Experiment_Briefs1 - Research Methods Experiment Briefs...

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Research Methods Experiment Briefs Adapted from the work of Professor’s H. Johnson and R. Solso The purpose of this Project is for each student to do some critical thinking about the design and logic of psychological research experiments. For example, look at the movie clip from Ghostbusters. Here conscious experimenter bias is affecting the results of the experiment. In the movie this happens for humour, but in real life similar (though not necessarily intentionally dishonest) biases happen because all people, even scientists, have their hopes and wishes and beliefs. To fix it, you would run the experiment “double-blind” so that neither the experimenter nor the subject would know who is in the experimental or control group. Much of the supposed evidence for ESP evaporates when experiments control for bias and pre-existing beliefs. No matter what your eventual career, you will find that many times you will be implicitly asked to conduct an experiment. For example, an employer might ask; “I wonder if our product would sell better in a red instead of blue package”, or “Do you think the children learn better with computer aided instruction”, or whatever. No matter what statistics you use or how pretty the colors of your graphs, if the fundamental logic of the experiment is flawed, you can not make any reasonable conclusions. These notes contain a series of experiment “briefs.” There is a fundamental design problem in each one of the briefs. The design problem occurs in the discrepancy between what the experimenter did in the experiment and the conclusion that he or she arrived at on the basis of the results. The purpose is to expose you to a series of “classic” flaws in the logic of experiment design and interpretation, and to have you discover some general solutions. In criticizing the design of the experiment briefs, you should only make use of the information given in the brief. Do not criticize the design by inferring something that is not given. For example, if the experimenter used a pencil-and-paper anxiety test, you should assume that the test is valid and reliable unless information to the contrary is given. There is usually one major defect in each brief and you should concentrate your criticism on this major problem. Be specific as to the defect. For example, do not just say that the experimenter should have used a control group but point out exactly how this control group would be treated. The following example illustrates how the briefs should be criticized: A certain investigator hypothesized that the hippocampus (a part of the limbic brain) is related to complex “thinking” processes but not to simple “thinking” processes. He removed the hippocampus from 20 rats. He had ten of the rats learn a very simple maze
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and had ten of the rats learn a very difficult and complex maze. The first group learned to run the maze without error. Based on these results, he felt his hypothesis had been confirmed, rats without a hippocampus have more trouble learning a complex task than
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Experiment_Briefs1 - Research Methods Experiment Briefs...

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