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Research Methods in Psychology

Wilhelm Wundt – formal founder of experimental psychology, thought meter (used to measure reaction
time)

Schools of Psychology:

1. Structuralism (Titchener) – break down consciousness into basic components (ex. introspection – too
subjective)
2. Functionalism (James) – focus on the evolutionary function of the behaviour (modern day
psychology)
3. Behaviourism (Watson, B.F Skinner) – focuses only on observable (empirical) behaviour, more
scientific
- disregards inner workings of mind and emotion, takes humanity out of the data
4. Humanism (Rogers, Maslow) – focus on humans reaching their full potential (optimism)
5. Gestalt – experience is more than the sum of its basic elements (generally accepted theory)

Empiricism – knowledge comes from observed/sensory experience

- empirical evidence: data that has been collected by scientific observation


- theory: collects empirical data and various ideas to explain the relationship between two variables
 used to predict current phenomena and generate new hypotheses
 must be testable, falsifiable, and parsimonious (preference for simplicity)

Variables – a characteristic or condition that changes for different individuals

- conceptual definition: abstract theoretical constructs


- operational definition: concrete, observable procedures to measure the abstract
 psychology often deals with intangible properties of people that are hard to quantify
 constructs: internal attributes that can’t directly observed, but useful for describing
behaviour
 validity: the quality of a measure to evaluate the conceptual definition
 reliability: the consistency of a measure over several tests

Research Methods: can be used to test hypotheses and come up with statistically significant results

1. Descriptive Methods: systematic observation and classification of behaviour


- naturalistic observation: passive, observers do not alter the behaviour of the real-world subjects
- participant observation: active, observer actively alters behaviour of the real-world subjects
- laboratory observation: systematic, made in a lab setting than in the real world
- limitations: subject reactivity, observer bias, self-reported bias

2. Correlational Methods: observing relationship btw variables in one group of participants without
manipulating them
- used when it isn’t possible or ethical to manipulate a variable (ie. Genie)
- types of associations (+1, 0, -1): positive, no relationship, negative
 correlation coefficient (r): based on slope of correlation and how precise the values are
- limitations: cannot make causal claims about the two variables (directionality or third variable)

3. Experimental Methods: manipulating the variable of interest while keeping all other conditions
constant
- confounding variables: anything that may unintentionally vary with the independent variable
 limit our ability to make casual claims because they are not controlled for
- random assignment: each participant has an equal chance of being assigned to the control or test
groups
 ensures that the variables that cannot be controlled for are averaged out between groups
- random sample: each member of the population has an equal chance of being chosen to
participate
- quasi-experiments: no random assignment, useful when manipulating the variables is
unethical/infeasible