Research Methods Used by Psychologists

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Sushma Neelagaru
Period 7
10/10/12
AP Psychology Practice FRQ

Psychologists use a variety of research methods to study behavior. Three of the main research methods are case studies, correlation studies, and experiments. Case studies allow people to examine individuals and groups in greater depth than any other method. Different sources of information are used to build a better and more extensive picture. For instance, an observation could take place, then a questionnaire, an interview, and examination of medical records. However, case studies are very difficult to carry out because they are time consuming, quite difficult to analyze, and write up because they consist of mostly qualititative research and like most research methods, they are subject to bias. An advantage of the correlation method is that we can make predictions about things when we know about correlations. If two variables are correlated, we can predict one based on the other. Unfortunately, correlation does not equal causation. Experiments are the only means by which cause and effect can be established and they allow for precise control of variables. They can be replicated and it is also worth noting that an experiment yields quantitative data (numerical amounts of something) which can be analyzed using inferential statistical tests. The potential disadvantages with the experimental method are that the lab setting may inhibit natural behavior, findings may not generalize to real world (low ecological validity), and it is possible for it to be an unethical or just impossible experiment. Other potential problems include selection bias, placebo effect, and experimenter bias.
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