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Developing Ideas for Research and Evaluating Theories of Behavior

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Presentation on theme: "Developing Ideas for Research and Evaluating Theories of Behavior"— Presentation transcript:

1 Developing Ideas for Research and Evaluating Theories of Behavior
Chapter 2 Developing Ideas for Research and Evaluating Theories of Behavior

2 Part I: Developing a Good Research Idea
Sources of Research Ideas Experience Unsystematic Observation Systematic Observation Theory Applied Issues

3 Sources of Research Ideas
Experience Unsystematic Observation Observation of everyday behavior Observation of animal behavior Good way to discover a general research idea Systematic Observation Focused observation of real world behavior Published research reports Your own previous or ongoing research Peruse Internet research

4 Theory (a set of assumptions about the causes of behavior and rules that specify how those causes act) Predictions of behavior occurring under new combinations of variables (see next slide for example) Two theories make competing predictions about behavior Research can determine which competing prediction is most valid Applied Issues The need to solve practical problems

5 Example of Theory Driven Research Question
Terror Management Theory Humans live in an unpredictable and uncertain world & existence could end at any time. Awareness brings about “terror”. We must develop strategies to cope. Cultures provide terror shields that buffer us. Authors test relationship commitment (pg32)

6 Part II: Developing Good Research Questions
Ask ANSWERABLE QUESTIONS Research ideas must be framed as answerable questions Research ideas must be translated into a set of testable predictions Ask the RIGHT QUESTIONS You must be able to address your questions with scientific methods You must be able to address your questions with empirical observation

Questions must justify the expense and time involved in doing the research Important questions clarify theoretical or empirical issues or address important practical issues

8 Part III: Scientific Theories
A theory is a partially verified statement of a scientific relationship that cannot be directly observed. Characteristics include the following: It describes a scientific relationship (one established through observation and logic) that indicates how variables interact within the system to which the theory applies. The described relationship cannot be observed directly. Its existence must be inferred from the data. The statement is only partially verified. It has past some tests but not all relevant tests have been done.

9 Scientific Theory Cont…
Theory vs. hypothesis Two concepts often confused Theory is more complex (multiple variables) A hypothesis is more simple (one variable) Theory vs. law A law is a theory that has been substantially verified empirically

10 Theory vs. model Model often used as a synonym for theory
A model may be a specific implementation of a general theory A model may represent an application of a general theory to a specific situation A computer model is a program that defines variables and how the variables change over time or trials

11 Classifications of Theory
Quantitative or Qualitative Aspect Level of Description Descriptive Analogical Fundamental Domain of Theory

12 Classifications of Theory Cont…
Quantitative Theory Theory expressed in mathematical terms Relates numerical values of variables to one another Predicted outcomes expressed numerically Qualitative Theory Theory that states relationships between variables in verbal rather than mathematical terms

13 Descriptive Theory Analogical Theory Fundamental Theory
Theory that merely describes the relationships among variables Analogical Theory Theory that explains the relationships among variables through analogy to some well-understood model Fundamental Theory Theory that proposes a new structure to explain the relationships among variables Highest level of theory

14 Part IV: Roles of Theory in Science
Understanding Highest role in science Theory helps you understand phenomena better Prediction Theory provides predictions about behavior under varying circumstances Predictions are tested empirically

15 Organizing and Interpreting Research Results
A theory provides a framework for understanding research Research results can be interpreted based on a theory Generating Research A theory is a source for new research ideas Known as the heuristic value of a theory A theory can be wrong, but still have heuristic value

16 Characteristics of a Good Theory
Ability to Account for Data Theory must account for existing data and well-established facts within its domain Explanatory Relevance Theoretical explanation must offer good grounds for believing that the phenomenon would occur under specified conditions Testability A theory must be testable. It must be capable of failing some empirical test.

17 Prediction of Novel Events
A theory should predict phenomena that the theory was not specifically designed to account for but that are within its domain Parsimony A theory should explain phenomena within its domain with the fewest possible assumptions

18 Strategies for Testing Theories
Confirmational Strategy Look for evidence to confirm predictions from a theory Important part of theory testing, but has limits Confirmation does not prove a theory is correct Confirmation may occur when predictions are too loosely defined Disconfirmational Strategy Using a positive research result to disconfirm a theory’s predictions The two strategies should be used together to test theories

19 Strong Inference Theory is tested and modified based on outcome of research and then tested again Cycle of testing and modification continues until theory adequately accounts for behavior Several alternative explanations can be tested with an experiment Some alternatives will be ruled out New experiment tests remaining alternatives Strong inference works only when alternative explanations generate well-defined predictions

20 Theory Driven vs. Data Driven Research
The quest for theories of learning once drove psychological research Learning theories became very complex Researchers began to question whether the time was right for grand theories Some researchers (e.g., Skinner) argued for an a theoretical approach to research Research should focus on functional relationships among variables

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