the things that you need to know for the January exam!

  • Created by: Daini
  • Created on: 13-11-10 19:03


The starting point for scientific enquiry is observation. We observe what is going on and try and make sense of it. 

There are two different types of sampling observational date- 

1. Event sampling- the observer keeps a count of each time a particular behaviour occurs. 

2. Time sampling- the observer decides on a time interval, such as once a minute. At the end of the time the observer notes any particular behaviour that is being displayed by the target individuals. 

UNSTRUCTURED OBSERVATIONS – the researcher records all relevant behaviour but has no system. The behaviour to be studies is largely unpredictable. 

STRUCTURED OBSERVATIONS – the researcher plans and record everything into different categories, called behaviour categories or a coding system.

when participants are observed without their knowledge they clearly do not have the opportunity to provide informed consent. One way to deal with this is to debrief the participants afterwards. Some observations may be regarded as an invasion of privacy. 

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1. Controlled and naturalistic- A controlled observation are where some variables are controlled by the researcher. In a naturalistic observation is studied in a natural situation.

2. Participant and non-participant- In many cases the observer is merely watching the behaviour of others and facts as a non-participants. In some studies observers watches the behaviour and joins in, called participant.

3. Disclosed and undisclosed- one-way mirrors can be used to prevent participants being aware that they are being observed. This is called undisclosed. Disclosed method is where you watch them face to face. 

4. Direct and indirect- indirectly is where the data has been already collected. Direct method is where you collect the data by yourself. 

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Observational techniques in general 


Ø What people say they do is often different from what they actually do, so observation give a different take on behaviour. 

Ø Able to catch spontaneous and unexpected behaviour.


Ø Observers may see what they expect to see.

Ø Poorly designed behaviour checklist reduces reliability. 

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Time sampling 


Ø Reduce the number of observations by using an objective means of sampling 


Ø Observations may not be representative 

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Event sampling 


Ø Useful when behaviour to be recorded only happens occasionally and might be missed if time sampling used. 


Ø Observer may miss some observations if too many things happen at once. 

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Structured observation 


Ø Enables systematic observations to be made so important information not overlooked, otherwise observer may be overwhelmed by stream of information


Ø Categories may not cover all possibilities and so some behaviour not recorded or placed in another category. 

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Participant observation 


Ø Likely to provide special insights into behaviour, from the inside


Ø Objectivity maybe reduced

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A study that use observation is the Reicher and Haslam study, who created a mock prison to see the behaviours between the guards and the prisoners. They found out that guards didn’t’t respect the prisoners that well, and they ended up having a conflict. They used observation techniques such as event sampling to record different behaviours. Also the study faced with ethical issues, and had to close down the investigation after eight days. 

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Self - report

SELF-REPORT -The term self-report technique refers to any data collection method that involves asking people to report on their thoughts.

This data can be collected by – 

1. Questionnaires- respondents record their own answers.

2. Structured interview- pre-determined questions

3. Semi-structured interview- new questions are developed as you go along.

4. Unstructured interview- no questions are decided in advance. 

BRIEFING AND DEBRIFING - A brief given to each participant prior to a study to explain to them what they will be required to do. A debrief is conducted after the experiment for two issues. One is ethical, and the other one is practical. 

ETHICAL ISSUES - It is expected that researchers will obtain informed consent from all participants unless deception is necessary. Participant’s names should not be saved or any other information about them without their permission. 

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Self - report

How to construct a questionnaire 

1. Clarity – questions must be written clearly so that the respondents can understand them. 

2. Bias – the way a question is phased may lead respondents to give particular answers. Questions like ‘was that film interesting?’ is likely to produce a different answer to ‘was that film boring?’ These are called leading questions. An even greater problem is social desirability bias, means people often prefer to answer questions in a way that makes them look better.

3. Analysis- the way data is analysed depends on the kind of question asked: open questions invite respondents to provide their own answers and tend to produce qualitative data. On the other hand closed questions provide limited choices and provide quantitative data and the answers are easy to analyse. 

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Self - report

Sampling methods 

1. Opportunity sample – using the first participant you find and using them for the experiment. 

2. Self-selecting sample - access to variety of participants by getting them involved through advertisements, posters etc. 

3. Random sample – select people randomly 

4. Quota sample – subgroups within a population are identified. E.g. boys, girls 

5. Stratified sample – the sample from each subgroup is obtained using a random method

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Self - report

Descriptive statistics 


· The mean is calculated by adding up all the numbers and dividing by the number of numbers. It is not appropriate for nominal data.

· The median is the middle number. It is not appropriate for nominal data.

· The mode is the value that is most common. It is appropriate for nominal data.


· Bar chart 

· Pie chart

· scatter graph

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Self - report


· Can be easily repeated so that data can be collected from large numbers of people.

· Respondents may feel more willing to reveal personal information.

· Easier to analyse on structured interviews.

· Semi structured interviews can collect more detailed information.

· Rating scales enables respondents to represent thoughts and feelings quantitatively.

· Open questions can produce unexpected information.

· Closed questions are easier to analyse

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Self - report


· Answers may not be truthful.

· The samples may be biased.

· The interviewer’s expectations may influence the answers.

· Reliability may be affected.

· Requires well trained interviewers.

· For rating scales, respondents may avoid using ends of scales and go for middle of the road.

· In open questions, it is more difficult to analyse data.

· In closed questions, there may not permit people to express the#ir precise feelings

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The study that links to self-report is the rosenham study, who investigated the abnormality in people, is characteristic or is it because of what context they are in. they found out that psychiatric diagnoses is highly unreliable. This links to self-report, because the data was collected as quantitative and qualitative data. 

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Experiment - When psychologists want to investigate casual relationships they use the experimental method. 

There are two basic experimental designs-  1.Repeated measures – you test each individuals in both conditions comparing their performance in both parts of the experience. 2.Independent groups – you test one group of people in the first condition and a different group of people in the second condition, and then compare the two sets of scores. 

The experiment is where the experimenter -

· IV – alters the levels of one variable.

· DV- observes the effects of the IV on the DV.

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There are seven technical terms to creating an experiment –

1. Identify and operationalize the DV

2. Identify and operationalize the IV

3. Select experimental design

4. Write the hypothesis

5. Decide on the procedures

6. Decide on controls

7. Choose sampling method.

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The term ‘operationalise’ means to specify a set of operations or behaviours that can be measured or manipulated. 


At the outset of an experiment it is expected that the experimenter will state what they expect to discover. This is done in the form of a statement of what experimenter believes it to be true. 

There are several things to notice about this hypothesis – 

1. The IV is clearly stated, including both levels of it.

2. The DV is also clearly started.

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The alternative hypothesis and the null hypothesis

The hypothesis described above (which states what you believed to be true) is called the alternate hypothesis, because it is an alternative to the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis is a statement of no difference or no relationship. 

Ethical issues 

Some experiments involves deception because, if you tell participants the true aims of the experience beforehand, this may affect how they behave in the experiment. This means that experiment have to give false information. Experiment must avoid psychological harms. 

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Control in experiments 

One of the key features of an experiment is control - which comes in various different shapes and sizes:

Ø Control of the IV

Ø Control over extraneous variables

Ø Control as baseline

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Three demands of the psychological research – 

I. Control – lab experiments aim to be highly controlled which means we can be more certain of demonstrating a causal relationship.

II. Generalizability – in order to generalise the findings from an experiment to everyday life, we need control and realism. 

III. Realism – field experience tend to be more like everyday life, however the more realistic the setting, the harder it is to control variables. 

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Different kinds of experiments 

· Lab experiment – a lab is a special environment where relationships can be investigated under controlled conditions but such control may mean the setup is contrived or artificial. 

· Field experiment – an experiment conducted in a participant’s natural environment, which means they may believe more like they do ordinarily.

· Natural experiment- in a natural experiment, the experimenter does not manipulate the IV but takes advantage of a naturally varying IV. 

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Ø Lab experiment - Manipulation of IV to observe effects on DV means casual relationships can be demonstrated. 

Ø Well controlled.

Ø Field experiment - IV manipulated therefore cause and effect maybe demonstrated.

Ø More natural environment and less awareness of being studied.

Ø Natural experiment - Enables psychologists to study real problems such as the effects of the disaster on health. 

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Ø Artificial, contrived situation which may lack realism and participants may respond to experimenter’s cues.

Ø Bias might affect generalizability.

Ø Less control of extraneous variables, so you can’t be sure that changes in the DV are due to the changes of the IV.

Ø Sampling can still be a problem.

Ø Natural experiments can’t demonstrate casual relationships because IV not directly manipulated.

Ø Participants may be aware of being studies, reduces naturalness.  

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A study that used experiment is the Loftus and Palmer study, who investigated the effect of leading question on what people remember. They found that leading question can affect people’s memory. This links to experiment because the study was performed as a lab experiment.  

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Correlation  - A correlation is a way of measuring the relationship between two variables. 

Positive correlation – The two variables increasing together

Negative correlation – One variable increase and the other one decrease

Zero correlation- No relationship between the variables. 

A scatter graph is the way to show the connection between two sets of data by plotting dots to represent each pairs of source

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Bar chart - Very simple statistic evidence

Good for words and numbers

Pie chart - Good at when you want to compare

Pictogram - Quick way of representing a data or numbers in a number way

Scatter graph - You can identify the correlation between the data or the same data

Histogram  - A bar chart representing distribution and useful when categorising objects

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Ø Can be used when it would be unethical or impractical to conduct an experiment.

Ø If correlation is significant then further investigation is justified. 

Ø If correlation is not significant then you can rule out a causal relationship. 


Ø People often misinterpret correlation.

Ø There may be other unknown’s variables that can explain why the co-variables being studied are linked. 

Ø Extraneous variables can lead to false conclusions. 

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A study that used correlation is the Maguire study, who investigates the different parts of the brain to see what taxi drivers remember. They found out that some people had a positive region in one side of the brain and negative on the other side of the brain. This links to correlation, because they correlated the volume of brains. 

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