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Article

Like science in general, psychological research has never had a method. Rather, psychologists have deployed many methods under quite variable justifications. The history of these methods is thus a history of contestation. Psychology’s method debates are many and varied, but they mostly constellate around two interconnected concerns: psychology’s status as a science, and psychology’s proper subject matter. On the first question, the majority position has been an attempt to establish psychology as scientific, and thus committed to quantification and to objective, particularly experimental, methods. Challenging this position, many have argued that psychology cannot be a science, or at least not a natural one. Others have questioned the epistemic privilege of operationalization, quantification, experimentation, and even science itself. Connecting epistemic concerns with those of ethics and morality, some have pointed to the dehumanizing and oppressive consequences of objectification. In contrast to the debates over psychology’s status as a science, the question of its proper subject matter has produced no permanent majority position, but perennial methodological debates. Perhaps the oldest of these is the conflict over whether and how self, mind, or consciousness can be observed. This conflict produced famous disagreements like the imageless thought controversy and the behaviorist assault on “introspection.” Other recurrent debates include those over whether psychologists study wholes or aggregates, structures or functions, and states or dynamic systems.

Article

Social psychology represents a scientific approach that fosters advances in both theory and practical application designed to understand and enhance interactions among individuals and groups.

Article

Trustworthy measurement is essential to make inferences about people and events, as well as to make scientific inquiries and comprehend human behaviors. Measurement is used for validating and building theories, substantiating research endeavors, contributing to science, and supporting a variety of applications. Sport and exercise psychology is a theoretical and practical domain derived from two domains: psychology and kinesiology. As such, the measurement methods used by scientists and practitioners relate to the acquisition of motor skills (i.e., genetics and environment-deliberate practice), physiological measures (e.g., heart rate pulse, heart rate variability, breathing amplitude and frequency, galvanic skin response, and electrocardiogram), and psychological measures including introspective instruments in the form of questionnaires, interviews, and observations. Sport and exercise psychology entails the measurement of motor performance (e.g., time-trials, one repetition maximum tests), cognitive development (e.g., knowledge base and structure, deliberate practice, perception-cognition, attention, memory), social aspects (e.g., team dynamics, cohesion, leadership, shared mental models, coach-performer interaction), the self (e.g., self-esteem, self-concept, physical self), affective and emotional states (e.g., mood, burnout), and psychological skills (e.g. imagery, goal-setting, relaxation, emotion regulation, stress management, self-talk, relaxation, and pre-performance routine). Sport and exercise psychologists are also interested in measuring the affective domain (e.g., quality of life, affect/emotions, perceived effort), psychopathological states (e.g., anxiety, depression), cognitive domain (e.g., executive functioning, information processing, decision making, attention, academic achievements, cognition and aging), social-cognitive concepts (e.g., self-efficacy, self-control, motivation), and biochemical markers of human functioning (e.g., genetic factors, hormonal changes). The emergence of neuroscientific methods have ushered in new methodological tools (e.g., electroencephalogram; fMRI) to assess central markers (brain systems) linked to performance, learning, and well-being in sport and exercise settings. Altogether, the measures in the sport and exercise domain are used to establish linkages among the emotional, cognitive, and motor systems.

Article

Christiane A. Hoppmann, Theresa Pauly, Victoria I. Michalowski, and Urs M. Nater

Everyday salivary cortisol is a popular biomarker that is uniquely suited to address key lifespan developmental questions. Specifically, it can be used to shed light on the time-varying situational characteristics that elicit acute stress responses as individuals navigate their everyday lives across the adult lifespan (intraindividual variability). It is also well suited to identify more stable personal characteristics that shape the way that individuals appraise and approach the stressors they encounter across different life phases (interindividual differences). And it is a useful tool to disentangle the mechanisms governing the complex interplay between situational and person-level processes involving multiple systems (gain-loss dynamics). Applications of this biomarker in areas of functioning that are core to lifespan developmental research include emotional experiences, social contextual factors, and cognition. Methodological considerations need to involve careful thought regarding sampling frames, potential confounding variables, and data screening procedures that are tailored to the research question at hand.

Article

Forensic psychology in the 21st century entails the application of psychology to all aspects of the criminal justice process. Forensic psychologists, therefore, are engaged in the theorization of offending, offender profiling, the psychology of testimony, investigative interviewing, the psychology of juries and judges, and psychological approaches to the punishment and treatment of offenders. Historically, however, forensic psychology, has been narrower in scope. Founded principally in Europe during the late 19th century as a response to the reform of criminal procedure and research on suggestion, which undermined confidence in witness credibility, forensic psychology was initially pursued by jurists and psychiatrists eager to understand the behavior of all those involved in the criminal justice process. While this ambition was pursued piecemeal by jurists throughout the early 20th century in their studies of guilty knowledge, judges, jurors, and investigators, the exigencies of the courtroom, soon saw the field become focused on the psychology of the witness, particularly the juvenile witness. Important, in this regard were the efforts of both European and American experimental psychologists, whose precarious position within universities at the fin de siècle saw them look for real-world applications for psychology and led them to campaign voraciously for the inclusion of psychological knowledge and psychological expertise in legal proceedings. Competition between several disciplines, including law, psychology, psychiatry, and pedagogy, over the role of psychological expert made the professionalization of this field difficult up until the Second World War. During the late 1940s and 1950s, however, not only did forensic psychology increasingly become the exclusive purview of psychologists, but the discipline’s scope began to expand. Notable in this regard was offender profiling, which emerged from the psychological analysis of war criminals and the application of the insights gained here to several high-profile criminal cases in the United States.

Article

Sicong Liu and Gershon Tenenbaum

Research methods in sport and exercise psychology are embedded in the domain’s network of methodological assumptions, historical traditions, and research themes. Sport and exercise psychology is a unique domain that derives and integrates concepts and terminologies from both psychology and kinesiology domains. Thus, research methods used to study the main concerns and interests of sport and exercise psychology represent the domain’s intellectual properties. The main methods used in the sport and exercise psychology domain are: (a) experimental, (b) psychometric, (c) multivariate correlational, (d) meta-analytic, (e) idiosyncratic, and (f) qualitative approach. Each of these research methods tends to fulfill a distinguishable research purpose in the domain and thus enables the generation of evidence that is not readily gleaned through other methods. Although the six research methods represent a sufficient diversity of available methods in sport and exercise psychology, they must be viewed as a starting point for researchers interested in the domain. Other research methods (e.g., case study, Bayesian inferences, and psychophysiological approach) exist and bear potential to advance the domain of sport and exercise psychology.

Article

Donald V. Brown Jr., Karyna Pryiomka, and Joshua W. Clegg

Self-observation, an umbrella term for a number of methods associated with first-order accounts of mental activity (e.g. introspection) and first-person reporting, has been a part of psychology’s investigative procedures since the inception of the discipline. It remains an integral, albeit contested, tool for psychologists to use across essentially every sub-field. In areas such as phenomenology, memory research, psychological assessment, and ethnography, among others, self-observation has been deployed to access information not readily acquired through alternative methods. Other names for introspective methods include self-report, retrospection, inner perception, and self-reflection.

Article

Gustav Theodor Fechner (b. 1801–d. 1887) is well known to psychologists as the founder of psychophysics, a set of methods for empirically relating measured sensory stimulus to reported sensation. Rich as this field of research has proven to be, especially as detection instruments and recording devices have improved in modern times, Fechner himself would be disappointed to discover that he is remembered merely for psychophysics as psychologists understand it today. To Fechner, those particular methods and approaches were only one part of the domain of psychophysics—outer psychophysics—whereas he envisioned psychophysics (both outer and inner) to be the key to the broadest kind of scientific worldview: the study of the relationship between the material world and the mental world (indeed the spiritual universe; in German, die geistige Welt). The preface of Fechner’s 1860 masterwork, Elements of Psychophysics, states, “[I]t is an exact theory of the relation of mind to body. . . . As an exact science psychophysics, like physics, must rest on experience and the mathematical connection of those empirical facts that demand a measure of what is experienced or, when such a measure is not available, a search for it.” In that definition, Fechner reveals his view of natural science, and how psychophysics was meant to expand the range of natural science and the scope of its achievements. Fechner’s influence emerged during the mid-19th century, as the physical and medical sciences were achieving great breakthroughs and establishing fundamental and unifying concepts; this was especially true in Germany, including the city where he came to study and remained for the rest of his life, Leipzig. Fechner was one of the most enthusiastic and optimistic believers in unifying concepts of science. Fechner’s psychophysics gave important impetus to psychometrics and experimental psychology; he also proposed a statistical approach to aesthetics and a “theory of collectives” that pointed toward statistical interpretations of many (perhaps all) areas of experience. In his early career he was a central figure in German physics and an early supporter of the atomic theory of matter as well as Darwinian evolution. His profoundly spiritual ideas, however, were out of step with the science of his time. This aspect of Fechner’s thought is evident in his inner psychophysics, where he searched for the full measure of “what is experienced.”

Article

Susan C. Baker, Bernadette M. Watson, and Cindy Gallois

Language is a social behavior and a key aspect of social interaction. Language is ubiquitous and usually occurs with other human behaviors across diverse contexts. Thus, it is difficult to study it in isolation. This difficulty may be why most, albeit not all, social psychologists tend to neglect language, in spite of the prominence of language in early 20th century social psychology and the presence of numerous handbooks and reviews of this area. Language use has implications for many social psychological processes, and, given its role in daily social life, it is important to understand its social underpinnings. The field of language and social psychology highlights the relationship between language and communication and foregrounds the differences between the social-psychological and communication approaches. One central issue is bilingualism and the relationships among language, identity, and culture. Another is methodology, where social psychologists have tended to choose experimental and survey strategies to look at language (not always to the best advantage). This century has seen the development of new technologies that allow us to look at language on a large scale and in rich detail and that have the potential to transform this research. In part as a consequence, in the early 21st century there are many new topics emerging in language and social psychology that help to set a new agenda for future research.

Article

Consciously setting a specific, difficult, challenging goal leads to high performance for four reasons. Specificity results in (1) the choice to focus on goal-relevant activities and to ignore those that are irrelevant. Challenge leads to an increase in (2) effort and (3) persistence to attain the goal. The combination of specificity and difficulty cue (4) the search for strategies to attain the goal. However, for this to occur, an individual or team must have the ability and the situational resources to attain the goal. In addition, the goal must be important; there must be commitment to goal attainment. Finally, feedback must be provided on goal progress so that adjustments can be made, if necessary, regarding effort or strategy for attaining the goal.

Article

Vicente González-Romá and Ana Hernández

Human behavior takes place in different contexts (e.g., organizations, schools, families, sports teams, and communities) whose properties (e.g., climate, culture, cohesion, leadership, communication networks, and structure) influence human behavior. To estimate this influence, researchers need appropriate methods that avoid the problems associated with the application of standard Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression. Multilevel modeling methods offer researchers a way to estimate the aforementioned influence. These methods take into account that the variables involved reside at different levels. For instance, in the relationship between work unit climate and employee job satisfaction, the former variable resides at the work unit level (level 2) whereas the latter resides at the individual one (level 1). Moreover, multilevel modeling methods also take into account that the data analyzed to estimate this type of relationships have a nested structure in which individuals (e.g., employees) are nested into collectives (e.g., work units). Finally, these methods decompose variance into between-group and within-group components and allow researchers to model variability at the between and within levels. Specifically, multilevel modeling methods allow researchers to test hypotheses that involve, among others: 1. A relationship between a higher-level predictor (e.g., work unit climate) and a lower-level outcome (e.g., employee job satisfaction); a so-called “direct cross-level effect”, and 2. An influence of a higher-level moderator (e.g., work unit climate) on an individual level relationship (e.g., the relationship between employee job stress and job satisfaction); a so-called “cross-level interaction”. Multilevel modeling methods can also be used to test more complex models involving mediation (e.g., 2-2-1, 2-1-1, or 1-1-1 models, depending on whether the antecedent and the mediator are level 1 or level 2 variables) and moderated mediation. We show how to test these models by presenting examples with real data and the corresponding SPSS syntax that readers can use to practice.

Article

Raymond E. Fancher

Gordon W. Allport was a prominent Harvard University psychologist during the mid-20th century, notable both for his early and effective promotion of “personality” as an important psychological subdiscipline, and in his later career as a social psychologist for works on several issues of major social importance. In 1921 he and his older brother Floyd Allport jointly proposed the study and measurement of traits as the foundation of a new subdiscipline of personality psychology, with Gordon’s Harvard doctoral research a pilot study demonstrating the feasibility of the approach. On a subsequent postdoctoral fellowship in Germany Allport became impressed by William Stern’s “personalistic” psychology, which held that a person’s “individuality” could be defined in two ways: relational individuality, comprised of the particular combination of numerous measurable traits manifested by a subject in studies such as Allport’s thesis; and real individuality, a Gestalt-like conception of a personality that is more than just the sum of its parts, and discoverable only through a qualitative analysis of the traits’ role in an overall life history. These ideas inspired in Allport a conception of personality as a broad and independent psychological field that would incorporate both the “nomothetic,” experimental methods of the natural sciences in measuring and studying personality traits, and the non-experimental “idiographic” methods utilized in the historical and humanistic fields for providing conceptions of wholly integrated, unique personalities. Noting that Anglo-American psychology was heavily dominated by the former approach, he became an outspoken advocate of the latter as a necessary complement to it. Allport taught undergraduate seminars promoting this conception at Harvard and Dartmouth between 1924 and 1930, before returning permanently to Harvard in 1930. There, both independently and in collaborations with others, he conducted and promoted seminal personality research employing both nomothetic and idiographic methods. His comprehensive and authoritative 1937 textbook, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, was a landmark in establishing personality as a major psychological discipline. With enhanced reputation, Allport became a leading institutional figure in American psychology. For the rest of his career he continued to advocate an inclusive, “eclectic” approach to personality psychology, while also turning attention to important social issues such as wartime morale and propaganda, the influence of radio as a mass medium, the role of religion in personality and society, and with particular impact the nature of prejudice.

Article

Frederick A.A. Kingdom

Psychophysics is the primary scientific tool for determining how the physical world translates into the biological world of sensations. As a noninvasive methodology that uses behavioral measurements of sensory function, it is often the first port of call for developing the stimuli, procedures and methods of analysis for subsequent use in neurophysiological, electrophysiological and brain imaging studies of sensory behavior. Psychophysics is not merely a methodology but also a research area in its own right, advancing alongside other developments such as in mathematical analysis and computer technology. Although this article concentrates on psychophysics as applied to vision, the concepts and procedures described are applicable to all sensory modalities.

Article

Research methods in lifespan development include single-factor designs that either follow a single cohort of individuals over time or compare age groups at a single time point. The two basic types of studies involving the manipulation of the single factors of age, cohort, and time of measurement are longitudinal and cross-sectional. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages, but both are characterized by limitations because they cannot definitively separate the joint influences of age, cohort, and type of measurement. The third group of designs involves manipulation of two or more levels of each factor to permit inferences to be drawn that separate personal from social aging. The theoretical problems involved in both the single-factor and sequential designs combine with practical issues to present lifespan developmental researchers with a number of choices in approaching the variables of interest. The theoretical problems include the inevitable linking of personal with social aging, particularly evident in single-factor designs, and the fact that selective attrition leads to the differential availability of increasingly select older samples. Practical problems include the need to assign participants to appropriate age intervals and such clerical issues as the need to track participants in follow-up investigations. Researchers must also be aware of methodological issues related to task equivalence across individuals of different ages and the need to covary for potential confounds that could lead to differences across groups of participants due to such factors as education and health status. The increasing recognition of the need to address these issues is leading to a body of literature that reflects the growing sophistication of the field along with the more widespread availability of sophisticated analytic methods. As these improvements continue to raise the level of scholarship in the field, there will be a greater understanding of both ontogenetic change as well as the influence of context on development from childhood through later life.

Article

Intraindividual variability (IIV) refers to short-term fluctuations that may be more rapid, and are often conceptualized as more reversible, than developmental change that unfolds over a longer period of time, such as years. As a feature of longitudinal data collected on micro timescales (i.e., seconds, minutes, days, or weeks), IIV can describe people, contexts, or general processes characterizing human development. In contrast to approaches that pool information across individuals and assess interindividual variability in a population (i.e., between-person variability), IIV is the focus of person-centered studies addressing how and when individuals change over time (i.e., within-person variability). Developmental psychologists interested in change and how and when it occurs, have devised research methods designed to examine intraindividual change (IIC) and interindividual differences in IIC. Dispersion, variability, inconsistency, time-structured IIV, and net IIV are distinct operationalizations of IIV that, depending on the number of measures, occasions, and time of measurement, reflect unique information about IIV in lifespan developmental domains of interest. Microlongitudinal and measurement-burst designs are two methodological approaches with intensive repeated measurement that provide a means by which various operationalizations of IIV can be accurately observed over an appropriate temporal frame to garner clearer understanding of the dynamic phenomenon under investigation. When methodological approaches are theoretically informed and the temporal frame and number of assessments align with the dynamic lifespan developmental phenomenon of interest, researchers gain greater precision in their observations of within-person variability and the extent to which these meaningful short-term fluctuations influence important domains of health and well-being. With technological advancements fueling enhanced methodologies and analytic approaches, IIV research will continue to be at the vanguard of pioneering designs for elucidating developmental change at the individual level and scaling it up to generalize to populations of interest.

Article

Ekaterina Zavershneva and René van der Veer

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (real name Lev Simkhovich Vygodsky; Orsha 1896–Moscow 1934) was a Russian psychologist who created cultural-historical theory, which proved influential in developmental psychology and other psychological disciplines. Vygotsky characterized his approach as “height psychology” (as opposed to “depth psychology”) and posited that the higher forms of mind should be the starting point for the study of human development. In his view it was essential to study psychological processes in their historical dynamics; these dynamics could be unraveled with the causal-genetic approach he developed, which involved the guided formation of mind in the course of its study or the experimental unfolding of ontogeny. Vygotsky claimed that the mechanisms of human development are not genetically determined and that we must find its source in culture and the social environment. Human development is mediated by cultural artifacts and sign systems, which are mastered in a dialogue with other people in spontaneous or guided interaction, which stimulates development by creating a zone of proximal development. The major means of the transformation of innate mind into higher mind is language, which enables us to preserve and transmit the experience of generations. In this process of cultural development the person develops a system of higher psychological functions that are social in origin, voluntary and mediated in nature, and form part of a systemic whole. The process of ontogeny goes through a series of stable periods and crises that correspond with specific conditions of the social situation of development and the developmental tasks. Age periods are completed with the development of neoformations, which do not just form results but are also prerequisites for further development. With the development of verbal thinking and the mastery of cultural means of behavior the person masters her/his innate mind and becomes a personality, whose main characteristic is freedom of behavior.

Article

The problem of time in psychology, which first became the object of attention and investigation by scientific psychology concerning the aspect of temporal measurement of mental processes, has been addressed since the early 20th century with regard to the perception of time, also called the subjective experience of time. The reaction time paradigm, defined as the minimum time between the presentation of a stimulus and the participant’s response to it, is closely related to the birth of experimental psychology. The determination of an objective parameter of the speed of the nerve impulse, therefore, represented the initial purpose of the psychochronometric studies. Defining the object of study for experimental psychology as immediate conscious experience or subjective experience of consciousness has led psychologists to reflect on the distinction between physical time and psychological time—a distinction already present in the philosophical field—and to analyze the latter in all its manifestations through sophisticated and complex experimental investigations. Psychologists, although aware of the reflections on time developed by philosophical doctrines and prepared to take these into account, generally tried to steer clear of the questions relating to the typical problems of philosophy—the nature of the idea of time and its corresponding reality—preferring to concentrate their analysis on the subjective experience of time. In relation to the different varieties of the temporal experience, experiments have been conceived and set up to analyze, measure, and precisely define them using the psychophysical and psychophysiological research paradigm. Between the end of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century researches concerning perception of the present, simultaneity, succession, instant, and time interval were developed.

Article

Jeanne Marecek and Eva Magnusson

Qualitative inquiry is a form of psychological research that seeks in-depth understanding of people and their social worlds. Qualitative researchers typically study the experiences of people as meaning-making agents, relying on verbal material. Qualitative inquiry has a long history in psychology, beginning in the 19th century with founders of psychology like William James and Wilhelm Wundt. However, for much of the 20th century, qualitative inquiry has occupied a marginal position in the discipline. This marginalization is best understood in relation to the discipline’s early struggle to be regarded as legitimate. Adopting the methods of the natural sciences—notably quantification and measurement—was a means to that end. Qualitative approaches, though suppressed for much of the 20th century, were not entirely eliminated from the field. Personality theorists, for example, continued to make use of them. The 1970s marked the advent of new forms of qualitative inquiry in psychology, which drew from a variety of intellectual and philosophical movements. These developments continued to gain acceptance and adherents. Since the turn of the 20th century, national and international organizations of qualitative researchers in psychology have been established. Venues for publishing qualitative research in psychology have increased. Nonetheless, qualitative inquiry is still marginalized in many academic psychology departments, and training in qualitative methods is seldom part of the methods curriculum.

Article

Ildiko Tombor and Susan Michie

People’s behavior influences health, for example, in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of disease, the management of illness, and the optimization of healthcare professionals’ behaviors. Behaviors are part of a system of behaviors within and between people in that any one behavior is influenced by others. Methods for changing behavior may be aimed at individuals, organizations, communities, and/or populations and at changing different influences on behavior, e.g., motivation, capability, and the environment. A framework that encapsulates these influences is the Behavior Change Wheel, which links an understanding of behavior in its context with methods to change behavior. Within this framework, methods are conceptualized at three levels: policies that represent high-level societal and organizational decisions, interventions that are more direct methods to change behavior, and behavior change techniques that are the smallest components that on their own have the potential to change behavior. In order to provide intervention designers with a systematic method to select the policies, interventions, and/or techniques relevant for their context, a set of criteria can be used to help select intervention methods that are likely to be implemented and effective. One such set is the “APEASE” criteria: affordability, practicability, effectiveness, acceptability, safety, and equity.