Module 1: History, Approaches and Research Methods

Module 1: History, Approaches and Research Methods 

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  • Module 1: History, Approaches and Research Methods > Week 1 > Psych Report
  • Module 1: History, Approaches and Research Methods > Week 2 > Psych Report
  • Module 1: History, Approaches and Research Methods > Week 2 > Lesson

Module 1: History, Approaches and Research Methods > Week 1 > Psych Report

  • Each of these installments will provide a glimpse of major content to come and a short lesson in addition to our Psych Out segment, where we will address major myths, challenging concepts, and intriguing tidbits from the world of psychology.
  • If you were asked, what is psychology? What would your answer be? Perhaps, reading someone’s mind or maybe getting people to do you want them to or maybe helping someone solve their problems.
  • In this class, we will consider what psychology is and also what it is not.
  • While we won’t be traveling back in time thousands of years, we will be establishing context by examining important milestones in psychology’s development.
  • Structuralism, functionalism, Freudian psychology, behaviorism, humanistic psychology, and the cognitive revolution all came together to form a foundation for what psychology is today.
  • It’s easy to think that the study of psychology has been conducted by gentlemen in tweed coats, sitting around smoking pipes, chatting amiably about how the human psyche works.
  • It might be natural to presume they were remarkably self aware, understanding of others thoughts and feelings, and all around patient and empathetic individuals.
  • So how could they not be? Well, let’s take Wilhelm Wundt and William James for example.
  • Both intellectual giants of the 1800s and considered fathers of psychology and still wielding enormous influence in the field today.
  • So whether you realize it or not, the history of psychology is full of really good bits.
  • Not just about structuralism and functionalism and the essence of consciousness, but how to work together to better understand what psychology is.
  • Earlier I asked you to consider the definition of psychology.
  • Are you ready for the official definition? The definition of psychology is the science of behavior and mental processes.
  • For structuralists like Wilhelm Wundt and his student Edward Titchener, consciousness was analyzed and measured to better understand the atoms of the mind.
  • Then in came Freud and his work on the unconscious, dreams, and all of the mental processes that are beyond our consciousness that ultimately yield some pretty unusual human behavior.
  • Still, there was more to learn about psychology that functionalism, structuralism, and Freudian psychology were just not equipped to contemplate.
  • Famous behaviorists John Watson, B.F. Skinner, and Ivan Pavlov conducted experimental research on animals and humans that portrayed the learning process as associative behaviors that are classically or operationally conditioned.
  • We will spend more time on this era of psychology later but suffice to say, during the reign of behaviorism, the definition of psychology was reduced to the science of behavior.
  • Behaviorism gave way to a more humanistic approach of psychology that honored feelings and motivation, also known as humanistic psychology.
  • With the advent of computers, we had another way in which to analyze and development mental models, which led to the cognitive revolution in psychology.

Module 1: History, Approaches and Research Methods > Week 2 > Psych Report

  • How do we know what we know? And I mean that in a very practical and concrete way.
  • Like many other things, research can be done haphazardly and conclusions may actually just be opinions.
  • So it’s very important that we establish what thoughtful research is and how it is done.
  • Research always begins with a question, but there are a variety of research methods psychologists use to answer important questions and explain behavior.
  • We can use correlational methods and we can use the gold standard research method for truly knowing, which is called experimentation.
  • In addition to discussing what kinds of results and knowledge can be gleaned from each method, we’ll also consider common flaws of research, the ethics of research, and the very important difference between correlation and causation.
  • How comfortable would you be if your doctor admitted he had made a gut decision about your medical treatment? It may have turned out OK, but the fact is when it comes to clinical decisions personal judgment and intuition have not shown to have consistently accurate results.
  • In the case of clinical decisions, it’s easy to have a gut reaction and expose our judgemental overconfidence or our tendency to perceive a pattern in random events.
  • Psychologists get to answer some of the most interesting questions that have plagued poets and philosophers for centuries.
  • For example does absence make the heart grow fonder or is it out of sight, out of mind? If I divided you evenly and told half of you that it was true that absence makes the heart grow fonder and told the other half that when people are out of sight they are out of mind, you would all say, I knew it all along.
  • In a field where armchair psychologists are a dime a dozen, you always need to ask the important questions which are, is that true? And how do we know? As for the question we started with, new research indicates that it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Let’s review the research and see what we think.

Module 1: History, Approaches and Research Methods > Week 2 > Lesson

  • Case studies examine an individual case in depth with the hope of revealing something that may be true for all of us.
  • If I want to study whether or not there is a relationship between two variables, I might use a correlational study which measures the relationship between two variables.
  • If I’m interested in studying the relationship between intelligence- as measured by IQ- and performance in school- as measured by grade point average, also known as GPA- I might choose a correlational study.
  • If this is my data between IQ and GPA, I would be able to say with confidence that there’s no relationship between these two variables, because the data is scattered all over the graph.
  • You can see there’s no line where there would be an indication of a relationship.
  • If the relationship were perfectly positive- meaning as IQ went up, so did GPA- it might be a perfect positive correlation.
  • Or, on the other hand, if there’s a perfectly negative correlation between IQ and GPA, it might look like this.
  • Now, keep in mind, when we’re looking at correlations, we always have to realize that this is a relationship, but does not tell us cause and effect.
  • They commonly describe data, and they’re commonly used in correlational studies and experiments and also reports to describe behavior and opinions.
  • Experimental research is often considered the gold standard for psychological research, because it’s the only method capable of showing cause and effect.
  • When looking at an experiment, we are always looking for the independent variable and the dependent variable.
  • Whenever we do an experiment, we always need to make sure to define our constructs- meaning, how are we defining the variables that are embedded in our experiment? And we have to be careful about potentially confounding or extraneous variables.
  • In a very famous research study by Rosenzweig, Bennet, and Diamond, they sought to see if the brains of rats would change depending on the environment they were in.
  • There was one experimental condition, where the rat cage was very enriched with toys for them to engage with.
  • In this case, the independent variable was the cage condition, and the dependent variable was the complexity of the brain.
  • How do we do this? Often, when we’re looking at quantitative data, we’re looking at statistics.
  • Let’s say I have one student who had a 65%. Knowing the central tendency of data is great, but it’s even better to understand the variation in the data.
  • For this, we look to the normal curve- also known as the bell curve.
  • When we’re looking at correlational data, we have different numbers to consider.
  • We have a relationship, and the range of that relationship is called the correlation coefficient.
  • In a correlation, a perfectly negative relationship is negative 1, and a perfectly positive relationship is a 1, whereas no relationship is considered a 0 correlation coefficient.
  • Keep in mind that a negative 0.65 is actually a stronger relationship than a positive 0.42.
  • In this case, we can see that we are looking at the relationship between unemployment and inflation.
  • What does that mean? What does that mean about the relationship between unemployment and inflation? It appears that as unemployment percentage goes up, inflation goes down.
  • Now, let’s talk about the difference between correlation and causation.
  • In this picture, we can see that there is a causation between temperature and ice cream sales.
  • We also know that as temperatures rise, crime goes up, and that’s because when people are out of their homes there’s more likelihood for crime to be committed.
  • If I were interested in the relationship between ice cream sales and crime, I would actually find a positive correlation.
  • It’s very important to understand that there is no cause and effect in this relationship- that they’re simply correlated.
  • It’s very important that we understand there’s no cause and effect in this relationship.

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