Research Methods in Psychology: Investigating Human Behavior 2nd Edition
Book PrefaceResearch Methods in Psychology: Investigating Human Behavior 2nd Edition
Research Methods in Psychology: Investigating Human Behavior
A young single woman named Linda is outspoken and very intelligent, committed to social justice, and deeply concerned about problems of discrimination. Which is more probable? (a) Linda is a bank teller or (b) Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement. Most people answer (b) as more probable. But this is incorrect because it violates the statistical laws of probability—every feminist bank teller is a bank teller; adding a detail, such as “feminist” can only reduce the probability. Yet even experts in probability make this error. As Holt (2011) noted, “The great evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould … knew the right answer yet he wrote that ‘a little homunculus in my head continues to jump up and down, shout at me—“She can’t just be a bank teller; read the description” ’ ” (p. BR16).
The psychologist Daniel Kahneman (2011) showed that we are all naturally inclined to make these kinds of mistakes of reasoning or “cognitive biases,” which he described as unconscious errors that distort our perceptions of the world. As Kahneman and others have shown, these errors of intuition are not attributable to disturbed thinking or emotions, but are built into our evolved mental architecture. In this book, we make the case for the scientific method as the best antidote for what have often been described as cognitive illusions, so-called blind spots of the human mind. We start with the work of Kahneman because it, first, provides us with a convincing rationale for the need for the scientific method—the so-called “why” question is at the core of our book. Why research methods? Why statistical reasoning? Why measurement? Why complex research design? For each of these and other related topics of research methodology covered in the book, we explain why we need to know in order for us to understand better the world and ourselves. Along the way, we hope that there will be intellectual surprises for you as well as self-help value as we explore not only the “how’s” but more important, the “why’s” of research methodology in relation to thinking, remembering, feeling, perceiving, and attending. We hope that our book will convince you, as a member of our jury, of the indispensability of the scientific method.
For us (and we hope for you), the scientific method is not a proverbial ball and chain, shackling creativity, but a set of tools to broaden and build thinking about the world and ourselves. We place research methodology within a broad and rich cultural context of the “public square.” To this end, our approach is unique in casting the scientific method widely, in aligning it not only with rigorous testing of ideas but also with the generation of new ideas, spawned by imagination and curiosity. Thus, our aspiration for writing this book is to imbue in you a sense of excitement about psychological research. Far from drudgery, research, as we frame it throughout the text provides the best method for investigating questions that matter to all of us. So in this text, you will learn both to design and to critique research as you explore a diverse array of case examples of how to investigate lively, timeless topics such as happiness and altruism, facial expression of emotion, 9/11 memories, and brain plasticity training.
Teaching and Learning GoaIs
Our purpose in writing this book is to make teaching and learning about research methods in psychology both fun and rewarding. We bring you into the world of psychological research. Here you will find a culture in its own right that is governed by a way of thinking. At center stage is a set of rules and procedures that is collectively known as the scientific method. To engage you, we take you inside various research studies and we ask you to wear alternating hats. With one of these hats, you play the role of the researcher: How does one come up with research ideas? Why must ideas be subjected to the scientific method? How might you design a study to test your ideas? With another hat, you become a research consumer learning how to appraise and critique theory and design.
Our aim is for you to develop a mindset of skepticism without cynicism and more rigorous and disciplined thinking—while still remaining flexible, open-minded, imaginative, innovative, and inventive. With yet another hat that will help you achieve this goal, you will experience research as a participant—that is, as someone who contributes data in the form of answers to a researcher’s questions. Do you understand the tasks, measures, and procedures required of participants? Do you think these methods capture what the research intended to study? By playing these alternating roles, we hope to spark your curiosity and creativity and to share with you our passion so that you too learn the joy of conducting sound research.
To accomplish these goals, we employ an approach that is novel and unique in that it melds two distinct yet complementary pedagogical techniques. First, each chapter is designed for experiential, hands-on, roll-up-the-sleeves studies that can be customized for both in-class exercises and course projects. Studies are presented from multiple perspectives and can easily be adapted for role-playing exercises with students acting as researchers, participants, or consumers of science. The text is illustrated with examples of study stimuli, such as faces and eyes, to bring to life the actual experimental tasks. In addition, we also include questionnaires and measurement scales that you can take to provide a fuller understanding of the research experience.
Second, we use the findings of cognitive science to guide our text in a way that is most conducive to learning, understanding, and appreciation. We contextualize informational content. For example, statistical reasoning is woven into the text and tied to specific research examples that are chosen to illuminate how the results of any scientific study are probabilistic in nature, a matter of calculating odds via mathematical formulae, which are presented in Chapter 10. Similarly, we emphasize a narrative approach that likens psychological theory to storytelling that can be used in study design and data interpretation. In a nutshell, then, we have used the science of psychology as a guide for writing the text and for accomplishing our teaching and learning goals.
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