Psychology This first week, we’re going to talk about the different psychological


This first week, we’re going to talk about the different psychological approaches and how scientific research is conducted in psychology/neuroscience. Psychological science seeks to understand behavior and psychologists have an arsenal of approaches through which to explain behavior: biological, clinical, social, evolutionary, psychoanalytic, cognitive, behavioral, sociocultural, etc. See the INFOGRAPHIC  (Links to an external site.)on the very first page of your textbook, “Psychology’s Roots” for a brief description of each approach. I have also included a copy of this below.

Once we understand how the different approaches work, we then have to learn how to study psychological questions. Like any other science, we use the Scientific Method (Links to an external site.). I have also included a graphical representation of this below. A bit of explanation of some key terms (read your textbook or search for the italicized terms online):

First, we develop a hypothesis based on prior research. Another way to think of a hypothesis is to think of it as a prediction. 

The hypothesis is phrased such that you are predicting that one variable (the dependent variable, DV) will be affected by another variable (independent variable, IV).

I remember confusing the IV and DV when I first began learning about these variables. Think about it this way: your DV is what is being measureD; your IV is what is being manIpulated in or categorIzed. 

An example of an experiment might be this: We hypothesize that reaction time will be affected by one’s gender and by the modality of the stimulus that the person is reacting to. The DV would be reaction time because we are measuring it. The 2 IVs would be gender and stimulus modality. Gender would be an example of a variable that we categorize people into (male, female, other). Stimulus modality would be an example of a variable that we manipulated because you were randomly assigned to the light or sound stimulus. 

Whenever you have an experiment, you need to compare at least 2 conditions within the IV. Sometimes these are called the experimental and control conditions. In the example above, the gender IV has 3 conditions (or levels: males, female, other) and the stimulus modality IV has 2 conditions (or levels: visual and auditory).

For both the DV and IV, it’s extremely important that each variable is well defined, or operationalized. If 2 experiments have different definitions of the same DV and they find different results, then you shouldn’t necessarily conclude that one experiment is “right” and one is “wrong”. For example, let’;s say you wanted to study why some people follow CDC guidelines while others don’t (the DV) based on their education level (the IV). You need to operationally define both the IV and DV. For the DV, does “following CDC guidelines” mean wearing masks out in public or following the 6 feet between people rule? For the IV, does “education level” mean finished high school versus not finished high school OR are you dividing people into the highest level of education obtained? One can argue about which definitions are better than others, but it’s still important to have them well defined.

Another thing you have to take into account is sample size – how many people are you going to run through your study? When we do experiments, we want to make sure our results will generalize – meaning the results will apply to not only our sample (the people in our experiment), but to the population (the people you are trying to study). If your sample does not match the population you are trying to study, then the results can be called into question. We’re in an election year, so it’s important to consider election polls. Who is the country going to vote for President in November? That’s the million dollar question, right? Political consultants conduct polls to see if they can get an idea of where the country is heading. Imagine if the pollsters only asked Republicans who they were going to vote for in November. Odds are that the answer is President Trump. But they can’t generalize their polling data to the whole of the United States because their sample (i.e., Republicans) is not representative of the population (i.e. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc). THat’s why sometimes you see the breakdown of the different political parties and their responses – this is an attempt to capture the whole population, while also surveying components of it. 

Finally, we never say we prove or disprove a hypothesis. Despite what the commercials say (“scientifically proven to reduce acne!”), we rarely prove anything in science. A list of common misconceptions in science can be found here (Links to an external site.). Whether we are talking about psychology, biology, chemistry, or any other scientific field, scientific experiments don’t prove or disprove a given hypothesis – they provide evidence in favor of or against a particular hypothesis.

So with this all in mind, let’s get to this week’s DB to discuss different psychological approaches and the scientific method.

Type your answers to the following: 

Think of a psychological question you might want to study. From the many different psychological perspectives, how might you phrase your question differently if you were approaching it from 2 different perspectives. Name your perspectives and question. 

Either use your question from #1 or think of another question to study. Tell us your hypothesis and identify your DV(s) and IV(s). Make sure you operationalize both your DV(s) and IV(s). Design a study to answer the question. What would the results look like if they supported (not prove!) your original hypothesis?

Tell us one thing you learned or were confused about in this week’s readings/DB post that you found interesting. Is there something that surprised you? Something that challenged your previous beliefs? Is there something that still confuses you?