Glossary of Terms

A

Aims: These are statements made at the beginning of psychological research which outlines the purpose the study and both what the psychologist intends to study and what they wish to find out.  These are often phrased as “The aim of the following research is to…”

B

Bar Chart: A bar graph is a chart that uses mostly vertical (although sometimes horizontal) bars to show comparisons among categories.  It is because the data is on categories that the bar DO NOT TOUCH. the X axis of the chart shows the specific categories being compared, and the Y axis represents a discrete value/frequency. Bar charts are used for nominal data and some bar graphs present bars clustered in groups of more than one.

C

Central Tendency: Central tendency relates to the way in which quantitative data is clustered around some value. A measure of central tendency is a way of specifying a central value. In the simplest cases, the measure of central tendency is an average of a set of measurements.

Ethical Guideline – Confidentiality: During an investigation all information obtained about a participant is confidential unless specified by the law or agreed in advance.

Confounding Variable: Confounding variables do vary systematically with the IV.  Another way this is sometimes described is a variable which changes/correlates with both the IV and the DV.  for example with age comes experience.  So when I change someone’s age for the purpose of an experiment, their experience also changes.

Ethical Guideline – Consent: Whenever possible, the investigator should inform all participants of the objectives of the investigation.  The investigators should inform the participants of all aspects of the research or intervention that might influence their willingness to participate. The payment of participants must not be used to induce them to risk harm beyond their normal life style.

Ethical Issue – Consent: Difficult to obtain informed consent because  often participants aren’t told the aims of the research to prevent demand characteristics.  Can be overcome by offering Debrief participants – tell them the aims of the research after the study.  Asking them if you can still use their data (retrospective consent).  Or by using an alternative such as  Presumptive Consent – gain informed consent from a group of people similar to the participants and then presume the actual participants would also agree to the study.

Control: The amount of restrictions placed.  In order to have a lot of control a research study needs to identify any potential influences on the result and make sure they are kept constant.  If this happens then we know that what we did caused the changes we see. (A positive of laboratory experiments).

Counterbalancing: A way to overcome order effects is to have half of your participants complete condition A then condition B, whilst the other half complete condition B then condition A.  This means it should counter any effect of doing the test twice, as half will be effected in condition A and the other half in condition B.  Sometimes seen as ABBA.

D

Ethical Guideline – Debriefing: In studies where the participants are aware that they have taken part in an investigation, the researcher should provide all necessary information about the investigation to complete the participants understanding/monitor any unforeseen negative effects.

Ethical Guideline – Deception: Withholding information or misleading participants is unacceptable if the participants are likely to show unease once debriefed. Intentional deception of the participants over the purpose and general nature of the investigation should be avoided whenever possible.

Ethical Issue – Deception: Certain information is often withheld from participants to avoid demand characteristics. Deception means that participants can not give informed consent. Deception can lead to Psychologists being seen as untrustworthy.  Can be over come by offering participant a Debrief  – explain how and why they were deceived and give them the opportunity to discuss their feelings. The decision to deceive is also governed by Ethics Committees who can weigh up the costs (to the participants) against the benefits (of the study) .

Demand Characteristics:  A cue that makes participants aware of what the researcher expects to find, or how participants are expected to behave. They can change the outcome of a study because they can lead to changes in participants behaviour.  (A negative of laboratory experiments because they give these out). These are CUES which give away the aim of the investigation.  They allow the PARTICIPANTS to guess what is expected of them and this can lead to them CHANGE their behaviour.  This can have an UNEXPECTED effect which can influence the OUTCOME of the research findings.  Demand characteristics come from the INVESTIGATOR, the research SITUATION, the PROCEDURE or the MATERIALS used.

Dependent Variables: In an experiment there are two variables.  One of which is called the dependent variable or sometimes the DV.  This is the variable that is measured by the researcher and should be caused by the changes to the independent variable, (for example memory performance).  In short this is the variable THAT IS MEASURED.

Descriptive Statistics: Descriptive statistics quantitatively describe the main features of a collection of data. Descriptive statistics aim to provide a summary or overview of a data set.

Deviation From Ideal Mental Health: This definition is utilised by positive Psychologists focusing on mental health.  Anyone who does not meet the criteria for ideal            psychological health is considered abnormal.  These ideals are based on the work of Marie Jahoda who claimed that there were six  criteria to accomplish mental health.  A positive attitude to self, personal autonomy (control over own life), resistance to stress,        environmental mastery (or ability to adapt to environment), an accurate perception of reality, and self actualisation (personal growth).  For example someone with Anorexia may feel out of control, see something different in the mirror and dislike themselves.

Deviation From Social Norms: This definition is utilised mainly by sociologists and common people.  Anyone who breaks the ‘norms’ of society, is abnormal.  These norms are the unwritten rules passed on through socialisation by families and other agents about what behaviour is accepted and    expected by members of any given society.  For example Tourette’s can make people ’tic’; blurting out swear words which society sees as unacceptable behaviour.

Directional Hypothesis: States the direction of the predicted difference between two conditions or two groups of people in a precise and operationalised way.  Also known (for statistical tests) as a one tailed hypothesis. E.g. “Participants who IV (a) will state how the DV will differ compared to participants who IV (b)

Dispersion: How spread out (or diverse) the data is. It tells us whether there was a lot of variation or if the results were consistent. In psychological terms, was there individual differences

Double Blind: Not only making participants unaware of what the test is about or what condition they are in but also using a naive researcher to conduct the test who also does not know.

E

Ecological Validity:  The ability to repeat the experiment in a different setting (real world) and get the same results.  If we wanted to say everyone is the same then we would need to make sure that our results are true in all different settings. (A negative of laboratory experiments because they don’t have it).

Evaluation Apprehension:  Participants are affected by a worry they are being evaluated (judged).  They worry about what the outcome means and so second guess answers.  For example you were worried about what you four letters in the MBTI meant about you, and asked it yours was ‘good’.

Expectancy Bias: A form of investigator effect whereby the investigator accidentally changes their behaviour based on their expectations of what should occur. For example watching a group more closely if they expect them to behave in a certain way.

Experiment: Experiments allow us to study cause and effect (causation). They all have an IV (independent variable) and a DV (dependent variable) and make some attempt to control all other potential extraneous variables (EVs).  There are four different kinds of experiments.

Experimental Design: The way in which participants and variables are distributed (levels of IV) in order to make comparisons about DV performance.

Experimental Method: There are (very) broadly two ways that psychologists study the phenomena they are interested in.  These are experimental methods, and non-experimental methods.  The Experimental Method refers to any studies in which there is a variable manipulated by the experimenter, or that has changed naturally that we believe has caused changes to another variable.

External Reliability: How reliable (or consistent) a measure is over time i.e. does it give the same results time after time.

External Validity: How valid (or accurate) a measure is over time i.e. does it give the same results (generalise) in different scenarios.

Extraneous Variables: Extraneous variables are nuisance variables which can bias the research and do not vary systematically with the IV.  They are things which we are (largely) able to identify before we conduct our experiment and put measures in place to reduce or eliminate.   If not they can seriously impact the internal validity of a study.  They can confound the results because the change in the dependant variable (DV) may be due to the extraneous variables rather than the independent variable (IV).

F

Failure To Function Adequately: This definition is utilised mainly by psychologists and doctors.  Anyone who cannot cope with the demands of everyday life is considered abnormal.  Someone’s ability to cope is measured on the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) from a scale of 1-100, where 100 is superior functioning.  At the top end of the scale it considers if the behaviour is causing either distress in the patient or     anxiety in others (observer discomfort).  As functioning decreases it begins to consider the impact on the patients ability to go to work or school and keep social relationships going.  At it progresses further it takes into account if the patient can maintain levels of personal hygiene and safety until the point they become a danger to themselves or others. For example, Alzheimer’s in its early stages can be upsetting to forget things and uncomfortable for family to watch.  As the disease progresses patients become unable to work and  eventually unable to remember to wash or eat.

Field Experiment: An experiment conducted in a natural environment for the behaviour of interest (the field) whilst still being able to have the IV and DV carefully controlled. Participants are sometimes unaware they are taking part in an experiment.

G

H

The Hawthorne Effect: Participants are effected by an awareness they are being observed (OFSTED).  Even if they try to ‘act normal’ they cant.

Histogram: A graphical display where the data is grouped into ranges (such as “40 to 49”, “50 to 59”, etc), and then plotted as bars.  Similar to a Bar Graph, but in a Histogram each bar is for a range of data. It is because the data is in a continuous range that the bar DO TOUCH. the X axis of the chart shows the continuous measurement being used, and the Y axis represents the frequency. Histograms are used for ordinal data – where the data can be put into order smallest to largest.

Hypotheses: States what you believe is true. It is a precise and testable statement of the relationship between two variables. It is a statement, not a question or a prediction. 

I

Independent Groups: An experimental design where you recruit a pool of participants and then split them into two different groups who each only experience one of the conditions of the test.

Independent Variables: In an experiment there are two variables.  One of which is called the independent variable or sometimes the IV.  This is the variable that is either manipulated by the researcher or the one which changes naturally.  In order to test a hypothesis there has to be at least two levels of the IV, this is either two (or more) conditions we wish to compare (for example, studying in short bursts or longer sessions), or the presence and absence of a condition (using mind maps or not using mind maps).  In short this is the variable THAT CHANGES.

Internal Reliability: How reliable (or consistent) a measure is within itself i.e. does it give the same results throughout.

Internal Validity: How valid (or accurate) a measure is within itself  i.e. how confident we can be that we measured what we intended to measure.

Inter-Rater Reliability:  A way of testing the internal reliability (or consistency) of a measure when outside raters are being used.  Instead of one person making judgements several are used and their judgements are compared to each other.  You are looking for a high degree of similarity (0.8 or 80% correlation is normally accepted as reliable).  This is also called inter-interviewer (when it is an interview) and inter-observer (then it is an observation).

Investigator Effects: When conducting research the investigator may bias the final outcome of the study in a number of ways.  Mostly researchers are unaware that this is occurring, very occasionally however there is deliberate bias caused.

J

K

L

Laboratory Experiment: An experiment conducted in a special environment where variables can be carefully controlled. Participants are aware they are taking part in an experiment, though they may not know the true aims of the study.

Line Graph: A line chart or line graph is a type of chart which displays information as a series of data points called ‘markers’ connected by straight line segments..  Similar to a histogram, the X axis of the chart shows the continuous measurement being used, and the Y axis represents the frequency. Again similar to histograms, line graphs are used for ordinal data – where the data can be put into order smallest to largest.  However they also allow us to plot more that one condition on top of one another for comparison.

M

Mean: This is calculated by taking the sum of all scores and the dividing this by the number of scores.  It is a powerful method which is first choice for measures of central tendency except it is not always appropriate as it cannot be calculated for all types of data (nominal) and is easily skewed by outliers.

Median: This is calculated by taking the middle score when all scores have been ordered from the smallest to largest. It is used when there are outliers as it is unaffected but this is due to its lack of power, as all data is not used and again it is not always appropriate as it cannot be used for nominal data.

Matched Pairs: An experimental design where you recruit a pool of participants and match them on criteria relevant to your study (e.g. IQ) then one of each  pair completes one of the experimental conditions.

Mode: This is calculated by taking the most frequently occurring score or scores from the set of scores.  Whilst it is the least powerful it is the only choice for nominal data and can be good if there is a clear modal value.  It is less useful when there are bimodal results, or, indeed, no modal value.

Mundane Realism:  The extent to which an experiment reflects the real world.  Mundane: meaning boring, an experiment should reflect what happens in our day to day lives.  (A negative of laboratory experiments because they don’t have it).

N

Natural Experiment: An experiment conducted in a natural environment where the variables are also naturally occurring. This is often due to practical (time, cost, effort) reasons or ethical reasons around the studying of a topic.

Non-Directional Hypothesis: States that there is a predicted difference between two conditions or two groups of people in a precise and operationalised way without stating what that difference will be. Also known (for statistical tests) as a two tailed hypothesis. E.g.“There will be a difference in DV performance between IV (a) and IV (b)

O

Ethical Guideline – Observational research: Studies that are based upon observation must respect the privacy and psychological well being of the individuals studied. Observational research is only acceptable in situations where those being observed would expect to be observed by strangers or individuals give their consent to be observed.

Operationalise: Both the independent and dependent variables need to be operationalised.  This means that they are made precise, clear, testable and objective.  Operationalising variables makes the research repeatable which is a feature of good science.

Order Effects: Due to participants repeating the procedure with only one small change they can be effected by boredom, fatigue or practise.  This means they are better (or sometimes worse) on the second test but not because of the IV.

P

Participant Reactivity: Responses and/or behaviours of participants are affected by their awareness that they are part of a study (general term).  Or in other words our participants will react to us.

Participant Variables: Anything to do with the people used in the study which could effect the DV other than the IV e.g. gender, IQ, ethnicity or personality.

Pilot Study:  A small scale version of the study conducted to check the procedure works and identify any extraneous variables. For example ensuring participants have enough time to complete the test.

Population Validity: The ability to generalise the results to different people.  The effect is still accurate when you use different types of people.

Primary Data : Primary data are gathered first hand from source, directly by the researcher(s).

Ethical Guideline – Protection of participants: Investigators have a primary responsibility to protect participants from physical and mental harm during the investigation. Normally the risk of harm must be no greater than in ordinary life.

Ethical Issue – Protection of participants: Difficult to predict the outcomes of the research  to guarantee protection from harm.  Need to distinguish between short-term  and long-term harm. The effects of this can be overcome by Debriefing  the participants so they can deal with effects of the study. If needed the research study must be stopped. In addition offer participants the right to withdraw.

Q

Qualitative Data: Qualitative data are those which are concerned with describing meaning, rather than with drawing statistical inferences. What qualitative methods lose on reliability they gain in terms of validity. They provide a more in depth and rich description.

Quantitative Data: Quantitative data are those that focus on numbers and frequencies rather than on meaning and experience. Quantitative methods provide information that is easy to analyse statistically and is fairly reliable. Quantitative methods are associated with the scientific and experimental approach and are criticised for not providing an in depth description

Quasi Experiment: An experiment conducted when it is impossible to control the independent variable.  For instance if you are studying someone’s gender ( they cannot be made into the opposite gender for the purpose of the experiment).

R

Random Allocation: An important concept in independent group design where each participants is randomly allocated to which condition they will receive to reduce bias.

Randomisation: Where ever possible randomising elements of the procedure.  For example, randomly allocating participants to which condition or randomising the presentation of the questions or test items.

Range: This is calculated by subtracting the smallest number in a set of scores from the largest number in the same set. An easy method but effected by outliers.

Reliability: How consistently a method measures something. It relates to our ability to repeat a study and obtain the same results. It is linked to replication but is not the same.

Repeated Measures: An experimental design where you recruit a pool of participants and then get all participants to experience all conditions of the test.

ReplicationThe ability to repeat the experiment.  In order to be able to replicate a study the research had to be well designed, carried out and reported, as well as carefully controlled.  If this happened then another experimenter can ‘copy’ the research exactly. (A positive of laboratory experiments).

Research Aims: These are statements made at the beginning of psychological research which outlines the purpose the study and both what the psychologist intends to study and what they wish to find out.  These are often phrased as “The aim of the following research is to…”

S

Secondary data: Secondary data have already been gathered by someone and are used by someone else for further research.

Single Blind: Making participants unaware of what the test is about or what condition they are in.

Situational Variables: Anything to do with the environment the study was conducted in which could effect the DV other than the IV e.g. time of day, noise.

Social Desirability Bias: Participants change their answers to keep in line with social norms.  For example people are not willing to admit to having views that are different to mainstream culture.

Split Half Method:  A way of testing the internal reliability (or consistency) of a measure (normally a self report).  The measure is split in half (odd questions and even questions) and you are looking for a high degree of similarity in the score in each half (0.8 or 80% correlation is normally accepted as reliable).

Standard Deviation: This is calculated by taking the average that score deviates from the mean in a set of scores (although you will not be asked to calculate this one).

Standardisation: Ensuring that all elements of the procedure are identical for all participants, for example writing instructions down and getting participants to read them to ensure each one got exactly the same experience.

Statistical Infrequency: This definition is utilised mainly by mathematicians, in businesses and science. Anyone who falls outside of the statistical average is considered ‘abnormal’.  Essentially, you are abnormal if your behaviour is rare in the population.  For example obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is rare; only 1.2% of the population suffers from it, with only 0.6% being seriously effected.

T

Temporal Validity:  The ability to generalise the results to a different time/era (sometimes called historical validity).  The effect is still accurate when conducted in modern times.

Test-Retest Method:  A way of testing the external reliability (or consistency) of a measure (normally a self report).  The same measure is given to the same participants again and you are looking for a high degree of similarity (0.8 or 80% correlation is normally accepted as reliable).

U

V

Validity: How accurately a method measures something.  It relates to how truthful, ‘real’ or ‘honest’ the study is and if it is a fair reflection of reality.

W

Ethical Guideline – Withdrawal from the investigation: Investigators should make plain to participants their right to withdraw from the research at any time and require that their own data be destroyed.

X

Y

Z

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