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learning successes

At the end of this section you can:

  • Describe the different research methods used by psychologists
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of case studies, nature observations, surveys and archive studies
  • Comparison of longitudinal and cross-sectional research approaches

Psychologists have many research tools at their disposal to understand, describe, and explain behavior and the cognitive and biological processes that underlie it. Some methods rely on observational techniques. Other approaches involve interaction between the researcher and the subjects being studied – from a series of simple questions to lengthy, in-depth interviews to well-controlled experiments.

Each of these research methods has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each method may only be appropriate for certain types of research questions. For example, studies based primarily on observations provide surprising amounts of information, but the applicability of this information to larger populations is limited in part because of small sample sizes. Survey research, on the other hand, allows researchers to easily collect data from relatively large samples. While this makes it easier to generalize results to large populations, the information that can be gathered from any given survey is somewhat limited and can be problematic when dealing with any type of self-reported data. Some researchers conduct archival research using existing records. While this can be a fairly inexpensive way to collect data that can provide insight into some research questions, researchers using this method have no control over how or what type of data is collected. All methods described so far are correlated. This means researchers can talk about important relationships that may exist between two or more variables of interest. However, no statements about cause-effect relationships can be made with correlation data.

Correlation studies can find a relationship between two variables, but only through experiment can the researcher confirm that the relationship between variables is cause and effect. In the empirical research discussed later in this chapter, there is a great deal of control over the variables of interest. While this is a powerful approach, experiments are often conducted in very artificial environments. This raises questions about the validity of experimental results in relation to how they would be applied in real environments. Furthermore, many of the questions that psychologists seek to answer cannot be pursued through empirical research for ethical reasons.

CLINICAL STUDY OR CASE
In 2011, The New York Times ran a story about Krista and Tatiana Hogan, Canadian twin girls. This particular pair of twins is unique because Krista and Tatiana are conjoined twins joined at the head. There is evidence that the two girls are connected in a part of the brain called the thalamus, which is the main sensory relay center. Most incoming sensory information is sent through the thalamus before reaching higher areas of the cerebral cortex for processing.
To learn more about Krista and Tatiana, check out this New York Times video about their lives.
The implications of this latent connection mean that one twin can experience the other twin’s sensations. For example, when Krista is watching a funny TV show, Tatiana can smile or laugh even when she’s not watching the show. This particular ability has sparked the interest of many neuroscientists trying to understand how the brain uses sensory information.
The twins represent a huge resource in brain research, and because their condition is so rare, scientists, with the consent of their families, will follow these girls closely throughout their lives for a long time to obtain as much information as possible (Dominus, 2011).
In observational research, scientists conduct a clinical or case study when they focus on one person or just a few people. In fact, some scientists spend their entire career studying 10-20 people. Why do they do that? Obviously, if you focus your attention on a very small number of people, you can gain a lot of insight into these circumstances. The wealth of information gathered in case studies or clinical trials is unmatched by any other single research method. This gives the researcher a very deep understanding of the specific people and phenomena being studied.
If clinical trials or case studies provide so much information, why aren’t they more common among researchers? As it turns out, the main benefit of this particular approach is also a weakness. As mentioned earlier, this approach is often used when examining individuals of interest to researchers because they share a rare trait. Therefore, the people who are the focus of the case studies are not like most others. Ultimately, when scientists want to explain all behaviors, it can be difficult to focus on such a specific group of people in order to generalize an observation to an entire population. Generalization refers to the ability to apply the results of a particular research project to larger segments of society. Again, case studies provide tremendous amounts of information, but because the cases are so specific, the potential for applying what is learned to the average person can be very limited.

NATURAL OBSERVATIONS
If you want to understand how behavior occurs, one of the best ways to gather information is to simply observe the behavior in its natural context. However, people can change their behavior in undesirable ways if they know they are being watched. How do researchers get accurate information when people tend to hide their natural behavior? For example, imagine that your professor asks everyone in your class to raise their hands if they always wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Chances are pretty much everyone in the class will raise their hands, but do you think washing your hands after going to the bathroom is really that common?
This is very similar to the phenomenon mentioned earlier in this chapter: many people do not feel comfortable answering a question honestly. But if we commit to learning the truth about handwashing, we have other options.
Suppose we send a classmate to the restroom to see if everyone washes their hands after using the restroom. Will our observer blend into the toilet environment by wearing a white lab coat, sitting with a clipboard and staring at the sink? We wanted our researcher to be invisible – maybe he’s standing in one of the sinks and pretending to put on contact lenses while secretly recording relevant information. This type of observational study is called observational naturalism: observing behavior in its natural environment. To better understand peer exclusion, Suzanne Fanger and colleagues from the University of Texas observed the behavior of preschoolers on the playground. How did the observers remain inconspicuous during the study period? They outfitted some kids with wireless microphones (which the kids quickly forgot) and watched while they took notes remotely. In addition, the children in this particular preschool (“laboratory preschool”) were used to having observers in the playground (Fanger, Frankel,
It is important for observers to be as discreet and discreet as possible: when people know they are being observed, they behave less spontaneously. If you doubt it, ask yourself how your driving behavior might differ in the two situations: In the first situation, you are driving on a deserted freeway in the middle of the day; In the second situation, you are being followed by a police car on the same empty highway (pictured).
If you see a police car behind you, it may affect your driving behavior. (Image credit: Michael Gil)
It should be noted that nature observation is not limited to human research. In some of the most well-known examples of natural history observation, researchers go deep into the field to observe a variety of animals in their environment. As with human studies, the researchers kept their distance and avoided disturbing test animals so as not to interfere with their natural behavior. Scientists have used this technique to study social hierarchy and interactions among animals from ground squirrels to gorillas. The information these studies provide is invaluable in understanding how these animals socialize and communicate with one another. For example, anthropologist Jane Goodall spent almost five decades observing the behavior of chimpanzees in Africa (pictured). As an example of the kind of concerns a researcher with scientific observations might have, some scientists have criticized Goodall for naming chimpanzees instead of giving them numbers — the use of names is said to undermine the emotional detachment necessary for the objectivity of the research is necessary (McKie, 2010). .
(a) Jane Goodall made a career out of making scientific observations of (b) chimpanzee behavior. (Credit “Jane Goodall”: revised work by Erik Hersman; “Chimp”: revised work by “Afrika Force” /flickr.com)
The greatest benefit of scientific observation is the validity or accuracy of information gathered unobtrusively in a natural setting. Allowing individuals to behave normally in a given situation means that we have a higher degree of ecological value or realism than we can achieve with other research methods. . We are therefore improving our ability to generalize our findings to real-world situations. When done right, we don’t have to worry about people or animals changing their behavior just because they’re being observed. Sometimes people assume that reality shows give us a glimpse of real human behavior. However, the principle of inconspicuous observation is violated, as reality stars are observed by camera crews and interviewed on camera for individual confessionals. Given this environment, we have to question how natural and realistic their behavior is.
The main disadvantage of scientific observations is that they are often difficult to create and control. In our toilet study, what if you stood on the toilet all day preparing to record everyone’s hand washing behavior and no one came in? Or what if you watched an army of gorillas closely for weeks only to find they had moved to a new location while you were sleeping in your tent? The benefits of real data come at a cost. As a researcher, you have no control over when (or if) you observe behavior. Additionally, this type of observational research often requires a significant investment of time, money, and a good dose of luck.
Sometimes studies involve structured observations. In these cases, people were observed who were engaged in specific tasks. A great example of structured observation comes from Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation (you will read more about this in the chapter on the evolution of longevity). Situation Strange is a method for assessing attachment styles that exist between infants and caregivers. In this case, caregivers place their child in a room filled with toys. The strange situation has multiple phases including a stranger entering the room, the caregiver exiting the room, and the caregiver returning to the room. Infant behavior is closely monitored at each stage, but infant behavior when reunited with significant others is what tells the most about the characteristics of infant attachment style.
Another potential problem in observational research is observer bias. In general, observers are intimately involved in the research project and may unconsciously distort their observations to fit their research goals or expectations. To guard against this type of bias, researchers must have clearly defined criteria for the behaviors recorded and how they are classified. Additionally, researchers often compare observations of the same event by multiple observers to test inter-observer reliability: a reliability metric that assesses the consistency of observations by different observers.

OPINION POLL
Psychologists often develop surveys as a means of data collection. A survey is a list of questions to be answered by study participants and can be submitted as a paper-and-pencil questionnaire, conducted electronically, or conducted orally (Figure) . All in all, the survey itself can be completed in a short time, and managing a survey makes it easy to collect data from a large number of people.
Surveys allow researchers to collect data from larger samples than is possible with other research methods. A sample is a subset of people selected from a population representing the entire group of people of interest to the researcher. Researchers study samples and try to generalize their findings to populations.
Surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways, including electronically managed searches like the one shown here. (Image credit: Robert Nyman)
There are both strengths and weaknesses of the survey compared to case studies. By using surveys, we are able to collect information from a larger sample of people. A larger sample is better able to reflect the true diversity of the population, allowing for better generalization. Therefore, if our sample is large and diverse enough, we can assume that the data we collect from the survey can be generalized to a larger population with greater certainty than information collected through a case study. However, due to the larger number of people involved, we were not able to collect the same depth of information about each person that would be collected in a case study.
Another potential weakness of surveys is something we mentioned earlier in this chapter: people don’t always give the right answers. They can lie, misremember, or answer questions in ways they think they look good. For example, people may report drinking less alcohol than they actually do.
By using surveys, any number of research questions can be answered. A real-world example is Jenkins, Ruppel, Kizer, Yehl, and Griffin’s (2012) study of the backlash in the United States’ Arab-American community in the wake of today’s September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Jenkins and colleagues wanted to determine to what extent these negative attitudes toward Arab Americans persisted for nearly a decade after the attacks. In one study, 140 study participants completed a 10-question survey, including questions that asked directly about participants’ overtly biased attitudes towards people from different backgrounds and ethnicities. The survey also asked indirect questions about the likelihood that participants would interact with a person of a specific ethnicity in different contexts (e.g., “How likely do you think it is that you would introduce yourself to a specific ethnic group? American?” The results of the study showed that while participants did not want to indicate any bias towards any ethnic group, significant differences in their response patterns to questions about social interaction with Arab Americans compared to other ethnic groups: they reported that they were less willing to socialize with Americans This suggests that participants held subtle forms of prejudice against Arab Americans, although they claimed they did not (Jenkins et al., 2012).

STORAGE RESEARCH
Some researchers have access to large amounts of data without interacting with a single study participant. Instead, they used existing records to answer various research questions. This type of research approach is called archival research. Archival research relies on the search for interesting patterns or relationships in past records or datasets.
For example, a researcher could access the academic records of everyone who has enrolled in a college in the past ten years and calculate how long it took them to graduate, as well as course load, grades, and extracurricular activities. Archival research can provide important information about who is most likely to complete their education and can help identify important risk factors for struggling students.
A researcher conducting archival research examines records, whether stored in (a) paper form or (b) electronic form. (Credit “Paper File”: Modification of work by “Newtown Graffiti” / Flickr; “Computer”: Modification of work by INPIVIC Family / Flickr)
When comparing archival research to other research methods, there are some important differences. First, researchers using archival research never interact directly with study participants. As a result, the time and money required for data collection is significantly lower than for archive research. Also, the researchers have no control over the information initially collected. Therefore, the research questions have to be adapted in such a way that they can be answered within the structure of the existing data set. There is also no guarantee of consistency between datasets from one source to another, which can make comparing and contrasting different datasets problematic.

LONG STUDIES AND TRANSFORMATIONS
Sometimes we want to see how people change over time, like in human development and longevity studies. If we test the same group of people repeatedly over a longer period of time, we conduct a longitudinal study. Longitudinal research is a research design in which data collection is repeated over a long period of time. For example, we could survey a group of people when they were 20 about their dietary habits, test them again a decade later at age 30, and then again at age 40.
Another approach is a cross-sectional study. In a cross-sectional study, a researcher compares multiple segments of the population at once. Using the dietary habits example above, the researcher can directly compare different groups of people by age. Instead of taking a group of people over the age of 20 to see how their eating habits change from decade to decade, the researchers will study a group of people in their 20s and compare them to a group of 20-year-olds. old people and a group of 40 year old people. While cross-sectional research requires more short-term investments, it is also limited by the differences that exist between different generations (or cohorts), which are not age-related but rather reflect testimonials that make different generations’ society and culture individually mutual.
To illustrate this concept, consider the following survey results. In recent years, popular support for same-sex marriages has increased significantly. Many studies on this topic divide the survey participants into different age groups. In general, young people are more supportive of same-sex marriage than older people (Jones, 2013). Does this mean that as we age we become less open to the idea of ​​same-sex marriage, or does it mean that older people have different views due to socio-environmental conditions? that they have come of age? Longitudinal research is an effective approach because, over time, all of the same people are involved in the research project, which means researchers have to be less concerned with differences between groups influencing their research results.
When studying various diseases, longitudinal studies are often used to understand specific risk factors. Such studies often involve tens of thousands of people who are followed for several decades. Given the large number of people involved in these studies, the researchers can be confident that their findings can be generalized to a larger population. The Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) is one of a series of longitudinal studies funded by the American Cancer Society to identify predictive risk factors associated with cancer. When people take part in the study, they fill out a survey about their life and family history, which provides information about factors that can cause or prevent cancer from developing. Thereafter, participants will receive additional surveys to complete every few years. Ultimately, hundreds of thousands of participants will be followed for 20 years to determine if any of them will develop cancer and what diseases.
Obviously, this type of research is important and potentially very informative. For example, earlier longitudinal studies funded by the American Cancer Society provided some of the first scientific evidence for a now well-established association between increased cancer rates and smoking (American Cancer Society, undated) (Fig.
Longitudinal studies like CPS-3 help us better understand how smoking is related to cancer and other diseases. (Image credit: CDC/Debora Cartagena)
As with any research strategy, longitudinal research is not without borders. First, these studies require an incredible amount of time on the part of the researcher and the study participants. Because some longitudinal studies take years, if not decades, to complete, the results will not be known for a significant period of time. In addition to the expenditure of time, these studies also require a considerable financial investment. Many researchers are unable to allocate the necessary resources to see a project longitudinally through to the end.
Study participants must also be willing to commit over a longer period of time, which can be problematic. People move, marry and take new names, get sick and eventually die. Even without significant life changes, some people may choose to stop participating in the project. Therefore, the fluctuation or reduction rate of study participants due to discontinuation in longitudinal studies is quite high and increases over the course of a project. For this reason, researchers using this method often recruit large numbers of participants with the full expectation that a significant number will drop out before the end. As the study progressed, they constantly checked that the sample was still representative of the larger population and made adjustments as necessary.

summary
Clinical trials, or case studies, involve studying a few people over a long period of time. Although this approach provides an amazing depth of information, the ability to generalize these observations to a larger population is problematic. Observing nature involves observing behavior in a natural environment and allows valid, truthful information to be obtained from real-life situations. However, scientific observation does not allow for much control and often requires a great deal of time and money to carry out. Researchers strive to ensure that their data collection tools are both reliable (consistent and reproducible) and valid (accurate).
Surveys can be conducted in a variety of ways and allow large amounts of data to be collected quickly. However, the depth of information that can be gleaned from investigations is somewhat limited compared to a clinical trial or a case study.
In archival research, existing datasets are examined to answer research questions.
Longitudinal studies are extremely useful for researchers who need to collect data on how people change over time. Cross-sectional study comparing multiple population segments simultaneously.

review question
Sigmund Freud developed his theory of human personality by conducting extensive interviews with a number of clients over a long period of time. This type of research approach is referred to as a(n): ________.

archival research
case study
nature observation
opinion poll
________ involves observing the behavior of individuals in their natural environment.

archival research
case study
nature observation
opinion poll
The main limitation of the case study is ________.

the superficial nature of the information gathered in this approach
the lack of control that the researcher has with this approach
Inability to generalize the results of this approach to a larger population
the lack of trust among raters
The advantage of scientific observational studies is that ________.

Veracity of the data collected in the real environment
How quick and easy are these studies?
the researcher’s ability to ensure that data is collected as efficiently as possible
the ability to identify cause and effect in this particular approach
Using existing recordings to answer a research question is known as ________.

nature observation
survey research
longitudinal study
archival research
________ involves following a group of research participants over time.

archival research
longitudinal study
nature observation
cross-sectional study
A(n) ________ is a researcher-developed list of questions that can be adopted on paper.

warehouse
case study
nature observation
opinion poll
Longitudinal studies are complicated by the high rate of ________.

cheat
watch
attrition
generalization

Critical thinking questions
This section describes conjoined twins Krista and Tatiana as potential participants in a case study. In what other circumstances do you think this particular research approach would be particularly helpful and why?
Presumably reality TV shows aim to provide a realistic portrayal of the behavior of the characters in those shows. This section has shown why this is not the case. What changes can be made to the way these shows are produced to produce more realistic depictions of actual behavior?
Which of the research methods discussed in this section would be best suited to determine the effectiveness of D.A.R.E. Programs to prevent the use of alcohol and other drugs? Why?
What other fields of study besides biomedical research can be of great use for both longitudinal and archival research?

Personal application question
A friend of yours works part-time at a local pet store. Increasingly interested in how the dogs normally communicate and interact with each other, your friend is considering visiting a local veterinary clinic to see how the dogs interact in the waiting room. After reading this, do you think this is the best way to better understand such interactions? Do you have any suggestions that could lead to more valid data?
As a student, you have no doubts about the grades you get after you graduate. If you’re curious about how your overall GPA relates to success in graduate life, how would you approach this question and what resources do you need to research?

glossary

Archive research:
a research method that uses previous records or datasets to answer various research questions or look for interesting patterns or relationships
Consumption:
Decrease in the number of study participants due to some dropouts over time
Clinical study or case:
Observational study Research that focuses on one or a few people
cross-sectional study:
Compare multiple population segments at once
General:
conclude that the results of a sample apply to a larger population
mutual trust:
Level of agreement among observers about how they record and classify a particular event
longitudinal study:
Studies in which the same group of people is repeatedly surveyed or measured over a longer period of time
natural observations:
Observing its behavior in its natural environment
observer distortion:
when observations can be skewed to fit the observer’s expectations
Population:
Whole group of people that researchers are interested in
Sample:
Subset of individuals selected from a larger population
Opinion poll:
a list of questions answered by study participants—in the form of paper and pen questionnaires, electronically, or orally—allowing researchers to collect data from a large number of people

Video tutorials about ________ assesses the consistency of observations by different observers.

keywords: #psychology, #researchmethods, #BayHouse

Narrated slideshow tutorial about observations in psychology. Covers covert and overt observations, observational sampling techniques (event sampling and time sampling), types of observation (naturalistic, controlled and participant), inter-rater reliability and improving reliability.

Further reading:

-http://www.holah.co.uk/page-investigation.php?slug=observation

Textbook pages 79-80 (Orange Hodder book)

keywords: #Psychology(MedicalSpecialty), #crashcoursepsychology, #themind, #howthebrainworks, #SigmundFreud(Author), #structuralism, #Structuralism(SchoolOfThought), #Functionalism, #Psychoanalysis(MedicalSpecialty), #WilhelmWundt(Author), #Medicine(FieldOfStudy), #bias, #researchbias, #casestudies, #casestudy, #naturalisticobservation, #surveys, #interviews, #Kinsey, #researchpractices, #doubleblindstudies

So how do we apply the scientific method to psychological research? Lots of ways, but today Hank talks about case studies, naturalistic observation, surveys and interviews, and experimentation. Also, he covers different kinds of bias in experimentation and how research practices help us avoid them.

Want more videos about psychology? Check out our sister channel SciShow Psych at

-https://www.youtube.com/scishowpsych!

Table of Contents

The Scientific Method 2:06

Case Studies 3:05

Naturalistic Observation 3:48

Surveys and Interviews 4:15

Experimentation 6:35

Proper Research Practices 8:40

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keywords:

keywords: #psychology, #researchmethods, #BayHouse

Narrated slideshow tutorial about observations in psychology. Covers covert and overt observations, observational sampling techniques (event sampling and time sampling), types of observation (naturalistic, controlled and participant), inter-rater reliability and improving reliability.

Further reading:

-http://www.holah.co.uk/page-investigation.php?slug=observation

Textbook pages 79-80 (Orange Hodder book)

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265093899_The_Use_of_Triangulation_in_Qualitative_Research

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