• Social psychology can, and should, be studied according to scientific principles.

Why Should You Learn About Research Methods?

  • Training in research methods in psychology can improve your reasoning about real-life events. It can make you a better, more sophisticated consumer of information in general. You will be in a better position to critically evaluate the information to which you're exposed and separate fact from fiction.

Developing Ideas: Beginning the Research Process

  • Asking Questions:

о Every social psychology study begins with a question. And the question comes from everywhere; also from reading about research that has already been done.

  • Searching the Literature:

о Once the researcher has an idea, it is important to see what research has already been done on this topic and related topics.

о Electronic databases can store tremendous amounts of information

о Going from article to article, sometimes called treeing can prove very valuable in tracking down information about the research question.

о The question should become more precise, more specific to particular sets of conditions that are likely to have different effects, and more readily testable.

  • Hypotheses and Theories:

о Hypothesis - a testable prediction about the conditions under which an event will occur. о Formulating a hypothesis is a critical step in toward planning and conducting research. It allows us to move from the realm of common sense to the rigors of the scientific method.

о Theory - an organized set of principles used to explain observed phenomena.

о Theories are usually evaluated in terms of three criteria: simplicity, comprehensiveness, and generativity.

о The best theories are elegant, and precise; encompass all of the relevant information; and lead to new hypotheses, further research, and better understanding.

  • Basic and Applied Research:

о Basic research - research whose goal is to increase the understanding of human behavior, often by testing hypotheses based on theory.

о Applied research - research whose goals are to enlarge the understanding of naturally occurring events and to find solutions to practical problems.

о Despite their differences, basic and applied research are closely connected in social psychology.

Re fining Ideas: De fining and Measuring Social Psychological Variables

  • Conceptual Variables and Operational Definitions: From Abstract to the Specific:

о When a researcher first develops a hypothesis, the variables typically are in an abstract, general form. These are conceptual variables.

о In order to test specific hypotheses, we must then transform these conceptual variables into variables that can be manipulated or measured in a study. The specific way in which a conceptual variable is manipulated or measured is called the operational definition of the variable.

о Operational definition - the specific procedures for manipulating or measuring a conceptual variable.

о Researchers evaluate the manipulation and measurement of variables in terms of their construct validity.

о Construct validity - the extent to which the measures used in a study measure the variables they were designed to measure and the manipulations in an experiment manipulate the variables they were designed to manipulate.

  • Measuring Variables: Self — Reports and Observations:
  • Self - Reports: Going Straight to the Source

о Collecting self-reports - in which participants disclose their thoughts, feelings, desires, and actions - is a widely used measurement technique in social psychology. Self-reports give the researcher access to an individual's beliefs and perceptions. But self-reports are not always accurate and can be misleading (e.g. Self - reports are affected by the way in which questions are asked, self - reports often ask participants to report on thoughts or behaviors from the past, and participants' memory for these thoughts and behaviors may be suspect ).

о To minimize this problem, some use interval - contingent self - reports, in which respondents report their experiences at regular intervals ( e.g. Once a day ).

о Some collect signal - contingent self - reports; here respondents report their experiences as soon as possible after being signaled to do so.

о And some researchers collect event - contingent self - reports, in which respondents report on a designated set of events as soon as possible after such events have occurred.

о Most self - reports methods require participants to provide specific answers to specific questions. In contrast, narrative studies collect lengthy responses on a general topic. Narrative materials can be generated from by participants at the researcher's request or taken from other sources (such as diaries, speeches, books, chat room discussions ).

  • Observations: Looking On

о Researcher can also observe people's action.

о Interrater reliability - the degree to which different observers agree on their observations.

о The advantage of observational methods is that they avoid our sometimes faulty recollections and distorted interpretations of our own behavior.

Testing Ideas: Research Designs

о The field generally emphasizes objective, systematic, and quantifiable approaches.

о The most popular and preferred research method in social psychology is experimentation, in which researchers can test cause-and-effect relationships.

о Another popular approach is correlational research, which looks for associations between two variables without establishing cause and effect.

о A relatively new technique is called meta-analysis, which integrates the research findings of many different studies.

  • Descriptive Research: Discovering Trends and Tendencies:

о The goal of descriptive research in social psychology is, to describe people and their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

о Particular methods of doing descriptive research include observing people, studying records, of past events and behaviors, and surveying people.

  • Observational Studies

о We can learn about other people simply by observing them, and some social psychological questions can be addressed through observational studies.

о Social psychologists are trained to be systematic and unbiased in their observations and to report all of the data that are relevant to the research question, not just the data that support a particular hypothesis.

  • Archival Studies

о Involves examining existing records of past events and behaviors, such as newspaper articles, medical records, diaries, sports statistics, personal ads, crime statistics, or hits on a Web page.

о A major advantage is that the researchers can be sure that they did not influence the behavior by their presence, because they are observing behavior secondhand.

о A limitation of this approach is that available records are not always complete or sufficiently detailed, and they may have been collected in a nonsystematic manner.

  • Surveys

о Conducting surveys involves asking people questions about their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

о Surveys can be conducted in person, over the phone, by mail, or via the Internet.

о Surveys can be affected strongly by subtle aspects of the wording and context.

о The researchers first must identify the population in which they are interested. From this general population, the researchers select a subset, or sample, of individuals. The sample must be representative. To best way to achieve this representativeness is to use random sampling - a method of selecting participants for a study so that everyone in a population has an equal chance of being in the study.

  • Correlational Research: Looking for Associations:

о Most research hypotheses in social psychology concern the relationship between variables.

о Correlational research - research designed to measure the association between variables that are not manipulated by the researcher.

  • Correlation Coefficient

о Figure 2.1 / page 39

о Correlation coefficient - a statistical measure of the strength and direction of the association between two variables.

о Correlation coefficients can range from +1.0 to -1.0.

о A positive correlation coefficient indicates that as one variable increases, so does the other. A negative correlation coefficient indicates that the two variables go in opposite directions: As one goes up, the other tends to go down.

о A correlation close to 0 indicates that there is no consistent relationship at all.

о Correlations obtained at a single point in time across a number of individuals are called concurrent.

о Correlations also can be obtained at different times from the same individuals. These correlations are called prospective.

  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Correlational Research

о Correlational research has many advantages (e.g. It can study the associations of naturally occurring variables that cannot be manipulated or induced - such as gender, race, ethnicity, or age).

о Despite the advantages, correlational research has one very serious disadvantage: Correlation is not causation !!! ( Figure 2.2 / page 40 )

о Correlations tell researchers about the strength and direction of relationships between variables, thus helping them understand these variables better and allowing them to use one variable to predict the other. Correlations can be extremely useful in developing new hypotheses to guide future research.

  • Experiments: Looking for Cause and Effect:

о If we want to examine cause-and-effect relationships, we need to conduct an experiment.

о Experiment - a form of research that can demonstrate causal relationships because (1) the experimenter has control over the events that occur and (2) participants are randomly assigned to conditions.

о Random assignment - a method of assigning participants to the various conditions of an experiment so that each participant in the experiment has an equal chance of being in any of the conditions.

о Table 2.2 / page 41; summarizes the distinctions between correlational and experimental research.

  • Random Sampling Versus Random Assignment

о Table 2.3 / page 42; summarizes these differences.

  • Laboratory and Field Experiments

о Most experiments in social psychology are conducted in a laboratory setting. This setting enables researchers to have control over the setting, measure participants' behaviors precisely, and keep conditions identical for participants.

о Field research is conducted in real-world settings outside the laboratory. Its advantage is that people are more likely to act naturally in a natural setting than in a laboratory in which they know they are being studied. The disadvantage of field settings is that the experimenter often has less control and cannot ensure that the participants in the various conditions of the experiment will be exposed to the same things.

  • Independent and Dependent Variables

о In an experiment, researchers manipulate one ore more independent variables and examine the effect of these manipulations on one or more dependent variables.

о Independent variable - in an experiment, the factors experimenters manipulate to see if they affect the dependent variable.

о Dependent variable - in an experiment, the factors experimenters measure to see if they are affected by the independent variables.

  • Subject variables

о subject variables - variables that characterize pre-existing differences among the participants in a study ( e.g. sex ).

  • Main Effects and Interactions

о main effect - a statistical term indicating the overall effect that an independent variable has on the dependent variable, ignoring all other independent variables.

о Interactions - a statistical term indicating the change in the effect of each independent variable as a function of other independent variables.

  • Statistical Significance

о The fact that results are statistically significant does not mean that they are absolutely certain.

  • Internal Validity: Did the Independent Variable Cause the Effect?

о Internal validity - the degree to which there can be reasonable certainty that the independent variables in an experiment caused the effects obtained on the dependent variables.

о Experimenter expectancy effects - the effects produced when an experimenter's expectations about the results of an experiment affect his or her behavior toward a participant and thereby influence the participant's responses.

  • External Validity: Do the results Generalize?

о External validity - the degree to which there can be reasonable confidence that the results of study would be obtained for other people and in other situations.

о External validity is also affected by the setting in which the research is conducted. Because field research occurs in real-life natural settings rather than in the artificial arrangements of a laboratory, aren't its results more generalizable to actual behavior ? The answer depends on where you stand on the issue of mundane versus experimental realism.

о Mundane realism - the degree to which the experimental situation resembles places and events in the real world.

о Advocates of mundane realism contend that if research procedures are more realistic, research findings are more likely to reveal what really goes on.

о Experimental realism - the degree to which experimental procedures are involving to participants and lead them to behave naturally and spontaneously.

о Researchers who strive to create a highly involving experience for participants often rely on Deception - providing participants with false information about experimental procedures.

о Confederate - accomplice of an experimenter who, in dealing with the real participants in an experiment, acts as if he or she is also a participant.

  • Meta — Analysis: Combining Results Across Studies:

о Another way to test hypotheses in social psychology is to use a set of statistical procedures to examine, in a new way relevant research that has already been conducted and reported.

о Meta - Analysis: a set of statistical procedures used to review a body of evidence by combining the results of individual studies to measure the overall reliability and strength of particular effects.

Ethics and Values in Social Psychology

о Ethical issues must always be considered. Researchers in all fields have a moral and legal responsibility to abide by ethical principles.

о Today, virtually every prospective social psychology study is evaluated for its ethics by other people before the study can be conducted.

Institutional Review Boards: The Ethical Watchdogs:

о Established by the federal government, IRBs are responsible for reviewing research proposals to ensure that the welfare of participants is adequately protected.

Informed Consent: Do You (Really) Want to Participate?:

о Informed consent - an individual's deliberate, voluntary decision to participate in research, based on the researcher's description of what will be required during such participation.

Debriefing: Telling All:

о Debriefing - a disclosure, made to participants after research procedures are completed, in which the researcher explains the purpose of the research, attempts to resolve any negative feelings, and emphasizes the scientific contribution made by the participants' involvement.

Values and Science: Points of View:

о When the potential benefits of research for humankind are high and the potential costs are ethically acceptable, there is a moral imperative to try to carry out the research. But when the human costs are too high in terms of the suffering of participants, the moral imperative is to refrain.

о There are various views on the relation between values and science. Few believe that there can be a completely value-free science, but some advocate trying to minimize the influences of values on science, whereas other argue that values should be recognized and encouraged as an important factor of science.
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