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Chapter 1:

Introducing Psychology
Research Methods
What Is Psychology?

• Psychology
– Psyche: Mind
– Logos: Knowledge or
• Definition: The scientific
study of behavior and
mental processes
Behavior Types

• Directly observable
actions and responses
– Overt; i.e., can be
directly observed
– Covert; i.e., cannot
be directly observed
private, internal
Empirical Evidence

• Information gathered
from direct observation
Psychological Research

• Scientific Observation:
A systematic empirical
investigation that is
structured to answer
questions about the
• Research Method:
Systematic approach to
answering scientific
What Might a Psychologist Research?
• Development: Course of
human growth and
development from
conception to death
• Learning: How and why it
occurs in humans and
• Personality: Traits,
motivations, and individual
• Sensation and Perception:
How we come to know the
world through our five
What Might a Psychologist Research?
• Comparative Psychologists:
Study and compare behavior of
different species, especially
• Biopsychologists: How behavior
relates to biological processes,
especially nervous system
• Cognitive: How reasoning,
problem solving, and other
mental processes relate to
human behavior
• Gender Psychologists: Study
differences between females
and males
What Might a Psychologist Research?

• Social: Human social

• Cultural: How culture
affects human behavior
• Evolutionary: How our
behavior is guided by
patterns that evolved
during human history
What Are the Goals of Psychology?
• Description of Behaviors: Naming and classifying
various observable, measurable behaviors
• Understanding: The causes of behavior(s)
• Prediction: Forecasting behavior accurately
• Control: Altering conditions that influence behaviors
– Positive Use: To control unwanted behaviors,
(e.g., smoking, tantrums, etc.)
– Negative Use: To control peoples’ behaviors
without their knowledge
History of Psychology: Beginnings
• Wilhelm Wundt: “Father” of
– 1879: Set up first lab to
study conscious
– Stimulus: Any physical
energy that affects the
person and provokes a
– Introspection: Looking
inward (i.e., examining
and reporting your
thoughts, feelings, etc.)
– Wundt’s ideas brought to
the U.S. by Tichener and
renamed Structuralism
History of Psychology:
William James and Functionalism
• Functionalism: How the mind
functions to help us adapt to
our environment
– Functionalists admired
Darwin and his theory of
Natural Selection:
• Animals keep physical
features through
evolution that help
them adapt to
History of Psychology: Behaviorism

• Watson and Skinner

– Psychology must
study observable
behavior objectively
– Watson studied Little
Albert with Rosalie
Raynor; Skinner
studied animals
almost exclusively
History of Psychology: Gestalt

• “The whole is greater

than the sum of its
• Key names:
Wertheimer, Perls
• Wertheimer: Mistake to
analyze psychological
events into pieces;
many experiences
cannot be broken into
smaller units
• FIGURE 1.2 The design you see here is entirely made up of broken circles.
However, as the Gestalt psychologists discovered, our perceptions have a
powerful tendency to form meaningful patterns. Because of this tendency,
you will probably see a triangle in this design, even though it is only an
illusion. Your whole perceptual experience exceeds the sum of its parts.
Psychoanalytic Psychology: Freud
• Our behavior is largely influenced
by our unconscious wishes,
thoughts, and desires, especially
sex and aggression
• All thoughts and actions are
determined; nothing is an accident
• Freud performed dream analysis
and was an interactionist
(combination of our biology and
environment make us who we are)
• Recent research has hypothesized
that our unconscious mind is
partially responsible for our

• Unconscious thoughts held out of awareness

because they are threatening
• Rogers
– Goal of psychology is to
study unique aspects of the
person; focuses on
subjective human
– Each person has innate
goodness and is able to
make free choices (contrast
with Skinner and Freud).
• Maslow: Self-actualization:
Develop one’s full potential
and become the best person
you can be
Psychology Today
• Biopsychology: Our
behavior can be
explained through
physiological processes
– Uses brain scans to
gather data (CT,
– Looks at
• Positive Psychology:
Study of human
strengths, virtues, and
optimal behavior
Sociocultural Perspective
• Many thoughts and behaviors are influenced by
our culture
• Psychologists need to be aware of the impact
cultural diversity may have on our behaviors
• What is acceptable in one culture might be
unacceptable in another
• Cultural Relativity: Behavior must be judged
relative to the values of the culture in which it
• Social Norms: Rules that define acceptable and
expected behavior for members of various
• FIGURE 1.3 (a) Specialties in psychology (APA, 2005). Percentages are
approximate. (b) Where psychologists work (APA, 2000). (c) This chart
shows the main activities psychologists do at work (APA, 2000). Any
particular psychologist might do several of these activities during a work
week. As you can see, most psychologists specialize in applied areas and
work in applied settings.

• Usually have masters or doctorate. Trained

in methods, knowledge, and theories of
– Clinical Psychologists: Treat psychological
problems or do research on therapies and
mental illnesses
– Counseling Psychologists: Treat milder
problems, such as poor adjustment at work
or at school

• MD; usually use medications to treat

problems; generally do not have extensive
training in providing “talk” therapy
Many Flavors of Psychologists
• Psychoanalysts: Receive additional Freudian
psychoanalytic training post-Ph.D. or post-
M.D. at an institute
• Counselors: Advisers who help solve
problems with marriage, career, school, or
• Psychiatric Social Workers: Many have
masters degrees and perform psychotherapy
– Use social science principles
– Presently a very popular profession
• Not all psychologists perform therapy!
The Scientific Method
• Six Basic Elements
– Observing
– Defining a problem
– Proposing a hypothesis (an educated guess that
can be tested)
– Gathering evidence/testing the hypothesis
– Publishing results
– Building a theory
• FIGURE 1.5 Psychologists use the logic of science to answer questions about
behavior. Specific hypotheses can be tested in a variety of ways, including
naturalistic observation, correlational studies, controlled experiments, clinical studies,
and the survey method. Psychologists revise their theories to reflect the evidence
they gather. New or revised theories then lead to new observations, problems, and

• Predictable outcome of an
experiment or an educated
guess about the relationship
between variables
• Operational Definition:
States exact procedures
used to represent a concept.
Allows abstract ideas to be
tested in real-world terms
• FIGURE 1.4 Operational definitions are used to link concepts with concrete
observations. Do you think the examples given are reasonable operational
definitions of frustration and aggression? Operational definitions vary in how well
they represent concepts. For this reason, many different experiments may be
necessary to draw clear conclusions about hypothesized relationships in
Naturalistic Observation

• Observing a person or
an animal in the
environment in which
the person or animal
• Observer Effect: Changes in
a subject’s behavior caused
by an awareness of being
• Observer Bias: Occurs when
observers see what they
expect to see or record only
selected details
• Anthropomorphic Error:
Attributing human thoughts,
feelings, or motives to
animals, especially as a way
of explaining their behavior
(e.g., “Anya my cat is acting
like that because she’s
feeling depressed today.”)

• Existence of a consistent, systematic

relationship between two events, measures,
or variables
Coefficient of Correlation

• Statistical index ranging from -1.00 to +1.00

that indicates direction and degree of
– Closer the statistic is to –1.00 or to +1.00,
the stronger the relationship
– Correlation of 0.00 demonstrates no
relationship between the variables
Positive Correlation

• Increases in one measure are matched by

increases in the other measure
Negative Correlation

• Increases in one measure are matched by

decreases in the other measure
Correlation and Causation

• Correlation does not demonstrate causation:

Just because two variables are related does
NOT mean that one variable causes the other
to occur
• FIGURE 1.7 The correlation coefficient tells how strongly two measures are related. These
graphs show a range of relationships between two measures, A and B. If a correlation is
negative, increases in one measure are associated with decreases in the other. (As B gets
larger, A gets smaller.) In a positive correlation, increases in one measure are associated with
increases in the other. (As B gets larger, A gets larger.) The center-left graph (“medium
negative relationship”) might result from comparing anxiety level (B) with test scores (A): Higher
anxiety is associated with lower scores. The center graph (“no relationship”) would result from
plotting a person’s shoe size (B) and his or her IQ (A). The center-right graph (“medium positive
relationship”) could be a plot of grades in high school (B) and grades in college (A) for a group
of students: Higher grades in high school are associated with higher grades in college.

• A formal trial to
confirm/disconfirm a
hypothesis and to
identify cause and effect
Performing an Experiment

• Directly vary a condition you might think

affects behavior
• Create two or more groups of subjects, alike
in all ways except the condition you are
• Record whether varying the condition has any
effect on behavior
• FIGURE 1.1 Results of an empirical study. The graph shows that aggravated
assaults in Los Angeles become more likely as air temperature increases. This
suggests that physical discomfort is associated with interpersonal hostility (Data from
Simister & Cooper, 2005.)

• Any condition that can change and that might

affect the outcome of an experiment
Independent Variable

• Condition(s) altered by the experimenter;

experimenter sets their size, amount, or
value. These are suspected causes for
behavioral differences
Dependent Variable

• Measures the results of the experiment;

Condition is affected by independent variable
Extraneous Variables

• Conditions that a researcher wants to prevent

from affecting the outcomes of the
experiment (e.g., number of hours slept
before the experiment)
• Figure 1.9 Experimental control is achieved by balancing extraneous variables for the
experimental group and the control group. For example, the average age (A),
education (B), and intelligence (C) of group members could be made the same for
both groups. Then we could apply the independent variable to the experimental
group. If their behavior (the dependent variable) changes (in comparison with the
control group), the change must be caused by the independent variable.
• Experimental Group:
The group of subjects
that gets the
independent variable
• Control Group: The
group of subjects that
does NOT get the
independent variable
• Random Assignment:
Subject has an equal
chance of being in
either the experimental
or control group
• FIGURE 1.8 Elements of a simple psychological experiment to assess the effects of
music during study on test scores.

• A fake pill (sugar) or

injection (saline)
• Placebo Effect:
Changes in behavior
that result from
expectations that a drug
or other treatment will
have some effect; the
belief that one has
taken an active drug
Experiment Types

• Single Blind: Only the

subjects have no idea
whether they are in the
experimental or control
• Double Blind: The subjects
AND the experimenters have
no idea whether the subjects
are in the control or
experimental group
– Best type of experiment if
properly set up
Experimenter Effects

• Changes in subjects’
behavior caused by the
unintended influence of
the experimenter’s
• Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
A prediction that leads
people to act in ways to
make the prediction
come true
The Clinical Method

• Case Study: In-depth focus of all aspects of a

single subject
• Natural Clinical Tests: Natural events, such
as accidents, that provide psychological data
• FIGURE 1.10 Some of the earliest information on the effects of damage to frontal
areas of the brain came from a case study of the accidental injury of Phineas Gage.
The Survey Method
• Using public polling techniques
to answer psychological
• Representative Sample: Small
group that accurately reflects a
larger population
– Population: Entire group of
animals or people belonging
to a particular category (e.g.,
all married women)
• Courtesy Bias: Problem in
research; a tendency to give
“polite” or socially desirable
• FIGURE 1.11 If you were conducting a survey in which a person’s height might be an
important variable, the nonrandom sample of shorter people would be very
unrepresentative. The random sample, selected using a table of random numbers,
better represents the group as a whole.
Critical Thinking

• Ability to analyze,
evaluate, compare,
critique, and synthesize
Critical Thinking Principles

• Few truths transcend

the need for empirical
• Judging the quality of
evidence is crucial
• Authority or claimed
expertise does not
automatically make an
idea true
• Critical thinking requires
an open mind
How to Critically Evaluate New
• Ask the following:
– What claims are
being made?
– What test (if any) of
these claims has
been made?
– Who did the test;
how good is the
How to Critically Evaluate New
Information Continued
• Ask the following:
– What was the nature and quality of the tests? Are
they credible and can they be repeated?
– How reliable and trustworthy were the
– How much credibility can the claim be given?
• Pseudo means “false.” Any
unfounded “system” that
resembles psychology and is
NOT based on scientific
testing (“Pseudo” means
• Phrenology: Personality traits
revealed by shape of skull
and bumps on your head
• Palmistry: Lines on your
hands (palms) predict future
and reveal personality
Pseudo-Psychologies Continued
• Graphology: Personality traits
are “revealed” by your
• Astrology: The positions of the
stars and planets at the time of
your birth determine your
personality and affect your
– Extremely popular today
(“What’s your sign?”)
• Uncritical Acceptance: Tendency
to believe positive or flattering
descriptions of yourself
Fallacy of Positive Instances

• When we remember or
notice things that
confirm our
expectations and forget
the rest
Barnum Effect

• Always have a little

something for everyone.
Tendency to consider a
personal description
accurate if it is stated in
very general terms
Psychology in the Media:
Separating Fact from Fiction
• Be skeptical
• Consider the source of
• Ask yourself, “Was
there a control group?”
• Look for errors in
distinguishing between
correlation and
causation (are claims
based on correlational
results yet passed off
as causations?)
Psychology in the Media:
Separating Fact from Fiction- Cont.
• Be sure to distinguish
between observation and
inference (e.g., Robert is
crying, but do we know why
he is crying?)
• Beware of
especially those motivated
by monetary reasons
• “For example” is no proof,
i.e., one example is not proof