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Research Methods o Although much of what we learn from studying psychology is obvious, many psychological results are surprising. o Results that would seem surprising before we know what they are often seem more obvious after we become aware of them. Characteristics of Scientific Findings In a scientific discipline, (a) ideas are accurately reported and can be verified, (b) researchers report findings publicly in scientific journals, and (c) work is cumulative with respect to past research. It is important to recognize some misconceptions about science. Science (a) is not always correct, (b) does not always follow the orderly progression of steps students learned as “the scientific method”, (c) is not always completely objective and value-free because it is practiced by human beings, and (d) is not merely a collection of facts. How Scientist Solve Problems Scientific problem solving is a though process. Typically it occurs in steps: (a) identifying the problem, (b) defining the problem, (c) formulating hypothesis, (d) constructing a strategy for solving a problem, and (e) monitoring and evaluating problem solving o The evaluation of the solution often leads to the recognition of a new challenge and thus the repetition of the process. o The steps of the process are not necessarily executed exactly in this order. Some problems are refined as the process goes along or as new strategies are tired as old ones fail. The Goals of Scientific Research When a problem is addressed, the goals of psychological research are: I. Description II. Explanation III. Prediction IV. Control Research Methods in Psychology Psychologists employ research methods such as a. observation b. Case studies c. Tests d. Questionnaires, and e. Experiments o An experiment is a carefully supervised investigation in which a researcher studies cause-effect relationships by manipulating one or more independent variables in order to observe their effects on one or more dependent variables. o An experiment should include at least one control group to ensure that differences in results are caused by the experimental treatment and not by irrelevant group differences. o Because we generally cannot conduct studies on whole populations, we use sample statistics (numbers that characterize the sample we have tested with regards to the attributes under investigation) as estimates of the population parameters (numbers that would characterize everyone we conceivably might test who would fit our desired description). o The use of sample statistics is based on the assumption that the researcher has found a representative sample of the population under study. o Although we are never able to prove the null hypothesis (which states that there is no difference between two groups under study), we can demonstrate that a particular difference has reached a level of statistical significance—that is, one unlikely to have occurred if the null hypothesis (of no difference) were true. Causal Inference in Psychological Research o Psychological researchers try to draw causal inferences or conjectures about cause-effect relationships. o Controlled experimental designs are better suited to drawing such inferences than are quasi-experimental designs, which lack at least one experimental characteristic (usually random assignment of participants to groups), or correlational designs, which shows associations between variables but not which variables cause which others ones. o Correlation is the degree of statistical relationship between two variables. Correlation does not imply causation. Critical Thinking in Psychological Research o Critical thinking is of great importance to psychological research. When people do not think critically, they are likely to commit informal fallacies, such as irrelevant conclusions, composition, personalization, false cause, and ad hominem argument. Research Ethics o Scientists, including psychologists, must use ethical research procedures. Most questions about ethics center on whether participants—human or animal—are treated fairly. o Research institutions today have standard policies that require informed consent by and debriefing of human participant. o Most institutions have also set up institutional review boards to study and approve proposed research. Some government agencies monitor research practices, especially as they pertain to animals.
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