methodology social psychology an empirical science

Method METHODOLOGY Social Psychology: An Empirical Science Hypothesis A hypothesis is a specific prediction about how one variable is related to another. Must be falsifiable. Must be operationally defined. Stated in observable, measurable terms. Allows for replication. Types of Research Strategies The Observational Method: Describing Social Behavior Researchers measure and record observable behavior of participants as it occurs in its natural state or habitat. Can obtain data about a natural behavior, rather than about a behavior that is a reaction to an artificial experimental situation.

It is important to establish interjudge reliability, which is the level of agreement between two or more people who independently observe and code a set of data. Archival Analysis A form of the observational method in which the researcher examines accumulated documents (archives). Types of Research Strategies Limits of the Observational Method Certain kinds of behavior are difficult to observe because they occur only rarely or only in private. With archival analysis, the original writers may not have included all the information researchers would later need.

Social psychologists want to do more than just describe behavior. They want to predict and explain it. Types of Research Strategies The Correlational Method: Predicting Social Behavior The researcher does not manipulate any variable but observes and measures two or more variables to find relationships (i. e. , how much one can be predicted from the other) between them. If there is a correlation between two variables, a change in one variable is accompanied by a change in another. A positive correlation is one in which the two variables move in the same direction.

A negative correlation is one in which the two variables move in opposite directions. Correlation does not imply causation. Does not tell us in any direct way whether a change in one variable is the cause of change in another. Types of Research Strategies The Experimental Method: Explaining Social Behavior A procedure in which a researcher manipulates one or more independent variables and looks for changes in one or more dependent variables. An independent variable is the variable that is manipulated by the experimenter. The “cause”. Internal Validity

Internal Validity Making sure that nothing besides the independent variable can affect the dependent variable. This is accomplished by controlling all extraneous variables and by randomly assigning people to different experimental conditions. Random Assignment to Condition A process ensuring that all participants have an equal chance of taking part in any condition of an experiment. Through random assignment, researchers can be relatively certain that differences in the participants’ personalities or backgrounds are distributed evenly across conditions.

A dependent variable is the variable that is measured, counted, or recorded. It “depends” on the independent variable. The “effect”. Only in an experiment can researchers isolate a single factor and examine the effect of that factor alone on a particular behavior, since everything else was held constant. External Validity External Validity The extent to which the results of a study can be generalized to other situations and to other people. Generalizability across situations: the extent to which we can generalize from the situation constructed by an experimenter to real-life situations.

Generalizability across people: the extent to which we can generalize from the people who participated in the experiment to people in general. External Validity Generalizability Across Situations By virtue of gaining enough control over the situation so as to randomly assign people to conditions and rule out the effects of extraneous variables, the situation can become somewhat artificial and distant from real life. Mundane Realism is the extent to which an experiment is similar to real-life situations.

Psychological Realism is the extent to which the psychological processes triggered in an experiment are similar to psychological processes that occur in everyday life. External Validity Generalizability Across People Random Sampling Every individual has an equal chance of being included in the study. A sample is biased when the people in it are not representative of the larger population that the researchers are trying to describe. Internal versus External Validity There is almost always a trade-off between internal and external validity in social psychological research.

By increasing internal validity, some external validity (generalizability) is sacrificed. By increasing external validity (e. g. , by conducting a field experiment), researchers often lose control over the setting and sacrifice internal validity. Researchers often begin by maximizing internal validity, so that they know what is causing what, and then establishing external validity with replications in different settings and with different populations. Replication Repeating a study, often with different subject populations or in different settings.

Ethical Issues in Psychological Research Respecting the rights of human research participants involves: Informed Consent An explanation of a study and the responsibilities of the experimenter and participant. Analyzing an Experiment for Confounds A researcher was interested in the effects of alcohol on perceptions of physical attractiveness of the opposite sex. To study this, he used students from two of his classes, a senior seminar for psychology majors that met one evening a week from 6 to 9 p. m. and a first-year introductory psychology class that met two mornings a week at 10 a. m. Because the seniors were all at least 21 and thus legally able to drink, he assigned them all to the condition that received 2 oz. of alcohol mixed in with 6 oz. of orange juice. The first-year students were assigned to the “placebo” alcohol condition, in which they received 2 oz. of tonic water (which tastes like alcohol) mixed in 6 oz. of orange juice. These students believed that they were really being served alcohol as part of the psychological study.

Students were invited to participate in the study if they had a free hour after their class with the professor. The professor conducted the study on a Thursday, on a day when the introductory class had had an exam. Students drank either the alcohol or the placebo drink, waited 30 minutes in a lounge for the “alcohol” to take effect, and then sat at a computer and performed a five-minute task in which they rated various faces of the opposite sex on physical attractiveness.

The group that had received alcohol rated the faces as more attractive than the group that did not receive alcohol, and the professor concluded that alcohol makes people of the opposite sex appear more attractive. Is the professor’s conclusion a reasonable one? Why or why not? Deception must be justified. Confidentiality must be maintained. Debriefing Explaining the research process to the subjects at the end of the study. Internal Review Board approval.

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