Research Methods in Psychology
Introduction
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The Science of Psychology
 Psychologists
• develop theories
• conduct research
• answer questions about behavior and mental
processes
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 Exposure to media violence causes
Example: Media Violence and Aggression
• increase in aggressive thoughts, emotions,
and behaviors
• short- and long-term effects
 Effects of media violence
• consistent across
 research studies and methods
 people
 types of media
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Media Violence and Aggression,
continued
 Long-term studies
• childhood exposure to media violence
→ adult aggression
 Theories about exposure to violence
• “activates” aggressive cognitions and arousal
• models aggressive behaviors
• desensitizes people to violence
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Media Violence and Aggression,
continued
 Factors affect likelihood of aggressive
response following media violence
• characteristics of viewers
• social environment
• media content
 No one is immune to the effects of media
violence
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The Scientific Method
 “Scientific method”
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an abstract concept
not a particular technique or method
ways in which scientists ask questions
logic and methods used to gain answers
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The Scientific Method, continued
 Two important aspects
• empirical approach
• skeptical attitude
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The Scientific Method, continued
 Empirical approach
• observe behaviors directly
• experimentation
 systematic control
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Science in Context
Historical, Social/Cultural, and Moral
 Historical Context
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increased scope of scientific psychology
psychological organizations: APA, APS
Early 1900s: empirical approach
20th century: computer revolution
shift: behaviorism to cognitive psychology
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Science in Context, continued
 Social and Cultural Context
• zeitgeist influences
 research questions
 resources for science
 society’s acceptance of psychological research
• potential bias of ethnocentrism
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Science in Context, continued
 Ethnocentrism bias
• understand behavior of individuals in different
culture through framework of own culture
• be aware of cultural influences
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Science in Context, continued
 Examples of potential ethnocentric bias
• Do we ask questions of
 deficits vs. strengths in aging people?
 aggression vs. nurturance and race?
• Consider research questions that go against
stereotypes
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Science in Context, continued
 Ethnocentric bias influences how we
interpret behavior
• Stereotypes based on dress or hairstyle
(e.g., “Goths,” HipHop)
• Has your behavior ever been interpreted in
terms of an ethnocentric bias?
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Science in Context, continued
 Moral Context
• high standards for integrity and ethical
conduct
• scientists do not
 fabricate data
 plagiarize
 selectively report research findings
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Science in Context, continued
 Ethical Principles of APA
 Evaluate research dilemmas involving
• risks and benefits
• deception
• animal research
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Thinking Like a Researcher
 Think like a researcher
• be skeptical
• even of claims based on “published” findings
• and claims presented in the media
 Strongest evidence
• converging evidence
• but all claims are probabilistic
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Thinking Like a Researcher, continued
 Science and Legal System
• Both make decisions based on evidence
• Legal system
 small amount of evidence leads to suspicion
 large amount of evidence is needed to convict
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Thinking Like a Researcher, continued
 Scientific Evidence
varies according to strength of evidence
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description
prediction
evidence for the cause of a behavior
replications (repetitions)
 Stronger evidence → more confident
claims about behavior
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Evidence and Decision Making
Quality & Extent of
Legal Decision
Evidence
suspicion of guilt
low
arrest
description
prediction
arraignment
conviction
Scientific Decisions
statement about
causes
high
replication of findings
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Guidelines for Evaluating Reports of
Psychological Research
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Pseudoscience ≠ science
Be skeptical
Scientists may disagree
Research is generally about averages
Go to the original source
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Getting Started Doing Research
 What should I study?
• Choose a research topic by reviewing
 psychology journals
 textbooks
 courses
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Getting Started, continued
 Research hypotheses
A hypothesis (plural: hypotheses) is
• a tentative explanation for a phenomenon
• stated in the form of a prediction and an
explanation
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Getting Started, continued
 Example hypothesis
• Research participants who play violent video
games are predicted to behave more
aggressively than participants who passively
watch televised violence
because
video-game participants’ aggression is
reinforced (rewarded) while playing the game
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Getting Started, continued
 A different hypothesis
• Research participants who play violent video
games are predicted to behave less
aggressively than participants who passively
watch televised violence
because
video-game participants have the opportunity
to release any aggressive impulses
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Getting Started, continued
 How to develop a hypothesis
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Consider exceptions from a general trend
Imagine how you would behave in a situation
Consider similar problems and responses
Perform sustained observations of a person or
phenomenon
• Consider counterexamples for an obvious conclusion
• Use ideas or theories from other disciplines
• Read reports of psychological research
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Getting Started, continued
 Is the research question a good one?
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scientifically important?
scope?
likely outcomes?
psychological science advanced?
anyone interested in the results?
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The Multimethod Approach
 One scientific method
 Many psychological research questions
and research methods
 different areas of psychology require
multiple methods
• clinical, social, industrial/organizational,
developmental, counseling, physiological,
cognitive, educational, personality, human
factors, neuropsychology, etc.
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The Multimethod Approach, continued
 No single research method of technique
can answer all of the different questions in
psychology
 Multimethod approach
→ more complete understanding
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The Multimethod Approach, continued
 No perfect research method
• each method or measure of behavior has
flaws
 Multimethod approach
• flaws associated with any particular method
are overcome by other methods to fill in the
gaps
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The Multimethod Approach, continued
 “Toolbox” with different tools for conducting
research
 Focus of this class
• introduce different research tools
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Steps of the Research Process
 Develop a research question
• Be aware of ethnocentrism
• Gain personal experience doing research
• Read psychological literature
 Generate a research hypothesis
• Read psychological theories on your topic
• Consider personal experience, think of
exceptions, and notice inconsistencies in
previous research
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Research Steps, continued
 Form operational definitions
• Look to previous research to see how others
have defined the same constructs (concepts)
• Identify the variables you will examine
 Choose a research design
• Decide whether your research question seeks
to describe, allow prediction, or identify causal
relationships
• Choose the appropriate research design for
your question
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Research Steps, continued
 Evaluate the ethical issues
• Identify the potential risks and benefits of the
research and the ways in which participants’
welfare will be protected
• Submit a proposal to an ethics review
committee
• Seek permission from those in authority
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Research Steps, continued
 Collect and analyze data; form
conclusions
• Get to know the data
• Summarize the data
• Confirm what the data reveal
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Research Steps, continued
 Report research results
• Present the findings at a psychology
conference
• Submit a written report of the study to a
psychology journal
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Discussion Questions
 Have you heard or read media reports
about psychological research?
• Did you accept the report without questions?
Why or why not?
• Did you have enough information?
 What do other scientists say about the topic?
 Could the reporter be biased?
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Discussion Questions, continued
 Do you remember ever being skeptical
about research presented in the media?
• Why were you skeptical?
• What information would have made you less
skeptical?
• Did a finding seem “too good to be true”?
• Did anyone have anything to gain through the
report?
• Have the findings been replicated (repeated)?
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Discussion Questions, continued
 What research topics in psychology
interest you?
• What hypotheses can you form about your
topic?
 What relationships might exist between variables
(factors) you’ve identified?
 Can you make predictions regarding your topic?
 Can you identify potential causes for the behavior
or phenomenon?
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Discussion Questions, continued
 Does your cultural background influence
your choice of topic and hypotheses?
• Would people with different backgrounds view
your topic similarly?
• Consider people with different sex, age, racial,
socioeconomic status than yourself
Might these characteristics make a difference
for your topic?
• Are there other cultural variables that would
make a difference?
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Discussion Questions, continued
 What research topics and theories are
currently popular among psychologists?
 What research topics are investigated at
your school?
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Discussion Questions, continued
 How might our current social and cultural
context be related to the prominence of
certain research topics?
 To what extent does ethnocentrism play a
role in the prominence of current research
topics?
© 2009 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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Research Methods in Psychology