Psychology A2


(research methods + issues)

  • Created by: Rebecca
  • Created on: 18-05-11 08:43


 *Control over IV + DV + extraneous variables. Researcher manipulates the IV and they tend to be in artificial settings where the participant’s are aware that the study is happening.


*Samuel + Bryant

*Ford + Widiger

  • :)  High Control
  • :)  Cause and effect relationship
  • :)  Standardised procedure
  • :(  Usually Quantitative data
  • :(  Low ecological validity.
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*involves asking questions through interviews. Questionnaires etc.. It is aimed at identifying thoughts feelings and experiences of participants.



  • :)  Insight into why behaviour occurs
  • :)  Good validity (exact details)
  • :(  Open to demand characteristics
  • :(  Researcher bias
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Field Experiments

*Set in a natural environment that has low control over extraneous variables. But the IV is manipulated and the participants tend to be unaware  of the study.



  • :)  Usually nigh ecological validity
  • :)  Less chance of demand characteristics
  • :(  Hard to replicate (low control)
  • :(  Convert observations which misses info (ethical issues)
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 * Can be set in a real life situation or in a lab, there is no manipulation of the IV and it can create inter-observer reliability.



  • :)  Participants unaware (convert)
  • :)  Reliability (inter-observer)
  • :(  Low ecological validity
  • :(  Misinterpret information
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Case Studies

 * Its and in depth investigation into one or a small group of individuals, often longitudinal by interviews, observations etc. And IV can not be manipulated.

*Thigpen and Cleckley


  • :)  Useful in studying atypical, abnormal or rare behaviour
  • :)  High levels of detail show great insight
  • :(  Limited sample size
  • :(  Longitudinal aspect can lead to researcher bias
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ISSUES: Ecological Validity

 *It looks at the realism of the environment and tasks set. Also a piece of research that will generalise to other environments or tasks outside of the study setting. High = easy to relate to the environment or task to real life. Low = very artificial conditions with artificial tasks.

*Bandura (low)

*Milgram (high task, low environment)

*Piliavin (high)

*Waxler-Morrison (high)


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Ecological Validity Continued


  • :)  High control over situation
  • :)  Able to see cause and effect relationship
  • :(  Hard to generalise
  • :(  Unrealistic so can’t create effective practical applications


  • :)  Able to generalise results
  • :)  Create practical application
  • :(  Harder to state cause and effect relationship
  • :(  Harder to replicate the study
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Determinism vs. Freewill

*determinism suggest that an individuals behaviour is shaped or controlled by internal or external forces                                                                                                                      *free will suggest that individual have an active role in controlling their behaviour. *Milgram                                                                                                                      *Raine                                                                                                                          *Watson + Raynor

  • :)  It is a scientific measure as we are able to establish a cause and effect relationship
  • :)  Practical application
  • :(  Explanations are to simplistic and so can become reductionist
  • :(  Remove and individuals responsibility for their actions
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*human tendency to use own ethnic culture as the ‘norm’. Also out-group is evaluated from the standpoint of the in-group. So researcher uses own views to asses others and measure may be reflected the skills or knowledge of one culture.






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Ethnocentrism Continued

  • :)  Complete understanding of human behaviour and culture in shaping our behaviour
  • :)  Promote understanding and perhaps tolerance for other ways of living and thinking
  • :(  Used by others to justify racist attitudes and policies
  • :(  Difficult due to language barriers, having to crate a task meaningful to all participants.
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Individual & situational

*behaviour is explained  by being caused by something within that person.  *Explanation allows us to see the impact individual differences on human behaviour.


*Samuel and Bryant


*Behaviour is explained by being caused by environmental factors outside of the person.

*Explanation allows us to see the impact of situational factor on human behaviour.

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Individual & situational Continued






  • :)  Nature + Nurture impact
  • :)  Practical applications
  • :(  Determinism
  • :(  Reductionist
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Nature/ Nurture Debate

 NATURE:                                                                                                                  *individuals are born with set abilities and characteristics NURTURE:                                                                                                                   *product of environmental factors and experiences

*Bandura                                                                                                                     *Raine                                                                                                                         *Maguire                                                                                                                    *Watson and Raynor

  • :)  Understand that behaviour is learned and not innate
  • :)  Practical applications
  • :(  Ethical issues
  • :(  Reductionist
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Longitudinal Studies

 *Repeat observation and measurements of behaviour

*See development over time

*Studied over regular intervals



  • :)  Understand how behaviour is developed
  • :)  See cause and effect relationship
  • :(  Small group/ one person studied = not able to generalise
  • :(  Participants may be lost (attrition)- sample bias
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 *One set of data at one moment in time

*The abilities are taken at that time

*Compare individuals



  • :)  Less potential for attrition
  • :)  High controls = cause and effect
  • :(  Results due to uncontrolled individual differences
  • :(  Behaviour and attitude may change over time
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Qual & Quan Data


*numerical data  that is objective and provided insight into behaviour

 *Samuel and Bryant


*Ford and Widiger


  • :)  Compare participants easily
  • :)  No interpretation of number needed, so more objective
  • :(  Only shows impact but not why
  • :(  Reduces practical applications
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Qual & Quan Data Continued


*written findings that may consist of opinions and beliefs so more subjective


*Thigpen & Cleckley

  • :)  Gain insight to why behaviour occurs
  • :)  Practical applications
  • :(  Misinterpreted descriptions which could lead to bias
  • :(  Hard top compare to other peoples experiences
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 *Breaking behaviour down into component parts and studying one at a time in isolation to see what part it plays in behaviour.


*Watson and Raynor


*Yochelson and Samenow

  • :)  Able to establish a cause and effect relationship
  • :)  By breaking behaviour down we are able o investigate different aspects separately
  • :(  Only explains one behaviour  and ignores all other possibilities
  • :(  Limits the effectiveness of practical applications as the treatment may be biased.
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 *useful to psychology – increase academic knowledge about behaviours (previous findings and those that are from unique cases *The ability to practically apply the findings- understand how we can change aspects of society or individuals behaviour for the good.

*Samuel and Bryant

*Watson and Raynor

*Yochelson and Samenow

  • :)  Practical applications
  • :)  Reductionist
  • :(  Lacks ecological Validity
  • :(  Difficult to use the findings as some things are difficult to change in society
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Precise, quantifiable data

 *to be considered a science data that is collected and analysed needs to be numerical and measurable.


              - Quantifiable data: the effect of an authority figure in a legitimate setting on p’s who are instructed to give electric shocks to a learner.

              - Data collected: shocks given via a shock generator with 15v increments. 100% of p’s administered a 300v shock. 65% went all the way to 450v.


              - Non-quantifiable data: women's social relationships influenced her response to breast cancer and survival 

              - Data collected: Info on social networks via self-reports. 6 key social factors identified and described including marital status, support and contact from friends and employment.

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 *in order to establish whether or not a law is true a scientist must attempt not to confirm the prediction, but to vigorously falsify it. Repeated failure to falsify provides more and more confidence that the law is actually likely to be true.                                                                                                                                                                       For example BARON- COHEN conducted a study to show that the lack of theory of mind (TOM) was the core deficit on all children with autism. The Sally-Anne task was devised which supported an inability to understand another's thoughts.                                                                                                                                                                However another researcher BOWLER found that adults with autism could pass the theory of mind task and so appeared to falsify BARON-COHEN’S prediction.                                                                                                                                                            But BARON-COHEN argued that the Sally-Anne task was created for 6 year olds and therefore come up with the eyes task, which supported for the lack of TOM.                                                                                                                                                                     This whole process shows how psychologists can become closer to the truth by attempting to falsify as well as validate theories and findings.

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Research is used to make laws (generalisations) th

 *can psychology create laws (rules) that can help us  predict what will happen in certain situations?


     - Skills and abilities develop as we mature, such as conservation. Such skills also influenced by the environment: SAMUEL AND BRYANT  ~ DEVELOPMENTAL

     - If an individual lacks a theory of mind, they will be unable to recognise emotions in others: BARON-COHEN ~ COGNITIVE

     - If a neutral stimulus is pared with a fear response it will also become feared: WATSON AND RAYNOR ~ BEHAVIOURIST

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*Observing the world without influence or prejudice and therefore avoiding any bias in how you interpret what you see. However, as humans we all have previous experiences that help us understand what is happening around us, therefore it is highly questionable as to whether we can separate our judgement from our experiences, culture or expectations

*Most objective approach - physiological - not open to interpretation

*least objective - psycodynamic - open to interpretation

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Scientific methods in Psychology

*it does try to use scientific method by following the rules of scientific enquiry:

*general observations are made

*hypotheses are created

*such hypotheses are tested via research & conclusions are drawn

*such conclusionseither confirmed hypotheses are created from such conclusions

*extended or additional theoried are created from such conclusions

*some research methods in themselves can also be classes as scientific

*scientific methods used - lab experiments, observations, correlations (hypotheses, replication and creating and explanation of behaviour)

*non-scientific methods used - self reports, case studies (insight which gives understanding and academic knowledge)

*psychology does not meet criteria as subjective data gained

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Is psychology a Science??


*quantifiable data


*falsification attempts

*scientific procedure


*qualitative data

*idiographic approach - study and individual not making general laws

* not all theories can be falsified i.e. freud

*not all research makes use of the scientific procedure i.e. self reports

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*in many cases psychology can be considered to be a science, due to procedures and methods used

*however, due to the complex nature of human behaviour it is not possible to apply scientfic procedures in all areas of human behaviour research

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Popualtions and Samples

It is not feasible to test everyone in a given populations (population is all the existing members of a particular game) as that would be too expensive and time consuming, therefore a target population is identified (partiualar population that the researcher is interested in e.g. teenagers, left handed people) and from that a sample needs to be selected. In order to generalise from a sample it must be representative and free from bias. therefore it is important to carefully consider what sampling techniques is selected.               You need to be able to:

  • identify ways that a sample can be selected
  • be able to decide which sample technique to use when planning an investigation
  • evaluate sampling technique
  • suggest alternative way to gathering a sample
  • evaluate the alternative
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Opportunity Sampling

*where the researcher just choose a sample that is available at the time

  • :)  easy to obtain sample and does not not cost alot of money
  • :(  can produce a bias sample as the p's could be choosen to fit a certain criteria
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Self Selected Sampling

*participants that have volunteered to take part

* could be via a advert

  • :)  quick and relatively easy to do and reach a wide variety of the population
  • :(  the types of p's who volunteer may not representative of the target population
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Random Sampling

*where p's are tested at random

*they may be aware or unaware

  • :)  tries to get rid of bias
  • :(  not representative of the population


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Statified/ Quto Sampling

*classifying the population into categories, then choosing a sample whoch consists of participants from each category in the right proportions

  • :)  sample shopuld be representative of the populayion
  • :(  very time consuming as the categories have to be identified and calculated. as with random sampling, those selected may be unable pr willing to take part. 
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Systematic Sampling

*involves taking every nth individual from a list of names

  • :)  much easier than random sampling if you have a list of names as you dont need to physically divide and selected them. You simply go down the list and highlight the ones you need.
  • :(  those who you select may not be available or willing to take part, also requires a list of names which may not be obtainable. Also, not everyone has an qual chance to be selected.
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