ap psych study guides

🤔  Unit 5: Cognitive Psychology

👶  Unit 6: Developmental Psychology

🤪  Unit 7: Motivation, Emotion, & Personality

🛋  Unit 8: Clinical Psychology

1.2 Research Methods in Psychology






⏱️  4 min read

written by

Sadiyya Holsey

sadiyya holsey

Dalia Savy

dalia savy

July 27, 2020

Overview of Each Method

There are various types of research methods in psychology with different purposes, strengths, and weaknesses.

Research MethodPurpose/DefinitionStrength(s)Weaknesses
Experiments🧪Manipulates one or more independent variables to determine the effects of certain behavior.(1) can determine cause and effect (2) can be retested and proven(1) could have potential ethical issues (2) artificial environment creates low realism (people know they are being researched, which could impact what they say and do)
Correlational Studies📈Involves looking at the relationships between two or more variables, is used when performing an experiment is not possible.(1) easier to conduct than an experiment (2) can be used when an experiment is impossible. For example, a researcher may want to examine the relationship between school grades and adderall. It would not be ethical to force students to take high doses of adderall. So, one can only rely on participants’ responsescannot determine cause and effect
Survey Research💭The collection of information reported by people about a particular topic.(1) cost effective (2) mostly reliable(1) low response rates (2) can’t verify the accuracy of an individual’s response
Naturalistic Observations👀A researcher observes a subject's behavior without intervention.natural setting is more reliable than a lab setting(1) people behave differently when they know they are being watched which could impact the results (Hawthorne effect) (2) two researchers could see the same behavior but draw different conclusions
Case StudiesA case study is an in-depth study of an individual or a small group. Usually, case studies are done on people with rare circumstances. For example, a girl named Genie was locked in her room causing a delay in development. Researchers did a case study about her to understand more about language and human development stages.provides detailed information(1) cannot generalize results to a wider population (2) difficult to replicate (3) time-consuming
Longitudinal Studies ↔️The same individuals are studied over a long period of time can be years up to decades.(1) can show effects of changes over time (2) more powerful than cross-sectional studies(1) require large amounts of time (2) expensive💰
Cross-Sectional StudiesA cross-sectional study examines people of different groups at the same time. For example, studying people that are different ages at the same time differences can be attributed to age.(1) quick and easy to conduct (2) generalizable results(1) difficult to find a population that differs by only one factor (2) cannot measure changes over time

Examples of Each

Experiment 🧪

Whenever researchers want to prove or find causation, they would run an experiment.

An experiment you'll learn about in unit 9 that was run by Solomon Asch investigated the extent to which one would conform to a group's ideas.


Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Each person in the room would have to look at these lines above and state which one they thought was of similar length to the original line. The answer was of course obvious, but Asch wanted to see if the "real participant" would conform to the views of the rest of the group.

Asch gathered together what we could call "fake participants" and told them not to say line C. The "real participant" would then hear wrong answers, but they didn't want to be the odd one out, so they conformed with the rest of the group and represented the majority view.

In this experiment, the "real participant" was the control group and about 75% of them, over 12 trials, conformed at least once.

Correlational Study 📈

There could be a correlational study between anything. Say you wanted to see if there was an association between the number of hours a teenager sleeps and their grades in high school. If there was a correlation, we couldn't say the more hours slept 💤, the higher the grades are, but we could say that they go hand in hand 🤝 together.

Survey Research 💭

Surveys are used all the time, especially in advertising and marketing. They are often distributed to a large number of people and results are returned back to researchers.

Naturalistic Observation 👀

If a student wanted to observe how many people fully stop at a stop sign, they could watch the cars from a distance and record their data. This is a naturalistic observation, since the student is in no way influencing the results.

Case Study

Other than the example in the table, here is another one:

A man named Phineas Gage was working near the railroad when an iron rod penetrated his cheek through his skull and brain.


Image Courtesy of Vermont Journal.

This is a case study, since he is an individual with a unique circumstance. Gage actually survived this but his whole personality changed since part of his brain was altered. They did a case study to learn more about the impact of this incident.

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