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Blog for 05/02/12

So this week I decided to do quite a simple blog, but on a topic that I’ve always struggled to get into my brain. Every experiment and every piece of research talks about variables in varying terminology yet is always something that confuses me each time I read about them. Obviously I understand the dependent and the independent variable. However, when reading through my Andy Field book (having a particularly nerdy moment, it has to be said that these are rare) I’ve come across different types of variables that I’ve never really heard of before.

A binary variable- there are only two categories, for example; yes or no.

It has to be said, that the following I have actually heard of, but I always get confused between which ones should be applied to which research. I’ve included these in my blog in the hope that others like me, who may get slightly more confused than the average population will be able to gain a greater understanding.

A nominal variable- there are more than two categories

Ordinal variable- these are the same as a nominal variable but they have a logical order

Interval variable- equal intervals on the variable represent equal differences in the property being measured

Ratio variable- the same as an interval variable, but the ratios of score on the scale must also make sense.

Variables can also be split into continuous and categorical; binary, nominal and ordinal are all categorical whereas interval and ratio are continuous.

Continuous means that the entities get a distinct score and categorical means that the entities are divided into distinct categories.

So, hopefully after reading this you’ll have gained more of an insight into the wonderful topic of variables.. or just revised something you may have already known. For those of you who may want to read more about variables then its all in Andy Fields ‘Discovering Statistics Using SPSS’ book, or have a look at this website http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/variable.php which explains things quite well too 🙂 


Week 11 comments for TA





Should children be able to participate in psychological research?

This is a question I was asked when I studied A level psychology and one which can evoke strong emotions from people who do extensive research into the area, there are areas of child research which has proven the child was put in situations which were highly unethical and should never be allowed to be repeated.

A lot of research is done using children, for example Mary Ainsworth’s Stranger Attachment research was done using small children and babies in order to see different types of attachment with mothers and how introducing strangers to the child resulting in affecting their behaviour. From watching videos of this research taking place, it can be seen that children with weak attachment to their parents were distressed when they left the room, but equally as distressed when the stranger entered, they could not be comforted by either. This begs the question of whether the means outweighs the distress, does the result of the research outweigh the visible distress caused to the child.
There are many different psychological experiments that have been carried out on children which have been highly unethical, studies like this is what have caused people to question whether they should be allowed to or not. Another example is ‘The Monster Study’ conducted in 1939 by Wendell Johnson in which he carried out a stuttering experiment on 22 orphaned children who suffered with stuttering, half the children received positive speech therapy and showed improvement whereas the other half received negative feedback and were made to feel belittled. Over half of the children who received the negative therapy suffered with their speech problems for many years and suffered negative psychological effects. Even Johnson’s peers were shocked that he would carry out this sort of research on children.

Also ‘Little Albert’ was a child exposed to white objects and accompanied by a loud banging noise behind his head, through this Albert developed a psychological discomfort to anything white. He left the hospital before he could be desensitised from this association.

However since the release of strict ethical regulations, research with children is carried out the same way that it is with an adult. The parent /guardian of the child signs the consent form and stays with the child during the research, however, the child has no say in the situation and in many cases, do not have a true understanding of what is happening to them. They are debriefed and the parents can withdraw them at any time if the child is seen to be in a state on psychological distress.

With regards to research using children I believe that as long as the guidelines of the APA are followed vigorously and the child is not put into any potential danger and will not suffer long term effects of the experiment then research should be allowed to occur. Experiments such as the monster study and little Albert should never take part again. Children in research have provided great theories into psychology through participating in these research situations.



Comments for week 9






Week 9- The null hypothesis

“What role does the null hypothesis REALLY play in the scientific process?

A hypothesis is a statement that you think is true, but you haven’t got the evidence to support it yet, it must always be testable, the null hypothesis is a hypothesis, which the researcher tries to disprove, reject or nullify however when first learning about scientific processes back in high school, the null hypothesis was never mentioned, we got taught about the hypothesis (H1) and then told in our experimental write up to signify whether or not this had been supported. It was only when starting university that the null hypothesis was ever brought into discussion, and at first, was a topic I found hard to grasp. Explained simply, it is a complete opposition to the hypothesis. The hypothesis states that there will be a reaction between A and B, whereas the null hypothesis simply states that there will be no reaction at all. The concept of making a null hypothesis always seemed pointless to me until I started researching into it, and asking questions about the true reasons behind it.

After viewing a PowerPoint in which it was argued that the null hypothesis was simply an out for scientists whose research experiments failed, I realised that there could be a point behind this theory. If a scientist spends years of his life researching into a certain field and then it becomes apparent that there is no relation between his research, he may feel that the whole of his research and the processes behind it have been wasted, therefore by having the ability to say that he has matched the null hypothesis, will provide some stability to his research.

However, research has shown that accepting the null hypothesis is actually a positive result, and that seeing the null hypothesis as a failure of an experiment is bad science, even if the hypothesis is refuted, the scientific world has still benefited from learning something new. For example, the null hypothesis ‘the world is flat’ had to be rejected when it was proven otherwise, thus, the scientific world has learnt that the world is not indeed flat.

Finally, Karl Popper (1959) stated that ‘we cannot conclusively affirm a hypothesis, but we can conclusively negate it. The validity of knowledge is tied to the probability of falsification.



Week 5- Comments





Reliability in science

Reliability offers importance in psychological experiments such as quality of measurement this is defined as the extent to which you can measure a participant’s true score, it is something that every scientist must be aware of, especially in social sciences and biological experiments. True score is defined as a person’s general ability to take part in a study to their full potential. Reliability is also how repeatable the experiment is… is this really important when it comes to scientific tests, and why?

Reliability is important when it comes to scientific tests, it is essential for experiments to have a measure of quality so that other psychologists can carry out the tests again and investigate whether their results correspond to those that have been published, the consistency of the experiment must be maintained, a researcher must use as many repeat sample groups as possible, to reduce the chance of an abnormal sample group skewing the results. For example, if you use the same samples in each manipulation of an experiment and one generates results that are completely different from the others, then you know that there may be faults within the experiment, this is also where pilot studies can be useful, as a smaller scale experiment can reduce the amount of abnormalities found in the proper experiment as these have already been altered.

In relation to the real world, reliability is essential when it comes to competition of products being sold, if a company presents something about their product which makes it stand out from the rest of the competition, and this is then proven to be wrong, the company loses the reliability it has been working so hard to gain, negative customer satisfaction also loses reliability as they will not give positive feedback to others. Their reputation will also be lost, as customers will go to companies whose products have never failed in reliability.

In conclusion, I believe that reliability is essential in scientific experiments and is something that all scientists do and should take into consideration within their experiments. Through research I have seen that reliability is also important within the consumer world, if a company or product lacks reliability then this can discredit their product and make it less sellable to the public.

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