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Overview of Research Methods

Since so much of social psychology depends upon scientific research, it would be good to review the methodology and check yourself on your understanding of a very common research error: concluding that two things that are correlated cause one another.


In a brief, two-paragraph essay, explain what is meant by the term “correlation does not mean causation,” and provide a link to a news article in which the headline implies causation, when in fact only support for correlation is given.


An Integral Approach to Study

In order to be a valid science, does social psychology need to depend only on what can be observed and measured? Contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber is known for developing a context for an integral approach to study, to psychology, and to how we live our lives. His four-quadrant model proposes that we need to consider four different but integral perspectives or perhaps, dimensions, of reality in order to have a holistic understanding. In our holistic approach within this course, we will at times consider the individual subjective perspective, such as one’s cognitions and perceptions; the relationship of subjectives, such as attitudes and prejudice as motivating observable; and outer behaviors and interactions. We’ll explore cultural values and norms (subjective) and how they influence group behaviors (objective). Interestingly, in next week’s topics, you’ll see how social neuroscientists try to use objective means to study some hitherto very subjective processes. You might say that social psychology itself represents the intersection and interrelationship of these four dimensions within the field of psychology.


Research Wilber’s four-quadrant model. Then think of your current or most recent career. What processes and interactions are involved in it? Which are objective and which are subjective? What internal, personal experiences are involved? Are there group or interpersonal activities and experiences? Is there a cultural context that is significant? Draw your own version of Wilber’s four quadrants and place each of these factors in the appropriate area. In one paragraph, share a brief description of your job in the Forum, and in another paragraph, share at least one of the aspects you identified from each quadrant, explaining your rationale for the quadrant in which you placed it.

Ethical Concerns in Research

Psychological research often involves some amount of deception. Participants are often tricked in some way to believe they are in certain situations so that their responses can be evaluated. For example, a researcher who studies prejudice cannot tell her participants that she is evaluating how prejudice they are. If she did, participants would try to cover it up (after all, acting prejudice is not socially desireable). You can see why it’s important that the individuals who are being studied cannot second-guess the actual variables being studied, lest they themselves manipulate their responses to be more in line with their own expectations or self-perceptions.

Over the years, as psychologists continued to use deception in their experiments, some experiments were found to cause significant psychological disturbance to those who participated. After several well-known experiments such as Milgram’s Obedience to Authority experiment and the Stanford Prison Guard Experiment, institutional review boards (IRBs) were established to evaluate potential harm to those willing to be studied.

Task Description

Consider what you learned about Schacter’s Affiliation study.

Imagine yourself being one of the subjects in the experiment. How do you think you would have reacted? Evaluate the ethics of this experiment. Was anyone harmed? If you served on a University’s IRB, would you have approved the study? In your discussion, be sure to address the balance between the cost to the individual and the benefit to society from learning about human behavior.

Write a brief response to share your own evaluation of the ethics of this experiment, supporting your position.

Can you make a specific connections to your course material and cite your sources. Provide a question or talking point for your peers to address when they respond to your post.

Please no copy and paste of any kind.