Weekly summary: October 13 – 17

It is finally time to go on holiday.  It seems like a long time since we started the school year! This week was spent wrapping up our first sample IA.  I was impressed at how well many of your did on this assessment.  I think that we are ready to move on to the SCLOA!   This week we wrapped up our study of research methods by learning the following things about case studies:

  • They are holistic – that is, they look at many aspects of an individual or group.  This is in contrast to experimental research that can often be reductionist in nature.
  • Case studies use many forms of triangulation:  source (aka data) triangulation, method triangulation, researcher triangulation and theory triangulation.
  • Case studies may either be retrospective or prospective in nature.  Retrospective case studies have the problem that they rely on self reported data and human memory.  Often data cannot be verified. Prospective studies have the problem of attrition – that is, participants may drop out of the study over time for various reasons.

In addition, we started to peek at the Socio-cultural level of analysis.  We learned the basic principles that define this level of analysis.

Here is a list of the principles that we discussed:

  • Human beings are constantly being influenced by other people, even when they believe that they are acting independently.
  • We have an individual and a social identity.
  • Our behavior is the result of dispositional and situational factors.
  • Culture affects our behavior.

When we get back from break, we will start studying social psychology in depth.  Very exciting.  And no, I didn’t forget about Cialdini’s article on plane crashes that I keep forgetting to discuss in class.  Don’t worry – it will be part of what we do after the break.

If you want to start thinking about gang behaviour for our discussions after the break, you may want to watch this video.  A rather interesting link to animal behaviour….

Relax and enjoy your holidays.

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Weekly summary: September 29 – October 10

Sorry for the late posting.  My two trips away back to back have put me behind.  Clearly my priorities were in the wrong place!

  • Psychologists use both quantitative (experiments, quasi-experiments, correlations…) and qualitative (observations, questionnaires, interviews, case studies) research methods in order to study human behaviour.  Each method has its own strengths and limitations.
  • Observations may be either overt or covert.   The researcher may either join the group and interact with the participants in order to observe behaviour  – a participant observation.  A researcher may also observe “from a distance” where there is no interaction with the participants – a non-participant observation. Observations may be in the lab or they may be naturalistic. Observations do not establish cause and effect relationships.
  • Case studies are in-depth investigations of an individual or group. Case studies are a combination of research methods. When carrying out a case study a researcher may use interviews, observations, questionnaires, or archival research in order to get a holistic picture of the case. This is known as method triangulation. In addition, case studies are usually implicit – that is, they seek to help the individual or group and the goal is not to generalize to a larger population.  However, often information from a case study can be tranferred to another group if there are enough similarities between the case and the other group or individual.

Here is a little video on one of the earliest case studies in psychology.  Watch it – and then go on line and see if you can explain why it is a case study.

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Revising for the first quiz

Just to make sure we are on the same page, do you know the meaning of each of these terms?

  1. Independent vs. dependent variable
  2. Null vs. research hypothesis
  3. Construct validity
  4. Ecological validity
  5. Informed consent
  6. Debriefing
  7.  Independent samples design
  8. Repeated measures design
  9. Random sample
  10. Sample of opportunity
  11. Haphazard sample
  12. Purposive sample
  13. Stratified sample
  14. Self-selected sample
  15. Demand characteristics
  16. Confounding variable
  17. Intervening variable
  18. Artificiality
  19. Significance
  20. Placebo effect
  21. Confidentiality vs. anonymity
  22. Self-reported data
  23. Researcher bias
  24. Androcentric
  25. Ethnocentric
  26. Validity
  27. Reliability



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Weekly summary: September 22 – 26

This week we wrapped up our introduction to experiments.  We looked at what we do with data by carrying out the Stroop test and finding out that our results were significant.  Here are the important ideas from this week:

  • Descriptive statistics help us to understand the “nature” of the data – including both its range and its variance.  Outliers can have a significant effect on these statistics.
  • Inferential statistics help us to determine the extent to which our results could simply be due to chance. If I calculate my statistics and get a value that exceeds the critical value, my results are significant – that is, my results are not due to chance.  I then reject the null hypothesis.   If I calculate my statistics and get a value that does not meet the critical value, then my results are insignificant.  I then retain the null hypothesis.  My results are most likely due to chance.
  • You should know the following descriptive stats: mean, median, mode and standard deviation.
  • You should be able to describe the four levels of data: nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio. For each level of data, you should be able to tell me which statistic is the most appropriate.
  • You should know the definition of a Likert Scale and how a psychologist would most appropriately determine the meaning of the data.

Next week is the big first quiz of the course.  How exciting!

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Weekly summary: September 15 – 19

This week we made some more progress in our understanding of the strengths and limitations of the experimental method.  The key ideas this week were:

  • The placebo effect can complicate experimental research.  You should understand what the placebo effect actually is.
  • Ecological validity is when a study is so controlled or artificial that it does not predict what will happen in the real world under normal, non laboratory conditions.
  • Ethics is an important consideration when designing an experiment. You should be able to discuss the role of each of the following ethical considerations: informed consent, no undue stress or harm, right to withdraw, anonymization and confidentiality, justification of deception and debriefing of the participants.

Speaking of ethics, watch this video on the latest Facebook experiment.


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Weekly summary: September 10 – 15

This week we learned a lot about psychological research.  In particular, you should be talk about the following:

  • What is meant by a null hypothesis?  Why is it important?
  • What is meant by the reliability and validity of a study?
  • What are confounding variables?  Intervening variables?  How do they affect a study?
  • What is self-reported data?  What is meant by social desirability effect?
  • What is meant by cross-cultural validity?
  • How can the researcher affect a study?  What is meant by researcher bias?  Halo Effect?  Screw You Effect?  Expectancy Effect?

Still wondering about confounding variables?  Watch this video as a review.

Next Monday we have a formative assessment to see how you are doing with all of this vocabulary.  And this week we will learn a bit about statistics and how they help us to understand data.  The fun just never ends in psychology!



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Weekly summary: August 25 – 29

This week we actually did quite a bit of new vocabulary. After these first two weeks, you should be able to explain the following concepts:

  • When describing a study, we discuss the aim, procedure, results (findings) and implications.
  • An experiment has a design – either an independent samples or repeated measures design.
  • There are problems with using students as your participants.  Remember YAVIS.
  • Remember TEACUP when evaluating a theory.
  • Theories are sometimes ethnocentric or androcentric.
  • There are several different sampling methods: self-selected, purposive, stratified, opportunity haphazard, snowball or random.

To keep you thinking while you go off on your Week Without Walls, take a look at this video.  Why do you think that Derren sometimes gets away with what he does?

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Welcome to IB Psychology


A heartfelt welcome back!  I hope that you all enjoyed your summer holidays and that you are ready to begin the study of psychology!  A lot of psychology “took place” this summer.  We saw violence break out in many parts of the world, Robin Williams committed suicide and Brazil felt a collective sense of shame as they lost the World Cup in a disastrous game with Germany.  This year is all about learning about why people behave the way we do.  I hope that you are ready to think critically about the issues in the world around us – everything from terrorism to mental illness; from how we learn to why we forget; from why we fall in and out of love and how we communicate.  Psychology is a very broad field with a lot of cool research – and the field is one of the most dynamic and quickly developing.  It is actually all very exciting.

You will need to get used to reading this blog. This blog is your “crutch” to get you through the course.  You will find both required and extension readings here.  You will also find a “Weekly summary” which should help to clarify and remind you of the learning goals of the week.

But for now, hold on tight.  Here we go…..


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