Famous Psychology Experiments
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Famous Psychology Experiments

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Famous Psychology Experiments

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1. 1 Famous Psychology Experiments This presentation will take a look at some famous experiments in psychology. The experiments you?ll learn about fall under three broad categories: learning, social psychology, and brain disorders. Before we discuss specific experiments, let?s review some of the basics of psychological experimentation.This presentation will take a look at some famous experiments in psychology. The experiments you?ll learn about fall under three broad categories: learning, social psychology, and brain disorders. Before we discuss specific experiments, let?s review some of the basics of psychological experimentation.

2. 2 Conducting Psychology Experiments Most psychology experiments are designed in much the same way as experiments in other scientific disciplines, such as chemistry or biology. Researchers follow the scientific method by using the processes illustrated on the following slides.Most psychology experiments are designed in much the same way as experiments in other scientific disciplines, such as chemistry or biology. Researchers follow the scientific method by using the processes illustrated on the following slides.

3. 3 Hypothesis Scientific method Hypothesis formulation Most psychology experiments are designed in much the same way as experiments in other scientific disciplines, such as chemistry or biology. Researchers follow the scientific method by using these processes: Hypothesis formulation: An experiment serves to test a hypothesis (a statement making a prediction about something). For example, a hypothesis might be ?Children who watch scary movies are more likely to have nightmares than are children who don?t watch scary movies.? The researchers don?t yet know whether this statement is true, but they?ll test it in their experiment. In order to test a hypothesis, it must be falsifiable, which means it must be written in a way that someone could possibly prove it to be untrue.Most psychology experiments are designed in much the same way as experiments in other scientific disciplines, such as chemistry or biology. Researchers follow the scientific method by using these processes: Hypothesis formulation: An experiment serves to test a hypothesis (a statement making a prediction about something). For example, a hypothesis might be ?Children who watch scary movies are more likely to have nightmares than are children who don?t watch scary movies.? The researchers don?t yet know whether this statement is true, but they?ll test it in their experiment. In order to test a hypothesis, it must be falsifiable, which means it must be written in a way that someone could possibly prove it to be untrue.

4. 4 Operationalization Operationalization: to put an experiment into a form that allows researchers to test the hypothesis Independent variable: the variable that researchers control Operationalization: Researchers put the experiment into a format that allows them to actually test the hypothesis. They apply operational definitions to the concepts in the hypothesis, which means that they figure out how to measure the things the hypothesis predicts. In the example mentioned previously, researchers would have to define ?scary movie? then figure out how to show the movies to the children, how often to show the movies, and how to measure whether the children have nightmares, among other things. One step in the operationalization process involves determining the independent and dependent variables: The independent variable is the thing that is manipulated, or changed. In the example mentioned previously, the independent variable is the movies. The researchers will manipulate the number, frequency, and type of movie they show the children. The dependent variable is the behavior that the researchers are studying and that, if the hypothesis is correct, will change when the independent variable is manipulated. In the scary movie example, the dependent variable is the children?s nightmares. Other questions arise in the operationalization stage of this and all other psychology experiments. Researchers must deal with these questions in order to ensure a solid experiment. Can you think of some questions researchers should ask themselves before beginning the experiment about scary movies and nightmares?Operationalization: Researchers put the experiment into a format that allows them to actually test the hypothesis. They apply operational definitions to the concepts in the hypothesis, which means that they figure out how to measure the things the hypothesis predicts. In the example mentioned previously, researchers would have to define ?scary movie? then figure out how to show the movies to the children, how often to show the movies, and how to measure whether the children have nightmares, among other things. One step in the operationalization process involves determining the independent and dependent variables: The independent variable is the thing that is manipulated, or changed. In the example mentioned previously, the independent variable is the movies. The researchers will manipulate the number, frequency, and type of movie they show the children. The dependent variable is the behavior that the researchers are studying and that, if the hypothesis is correct, will change when the independent variable is manipulated. In the scary movie example, the dependent variable is the children?s nightmares. Other questions arise in the operationalization stage of this and all other psychology experiments. Researchers must deal with these questions in order to ensure a solid experiment. Can you think of some questions researchers should ask themselves before beginning the experiment about scary movies and nightmares?

5. 5 Operationalization (continued) Confounding variables Reliability Validity The experiment testing whether children who watch scary movies have more nightmares than other children is actually more complicated than it seems. There are many possible variables that could confound (confuse) the experiment results. For example: How can we make sure the children?s nightmares aren?t caused by factors other than scary movies? How can we determine what makes a movie scary? Couldn?t some children find a movie very scary while other children find it neutral or even funny? How can we know for sure whether a child has had a nightmare and how many nightmares he or she has had? And how do we define ?nightmare,? anyway? Try to think of other factors that might complicate this experiment. Experimental psychologists must do this in order to ensure that experiments are reliable (i.e., they can be performed over and over and always produce the same results) and valid (they actually measure what they set out to measure).The experiment testing whether children who watch scary movies have more nightmares than other children is actually more complicated than it seems. There are many possible variables that could confound (confuse) the experiment results. For example: How can we make sure the children?s nightmares aren?t caused by factors other than scary movies? How can we determine what makes a movie scary? Couldn?t some children find a movie very scary while other children find it neutral or even funny? How can we know for sure whether a child has had a nightmare and how many nightmares he or she has had? And how do we define ?nightmare,? anyway? Try to think of other factors that might complicate this experiment. Experimental psychologists must do this in order to ensure that experiments are reliable (i.e., they can be performed over and over and always produce the same results) and valid (they actually measure what they set out to measure).

6. 6 Experimenting, Recording Results, Conclusion Recording the results After researchers have set up an experiment and considered all the potential problems with the experiment?s design, they conduct the experiment and record the results. They then analyze the results to see if their data support the hypothesis and to draw conclusions about what the data show. Researchers may find that there is a correlation, or relationship, between the independent and the dependent variables. For example, they may find that children who watch scary movies indeed have more nightmares than children who don?t watch scary movies. In this case, the results would support the hypothesis. Think about this conclusion. Does this mean that the scary movies cause the children to have nightmares?After researchers have set up an experiment and considered all the potential problems with the experiment?s design, they conduct the experiment and record the results. They then analyze the results to see if their data support the hypothesis and to draw conclusions about what the data show. Researchers may find that there is a correlation, or relationship, between the independent and the dependent variables. For example, they may find that children who watch scary movies indeed have more nightmares than children who don?t watch scary movies. In this case, the results would support the hypothesis. Think about this conclusion. Does this mean that the scary movies cause the children to have nightmares?

7. 7 Correlation vs. Causation Correlation versus causation: just because two things are related doesn?t mean one thing caused the other A correlation, or relationship, between the independent and the dependent variables (scary movies and children?s nightmares) does not necessarily mean that the independent variable (scary movie) causes the dependent variable (nightmares) to happen. What if children who tend to have nightmares also tend to be more scared in general, not only by movies but also by other things? Or what if their nightmares make them more interested in watching scary movies? You can see how it can be very difficult to determine what causes something to happen; this is especially true in psychology experiments. (Note to teacher: Since ?correlation? has a formal meaning in statistics, you may want to take some time here to discuss the importance of statistics in psychological research and to explain some basic terms like median/mean/mode, variability and standard deviation, etc). A correlation, or relationship, between the independent and the dependent variables (scary movies and children?s nightmares) does not necessarily mean that the independent variable (scary movie) causes the dependent variable (nightmares) to happen. What if children who tend to have nightmares also tend to be more scared in general, not only by movies but also by other things? Or what if their nightmares make them more interested in watching scary movies? You can see how it can be very difficult to determine what causes something to happen; this is especially true in psychology experiments. (Note to teacher: Since ?correlation? has a formal meaning in statistics, you may want to take some time here to discuss the importance of statistics in psychological research and to explain some basic terms like median/mean/mode, variability and standard deviation, etc).

8. 8 Replication and Theory Development Replication Theory development If the experiment results support the hypothesis, the experimenters or other psychologists may try to conduct the experiment again to see if it can be replicated (that is, to see if the results are the same the next time). After many successful replications of an experiment, and many other experiments that support similar hypotheses, psychologists may develop a theory that describes their best idea about how something works. If the experiment results support the hypothesis, the experimenters or other psychologists may try to conduct the experiment again to see if it can be replicated (that is, to see if the results are the same the next time). After many successful replications of an experiment, and many other experiments that support similar hypotheses, psychologists may develop a theory that describes their best idea about how something works.

9. 9 Ethical Issues Is it right to experiment on people? What limits should there be? In the sample experiment described, you may have wondered whether it?s even right to expose children to scary movies in order to see whether they have nightmares. Many ethical considerations arise in psychology experiments, and researchers must find ways to make sure they don?t harm their subjects. In fact, the law requires researchers not only to treat their human subjects very carefully but also to obtain each subject?s consent?even if the subject is a child. (Note to teacher: The APA Web site at www.apa.org discusses informed consent on a page called ?APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.? You may want to discuss some of these APA guidelines with your students.) What steps might researchers take to ensure that this sample experiment is conducted ethically? One possibility might be for the researchers to study children whose parents already let them watch scary movies rather than intentionally exposing children to scary movies that they otherwise might not watch. What other ideas can you think of?In the sample experiment described, you may have wondered whether it?s even right to expose children to scary movies in order to see whether they have nightmares. Many ethical considerations arise in psychology experiments, and researchers must find ways to make sure they don?t harm their subjects. In fact, the law requires researchers not only to treat their human subjects very carefully but also to obtain each subject?s consent?even if the subject is a child. (Note to teacher: The APA Web site at www.apa.org discusses informed consent on a page called ?APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.? You may want to discuss some of these APA guidelines with your students.) What steps might researchers take to ensure that this sample experiment is conducted ethically? One possibility might be for the researchers to study children whose parents already let them watch scary movies rather than intentionally exposing children to scary movies that they otherwise might not watch. What other ideas can you think of?

10. 10 Ethical Issues Is it right to experiment on animals? What limits should there be? Studying animals also raises ethical concerns. You will see a few examples of animal experiments in upcoming slides. Animals have been used for a long time in both psychological and medical experiments because they share many similarities to people, and scientists can therefore often infer things about humans based on observation of animals. Nonetheless, many people are concerned about the ethics of causing pain and harm to animals who clearly don?t have a choice of whether or not to participate in the experiment. The debate revolves around whether it?s okay to harm animals in the hope that people might be helped. Many professional psychological associations have guidelines for conducting animal experiments and for treating animals used as test subjects. (Note to teacher: The APA Web site also has a page titled ?Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in the Care and Use of Animals.? You may want to have your students read these guidelines and then have a full-class discussion.)Studying animals also raises ethical concerns. You will see a few examples of animal experiments in upcoming slides. Animals have been used for a long time in both psychological and medical experiments because they share many similarities to people, and scientists can therefore often infer things about humans based on observation of animals. Nonetheless, many people are concerned about the ethics of causing pain and harm to animals who clearly don?t have a choice of whether or not to participate in the experiment. The debate revolves around whether it?s okay to harm animals in the hope that people might be helped. Many professional psychological associations have guidelines for conducting animal experiments and for treating animals used as test subjects. (Note to teacher: The APA Web site also has a page titled ?Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in the Care and Use of Animals.? You may want to have your students read these guidelines and then have a full-class discussion.)


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