Might say that my research goal is to determine

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might say that my research goal is to determine whether or not clairvoyance exists. Regardless of how I want to portray myself, the basic point that I’m trying to convey here is that a research hypothesis involves making a substantive, testable scientific claim. If you are a psychologist then your research hypotheses are fundamentally about psychological constructs. Any of the following would count as research hypotheses : Listening to music reduces your ability to pay attention to other things. This is a claim about the causal relationship between two psychologically meaningful concepts (listening to music and paying attention to things), so it’s a perfectly reasonable research hypothesis. Intelligence is related to personality . Like the last one, this is a relational claim about two psychological constructs (intelligence and personality), but the claim is weaker: correla- tional not causal. Intelligence is speed of information processing . This hypothesis has a quite different char- acter. It’s not actually a relational claim at all. It’s an ontological claim about the funda- mental character of intelligence (and I’m pretty sure it’s wrong). It’s worth expanding on 3 My apologies to anyone who actually believes in this stuff, but on my reading of the literature on ESP it’s just not reasonable to think this is real. To be fair, though, some of the studies are rigorously designed, so it’s actually an interesting area for thinking about psychological research design. And of course it’s a free country so you can spend your own time and effort proving me wrong if you like, but I wouldn’t think that’s a terribly practical use of your intellect. - 182 -
this one actually. It’s usually easier to think about how to construct experiments to test research hypotheses of the form “does X affect Y?” than it is to address claims like “what is X?” And in practice what usually happens is that you find ways of testing relational claims that follow from your ontological ones. For instance, if I believe that intelligence is speed of information processing in the brain, my experiments will often involve looking for relationships between measures of intelligence and measures of speed. As a consequence most everyday research questions do tend to be relational in nature, but they’re almost always motivated by deeper ontological questions about the state of nature. Notice that in practice, my research hypotheses could overlap a lot. My ultimate goal in the ESP experiment might be to test an ontological claim like “ESP exists”, but I might operationally restrict myself to a narrower hypothesis like “Some people can ‘see’ objects in a clairvoyant fashion”. That said, there are some things that really don’t count as proper research hypotheses in any meaningful sense: Love is a battlefield . This is too vague to be testable. Whilst it’s okay for a research hypothesis to have a degree of vagueness to it, it has to be possible to operationalise your theoretical ideas. Maybe I’m just not creative enough to see it, but I can’t see how this

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