Psychology Chapter 1 Critical Analysis

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psychology
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is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Let’s consider the three key terms in this definition: science, behavior, and mental processes. Psychology certainly includes the study of therapy and psychological disorders. By definition, though, psychology is a much more general science, practiced in several environments in addition to clinical settings.
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science
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psychology uses systematic methods to observe human behavior and draw conclusions. The goals of psychological science are to describe, predict, and explain behavior. In addition, psychologists are often interested in controlling or changing behavior, and they use scientific methods to examine interventions that might help, for example, reduce violence or promote happiness.
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behavior
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is everything we do that can be directly observed—two people kissing, a baby crying, a college student riding a motorcycle to campus.
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mental process
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are the thoughts, feelings, and motives that each of us experiences privately but that cannot be observed directly. Although we cannot directly see thoughts and feelings, they are nonetheless real.
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critical thinking
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is the process of thinking deeply and actively, asking questions, and evaluating the evidence. Critical thinkers question and test what some people say are facts. They examine research to see how soundly it supports an idea. Critical thinking reduces the likelihood that conclusions will be based on unreliable personal beliefs, opinions, and emotions. Critical thinking also comes into play when scientists consider the conclusions they draw from research. As critical thinkers who are open to new information, scientists must tolerate uncertainty, knowing that even long-held views are subject to revision.
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empirical method
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involves gaining knowledge by observing events, collecting data, and reasoning logically. For scientists, objectivity means waiting to see what the evidence tells them rather than going with their hunches.
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clinical psychologists
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are psychologists who specialize in studying and treating psychological disorders. In fact, the most common place to find psychologists is in academic settings (colleges or universities).
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philosophy
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the rational investigation of the underlying principles of being and knowledge. People attempted to explain events in terms of natural rather than supernatural causes.
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history of psychology
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Western philosophy came of age in ancient Greece in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.E. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others debated the nature of thought and behavior, including the possible link between the mind and the body. Later philosophers, especially René Descartes, argued that the mind and body were completely separate, and they focused their attention on the mind. Psychology grew out of this tradition of thinking about the mind and body. The influence of philosophy on contemporary psychology persists today, as researchers who study emotion still talk about Descartes, and scientists who study happiness often refer to Aristotle.
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history of philosophy
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Indeed, it was Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), a German philosopher-physician, who put together the pieces of the philosophy-natural science puzzle to create the academic discipline of psychology. Some historians like to say that modern psychology was born in December 1879 at the University of Leipzig, when Wundt and his students (most notably E. B. Titchener) performed an experiment to measure the time lag between the instant a person heard a sound and when that person pressed a telegraph key to signal that he had heard it.
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structuralism
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Wundt and his collaborators concentrated on discovering the basic elements, or \”structures,\” of mental processes. Their approach was called structuralism because of its focus on identifying the elemental parts or structures of the human mind.
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functionalism
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From James’s perspective, the key question for psychology is not so much what the mind is (that is, its structures) as what it is for (its purpose or function). James’s view was eventually named functionalism. functionalism probed the functions and purposes of the mind and behavior in the individual’s adaptation to the environment. Whereas structuralists were looking inside the mind and searching for its structures, functionalists focused on human interactions with the outside world to understand the purpose of thoughts. If structuralism is about the \”what\” of the mind, functionalism is about the \”why.\” A central question in functionalism is, why is human thought adaptive?
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stream of consiousness
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Unlike Wundt, James did not believe in the existence of rigid structures of the mind. Instead, James saw the mind as flexible and fluid, characterized by constant change in response to a continuous flow of information from the world. Not surprisingly, James called the natural flow of thought a \”stream of consciousness.\”
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natural selection
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Functionalism fit well with the theory of evolution through natural selection proposed by British naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882). He proposed the principle of natural selection, an evolutionary process in which organisms that are best adapted to their environment will survive and, importantly, produce offspring. Darwin noted that members of any species are often locked in competition for scarce resources such as food. Natural selection is the process by which the environment determines who wins that competition. Darwin asserted that organisms with biological features that led to survival and reproduction would be better represented in subsequent generations.
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neuroscience
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is the scientific study of the structure, function, development, genetics, and biochemistry of the nervous system.
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behavioral approach
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emphasizes the scientific study of observable behavioral responses and their environmental determinants. It focuses on an organism’s visible behaviors, not thoughts or feelings. The psychologists who adopt this approach are called behaviorists. Under the intellectual leadership of John B. Watson (1878-1958) and B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), behaviorism dominated psychological research during the first half of the twentieth century.
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cognition
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Contemporary behaviorists still emphasize the importance of observing behavior to understand an individual, and they use rigorous methods advocated by Watson and Skinner (Gariépy & others, 2014). They also continue to stress the importance of environmental determinants of behavior (Martin & Pear, 2014). However, not every behaviorist today accepts the earlier behaviorists’ rejection of thought processes, which are often called cognition.
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psychodynamic approach
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emphasizes unconscious thought, the conflict between biological drives (such as the drive for sex) and society’s demands, and early childhood family experiences. Practitioners of this approach believe that sexual and aggressive impulses buried deep within the unconscious mind influence the way people think, feel, and behave. Sigmund Freud, the founding father of the psychodynamic approach, theorized that early relationships with parents shape an individual’s personality.
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humanistic approach
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emphasizes a person’s positive qualities, the capacity for positive growth, and the freedom to choose one’s destiny. Humanistic psychologists stress that people have the ability to control their lives and are not simply controlled by the environment
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cognitive approach
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emphasizes the mental processes involved in knowing: how we direct our attention, perceive, remember, think, and solve problems.
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evolutionary approach
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Although arguably all of psychology emerges out of evolutionary theory, some psychologists emphasize an evolutionary approach that uses evolutionary ideas such as adaptation, reproduction, and natural selection as the basis for explaining specific human behaviors.
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sociocultural approach
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examines the influences of social and cultural environments on behavior. Socioculturalists argue that understanding a person’s behavior requires knowing about the cultural context in which the behavior occurs
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the 7 approaches affects
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The moment you spot that puppy, though, you might smile without thinking and reach down to pet the little guy. That reaction might be a learned response based on your past learning with your own dog (behavioral perspective), or unconscious memories of a childhood dog (psychodynamic perspective), or conscious memories that you especially like this breed of dogs (cognitive perspective), or even evolutionary processes that promoted cuteness to help offspring survive (evolutionary approach). You might find yourself striking up a conversation with the puppy’s owner, based on your shared love of dogs (humanistic perspective). Further, sociocultural factors might play a role in your decision about whether to ask the owner if holding the puppy would be okay, whether to share those warm feelings about the puppy with others, and even whether (as in some cultures) to view that puppy as food.
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scientific method
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Observing some phenomenon Formulating hypotheses and predictions Testing through empirical research Drawing conclusions Evaluating conclusions
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variable
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the phenomena that scientists study are called variables, a word related to the verb to vary. A variable is anything that can change.
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theory
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a broad idea or set of closely related ideas that attempts to explain observations. Theories seek to explain why certain things are as they are or why they have happened. Theories can be used to make predictions about future observations.
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falsifiable
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A key characteristic of a scientific theory is that it must be falsifiable, meaning that even a scientist who believes that a theory is true must be able to generate ideas about research that would prove the theory wrong and test those ideas. This is what separates scientific theories from beliefs and opinions.
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hypothesis
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the second step in the scientific method is stating a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a testable prediction that derives logically from a theory. A theory can generate many hypotheses. If more and more hypotheses related to a theory turn out to be true, the theory gains in credibility.
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operational definition
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provides an objective description of how a variable is going to be measured and observed in a particular study. Such a definition eliminates the fuzziness that might creep into thinking about a problem.
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data analysis
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A key aspect of the process of testing hypotheses is data analysis. Data refers to all the information (all those numbers) researchers collect in a study—say, the questionnaire scores or the behaviors observed. Data analysis means \”crunching\” those numbers mathematically to see if they support predictions. In other words, data analysis involves applying mathematical procedures to understand what the numerical information means. Many psychology students are surprised to learn that much of psychologists’ work relies heavily on sophisticated statistics, numbers that help them describe what the data have to tell them.
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reliable
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If a particular research finding is demonstrated again and again across different researchers and different methods, it is considered reliable—in other words, it is a dependable result.
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Descriptive research
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involves finding out about the basic dimensions of some variable (for example, what is the average level of happiness of men in the United States?). Correlational research is interested in discovering relationships between variables. Just as its name suggests, descriptive research is about describing some phenomenon—determining its basic dimensions and defining what this thing is, how often it occurs, and so on. By itself, descriptive research cannot prove what causes some phenomenon, but it can reveal important information about people’s behaviors and attitudes (Salkind, 2012). Descriptive research methods include observation, surveys and interviews, and case studies.
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Experimental research
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Experimental research concerns establishing causal relationships between variables
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observation
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This type of scientific observation requires an important set of skills. Unless you are a trained observer and practice your skills regularly, you might not know what to look for, you might not remember what you saw, you might not realize that what you are looking for is changing from one moment to the next, and you might not communicate your observations effectively. Furthermore, it might be important to have one or more others do the observations as well, to develop a sense of how accurate your observations are. For observations to be effective, they must be systematic.
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survey
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Sometimes the best and quickest way to get information about people is to ask them for it. One technique is to interview them directly. A related method that is especially useful when information from many people is needed is the survey, or questionnaire. A survey presents a standard set of questions, or items, to obtain people’s self-reported attitudes or beliefs about a particular topic. Although surveys can be a straightforward way to measure psychological variables, constructing them requires care. For example, surveys can measure only what people think about themselves. Thus, if we are interested in studying a variable that we think is unconscious, like a psychodynamic drive, we cannot use a survey. Furthermore, people do not always know the truth about themselves.
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challenges with surveys
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One particular problem with surveys and interviews is the tendency of participants to answer questions in a way that will make them look good rather than in a way that communicates what they truly think or feel.Another challenge in survey construction is that when questionnaires are used to operationally define variables, it is crucial that the items precisely probe the specific topic of interest and not some other characteristic. The language used in surveys therefore must be clear and understandable if the responses are to reflect the participants’ actual feelings.
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case study/ case history
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is an in-depth look at a single individual. Case studies are performed mainly by clinical psychologists when, for either practical or ethical reasons, the unique aspects of an individual’s life cannot be duplicated and tested in other individuals. A case study provides information about one person’s goals, hopes, fantasies, fears, traumatic experiences, family relationships, health, or anything else that helps the psychologist understand the person’s mind and behavior. Case studies can also involve in-depth explorations of particular families or social groups. Case histories provide dramatic, detailed portrayals of people’s lives, but researchers must be cautious about applying what they learn from one person’s life to other people. The subject of a case study has a unique genetic makeup and personal history that no one else shares.
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example of case study
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An example of a case study is the analysis of India’s spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) by psychodynamic theorist Erik Erikson (1969). Erikson studied Gandhi’s life in great depth to discover insights into how his positive spiritual identity developed, especially during his youth. In piecing together Gandhi’s identity development, Erikson described the contributions of culture, history, family, and various other factors that might affect the way other people form an identity.
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correlational research
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tells us about the relationships between variables, and its purpose is to examine whether and how two variables change together. That is, correlational research looks at a co-relationship. For instance, if one of the variables increases, what happens to the other one? When two variables change together, we can predict one from the other, and we say that the variables are correlated
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correlational study
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The key feature of a correlational study is that the variables of interest are measured or observed to see how they relate. If we wanted to know whether shy people are happy, we might give the same people two questionnaires, one that measures shyness and another that measures happiness. For each person we would have two scores, and we would then see whether shyness and happiness relate to each other in a systematic way.
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correlational coefficient
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which is most commonly represented by the letter r. The correlation coefficient is a statistic that tells us two things about the relationship between two variables—its strength and its direction. The value of a correlation always falls between −1.00 and +1.00. The number or magnitude of the correlation tells us about the strength of the relationship. The closer the number is to ±1.00, the stronger the relationship.
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direction of correlation
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The sign (+ or −) tells us about the direction of the relationship between the variables. A positive sign means that as one variable increases, the other also increases, or as one decreases the other does as well. When variables are positively correlated, they change in the same direction. A negative sign means that as one variable increases, the other decreases. Negatively correlated variables change together but do so in the opposite direction. A zero correlation means that there is no systematic relationship between the variables.
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Correlation does not equal causation.
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Remember, correlation means only that two variables change together. Being able to predict one event based on the occurrence of another event does not necessarily tell us anything about the cause of either event (Heiman, 2015; Howell, 2015). Sometimes some other variable that has not been measured accounts for the relationship between two others.
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why do researchers conduct correlational studies?
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There are several very good reasons. One is that some important questions can be investigated only by using a correlational design. Such questions may involve variables that can only be measured or observed, such as biological sex, personality traits, genetic factors, and ethnic background. Another reason researchers conduct correlational studies is that sometimes the variables of interest are real-world events that influence people’s lives, such as the effects of a natural disaster like the earthquake that caused a tsunami in Japan in 2011. Correlational research is also valuable in cases where it would not be ethical to do the research in any other way.
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longitudinal design
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One way that correlational researchers can deal with the issue of causation is to employ a special kind of systematic observation called a longitudinal design. Longitudinal research involves observing and measuring the same variables periodically over time. Longitudinal research can suggest potential causal relationships because if one variable is thought to cause changes in another, it should at least come before that variable in time.
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experiment
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An experiment is a carefully regulated procedure in which the researcher manipulates one or more variables that are believed to influence some other variable.
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Random assignment
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This notion that experiments can demonstrate causation is based on the idea that if participants are randomly assigned to groups, the only systematic difference between them must be the manipulated variable. Random assignment means that researchers assign participants to groups by chance. This technique reduces the likelihood that the experiment’s results will be due to any preexisting differences between groups. The logic of random assignment is that if only chance determines which participants are assigned to each group in an experiment, the potential differences on other characteristics will cancel out over the long run.
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independent variable
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is a manipulated experimental factor. The independent variable is the variable that the experimenter changes to see what its effects are; it is a potential cause. Any experiment may include several independent variables or factors that are manipulated to determine their effect on some outcome. In the study of positive mood and meaning in life, the independent variable is mood (positive versus neutral), operationally defined by the type of music participants listened to.
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confederate
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a person who is given a role to play in a study so that the social context can be manipulated. For example, if researchers are interested in reactions to being treated rudely, they might have a confederate treat participants rudely (or not).
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dependent variable
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is the outcome—the factor that can change in an experiment in response to changes in the independent variable.
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experimental group
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consists of the participants in an experiment who receive the treatment that is of interest to the researcher, or a particular drug under study—that is, the participants who are exposed to the change that the independent variable represents
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control group
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in an experiment is as much like the experimental group as possible and is treated in every way like the experimental group except for that change. The control group provides a comparison against which the researcher can test the effects of the independent variable.
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Within-Participant Designs
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One way to ensure that a control group and an experimental group are as similar as possible is to use a within-participant design, in which the participants serve as their own control group. In such a design, rather than relying on random assignment to produce equivalent groups, a researcher has the same group of participants experience the various conditions in the study.
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Quasi-Experimental Designs
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Another approach to experimental research is to use a quasi-experimental design. As the prefix quasi- (\”as if\”) suggests, this type of design is similar to an experiment, but it is not quite the same thing. The key difference is that a quasi-experimental design does not include random assignment of participants to a condition, because such assignment is either impossible or unethical.
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Validity
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refers to the soundness of the conclusions that a researcher draws from an experiment.
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external validity
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which refers to the degree to which an experimental design really reflects the real-world issues it is supposed to address. That is, external validity is concerned with the question, do the experimental methods and the results generalize—do they apply—to the real world?
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internal validity
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refers to the degree to which changes in the dependent variable are due to the manipulation of the independent variable. In the case of internal validity, we want to know whether the experimental methods are free from biases and logical errors that may render the results suspect.
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Experimenter bias
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occurs when the experimenter’s expectations influence the outcome of the research
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Demand characteristics
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are any aspects of a study that communicate to the participants how the experimenter wants them to behave. The influence of experimenter expectations can be very difficult to avoid.
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Experimenter Bias example
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n a classic study, Robert Rosenthal (1966) turned college students into experimenters. He randomly assigned the participants rats from the same litter. Half of the students were told that their rats were \”maze bright,\” whereas the other half were told that their rats were \”maze dull.\” The students then conducted experiments to test their rats’ ability to navigate mazes. The results were stunning. The so-called maze-bright rats were more successful than the maze-dull rats at running the mazes. The only explanation for the results is that the college students’ expectations affected the rats’ performance. Often the participants in psychological studies are not rats but people. Imagine that you are an experimenter and you know that a participant is going to be exposed to disgusting pictures in a study. Is it possible that you might treat the person differently than you would if you were about to show him photos of cute kittens? The reason experimenter bias is important is that it introduces systematic differences between the experimental and control groups, so that we cannot know if those who looked at disgusting pictures were more, say, upset because of the pictures or because of different treatment by the experimenter.
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Research participant bias
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occurs when the behavior of research participants during the experiment is influenced by how they think they are supposed to behave or their expectations about what is happening to them.
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the placebo effect
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One example of the power of participant expectations is the placebo effect. The placebo effect occurs when participants’ expectations, rather than the experimental treatment, produce an outcome.
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placebo
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s a harmless substance that has no physiological effect. This placebo is given to participants in a control group so that they are treated identically to the experimental group except for the active agent—in this case, the painkiller. Giving individuals in the control group a placebo pill allows researchers to determine whether changes in the experimental group are due to the active drug agent and not simply to participants’ expectations.
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double-blind experiment
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In this design, neither the experimenter administering the treatment nor the participants are aware of which participants are in the experimental group and which are in the control group until the results are calculated. This setup ensures that the experimenter cannot, for example, make subtle gestures signaling who is receiving a drug and who is not.
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random sample
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To mirror the population as closely as possible, the researcher uses a random sample, a sample that gives every member of the population an equal chance of being selected.
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drawbacks of laboratory research
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It is almost impossible to conduct research in the lab without the participants knowing they are being studied. The laboratory setting is not the real world and therefore can cause the participants to behave unnaturally. People who are willing to go to a university laboratory may not be representative of groups from diverse cultural backgrounds. Some aspects of the mind and behavior are difficult if not impossible to examine in the laboratory.
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Naturalistic observation
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is observing behavior in a real-world setting. Psychologists conduct naturalistic observations at sporting events, child-care centers, work settings, shopping malls, and other places that people frequent. If you wanted to study the level of civility on your campus for a research project, most likely you would include naturalistic observation of how people treat one another in such gathering places as the cafeteria and the library reading room.
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deception in research
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Another issue is that a study that uses deception inherently violates the principle of informed consent. Even in the case of deception by omission, the participants cannot be fully informed prior to giving consent. This is why participants in studies involving deception should have the option of withdrawing consent after they find out what the study is actually about. Psychological researchers take deception seriously and employ it only when no other options would allow them to ask the questions they seek to answer.
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institutional review board
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today colleges and universities have a review board (typically called the institutional review board, or IRB) that evaluates the ethical nature of research conducted at their institutions. Proposed research plans must pass the scrutiny of a research ethics committee before the research can be initiated.
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American Psychological Association
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In addition, the American Psychological Association (APA) has developed ethics guidelines for its members. The APA code of ethics instructs psychologists to protect their participants from mental and physical harm. The participants’ best interests need to be kept foremost in the researcher’s mind (Jackson, 2015). APA’s guidelines address four important issues: Informed consent, Confidentiality, Debriefing, Deception
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Informed consent
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All participants must know what their participation will involve and what risks might develop.
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confidentiality
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Researchers are responsible for keeping all of the data they gather on individuals completely confidential and, when possible, completely anonymous. Confidential data are not the same as anonymous. When data are confidential, it is possible to link a participant’s identity to his or her data.
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Debriefing
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After the study has been completed, the researchers should inform the participants of its purpose and the methods they used. In most cases, the experimenters also can inform participants in a general manner beforehand about the purpose of the research without leading the participants to behave in a way that they think that the experimenters are expecting. When preliminary information about the study is likely to affect the results, participants must be debriefed after the study’s completion.
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values psychological research
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Some psychologists argue that psychology should be value-free and morally neutral. From their perspective, the psychologist’s role as a scientist is to present facts as objectively as possible. Others believe that because psychologists are human, they cannot possibly be value-free. Indeed, some people go so far as to argue that psychologists should take stands on certain issues.
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psychology in everyday
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Not all psychological information that is presented for public consumption comes from professionals with excellent credentials and reputations at colleges or universities or in applied mental health settings (Stanovich, 2013). Because journalists, television reporters, and other media personnel are not usually trained in psychological research, they often have trouble sorting through the widely varying material they find and making sound decisions about the best information to present to the public. In addition, the media often focus on sensationalistic and dramatic psychological findings to capture public attention. They tend to go beyond what actual research articles and clinical findings really say.
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AVOID OVERGENERALIZING BASED ON LITTLE INFORMATION
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Media reports of psychological information often leave out details about the nature of the sample used in a given study. Without information about sample characteristics—such as the number of participants, how many were male or female, or their ethnic representation—it is wise to take research results with a grain of salt.
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DISTINGUISH BETWEEN GROUP RESULTS AND INDIVIDUAL NEEDS
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Just as we cannot generalize from a small group to all people, we also cannot apply conclusions from a group to an individual. When you learn about psychological research through the media, you might be disposed to apply the results to your life. It is important to keep in mind that statistics about a group do not necessarily represent each individual in the group equally well. Imagine, for example, taking a test in a class and being told that the class average was 75 percent, but you got 98 percent. It is unlikely that you would want the instructor to apply the group average to your score. Sometimes consumers of psychological research can get the wrong idea about whether their experience is \”normal\” if it does not match group statistics. New parents face this issue all the time. They read about developmental milestones that supposedly characterize an entire age group of children; one such milestone might be that most 2-year-olds are conversing with their parents. However, this group information does not necessarily characterize all children who are developing normally. Albert Einstein did not start talking until he was the ripe old age of 3.

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