre happy?
  • Third variable problem
  • Do Storks bring babies?
  • A study reported a strong positive correlation
    between number of babies and stork sightings

20
Theory 1 Storks deliver babies
21
Theory 2 underlying third variable
22
The experimental method
  • Manipulating and controlling variables in
    laboratory experiments
  • Must have a comparison
  • At least two groups (often more) that get
    compared
  • One groups serves as a control for the other
    group
  • Variables
  • Independent variable - the variable that is
    manipulated
  • Dependent variable - the variable that is
    measured
  • Control variables - held constant for all
    participants in the experiment

23
The experimental method
  • Advantages
  • Precise control possible
  • Precise measurement possible
  • Theory testing possible
  • Can make causal claims

24
The experimental method
  • Disadvantages
  • Artificial situations may restrict generalization
    to real world
  • Complex behaviors may be difficult to measure

25
Next time
  • Ethics in research
  • Read chapter 3
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