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Methods in Psychology

Psychologists do more than just wonder about human behaviour, they conduct research to understand exactly why
people think, feel, and behave the way they do. Like other scientists, psychologists use the scientific method, a
standardized way to conduct research. A scientific approach is used in order to avoid bias or distortion of information. After
collecting data, psychologists organize and analyze their observations, make inferences about the reliability and significance
of their data, and develop testable hypotheses and theories.
Psychological research has an enormous impact on all facets of our lives, from how parents choose to discipline their
children to how companies package and advertise their products to how governments choose to punish or rehabilitate
criminals. Understanding how psychologists do research is vital to understanding psychology itself.

Scientific Mehtod:
We come across questions such as

How do Psychologists study behaviour?

Does alcohol cause aggression?

What is the relationship between age & intelligence?

Is there any difference between boys & girls in their academic achievements?

Can children be taught to develop desirable behaviour?

Psychology is an empirical science. Within an empirical science assumptions about the behaviour must be supported by
evidence. Scientific evidence is obtained by means of the scientific method of investigation
There are four basic steps in scientific method:
Step 1: Formulating a research question - Our daily experiences, psychological theory & even folklore help to generate
questions for research. Eg : The effects of televised violence.
Step 2: Developing a hypothesis A hypothesis is a specific statement about behaviour that is to be tested through
research. A hypothesis about televised violence could be Elementary school boys who watch more violent TV shows tend
to behave more aggressively towards their peers
Step3: Testing the hypothesis Psychologists test the hypothesis through carefully controlled methods of observation
or the experiment method. Concerning the effects of Televised violence, we could obtain the parents help to tally
which of the TV shows their children watch and to rate the shows for violent content. Each boy could receive a
total Exposure to TV violence score. We could also gather the teachers report of how aggressively the boy acts
toward their peers. Then, we can determine whether more aggressive boys also watch more violence on TV.
Step 4: Drawing conclusion from the test of Hypothesis : Psychologists draw conclusions about the accuracy of their
hypothesis on the basis of their research findings. When research findings do not bear out their hypothesis , the
researchers may modify the theories from which the hypothesis was derived. Research findings often suggest new
hypothesis and consequently new studies. We would probably find that more aggressive children spend more time
watching television violence.

Thus psychologists use several techniques for conducting systematic research, by using the scientific method and
perform the task of adding to our knowledge about behaviour and mental processes. They move beyond common
sense in seeking answer to puzzling questions about human behaviour.
Observation Method

Observation as we know it in sciences, means knowing the environment through sense organs. Naturalistic
observations is a research method in which various aspects of behaviour are carefully observed in the settings where
such behaviours naturally occur. By this method we can infer the mental processes of other persons through the
observation of their external behaviour. Naturalistic In fact it is an indirect approach for the study of the mental
process. If someone frowns, howls, grinds his teeth closes his fists , by observing external signs of his behaviour
we can say that he is angry. In this way we can know a lot about the mental processes and personality and thus
observation stands as one of the important of studying the human behaviour.
I making observations of naturally occurring behaviour there is however a risk that investigators may project their
own wishes or biases on to what they report. Therefore investigators must be trained to observe and record
Observations includes most casual experiences and most sophisticated video pictures and audio recording. It is
more useful in studying children by observing them in the natural setting and without disturbing them. The
technique of naturalistic observation involves observing behaviours in natural setting.
Direct Observation can be laboratory observation, naturalistic observation and participant observation.
Psychologists who choose to observe or measure a phenomenon directly, often face a conflict. They want to make
precise, objective observation and also to view realistic behaviour. It is hard to do both simultaneously. Precision
and objectivity are more easily achieved in authentic settings like laboratories. Where as authentic responses are
more apt to be seen in natural situations.
To conduct laboratory observations, behavioural scientists create a standard setting which stimulates the behaviour of
interest and allow exact unbiased measurement to be made. Because subjects are all exposed to the same
situation, it is relatively easy to compare their responses. Research participants are aware of the observers presence
but they rarely know precisely why they are being studied. For example , as a part of an investigation of Mothers
behaviour towards first and later born children, laboratory observations were conducted at Columbia University.
Mothers believed that they were participating in a study of independent thinking.

In making naturalistic Observations, the psychologist is primarily interested in viewing behaviour in natural
setting and in disturbing it as little as possible. The collection of naturalistic observations poses a difficult
problem at the outset. Ho can the scientists presence be disguised or concealed.
Participant Obesrvation : Sometimes psychologists watch from sidelines. They might observe peoples reactions to
a beggar requesting money while they are sitting on a park bench pretending to be absorbed in a book. In some
situations hidden cameras or tape recorders record events. Sometimes the scientists join the activities and
consequently be mistaken by the subjects for members of their own group is a less commonly used tactics.
Participant observation has one important advantage, close contact with the subjects. But as scientists become
involved the loose their capacity to records in an unbiased manner.
Participant observation have a problem. Observers may unknowingly influence the subjects behaviour . when all
the things are considered, then participant observation is probably not the best way to make naturalistic
observations if there is a choice. Observation method describes behaviour as it occurs naturally .
For example observation method is found very suitable for making extensive observations

In studying a childs behaviour

In the study of the effects of the heredity and environmental factors on the development of the

The effect of the absence of mother or father or both on the childs development can be determined only
through the observation of the development of such deprived children. Similarly the cases of delinquent
& problem behaviour can be studied through systematic observation.

Limitations of Observation Method

It is impossible for us to observe what is happening in the mind of others . We can only reason
through their external behaviour. It is possible that a person may be expert in hiding his feelings and
emotions and can disguise his nature under the evil cover of artificial sobriety. In such cases the
method of observation proves a failure in judging the true nature of the individual concerned.

Subjectivity affects our interpretation of others behaviour. We read our own thoughts, feelings and
tendencies into others minds. The pious man is apt to think every person to be pious and a rogue
thinks others to be rogues.

Not only subjectivity but bias and prejudices also colour our observation. We seldom find fault with our
affectionate and favourites while the unfavourites and enemies are always the victims of suspicion and

Correlational Method :
Are people with higher intelligence more likely to do well in school? Are people with a stronger need for
achievement likely to climb higher up the career ladder? What is the relationship between stress and healt? This
relationship is revealed by correlational method of research.