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Research Methods and Statistics
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Research Methods and Statistics
Bernard C. BeinsIthaca College
Maureen A. McCarthyKennesaw State University
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Copyright © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.Printed in the United States of America. This publication isprotected by Copyright and permission should be obtained from thepublisher prior to any prohibited reproduction, storage in aretrieval system, or transmission in any form or by any means,electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or likewise. Toobtain permission(s) to use material from this work, please submita written request to Pearson Higher Education, Inc., PermissionsDepartment, One Lake Street, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458or you may fax your request to 201-236-3290.
Many of the designations by manufacturers and sellers todistinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where thosedesignations appear in this book, and the publisher was aware of atrademark claim, the designations have been printed in initial capsor all caps.
The following SPSS screen images appear courtesy ofInternational Business Machines Corporation © 2010 InternationalBusiness Machines Corporation. Images include Figures 5.3, 5.4,5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9, 5.10, 7.13, 7.14, 7.15, 7.16, 8.5, 8.6,8.7, 8.8, 8.9, 8.10, 8.11, 8.12, 9.11, 9.12, 9.13, 9.14, 9.15,9.16, 10.6, 10.7, 10.8, 12.8, 12.9, 12.10, 12.11, 12.12, 12.13,12.14, 12.15, 12.16, and Table 5.5.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Beins, Bernard. Research methods and statistics / Bernard C.Beins, Maureen A. McCarthy. p. cm. Includes bibliographicalreferences and index. ISBN-10: 0-205-62409-X ISBN-13:978-0-205-62409-6 1. Psychology—Research—Methodology. 2.Psychometrics. I. McCarthy, Maureen A. II. Title. BF76.5.B4393 2012150.72'1—dc23
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 EB 15 14 13 12 11
ISBN-10: 0-205-62409-XISBN-13: 978-0-205-62409-6
As always, I dedicate this book to Linda, Agatha, and Simon—mywonderful family that makes it all worthwhile.
I dedicate this book to Dennis, Maryann, Tom, Dan, andBrenda—they made this work possible.
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Part I: Understanding Research 1
1 Psychology, Science, and Life 1Why Are Research MethodsImportant Tools for Life? 2
Creating Knowledge 3 / Answering Important Questions 3
Why We Do Research 4Description 4 / Explanation 5 / Prediction 6/ Control 6
What Constitutes Scientific Knowledge? 7Science Is Objective 8 /Science Is Data Driven 9 / Science Is Replicable and Verifiable 9 /Science Is Public 10
The Interaction of Science and Culture 10The Government’s Rolein Science 11 / Cultural Values and Science 11
Scientific Literacy 13Science and Pseudoscience 14 / WarningSigns of Bogus Science 15 / Junk Science 18
Chapter Summary 18
Key Terms 19
Chapter Review Questions 20
Part II: The First Steps in Conducting Research 23
2 Ethics in Research 23Unethical Research Practices—Past andPresent 25
Ethical Problems in the Early Years of the Twentieth Century 25/ Ethics and Plagiarism 27 / Current Examples of Unethical Research28
Ethical Guidelines Created by the American PsychologicalAssociation 29Aspirational Goals and Enforceable Rules 29 / EthicalStandards as They Affect You 30
Legal Requirements and Ethics in Research 33Institutional ReviewBoards 34
The Importance of Social Context in Deciding on Ethics inResearch 35Stanley Milgram’s Research Project on Obedience 36 / TheEthical Issues 36 / The Social Context 37
What You Need to Do if Your Research Involves Deception 38
Some Research Requires Deception 39 / The Effects of Debriefingon Research 40
Ethical Issues in Special Circumstances 42
Ethics in Cross-Cultural Research 42 / Ethics in InternetResearch 42 / Ethics in Animal Research 43
Chapter Summary 45
Key Terms 46
Chapter Review Questions 46
3 Planning Research: Generating a Question 51Where ResearchIdeas Begin: Everyday Observations and Systematic Research 52
Informal and Formal Sources of Ideas 53 / The Effect of Theory55
How Can You Develop Research Ideas? 58
Generating Research Hypotheses 59
The Virtual Laboratory: Research on the Internet 59
Internet Research 61 / Respondent Motivation 64 / Advantages toWeb-Based Research 64 / Potential Problems with Web-Based Research65 / The Future of the Internet in Psychology 66
Checking on Research: The Role of Replication 66
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Reviewing the Literature 68
What Is a Literature Review? 69 / The Effect of Peer Review onthe Research Literature 69
How to Conduct a Literature Review 71
Electronic Databases 71 / Starting Your Search 71 / DifferentSources of Information 73
How to Read a Journal Article 74
Understanding the Format of a Research Paper 74
Chapter Summary 77
Key Terms 78
Chapter Review Questions 78
4 Practical Issues in Planning Your Research 81PracticalQuestions in Planning Research 82
Different Ways of Studying Behavior 83Measuring Complex Concepts83 / The Importance of Culture and Context in Defining Variables 84/ Carrying Out a Literature Search 86
Conducting Your Study 87Determining the Research Setting 88 /Approaches to Psychological Research 88 / Selecting ResearchMaterials and Procedures 90 / Why Methodology Is Important 92
Choosing Your Participants or Subjects 93The Nature of YourParticipants 94 / Deciding How Many Participants to Include 94
Can Rats, Mice, and Fish Help Us Understand Humans? 96
Probability Sampling 97Simple Random Sampling 98 / SystematicSampling 98 / Stratified Random Sampling 98 / Cluster Sampling99
Nonprobability Sampling 99Convenience Sampling 99 / QuotaSampling 100 / Purposive ( Judgmental) Sampling 100 /Chain-Referral Sampling 100
Chapter Summary 101
Key Terms 101
Chapter Review Questions 102
5 Organizing Data with Descriptive Statistics 105UsingStatistics to Describe Results 106
Descriptive Statistics 106Scales of Measurement 107 / Measuresof Central Tendency 109 / Distributions of Scores 111 / Measures ofVariability 113 / Summarizing Data 118
Computer Analysis Using SPSS 119Generating DescriptiveStatistics 119 / Illustrating Descriptive Statistics 120
Chapter Summary 125
Key Terms 125
Chapter Review Questions 125
Part III: Creating Experiments 129
6 Conducting an Experiment: General Principles 129Choosing aMethodology: The Practicalities of Research 130
Determining the Causes of Behavior 131
Trying to Determine Causation in Research 131 / Requirements forCause–Effect Relationships 131 / Internal and External Validity132
The Logic of Experimental Manipulation 135
Experimental Control 136
Threats to Internal Validity 136 / Lack of Control inExperimental Research: Extraneous Variables and Confounds 138
Experimenter Effects 142
Participant Effects 142
The Hawthorne Effect 143
Interaction Effects Between Experimenters and Participants144
Biosocial and Psychosocial Effects 144
Realism in Research 144
Chapter Summary 145
Key Terms 146
Chapter Review Questions 146
7 Basic Inferential Statistics 149Probability 150
Hypothesis Testing 151
Decisions in Statistical Hypothesis Testing 153 / NormalDistribution 156 / Sampling Distributions 157 / Single Sample zTest 162 / Steps in Hypothesis Testing 164 / Single Sample t Test166
Computer Analysis Using SPSS 171
Chapter Summary 173
Key Terms 173
Chapter Review Questions 174
8 Looking for Differences Between Two Treatments 177StatisticalTesting for Two Independent Groups 178
Stating the Hypothesis 179 / Significance Testing 180 /Confidence Intervals 185
Statistical Testing for Related and Repeated Measures 187Statingthe Hypothesis 187 / Significance Testing 188 / ConfidenceIntervals 190 / Advantages of Repeated Measures Designs 192 /Limitations of Repeated Measures Designs 195
Computer Analysis Using SPSS 196Independent Samples t Test 196 /Related Samples t Test 197
Chapter Summary 199
Key Terms 200
Chapter Review Questions 200
9 Looking for Differences Among Multiple Treatments203Statistical Testing for Multiple Treatments 204
Statistical Testing for Multiple Groups 205Stating theHypothesis 205 / Significance Testing 207 / Post Hoc Analyses 214 /Effect Size 217 / Computer Analysis Using SPSS 217
Statistical Testing for Repeated Measures 220Stating theHypothesis 221 / Significance Testing 222 / Post Hoc Analyses 227 /Effect Size 227 / Computer Analysis Using SPSS 228
Chapter Summary 231
Key Terms 232
Chapter Review Questions 232
10 Multiple Independent Variables: Factorial Designs235Factorial ANOVA 236
Stating the Hypotheses 237 / Partitioning Variance 238See AlsoBlack Lives Matter Goldmünze Nah Rosa Parks Abzeichen Tommie Smith Autogrammkarte • EUR 2,27
Calculating the Factorial ANOVA 239TOTAL Variance 239 /TREATMENT Variance 240 / ERROR Variance 245 / F Statistics 247 /Determining Significance 248 / Post Hoc Analyses 250 / Effect Size251
Computer Analysis Using SPSS 252
Chapter Summary 254
Key Terms 254
Chapter Review Questions 254
Part IV: Correlational and Nonexperimental Research 257
11 Principles of Survey Research 257Surveys: Answering DiverseQuestions 258
Census Versus Sample 259 / Accuracy of Survey Results 260
Anonymity and Confidentiality in Survey Research 261
Selecting Your Methodology 263Question Types 264 / QuestionContent 264
Response Bias 270Studying Sensitive Issues 271 / SocialDesirability 272 / Acquiescence 273 / Satisficing Versus Optimizing273 / Minimizing the Occurrence of Satisficing 275
Sampling Issues 275Finding Hidden Populations 276
Chapter Summary 277
Key Terms 277
Chapter Review Questions 278
12 Correlation, Regression, and Non-Parametric Tests281Correlational Studies 282
Correlational Analyses 282Traditional Correlation Tests 283 /Pearson’s r 284
Regression 291Multiple Regression 293
Chi-Square Goodness of Fit 295
Chi-Square Test of Independence 298Strength of Association300
Computer Analysis Using SPSS 301Correlation 301 / Regression 302/ Chi-Square 302
Chapter Summary 306
Key Terms 306
Chapter Review Questions 307
13 Research in Depth: Longitudinal and Single-Case Studies311
Longitudinal Research 312
Common Themes in Longitudinal Research 312 / Cross-SectionalVersus Longitudinal Research 313
Varieties of Longitudinal Research 314
Trend Studies 314 / Cohort Studies 316 / Cohort SequentialStudies 317 / Panel Studies 318
Issues in Longitudinal Designs 320
Retrospective and Prospective Studies 320 / Attrition 321
Single-Subject Experimentation 324
Experimental Analysis of Behavior 325
Methods of Single-Case Designs 325
Withdrawal Designs 325 / Single-Subject Randomized ControlledTrials 326 / Strengths of Single-Participant Designs 326 /Weaknesses of Single-Participant Designs 327 / MisunderstandingsAbout Single-Case Research 327
Case Studies 328
A Case Study with Experimental Manipulations: Tasting PointedChickens and Seeing Colored Numbers 329
Chapter Summary 330
Key Terms 330
Chapter Review Questions 331
Part V: Culture and Research 333
14 People Are Different: Considering Cultural and IndividualDifferences in Research 333
Different Cultural Perspectives 335
What Is Culture? 335
Defining an Individual’s Culture, Ethnicity, and Race 336
Criteria for Inclusion in a Group 337 / Social Issues andCultural Research 338
Cross-Cultural Concepts in Psychology 339
Are Psychological Constructs Universal? 339 / Issues inCross-Cultural Research 341
Is There a Biological Basis for Race? 342
The Criteria for Race 342 / Current Biological InsightsRegarding Race 343 / Historical Error 343 / Current Controversies345
Practical Issues in Cultural Research 345
Lack of Appropriate Training Among Researchers 345
Why the Concepts of Culture and Ethnicity Are Essential inResearch 346
Differences Due to Language and Thought Processes 346 /Differences in Simple and Complex Behaviors 347 / Is Culture-FreeTheory Really Free of Culture? 348 / Similarities and Differenceswithin the Same Culture 348
Cultural Factors in Mental Health Research 349Content Validity349 / Translation Problems 350 / Cross-Cultural Norms 351 /Cross-Cultural Diagnoses 351
Sex and Gender: Do Men and Women Come from Different Cultures?353Stereotypes and Gender-Related Performance 353
Chapter Summary 354
Key Terms 355
Chapter Review Questions 355
Appendix A Writing a Research Report 359
Appendix B Developing an Oral Presentation 387
Appendix C Creating a Poster 389
Appendix D Answers to Chapter Review Questions 393
Appendix E Statistical Tables 409
Students who are curious and who like solving puzzles are idealcandidates for a course in psychological research methods. Wedeveloped this book in order to meet the needs of students who arelearning to think like psychologists. We assume that you havealready completed at least one course in psychology and havedeveloped an interest in the discipline, so you are ready to applyyour knowledge to ask and answer questions about thought, attitude,and behavior.
We also think that you are probably uncertain about the prospectof learning about statis-tics and the methods of research.Throughout the book, we have tried to show how the content of thiscourse involves tools for understanding people. What is mostimportant is that these tools help us learn about people and otheranimals. So we worked to create a book that will not let you losesight that psychologists focus on questions about what people doand why they do it.
To benefit from your course on asking and answering researchquestions about people, you only need to bring your sense ofcuriosity and a willingness to puzzle through the complexities ofbehavior. It is not always an easy task, but it is an interestingtask. And at the end of a research project, you know something thatnobody else in the world knows; you have created knowledge throughyour research that helps us advance, one step at a time, what weknow about people.
Throughout the book, we have tried to make our writing as clearand accessible to you as possible. There are technical terms thatyou need to learn and understand, but we strove to minimize wordingthat would distract you from the points that we think you shouldknow. As we progress through each chapter, our goal is to help yougradually build your skill set. First, we introduce basic tools forunderstanding research, then we show how you use those tools. Ateach step along the way, your knowledge will grow until, at the endof the course, you will understand the process of planning aresearch project, carrying it out, and then drawing conclusionsabout the question that interests you. And, as we mentioned before,at the end of your project, you will know something that nobodyelse in the world knows. You will have created a new nugget ofknowledge.
In order to think like a psychologist, you have to acquire someskills that you may not already have. These skills include theability to formulate a question that can be answered throughpsychological, scientific procedures; to develop a plan forarriving at a valid answer; and to draw conclusions that aresound.
You must also learn how to analyze data that you might collectto answer a research question. We explain basic statisticalconcepts using a clear and direct approach. We focus on helping youto understand how and why to use statistics rather than emphasizingcalculations of statistics. After all, statistical software is veryuseful for performing the actual calculations.
As you learn the tools of research, we will show you howpsychologists have studied interesting topics using those tools.Previous research is often the key to developing new projects. Withthe diversity of topics we provide in this book, you will be ableto see the diver-sity of projects that psychologists undertake. Wealso give ideas about how to extend previous research. To help yousolidify your knowledge, we have created problem sets for you touse to check your progress.
In addition, we have provided guidance for writing researchreports. Psychologists typically use the style of the AmericanPsychological Association. There are a lot of details, but we haveoutlined them in a way that will make it possible for you to createa report that conforms closely to APA style. Beyond the writtenreport, we have also included ways to enhance a poster presentationof your work and an oral presentation.
The book has six sections, each with its own focus. The firstsection (Chapter 1) intro-duces you to the general principles ofscientific research. The second section (Chapters 2 to 5) providespractical guidance for creating a sound research project. The thirdsection (Chapters 6 to 10) describes how to set up experiments andanalyze data to draw conclusions about behavior. The fourth section(Chapters 11 to 13) provides information about nonexperimentaltypes of research, like surveys and case studies and ways to makesense of the data. The fifth section (Chapter 14) shows howindividual and cultural differences can affect research results.This final chapter is unique to this book; most treatments ofresearch methods do not consider the effects of culture, race,ethnicity, gender, and so forth in research. We have tried toremedy this shortcoming to account for these important issues.
In order to help instructors with their work, we have includedsupplements to this book. The instructors’ manual includes manyactivities that will help students to actively engage in creatingresearch designs and interpreting statistical analyses. Laboratoryand data-collection exercises will help students understand howpsychologists actually collect and analyze data. The data sets willbe particularly useful for small classes that may not have enoughstudents to generate data with sufficient power to detect realdifferences across groups or correlations among variables. The datasets are the result of participation of students across manysemesters.
We also provide instructors with PowerPoint slides that will aidin presenting information to students in a traditional classsetting or in an online format. A set of testing materials forevalu-ating student progress is also available to faculty. Weprovide questions in a variety of formats to aid instructors indesigning tests that might be used in a variety of instructionalformats.
We are happy to acknowledge the people who have helped us bringthis project to a success-ful conclusion. They include a group offastidious reviewers who provided very helpful feedback during thedevelopment of the book: Pam Ansburg, Metropolitan State College,Denver; Joan Bihun, University of Colorado, Denver; Alaina Brenick,University of Maryland; Jay Brown, Texas Wesleyan University;Stephen Burgess, Southwestern Oklahoma State University; PamelaCosta, Tacoma Community College; Alyson Froehlich, University ofUtah; Don Hantula, Temple University; Constance Jones, CaliforniaState University, Fresno; David Kreiner, University of CentralMissouri; Marianne Lloyd, Seton Hall University; Bryan Myers,University of North Carolina, Wilmington; Katia Shkurkin, St.Martin’s University; and Eric Stephens, University of theCumberlands. We also want to thank Martin and Terry Jorgensen,Kennesaw State University, and Sue Franz, Highlands CommunityCollege, for their technical help.
In addition, we appreciate the work of our editors SusanHartman, Jeff Marshall, Stephen Frail, Roberta Sherman, and MadelynSchricker from Pearson Education, who we could count on to help ussolve problems and keep the book moving in the right direction. Ourthanks also go to Karen Berry at Laserwords, who guided us throughthe editing details. Barney Beins rec-ognizes that none of thiswould be nearly as meaningful without his wonderful family, Linda,Agatha, and Simon. Maureen McCarthy recognizes her brothers Tom andDan McCarthy for their insights into the world of studentlearning.
Research Methods and Statistics
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PSYCHOLOGY, SCIENCE, AND LIFE
■ Identify and describe the four basic goals of science.
■ Explain why falsifiability is important in scientificresearch.
■ Define the five different ways of knowing.
■ Explain the advantages of using the scientific approach toknowing.
■ Describe the four characteristics of scientific research.
■ Explain how science is driven by government, culture, andsociety.
■ Explain how researchers try to generalize from laboratoryresearch to the natural world.
■ Differentiate between science and pseudoscience.
■ Identify the general characteristics of pseudoscience.
WHY ARE RESEARCH METHODS IMPORTANT TOOLS FOR LIFE?
Creating KnowledgeAnswering Important Questions
WHY WE DO RESEARCH
WHAT CONSTITUTES SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE?
Science Is ObjectiveScience Is Data Driven
Science Is Replicable and VerifiableScience Is Public
THE INTERACTION OF SCIENCE AND CULTURE
The Government’s Role in ScienceCultural Values and Science
CONTROVERSY: SHOULD WOMEN SERVE AS JURORS?
Science and PseudoscienceWarning Signs of Bogus ScienceJunkScience
CONTROVERSY: WHAT CAUSES AUTISM?
2 Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life
You probably know a great deal about people and some interestingand important facts about psychology, but you probably knowrelatively little about psychological research. This book will showyou how research helps you learn more about people from apsychological point of view. You can be certain of one thing: Thereare no simple explanations.
When you read through this chapter, you will learn that thereare different ways of knowing about behavior. As a beginningpsychologist, you will get a glimpse about why some types ofknowledge are more useful than others. In addition, you will seethat people can be resistant to changing what they believe. Forinstance, a lot of people believe in ESP or other paranormalphenomena, even though the scientific evidence for it just isn’tthere. One reason for such beliefs is that most people don’tapproach life the same way that scientists do, so the evidence theyaccept is sometimes pretty shaky.
Finally, this chapter will introduce you to some of the cautionsyou should be aware of when you read about psychological researchin the popular media. Journalists are not scientists and scientistsare not journalists, so there is a lot of potential formiscommunication between the two.
Why Are Research Methods Important Tools for Life?
The great thing about psychology is that people are bothinteresting and complicated, and we get to learn more about them.As you learn more, you will see that there can be a big differ-encebetween what we think we know about behavior and what is actuallytrue. That is why you need this course.
Your course on research begins the process of learning about howpsychological knowl-edge emerges. This knowledge can be useful whenapplied to people’s lives. For instance, even four years after adomestic terrorist destroyed a federal building in Oklahoma City,killing 168 people, about half the survivors were still sufferingfrom some kind of psychiatric illness (North et al., 1999). Thispattern mirrors the effects of the terrorist attacks in the UnitedStates in 2001, the devastation and hurricane damage in Louisianain 2005, and the experiences of many soldiers in combat in Iraq andAfghanistan, indicating the critical need to provide effec-tivetreatments (Humphreys, 2009).
We don’t have to rely on such extreme examples of the use ofpsychological research. For example, scientists have suggested thatsome people suffer from addiction to indoor tan-ning (Zeller etal., 2006), with some people showing withdrawal symptoms when theresearch-ers experimentally blocked the physiological effects oftanning (Kaur et al., 2006).
Another complex question relating to everyday life has involvedsomething as seem-ingly noncontroversial as the Baby Einstein DVDsthat purport to enhance language learning. Researchers have foundthat with increasing exposure to the Baby Einstein videos, languagedevelopment actually slows down (Zimmerman, Christakis, &Meltzoff, 2007). In fact, Chris-takis (2009) has claimed that thereis no experimental evidence indicating any advantages for languagedevelopment in young infants. The developer of the videos makes theopposite claim. So how should we respond?
The only way to address such issues is to do research, whichmeans that we need to cre-ate knowledge where it does not alreadyexist. It might sound strange to think of “creating” knowledge, butthat is exactly what happens in research. You end up withinformation that didn’t exist before. This is one of the excitingparts of doing research: When you complete a study, you knowsomething that nobody else in the world knows.
Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life 3
In reading textbooks or journal articles, we might get theimpression that we can carry out a research project and anexplanation jumps clearly out of the results. In reality, there isalways uncertainty in research. When we plan our investigations, wemake many decisions about our procedures; when we examine ourresults, we usually have to puzzle through them before we areconfident that we understand what we are looking at. In textbooksand journals, we only see the end product of ideas that have workedout successfully, and we do not see the twists and turns that ledto those successes.
In this course, we will see that research requires imagination,creativity, and ingenu-ity in developing knowledge. If we want toaddress the question of indoor tanning addiction (or any otherbehavior), we need to understand how we can create knowledge, whichis what a course in research methods is all about.
This course in research methods will also help you prepare for apossible future in psy-chology. If you attend graduate school, youwill see that nearly all programs in psychology require anintroductory psychology course, statistics, and research methods orexperimental psychology. Most programs do not specify much morethan that. Your graduate school profes-sors want you to know howpsychologists think; research-based courses provide you with thisknowledge. Those professors will provide courses that will help youlearn the skills appropriate for your career after you develop thebasics. As a psychologist, you also need to understand the researchprocess so you can read scientific journals, make sense of theresearch reports, and keep abreast of current ideas. Even if youdon’t choose a career as a researcher, you can still benefit fromunderstanding research. Many jobs require knowledge of statisticsand research.
In addition, every day you will be bombarded by claims thatscientists have made break-throughs in understanding variousphenomena. It will be useful for you to be able to evalu-atewhether to believe what you hear. One of the purposes of a coursein research is to help you learn how to think critically about thethings people tell you. Is their research sound? Is the conclusionthey draw the best one? Do they have something to gain from gettingcertain results? This process of critical thinking is a hallmark ofscience, but it is also a useful tool in everyday life.
Answering Important Questions
There are many important scientific questions in need ofanswers. The journal Science (2005) listed what some scientists seeas the top 25 questions that society needs to address. At leastfive of these are associated with issues that psychologists canhelp address:
• What is the biological basis of consciousness?• How arememories stored and retrieved?• How did cooperative behaviorevolve?• To what extent are genetic variation and personal healthlinked?• Will the world’s population outstrip the world’scapability to accommodate 10 billion
These questions deal with behavior, either directly orindirectly. As such, psychologists will need to be involved inproviding portions of the answers to each of these questions.
Of the next 100 important questions, 13 are psychological andbehavioral, at least in part. These questions appear in Table 1.1,along with the areas of psychology to which they relate. As you cansee, regardless of your specific interest in psychology, you willbe able to find important questions to answer.
4 Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life
After you complete this course in research methods, you will beable to apply your new knowledge to areas outside of psychology.The research skills you pick up here will let you complete solidpsychological research projects, but will also help you understandlife better.
Why We Do Research
People are curious, social beings. As a result, most of us areinterested in what others are up to and why. By the time you readthis book, you have been observing others since childhood. You haveprobably become a sophisticated observer of others’ behaviors andcan predict pretty well how your friends will react if you act acertain way, at least some of the time. How did you gain thisknowledge? Throughout your life, you have done things and then youobserved the effect you had on others. Although you probably havenot gone through life wearing the stereotypical white lab coat wornby some scientists, you have acted like a scientist when youdiscovered that “When I do this, they do that.” One of thedifferences between scientific and nonscientific observation,though, is that scientists develop systematic plans, and we work toreduce bias in recording observations. In the end, however,curiosity and enjoyment in finding out about behavior underlies thereason why researchers do their work—they think it is fun.
As curious scientists, we generally work toward fourincreasingly difficult goals based on our observations:description, explanation, prediction, and control of behavior.
Our tendency to act and then to observe others’ reactionsfulfills what seems to be a basic need for us: describing the worldaround us. In fact, when you can describe events around you, youhave taken the first step in scientific discovery. In research,description involves a systematic approach to observingbehavior
In your course on behavioral research, you will learn how, asscientists, we systemati-cally begin to understand why people actas they do. The biggest difference between what you
Description—A goal of science in which behav-iors aresystematically and accurately characterized.
TABLE 1.1 Psychological Questions Listed Among the TopUnanswered Questions in Science (2005) Magazine and the Areas ofPsychology Associated with Them
Area of Psychology Question
Social psychology What are the roots of human culture?
Cognitive psychology What are the evolutionary roots of languageand music?
Biological bases of behavior/Cognitive psychology Why do wesleep?
Personality/Learning Why do we dream?
Biological bases of behavior What synchronizes an organism’scircadian clocks?
Comparative psychology/Learning How do migrating organisms findtheir way?
Social psychology/Biological bases of behavior What is thebiological root of sexual orientation?
Abnormal psychology What causes schizophrenia?
Developmental psychology Why are there critical periods forlanguage learning?
Personality theory/Biological bases of behavior How much ofpersonality is genetic?
Biological bases of behavior Do pheromones influence humanbehavior?
Developmental psychology/Biological bases of behavior Whatcauses autism?
Personality theory Is morality hardwired into the brain?
Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life 5
do in your everyday observations and what scientists do is thatscientists pay attention to a lot of details that we normally thinkof as unimportant. Unlike most of us in everyday, casualobservation, researchers develop a systematic plan for makingobjective observations so we can generate complete and accuratedescriptions.
This leads to the second goal of science, explanation. When wetruly understand the causes of behavior, we can explain them. Thisis where theory comes in. A theory helps us understand behavior ina general sense. In scientific use, a theory is a general,organizing principle. When we have enough relevant informationabout behavior, we can develop an explanatory framework that putsall of that information into a nice, neat package—that is, into atheory.
In order to develop a theory, we look at the facts that webelieve to be true and try to develop a coherent framework thatlinks the facts to one another. The next step is to test the theoryto see if it successfully predicts the results of new research. Sowe generate hypotheses, which are educated guesses, aboutbehaviors, and we test those hypotheses with research. The researchshows us whether our hypotheses are correct; if so, the theoryreceives further support.
If enough of our hypotheses support a theory, we regard it asmore useful in under-standing why people act in a certain way; ifthose hypotheses do not support the theory, we need to revise orabandon the theory. When we conduct research, we should have anopen mind about an issue; we might have preconceived ideas of whatto expect, but if we are wrong, we should be willing to change ourbeliefs. Scientists do not revise or abandon theories based on asingle research study, but after enough evidence accumulatesshowing that a theory needs revision, then we work to determinewhat would constitute a better model of the behavior inquestion.
When we examine hypotheses, we make them objective and testable.This means that we define our terms clearly so others know howexactly what we mean, and we specify how our research will assesswhether a hypothesis is valid. One of the important elements of thescientific method is falsifiability. That is, we will testhypotheses to see if we can prove them wrong. Scientists do notbelieve that you can prove that an idea or theory is absolutelytrue. There may be a case that you have missed that would disprovethe theory. But we can see when the theory breaks down, that is,when it is falsified. The best we can do is to try to falsify thetheory through continual testing. Each time we try and fail tofalsify the theory, we have greater confidence in it.
For decades, people have used Freudian (psychodynamic) orbehavioral theories to try to understand behavior. Both approacheshave generated useful ideas about human behavior and have beenaccepted, at least in part, by the general public. You can see theimpact of Freudian theory if you consider some of Freud’s termsthat have gained currency in everyday language, like repression,penis envy, or Freudian slips.
Some psychologists believe that many of Freud’s ideas are notscientifically valid. In fact, when Freudian ideas have beensubjected to experimentation, they often have not stood up well. Ina perspective as complicated as psychodynamic theory, though, thereis still disagreement about the scientific status of ideas such asunconscious processing of information, and some psychologistsmaintain that Freudian ideas have received support from research(Westen, 1998). Many psychologists today believe that Freud was agood observer of what people do and think but that his explanationsof those behaviors were not valid.
Behavioral terms have also made their way into everydaylanguage, as when people talk about positive or negativereinforcement. In the case of behaviorism, most psychologists
Explanation—A goal of science in which a researcher achievesawareness of why behav-iors occur as they do.
Falsifiability—A char-acteristic of science such that anyprinciple has to be amenable to testing to see if it is true or,more specifically, if it can be shown to be false.
6 Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life
affirm that it is a truly scientific approach. The ideas areobjective and testable; in a wide variety of research programs, theutility of behavioral ideas has been well established. Theprinciple of falsifiability is relevant here because theories aresupposed to generate new ideas. If we can’t test those ideas to seeif they withstand scrutiny, the theory isn’t very useful.
In research, we use hypotheses to make predictions aboutbehavior; theories are useful for helping us explain why ourpredictions are accurate. As psychologists, we use theory toexplain behavior. Our explanations differ from the ones we generatein everyday life in that scientific explanations involvewell-specified statements of when behaviors will or will notoccur.
After you describe what people are likely to do in a certainsituation, the next logical step is to expand your knowledge beyondsimple description. The third step is to predict behavior. Supposeyou tell a story. You are likely to make a prediction about howyour friends will react to it. In considering whether to tell thestory, you are making a prediction about their response. Every timeyou tell a story, you are engaging in a kind of experiment, makinga prediction about the outcome. Naturally, you are sometimes wrongin your prediction because people are not easy to figure out.
Similarly, in any kind of research, scientists sometimes makepoor predictions. When that happens, we try to figure out why thepredictions were wrong and attempt to make better ones next time. Abig difference between casual and scientific predictions is thatscientists generally specify in great detail what factors lead to agiven outcome. For most of us in every-day life, we have a vaguenotion of what behaviors to expect from others and, as a result,will accept our predictions as true if somebody behaves in waysthat are roughly approximate to what we expected. There is a lot ofroom for error.
In our relationships with others, we find it helpful to describeand to predict their behaviors because it gives us a sense ofcontrol; we know in advance what will happen. At the same time,most of us want to know even more. We want to know why people actas they do. This is a difficult process because people’s behaviorsarise for a lot of reasons.
The final step in the scientific study of behavior is control.Some people may ask whether it is right for us to try to controlothers’ behaviors. Most psychologists would respond that we affectothers’ behaviors, just as they affect ours. It is not a matter ofshould we control behavior, but rather how does it happen. Forexample, parents try to raise children who show moral behavior. Itwould be reassuring to parents if they knew how to create suchbehavior in their children.
In order to exert control of behavior effectively, we need tounderstand why the behav-ior occurs as it does. To understand theelements of control, we need to have well formulated theories. Atthis point, we don’t have a single theory of behavior that cancapture the variety of human experience.
Psychologists with different theoretical orientations may usesimilar statements in describing behavior, but they will begin todiverge when making predictions, become even more differentregarding explanation, and even more so with respect to control.Table 1.2 sum-marizes the four different goals of science and howpsychologists have used them at various points in their researchprograms.
Prediction—A goal of science in which a researcher can specifyin advance those situa-tions in which a particular behavior willoccur.
Control—A goal of science in which a researcher can manipulatevariables in order to pro-duce specific behaviors.
Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life 7
What Constitutes Scientific Knowledge?
There are different paths to factual knowledge in our lives. Wewill see that not all roads to knowledge are equally useful. Thenineteenth-century American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce(1877) identified several ways of knowing, which he calledtenacity, authority, the a priori method, and the scientificapproach. He concluded that the best approach was the scientificone.
Tenacity involves simply believing something because, based onyour view of the world and your assumptions, you don’t want to giveup your belief. People do this all the time; you have probablydiscovered that it can be difficult to convince people to changetheir minds. However, if two people hold mutually contradictorybeliefs, both cannot be true. According to Peirce, in a “sanermoment,” we might recognize that others have valid points, whichcan shake our own beliefs.
Tenacity—The mode of accepting knowledge because one iscomfort-able with it and simply wants to hold onto it.
Authority—The mode of accepting knowledge because a person in aposition of authority claims that something is true or valid.
TABLE 1.2 Example of the Goals of Research and How They Relateto the Development of Knowledge
Description One evening in 1964, a woman named Kitty Genovesewas attacked and murdered while walking home from work at 3 a.m. inQueens, New York. It was originally—and mistakenly—reported thatthirty-eight people saw what was happening from their apartmentwindows, but nobody helped; nobody even called the police.
Two psychologists (e.g., Latané and Darley, 1970) wondered whythis might happen. Their first step in understanding thisphenomenon was to describe what happened. Based on descriptions ofthe initial event, Darley and Latané (1968) investigated some ofthe implications of Genovese’s murder as they relate to helpingbehavior.
This event was so striking that it led to an enormous amount ofresearch and analysis (e.g., Cunningham, 1984; Takooshian &O’Connor, 1984) and stands as a prime example of research thatresults from something that occurs outside the laboratory.(Manning, Levine, and Collins  have identified some importantdis-crepancies between the actual events and what has beenreported, but that does not detract from the important researchthat emerged based on what people thought had happened.) (SeeCialdini, 1980, for a discussion of using naturally occurringevents as a basis for behavioral research.)
Explanation Once we can document and predict events, we can tryto explain why behaviors occur. Psychologists have identified someof the underlying factors that may help us understand why people donot help others. As Darley and Latané (1968) have noted, when thereare more people around, we are less likely to notice that somebodyneeds help and, even when we notice, we are less likely to offeraid. Part of this failure to act involves what has been calleddiffusion of responsibility; that is, when others are around, wecan pass blame for our inaction to them, assuming less (or none)for ourselves.
Prediction We can try to determine those conditions wherehelping behavior is likely to occur. Helping occurs as people tryto avoid feeling guilty (Katsev et al., 1978), and helpingdiminishes if people have been relieved of guilt (Cialdini, Darby,& Vincent, 1973). In addition, if people believe that anotherindividual is similar to them, they will help (Batson et al.,1981).
Helping behavior involves complicated dynamics, so it will bedifficult to identify precisely those condi-tions in which helpingwill occur, but we have identified some variables that allow us tomake generally accu-rate predictions.
Control Once we are confident of our predictions, we canultimately control behavior. Behaviors in everyday life are seldomcontrolled by a single variable, but we can control behavior to adegree by manipulating the relevant variables.
Programs to help poverty-stricken people often rely on guilt orempathic pleas. Depending on the particu-lars of the circumstances,we may help others if our mood is positive because we tend togeneralize our good mood to everything around us (Clark &Teasdale, 1985); or we may help if our mood is negative, but wethink that helping somebody will improve our mood (Manucia,Baumann, & Cialdini, 1984). Knowledge of these effects can helpus control behaviors.
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An alternative to an individual’s belief in what is true, Peircethought, could reside in what authorities say is true. Thisapproach removes the burden from any single person to makedecisions; instead, one would rely on an expert of some kind.Peirce talked about authorities who would force beliefs underthreat of some kind of penalty, but we can generalize to anyacceptance of knowledge because somebody whom we trust sayssomething is true. As Peirce noted, though, experts with differentperspectives will hold different beliefs. How is one to know whichexpert is actually right?
He then suggested that people might fix their knowledge based onconsensus and rea-soned argument, the a priori approach. Theproblem here, he wrote, was that reasons for believing somethingmay change over time, so what was seen as true in the past maychange. If we want to know universal truths, he reasoned, the mostvalid approach is through science, which is objective andself-correcting. Gradually, we can accumulate knowledge that isvalid and discard ideas that prove to be wrong.
One of the major differences between scientific knowledge andother kinds of knowledge is that scientific work is much moresystematic than casual observation. In addition, researchers abideby certain general principles in deciding what to believe. Ourscientific knowledge relies on the fact that our observations areobjective, data-driven, public, and potentially replicable. We willsee shortly what this means, but what it all comes down to is thefact that, as scientists and as good decision makers, we need toevaluate how well research has been done. If we decide that theinvestigators have done everything correctly, we should be willingto change our minds about what we believe to be true, even if wedon’t like the truth. As it turns out, people are so complicatedthat a single research study will never lead to a complete changein beliefs; the process is incremental, with a series of smallsteps rather than a giant leap. This is why reports ofbreakthroughs are not credible—new knowledge is always the resultof an accumulation of earlier research findings, no matter what youhear on the news.
Science Is Objective
What does it mean for our observations to be objective? Oneimplication is that we define clearly the concepts we are dealingwith. This is often easier said than done. Psychologists deal withcomplex and abstract concepts that are hard to measure.Nonetheless, we have to develop some way to measure these conceptsin clear and systematic ways. For example, suppose we want to findout whether we respond more positively to attractive people than toothers.
To answer our question, we first have to define what we mean by“attractive.” The defi-nition must be objective; that is, thedefinition has to be consistent, clear, and understandable, eventhough it may not be perfect.
Researchers have taken various routes to creating objectivedefinitions of attractiveness. Wilson (1978) simply mentioned that“a female confederate . . . appearing either attractive orunattractive asked in a neutral manner for directions to aparticular building on central campus at a large MidwesternUniversity” (p. 313). This vague statement doesn’t really tell usas much as we would like to know. We don’t have a clear definitionof what the researchers meant by “attractiveness.” Juhnke et al.(1987) varied the attire of people who seemed to be in need ofhelp. The researchers defined attractiveness based on clothing.Unattractive people, that is, those wearing less desirableclothing, received help, even though they did not look veryattractive.
On the other hand, Bull and Stevens (1980) used helpers witheither good or bad teeth. In this case, attractive was defined ashaving good teeth, whereas unattractive was defined as hav-ing badteeth. In this study, it didn’t matter whether a person had goodteeth. People were just as likely to help those with bad teeth,although they were willing to do so for a shorter length oftime.
If the different research teams did not report how they createdan unattractive appear-ance, we would have a harder time evaluatingtheir research and repeating it exactly as they
A priori method—The mode of accepting knowl-edge based on apremise that people have agreed on, followed by reasonedargument.
Scientific approach—The mode of accepting knowledge based onempirically derived data.
Objective—Measure-ments that are not affected by personal biasand that are well-defined and specified are consideredobjective.
Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life 9
did it. It may be very important to know what manipulation theresearchers used. Differences in attractiveness due to the kinds ofclothes you are wearing may not lead to the same reactions asdifferences due to unsightly teeth.
Interestingly, Stokes and Bikman (1974) found that people may beless willing to ask help from attractive people than fromunattractive people. In their study, they defined attrac-tivenesson the basis of physical appearance as rated by other people. Thisstrategy relies on a clear and consistent method of definingattractiveness. Because attractiveness can be defined in many ways,we need to tell others what we mean when we use the term, which iswhat we mean by objectivity.
Science Is Data Driven
Our conclusions as scientists must also be data driven. Thissimply means that our conclu-sions must follow logically from ourdata. There may be several equally good interpretations from asingle set of data. Regardless of which interpretation we choose,it has to be based on the data we collect.
To say that science is based on data is to say that it isempirical. Empiricism refers to the method of discovery that relieson systematic observation and data for drawing conclusions.Psychology is an empirical discipline in that knowledge is based onthe results of research, that is, on data.
The critical point here is that if we are to develop a morecomplete and accurate under-standing of the world around us,scientific knowledge based on data will, in the long run, serve usbetter than intuition alone. Don’t discount intuition entirely;quite a few scientific insights had their beginnings in intuitionsthat were scientifically studied and found to be true. We justcan’t rely on it entirely because intuitions differ across peopleand may change over time.
Science Is Replicable and Verifiable
Our scientific knowledge has to be potentially replicable andverifiable. This means that others should have the opportunity torepeat a research project to see if the same results occur eachtime. Maybe the researchers who are trying to repeat the study willgenerate the same result; maybe they will not. We do not claim thatresults are scientific; rather, we claim that the approach isscientific. Any time somebody makes a claim but will not let othersverify it as valid, we should be skeptical.
Why should one scientist repeat somebody else’s research? As itturns out, there is a bias among journal editors to publishfindings that show differences across groups and to reject studiesshowing no differences. So a relatively large number of researchreports may describe differences that occurred accidentally. Thatis, groups may differ, but not for any systematic or reproduciblereason. If the researcher were to repeat the study, a differentresult would occur.
Ioannidis (2005), referring to genetic and biomedical research,noted that “there is increasing concern that in modern research,false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority ofpublished research claims” (p. 696). His conclusion comes, in part,from a recognition that journal editors and researchers are moreimpressed by findings that show that something interesting occurredbut not by findings that do not reveal interesting patterns.Ioannidis’s speculation may be true for psychological research,just as it is for biologically based studies.
Psychologists have recognized this problem for quite some time(e.g., Rosenthal, 1979). Fortunately, when a research project isrepeated and when the same outcome results, our confidence in theresults increases markedly (Moonesinghe, Khoury, & Janssens,2007). The
Data driven—Interpreta-tions of research that are based onobjective results of a project are considered data driven.
Empirical approach—The method of discovery that relies onsystematic observation and data col-lection for guidance on drawingconclusions.
Replicable—When scien-tists can recreate a previ-ous researchstudy, that study is replicable.
Verifiable—When scien-tists can reproduce a pre-vious researchstudy and generate the same results, it is verifiable.
10 Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life
reason that replication of research is such a good idea is thatit helps us weed out findings that turn out to be false andstrengthen our confidence in findings that are valid.
Sometimes even when researchers follow a completely scientificpath, there can be great controversy in the conclusions about whatthe research is telling us. For instance, in the determination ofthe causes of rape, there are at least two distinctly differentschools of thought. One approach invokes the ideas of evolutionarypsychology. The other is more socially oriented. The arguments areheated, and each camp believes that it has useful insights into theproblem. Both groups have data and theory to support their ideas,although both are clearly still incomplete.
Science Is Public
When we say that our research is public, we mean this literally.Scientists only recognize research as valid or useful when they canscrutinize it. Generally, we accept research as valid if it hasundergone peer review. For instance, when a psychologist completesresearch, the next step is often to write the results in ascientific manuscript and submit it for publication in a researchjournal.
The editor of the journal will send the manuscript to experts inthe field for their com-ments. If the editor and the reviewersagree that major problems have been taken care of, the article willappear in the journal. Otherwise, the article will be rejected.Among major journals in psychology, about a quarter or fewer of allmanuscripts that researchers submit are pub-lished. The process ofpeer review is not perfect, but it is the standard means thatjournal edi-tors use to decide what research to publish in theirjournals. Unfortunately, there is significant disagreement amongreviewers and editors about what manuscripts are published andwhich are rejected (Kravitz et al, 2010).
Another approach to making our research public involvessubmitting a proposal to a research conference for a presentation.The process for acceptance to a conference resembles that foracceptance by a journal. In some cases, researchers may initiallypresent their ideas at a conference, then follow up with apublished article.
The Interaction of Science and Culture
Many people undoubtedly think of science as happening inlaboratories remote from the lives of real people. Nothing could befarther from the truth. Scientists live in communities and go tothe same movies you do, coach their children’s soccer teams, andworry about the same things that you do. Not surprisingly, cultureshapes the research conducted by many scientists because ourculture shapes the way we think. For example, after the terroristattacks in the United States, some person or persons sent anthraxspores through the mail, infecting a number of people and killingsome of them. This spurred increased scientific attention toanthrax.
In addition, in an energy crisis, researchers in psychology,biology, physics, and chem-istry are motivated to study patterns ofenergy-using behavior, the development of biofuels, creation ofefficient technologies, and conservation of energy. Whenenvironmental issues loom, such as the release of massive amountsof oil in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, research-ers in the naturalsciences may be predisposed to focus on ecological issues, andbehavioral researchers will study the impact of the crisis onpeople’s lives and behaviors. Children will receive particularscrutiny because research has revealed their susceptibility topost-traumatic stress disorder in times of catastrophe (La Greca& Silverman, 2009; Osofsky et al., 2009). Psychologists are asmuch a part of the community as anyone, so it should come as nosurprise that our research reflects the needs and concerns of oursociety.
Public—Scientists make their research public, typi-cally bymaking presenta-tions at conferences or by publishing their work injournal articles or books.
Peer review—A proc-ess in which researchers submit theirresearch for publication in a journal or presentation at aconfer-ence to other experts in the field who evaluate theresearch.
Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life 11
Discussions of research ideas are also affected by socialattitudes. After Thornhill and Palmer (2000) proposed evolutionarysuggestions about the causes of rape in The Sciences, theconsequent letters to the editor took an overwhelmingly negativetone (Jennings, 2000; Müller, 2000; Steinberg et al., 2000;Tang-Martínez & Mechanic, 2000).
Can it be that not a single scientist, or even any reader of TheSciences, supported Thornhill and Palmer’s ideas? It is more likelythat people have refrained from writing letters in support of theevolutionary argument because they know that a great many peoplewill criti-cize them for it. We can easily imagine that fear ofreprisal might lead some people to avoid conducting research in thearea. As such, research that might clarify the issue may never takeplace because nobody is willing to pursue it.
The Government’s Role in Science
Societal issues often dictate scientific research, in partbecause of the way money is allocated for research. The federalgovernment funds a great deal of the research that occurs incolleges and universities, where most scientific developmentsoccur. As such, the government plays a large role in determiningwhat kind of research takes place. How does the government decidewhich areas of research should have priority in funding?Ultimately, the decision makers pay attention to issues of pressingimportance to taxpayers. This view simplifies the dynamics of howfederal money is allocated for research, even in the so-called pureand abstract sciences; societal demands affect the types ofquestions that scientists ask. If researchers do not get fundingfor asking one question, they will ask a different question forwhich they can receive financial support.
In the United States, the federal government actively directssome scientific research. For instance, the highly secretiveNational Security Agency employs more mathematicians than any otherorganization in the world (Singh, 1999). These people work onfinding ways to create and break secret codes that affectpolitical, economic, and military activities. Many mathematicianswho research the use of codes do so because the governmentencourages it.
Further, the U.S. government has affected social researchindirectly, sometimes through questionable means. Harris (1980)noted that beginning in the 1930s, the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation (FBI) engaged in surveillance and kept files on theAmerican Psychological Association (APA) and the Society for thePsychological Study of Social Issues, now a divi-sion of APA. TheFBI used informants who reported on colleagues. One incident thatHarris cited involved an individual who informed on a colleague whohad spoken out against racism at the 1969 APA convention. Theresult of such activities by the government, according to Harris,may have been to lead psychologists to abandon some lines ofresearch (e.g., on racial attitudes) because they were toocontroversial.
Cultural Values and Science
Even when governmental interference is not an issue, there arestill cultural aspects to our research. For example, some peoplefeel strongly that a woman should remain at home raising herchildren rather than taking them to a daycare center while sheworks. An examination of the amount of research effort devoted tothe effects of childcare outside the home reveals that fewbehavioral scientists showed much interest in the question untilthe past decade or so. In fact, a search through the primarypsychological database on research, PsycINFO©, reveals that thefirst citation with the term “childcare” in an abstract occurred in1927; for a long time, the use of that term was often associatedwith orphanages. In the early 1900s, the social issue of childcarewas nonexistent. Work then was more likely to center around thehome, and the primary caregivers, the mothers, were less likely towork outside the home than is the case
12 Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life
today. Thus, the issue of the effects of childcare centers onthe development of children was irrelevant to society.
In contemporary life, women’s work has moved from inside thehome to outside, and there are more single parents who must havepaying jobs. The increase in research on the effects of childcarecenters has become important to many people, includingpsychologists, spurring an increase in psychological research onthe topic. The issues are complex, and dif-ferent researchers havegenerated conflicting results, so we still see considerablecontroversy surrounding the topic. Until the issue is resolved,this important societal concern will receive continued attention.Social perspectives also determine what questions are not asked. Inthe case of childcare, the amount of research involving workingfathers is scant.
Another example of the effect of culture on research involves acommonly used tech-nique to assess attitudes and opinions.Psychologists regularly ask people to rate something
CONTROVERSYShould Women Serve as Jurors?
Psychologists are affected by the times in which they work.Their research ideas reflect the social milieu. This point isimportant here because the research that people view as impor-tantin one time may not carry over to another era. For instance, in thefirst decade of the twentieth century, Hugo Münsterberg, one of themost prominent psychologists in the United States at the time,reported the results of investigations of the question of whetherwomen show the appropriate mental processes that would allow themto take part in jury deliberations (Münster-berg, 1914).
He presented a group of men and a group of women a pair ofdisplays that had different numbers of dots and asked them to voteon which display contained more dots. After a group debate of theissue, they voted again.
What does this simple procedure have to do with the way trialsare conducted and whether women should serve as jurors during thosetrials? According to Münsterberg (1914), the psychologist studies“thoughts and emotions and feelings and deeds which move our socialworld. But . . . he must sim-plify them and bring them down to themost elementary situa-tions, in which only the characteristicmental actions are left” (pp. 186–187). As a researcher, you needto simplify complex situations so you can study each importantissue individually, without being affected by complicating factors.We still do this today in psychological research; in fact,scientists in every discipline do this because reality is toocomplex to be studied in its fullest extent in a single study.
In Münsterberg’s research, at a final vote, the percent-ageaccuracy for the men went from guessing (52%) to reason-ablyaccurate (78%). Women, on the other hand, began at 45% correct andstayed unimproved at 45%.
Münsterberg concluded that women were too stubborn to benefitfrom group discussions; they would not change their
minds when confronted with evidence. He asserted that thedif-ference in the way men and women respond to debate “makes themen fit and the women unfit for the particular task which societyrequires from the jurymen” (p. 198). When he pub-lished hisconclusions, quite a number of people argued against them,including many women.
A few years later, another psychologist, Harold Burtt (1920)conceptually replicated Münsterberg’s study. Burtt asked women andmen to try to detect when people were lying to them in a laboratorystudy involving simulated trial witnesses. The participants thendiscussed the veracity of the witness and decided again. Burttfound that men and women were equally proficient in their abilityto use debate to arrive at reasonable conclusions.
Burtt’s conclusion was that women were as suitable for jury workas men were. In fact, he reported that men were more willing toattribute lies to simulated witnesses who were actually telling thetruth. Does this suggest that women are more appropriate for jurydeliberation than men are? It is most likely that sex has little todo with ability to serve competently on a jury.
It is interesting and important to be aware that nei-therMünsterberg nor Burtt ever hinted that they should ask the questionof whether men should sit on juries. This is an important factbecause it reveals that the social environment influences whatquestions are asked as well as what questions are not asked. If weintend to use our research to help answer real-life problems, weneed to remember that no single experi-ment is going to answer acomplex social question, but each one provides a small part of theanswer. Our decisions will be better if we base them on soundresearch, but we also need to remember that we have to evaluate theresearch to see if it adequately answers the questions we areasking.
Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life 13
on a scale of one to seven. (Technically, this is called aLikert-type scale, named after the American psychologist RensisLikert, who pioneered this popular technique.) The use of such ascale may not be appropriate for people in cultures different thanours because it calls for a certain mindset that others don’t sharewith us (Carr, Munro, & Bishop, 1995). People in non-Westerncultures may not think it makes sense to assess a complex concepton a simple rating scale. We tend to assume that others think as wedo, but such an assumption may lead to research results that lackvalidity. Greater numbers of psychologists are addressing theseconcerns and focusing more systematically on cultural issues inresearch (see Beins, 2011; Matsumoto, 1994; Price & Crapo,1999).
A person’s culture determines not only what behaviors are ofinterest, but how those behaviors are studied. Cultural perspectivealso influences how scientists interpret their data. An interestingexample of the way that societal topics affect research occurred asHugo Münsterberg (1914) decided to study whether women should beallowed to partici-pate on juries. This topic is irrelevant now,but in the early 1900s, it was controversial. Some people thoughtthat women wouldn’t do as good a job on a jury as men did. TheControversy on female jurors presents the issues, which shed lighton how attitudes change as cultures change.
Even if you don’t engage in research yourself, it is importantto be scientifically literate in our society. News about scienceabounds on the Internet, on television, and in newspapers andmagazines. In addition, voters must decide about scientific issues,like whether the federal or state governments should fund stem cellresearch or should act to prevent possible global warming. In orderto understand the issues, citizens need to understand the nature ofscientific research.
Scientific literacy is a specialized form of critical thinking,which involves developing clear and specific questions, collectingand assessing relevant information, identifying impor-tantassumptions and perspectives, and generating effective solutions toproblems (Scriven & Paul, 2007). These are all goals associatedwith conducting research.
Are people as scientifically literate as they should be?Unfortunately, research has sug-gested that about 28% of Americansqualify as being scientifically literate (Miller, 2007a, 2007b).This figure is low, but it actually represents progress. In the1980s and early 1990s, only about 10% were scientificallyliterate.
How can you develop scientific literacy? One way to foster suchliteracy is to learn about and to conduct research (Beins, 2010;Holmes, 2010; Holmes, Beins, & Lynn, 2007; Macias, 2010).Knowledge of the process of doing research appears to facilitate anaware-ness of the scientific process. More specifically, trainingin psychological research prepares a person for the kind ofthinking associated with scientific literacy and critical thinkingas well as training in other scientific disciplines (Lehman,Lempert, & Nisbett, 1988). Similarly, taking psychology coursesin general appears to be related to increased scientific literacy(Beins, 2010).
One issue that requires a high level of scientific literacyconcerns the claim that mercury in vaccines causes autism. Thesituation is complex, but researchers have gener-ated data toaddress the issue. People need to be able to weigh the evidence ina scientifi-cally literate manner in order to draw validconclusions. This controversy involves the intersection ofscientific knowledge, public policy, and the needs of people whoselives are affected by autism. The Controversy on autism on page 17provides a glimpse into these issues.
Questions for Discussion:
Do you believe that research projects like those of Münster-bergand Burtt could potentially contribute answers to social questions?Should we conclude that women are unfit for jury duty? Yourconclusions should rest on data rather than on mere opinion.
14 Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life
Science and Pseudoscience
Various people believe in phenomena that scientists reject asbeing invalid. For instance, many patients and some medicalpractitioners believe that homeopathic medicine is effective intreat-ing physical illness. According to mainstream medicalworkers, homeopathy is not effective and is not even scientificallybased.
Homeopathic medicines contain ingredients that have been sodiluted that a dose may not even have a single molecule of thesubstance associated with a supposed cure. Furthermore, controlledscientific studies have demonstrated a lack of effectiveness ofhomeopathic treat-ments. The few studies that show an effectgenerally reveal weak effects and may be meth-odologically flawed.Why do such people refuse to change their beliefs about thisapproach? There are many reasons, but one of them is that believersdo not approach homeopathy through a scientific framework. Theirbelief in homeopathy stems more from a reliance on tenacity orauthority.
Belief in paranormal phenomena like ESP, astrology, mentaltelepathy, and ghosts is perhaps more prevalent in the UnitedStates than belief in homeopathy. Although scien-tists firmlyreject the existence of such phenomena, surveys have revealed thatnearly three- quarters of all Americans believe in at least some ofthese things (Moore, 2005). If you look at Figure 1.1, you will seethe disconnect between the general public and scientists. Why do somany people lend credibility to these ideas when the majority ofscientists who have studied these things have found essentially nosupport for them? A number of years ago the magician James Randi(whose stage name is The Amazing Randi) issued a challenge that hewould award $1,000,000 to anybody who could demonstrate paranormalphenomena that he could not successfully disprove through rigoroustesting. To date, nobody has been able to do so, although somepeople have tried.
Year (source of data)
FIGURE 1.1 Percentage of Respondents Who Claim to Believe inSome Kind of Paranormal Phenomenon in Different Studies
Sources: 1973 and 1998 (GB): Radford (1998), nonrandom samplesfrom Great Britain; 1976 and 1997: Nisbet (1998), random samplesfrom the United States; 1981: Singer and Benassi (1981), randomsamples from the United States; 1998 (NAS), sample of members ofthe National Academy of Sciences in the United States; 2005: Randomsample from the United States
Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life 15
Most scientists reject the notion that paranormal phenomenaexist. The most notable reason for scientific skepticism is that,under controlled conditions, the evidence for phenom-ena like ESPor mental telepathy remarkably disappear. Before we do theresearch, we should have an open mind about the issue, but we needto abandon such beliefs if research shows no evidence of theirexistence. Some recent research has made the news in this regard.Psycholo-gist Daryl Bem (2011) made the news by publishing researchthat purports to demonstrate the existence of precognition. Quite afew researchers and statisticians called his methodology and hisresults into question. For example, Alcock (2011) pointed out thatthe same claims that Bem has made have occurred over the pastcentury, and have always been shown to be invalid. We will not knowhow this debate ends until additional researchers attempt toreplicate Bem’s studies.
Another basis for rejection of paranormal phenomena is that mostof the explanations offered for such events are inconsistent withthe physical laws that scientists recognize. If there is no way toexplain a phenomenon, scientists are reluctant to accept it asvalid. So some-times researchers have failed to accept new ideasbecause they could not explain those ideas. Regarding paranormalphenomena, the well-established laws of physics that have led toour current marvels of technology cannot explain something likeESP. The failure to explain how the paranormal could occur and theinability to document these phenomena in the laboratory have madescientists reluctant to embrace them.
From the viewpoint of many psychologists, the term“parapsychology” is seen as unfor-tunate because it links ourscientifically oriented discipline with pseudoscience. We regard adiscipline as pseudoscientific when it claims that its knowledgederives from scientific research but fails to follow the basicprinciples of science.
Many scientists have worked to dispel pseudoscientific myths(e.g., Radner & Radner, 1982; Zusne & Jones, 1989), as haveother critical thinkers, like James Randi. There are alsopublications that foster critical thinking about such issues, likeThe Skeptical Inquirer. This periodical exists to examine anddebunk claims of paranormal phenomena. When scrutinized, claims infavor of paranormal phenomena don’t hold up well. Table 1.3reflects some of the major characteristics of pseudoscience.
In general, pseudosciences are characterized by a reliance onflimsy and questionable evidence, a resistance to change or furtherdevelopment of theory, a lack of ways to test the ideas, avoidanceof contradictory information, and a lack of critical thought aboutways to develop the theory.
Warning Signs of Bogus Science
As a consumer of research, you can spot some of the issuesassociated with claims that appear to be based on science but thatare not. Even if you are not knowledgeable about the technicalissues associated with a scientific topic, there are some warningsigns that you should be dubious about facts that others claim aretrue, as noted by physicist Robert Park (2003).
The first warning sign is when an investigator publicizes claimsin the popular press rather than in a scientific journal. If anarticle appears in a journal, it will have undergone care-fulscrutiny by professionals in the field. Scientists are skepticalwhen a research claim first appears in the news because otherscientists have probably not assessed its validity.
Second, when somebody claims that the scientific establishmentis trying to suppress research findings, you should be careful. Itmay be difficult to publish radically new findings in a journal, sovalid claims may need a higher standard of proof, but if thefindings result from valid scientific approaches, journals willpublish new work. So even though Bem’s (2011) research onprecognition has no known physical basis and repeats claims thathave been shown
Pseudoscience—A domain of inquiry that has the superficialappearance of being scientific but that does not rely on thecriti-cal scientific principles of objectivity, verifiability,empiricism, and being public.
16 Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life
TABLE 1.3 Characteristics of Pseudoscience
General Characteristics Example
Pseudoscientists believe that there is no more to be learned;they fail to generate testable hypotheses or to conduct objectivetests of theory. There tends to be no advancement of knowl-edge inthe field, which is resistant to change. There are few tests ofprevious claims.
Homeopathic medicine makes claims about cures that are not basedon research. The ideas never change and believers do not conductsystematic tests that would disconfirm their ideas.
Pseudoscience is based on dogma and uncritical belief; there maybe hostility in the face of counterevidence or disagreement.
Creationism is accepted by some as a matter of faith. There isno attempt to subject its tenets to scientific scrutiny. Inaddi-tion, when disagreements arise, believers often showantago-nism toward the individual without dealing with theevidence.
There is a suppression of or distortion of unfavorable data;selective use of data, including looking only for supportiveinformation (confirmation bias).
People who believe that psychics can foretell the future willaccept just about any statement that seems correct but will ignoreerrors in predictions.
Many ideas are not amenable to scientific evaluation; ideas aresubjective and can’t be tested objectively.
There have been claims that we have an undetectable aurasur-rounding us. If it is undetectable, there is to way to verifyits presence.
There is an acceptance of proof with data of questionablevalidity; the lack of evidence is taken as support that a claimcould be true.
Some people conclude that there is evidence for the existence ofUFOs on the basis of anecdotal reports in the popular media orancient myths. There is little or no independent evaluation ofideas, but more a reliance on questionable evidence that is notquestioned.
Personal anecdotes and events that cannot be testedsystemati-cally are used to provide evidence; there is often areliance on “experts” with no real expertise.
Anybody who claims an experience about foretelling the future orwho relates a supposed experience with aliens becomes an expertwhose statements are not to be questioned.
Pseudoscience involves terms that sound like scientific ideas,but the terms are not clearly defined. Often the ideas violateknown scientific principles.
Varieties of extrasensory perception include phenomena liketelekinesis, which sounds scientific. In reality, it is a poorlydefined (and undocumented) notion. Paranormal phenomena do notconform to known physical laws, such as the fact that for all knownforms of energy, the force exerted declines over dis-tance, whichis not the case for ESP, according to its adherents.
Pseudoscientific phenomena are “shy” or “fragile” in that theyoften disappear or weaken noticeably when subjected towell-designed experiments, especially with nonbelievers.
The ability to identify stimuli that are not visible issometimes striking when two believers conduct a study; whenindependent scientists conduct the study, the effect is oftenattenuated or eliminated.
Pseudoscience involves looking for mysteries that have occurredrather than trying to generate and test explanations for thephenomena.
Sometimes people solicit incidents from people that seemunusual. For instance, mystery hunters might look for instanceswhen a person seems to have foretold the future in a dream,ignoring the fact that if you look at enough dreams, you can findcoincidental patterns that resist normal explanations.
Pseudoscientists engage in explanation by scenario. Theyiden-tify a phenomenon and provide an explanation that fits thefacts after they are known but doesn’t provide a means for makingpredictions in advance.
Some years ago, Julian Jaynes suggested that, historically, thetwo hemispheres in the human brain were not connected as they arenow. Thus, brain activity in the right hemisphere was perceived tobe the voices of gods. Unfortunately for this expla-nation, thereis no credible evidence that it is true. In fact, given what weknow about evolution, there is no realistic way that our brainscould have evolved as Jaynes suggested.
Chapter 1 • Psychology, Science, and Life 17
to be invalid, the editor of the journal Personality and SocialPsychology agreed to publish Bem’s work so that it would receivescrutiny from the scientific community.
A third sign to be cautious is when a researcher’s findings aredifficult to detect, thus difficult to verify by an independentjudge. A fourth problem appears when the only data for a discoveryinvolve anecdotes, or stories, that other researchers cannotinvestigate more fully. One of the problems with anecdotes is thatthey can lead to powerful, emotional responses, so people arelikely to accept claims about the stories as being valid. Anunusual occurrence may take place, but scientists are unwilling toaccept it as being real if they cannot investigate how general thephenomenon is.
A fifth warning sign is the claim by the investigator that aphenomenon is real because people have known about it forcenturies. Simply because people have made claims for a long
CONTROVERSYWhat Causes Autism?
Children routinely receive vaccinations to prevent a variety ofillnesses. So it would be ironic if vaccines were responsible forcausing a disorder. Some nonscientists and physicians believe thatthe element mercury that manufacturers used to use as apreservative in vaccines actually causes autism (e.g., Olmstead,2009; Tsouderos & Callahan, 2009). But when scientists haveconducted research to see if there is a connection betweenvac-cinations and autism, the results have revealed no systematiclink between vaccines and autism (e.g., Baker, 2008; Heron,Golding, & ALSPAC Study Team, 2004; Schechter & Grether,2008; Omer et al., 2009).
So where did the controversy arise? And who should we believe?The issue arose because of a confluence of several differentfactors (Baker, 2008).
First, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preven-tion(CDC) recommended in 1999 that mercury-containing preservativethimerosol be removed from vaccinations because of the fear ofmercury poisoning, which can cause develop-mental problems infetuses and children. The CDC drew no connection between mercuryand autism; in fact, no research had implicated thimerosol with anydisease or health problems. The recommendation was purelypreventive.
Second, around the same time, parents of children diagnosed withautism had become active in advocating for the children. Theseparents were reacting against hypotheses that parentinginadequacies were responsible for the onset of autism. One suchhypothesis was Leo Kanner’s and Bruno Bettelheim’s concept thatautism arose because of “refrig-erator mothers” who wereemotionally cold with their chil-dren (Laidler, 2004). The parentswere promoting a medical model to replace the psychoanalyticallybased hypothesis of Kanner and Bettelheim. It was among thiscommunity of advocates that the notion of an epidemic of autismtook root. Experts (e.g., Fombonne, 2001) had predicted that theincreased advocacy and greater awareness of autism would
lead to more diagnoses of autism, which is exactly whathappened.
A third factor was the conclusion by some people that mercury invaccines was the culprit in the supposed epidemic of autism. (It isnot entirely clear if the increase of autism is due to an actualincrease in incidence or to more awareness and betterdiagnosis.)
Prior to the recommendation to remove mercury from vaccines,nobody had associated mercury with autism. How-ever, some peopleconcluded that, because the CDC had rec-ommended removal of mercuryfrom vaccines and because there were some similarities in mercurypoisoning and autistic behavior, mercury must be to blame.
A number of studies have investigated the potentialmercury-autism link. What have researchers concluded? To date,there is no evidence of a causal connection between the two. Infact, the incidence of autism has increased even though mercury hasdisappeared from most vaccines (Schechter & Grether, 2008) andmercury levels in children with autism are no higher than those inchildren without autism (Hertz-Picciotto et al., 2009).
Recently, the B
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