Overview. Triplett (1898) Social Influence - 1. PSYCHOLOGY 305 / 305G Social Psychology. Research in Social Psychology 2005

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1 PSYCHOLOGY 305 / 305G Social Psychology Research in Social Psychology 2005 Overview Triplett s study of social influence ( ) Scientific Method Experimental Advantages & Disadvantages Non-experimental Advantages & Disadvantages Experimental Method Flourishes: 1930 s-1970 s Action research Methodological crisis 1970s Social constructionism Methodological pluralism Triplett (1898) Social Influence - 1 Triplett ( ) conducted what has been considered by many the 1st social psychology experiment Observed that cyclists go faster when racing against others or in front of a crowd 1

2 Triplett (1898) Social Influence - 3 Experiment: Children wound twine onto reels, either alone or in the company of another child performing the same task. Times were faster in the presence of another -> i.e., social facilitation. Theory <-> Research Theory Research A Model of the Scientific Method Employed by Psychologists 2

3 Scientific Research Methods in Social Psychology Methods used in social psychology often depend on the research question. Experimental Laboratory Field Non-experimental methods Survey Case study Archival Observational Quantitative vs. Qualitative Experimental Method The experimental method flourished within social psychology 1930 s-1970 s Manipulate one or more variables (independent variable) & look at effect on other variable(s) (dependent variable) Still the most popular method in social psychology today Experimental Method Social psychology experiments often involved: Manipulate IV(s), measure DV, control extraneous variables Intricate enactments of well worked out scripts in the lab Cover story often deceived participants Careful to debrief after experiment was over Experiments help get a handle on factors affecting social perception, influence, & interaction 3

4 Laboratory Experiments Typical Advantages Internal Validity controlled environment means that results obtained are due to manipulation of IV & causality can be inferred? Laboratory Experiments Typical Issues - 1 Construct Validity do IV & DV correspond to theoretical constructs being investigated? e.g., does measure of aggression used in lab really measure true aggression? (often low in lab studies) External Validity / Mundane Realism generalisable to real world? (i.e., what is the similarity between experiment & real world?) Ethics? experiments tend to be less ethical since they often involve deception Laboratory Experiments Typical Issues - 2 Experimental Realism degree to which experiment absorbs participants Demand Characteristics experiment demands a certain response (lessened by use of deception) Reactivity behaviour changes because part of experiment Subject Effects participants act in ways to please experimenter (social desirability) Experimenter Effects experimenter gives clues to hypothesis -> therefore, use double-blind design 4

5 Field Experiments Like lab experiments we still manipulate an IV and measure its effect on a DV. e.g., Sherif s summer camp studies. Field Experiments Typical Advantages External Validity / Mundane Realism conducted in naturalistic settings, therefore more mundane realism / generalisable to real world? Less Reactivity fewer behaviour changes due to being part of experiment Field Experiments Typical Issues - 1 Construct Validity do IV & DV correspond to theoretical constructs being investigated? Internal Validity less experimental control over potentially confounding variables Measurement Difficulties How do we measure concepts like emotions in this type of experiment? Ethical issues Participants generally don t know they are in an experiment, therefore can t get their informed consent 5

6 Non-Experimental Methods - 1 Often used when it is impossible to perform an experiment: Archival Research e.g., look at media reports & how they change over time this type of data may be biased. Case Study e.g., major events, such as genocide, tsunami Survey Research (usually correlational) e.g., look at the relationship between attitudes & intentions to behave a certain way Observational Field Studies (observe behaviour in natural setting) e.g., observe aggression in children s play this type of research tends to be less reactive. Non-Experimental Methods Advantages more naturalistic may be more ethical potentially large amounts of data better construct validity Disadvantages lack of control - less internal validity researcher bias demand characteristics subject effects Action Research An iterative approach to research Developed by Kurt Lewin (1940 s) (who is known as the founder of modern social psychology) Lewin conducted systematic, dynamic experiments with real groups Pioneered use of action research, in which what is learnt is applied again, within the experiment, in a cyclical, dynamic fashion 6

7 Action Research Action Research is the process by which practitioners attempt to study their problems scientifically in order to guide, correct, and evaluate their decisions and actions. - Kurt Lewin (1947) Action Research Advantages Relatively natural more mundane realism / external validity Better construct validity because the situations are less artificial and multiple measures are used Ethical Empowering e.g., research is combined with education Action Research Disadvantages Internal Validity Lack of scientific control - can t infer causality Demand Characteristics e.g., wording effects in surveys. Participant Effects May guess the purpose of a survey, may have social desirability effects. Researcher-Dependent 7

8 The Crisis in Social Psychology: Who Cares? (The Relevance Crisis) 1970 s: Limits of the scientific method become clear and the social constructionist viewpoint became more accepted. Criticism of experimental social psychology as obsessed with arcane theory and conducting clever experiments without any social relevance (Ring) vs. Criticisism of social constructionism for being too concerned with relevance (McQuire) The Crisis in Social Psychology: Empiricist vs. Constructionist Debate Major criticisms of social psychology (late 1960s) reductionist positivistic demand characteristics experimenter effects ethical issues lack of social context Reductionism Reducing behaviour to the individual, ignoring social context e.g. studying stereotyping in the lab by looking at individual cognitive processes 8

9 Positivism Non-critical acceptance of science and its methods Is the scientific method & especially the experiment suitable for social psychology? Science as religion Is objectivity possible? Research Ethics Informed consent Protect participants from harm & discomfort Avoid excessive use of deception Confidentiality Fully debrief participants Social Constructionism 1. Culturally Embedded: Social psychology experiments dis-embed events from the cultural context e.g., body language, spitting. 2. Sequentially Embedded: Experiments only consider very short sequences of events so are they appropriate for explaining phenomena like attraction? 3. Openly Competitive: In the real world, a no. of stimuli compete isolated in the lab. 4. Final Common Pathways: Multiply determined; naturally confound each other. 5. Complexly Determined: Difficult to manipulate greater than 3 IVs in the lab. 6. Social Psychology as History: Meanings change over time e.g., racism/language change from negroes/coloured to Black to African Americans (back to Black?) 9

10 Social Psychology as History Interpretation of the meaning of events & behaviour change across cultural history Therefore, there are no general laws of behaviour all hypotheses contain some truth for some persons at some time Research Methods in Social Constructionism - 1 Social constructionism (social world is product of socially & historically situated practices) Research findings do not have meaning until interpreted No knowledge is transhistorical & transcultural (i.e., all knowledge is culturally situated) Research Methods in Social Constructionism - 2 Importance of reflexivity (researcher s awareness of own biases, assumptions etc.) Critical social psychology (value-laden & political) Research methods focus on analysis of language, discourse & use of rhetoric Observations, interviews, records of naturally occurring events 10

11 Summary The application of scientific methods distinguished psychology as a unique and respected field during the 20 th century. Social psychology has been a hot-bed of development and debate with regard to research methods in social science. Research methods in psychology have exhibited a waxing & waning paradigmatic debate between specific, controlled experimental studies and larger, more complex, naturally occurring social psychological studies Questions Which research method is best? Is the experiment still useful? Methodological pluralism? References Danziger, K. (2000). Making social psychology experimental: A conceptual history, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 36, Richard, F. D., Bond, C. F., Jr., & Stokes- Zoota, J. J. (2003). One hundred years of social psychology quantitatively described. Review of General Psychology, 7,

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