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Psy 315

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The Role
Research and Statistics

Statistical Reasoning in Psychology

Research and Statistics in Psychology Research and Statistics play an important role in psychology. Researchers in the field of psychology study what people will do or how they will react in any situation. Since not everyone reacts the same to a certain situation, statistics is used to see if a certain action happens often enough to come to an idea about cause and effect. It used to be believed that statistics could prove anything (Helberg). This is not true. It would only be found true if the researcher used statistics improperly and tried to bend the rules to validate their view on the subject matter (Helberg). Research and Statistics have many different areas that prove important for psychology.

Statistics Statistics refers to techniques and procedures for analyzing and interpreting data, displaying data and decisions made based on the data collected. In Statistics there are different areas to be able to find and explain certain types of things being researched. There is inferential statistics, descriptive statistics, variables, parameters, summation notation and measurement scales. Statistics which is often considered confusing can be cleared up with explanation and examples of each area. Descriptive Statistics is a summary of the collected data. It helps to organize it in a way that makes it understandable. An example would be: A personality test on 1000 college students that measures how out going they are. There are two ways that the results can be put together. A numerical graph computes the mean and standard deviation by showing the average degree of outgoingness and the degree in which they are all different. Graphs such as the stem and leaf display and a box plot would show detailed information about those studied and the scores of the different levels of outgoingness. Inferential Statistics is based upon a population from a certain situation being studied. An example would be 20 subjects performing a certain physical task after working a 12 hour day and scoring 5 points lower than 20 subjects performing the same task after having the day off. Questions arise asking if the results were real or happened by chance? Could the difference in score be higher than 5 points? These are the questions that are answered by Inferential Statistics. Estimation and Hypothesis are the two methods used to answer the questions.

Parameters and Confidence intervals are used in Inferential Statistics to find answers when using the Estimation method. Parameters are numerical quantities that measure certain areas of a population of scores. Parameters are often labeled with Greek Symbols that correlate with a certain quantity being studied. The parameters of a sample are rarely known and are estimated by statistics found in other samples. Confidence Intervals are a range of values computed so that it contains the estimated parameter most of the time. EX: A Confidence Interval of 95% is constructed so that the parameter will be used in 95% of the intervals. Variables are measured characteristics that are different for different subjects. An example of a variable would be the weight of 100 subjects. There are also different types of variables: Quantitative and Qualitative and Independent and Dependent. A variable would be Qualitative when 6 year old subjects are asked what their favorite animal is and a variable would be Quantitative when the time it took to answer was being measured. An Independent variable is one that is changed by the researcher and a Dependent variable is measured from test subjects. Summation Notation is the total sum of the scores measured from a certain number of subjects. EX: S1=1, S2=2, S3=3, S4=4 the Summation Notation would be 10. There are many different formulas that can be used to find a specific answer. The most important part of all of these areas of statistics are the Measurement Scales. The four levels of measurement are nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio. Nominal Measurements are qualitative variables that are assigned into groups or categories such as religion, race, and sex. Ordinal measurements are ordered in the sense that higher number ratings represent higher values. Interval measurement is a trait or characteristic being measured across the range of the scale. The last is the Ratio scale which is similar to the Interval scale except that the ratio scale has true zero points. Research When it comes to the field of psychology there are so many things that need to be studied. There are many things that can change in an instant. In psychology, there are many different areas that are being explored. These areas are also ever changing. The research will always be needed and the statistics confirm or deny what is being researched. Research can be implemented in different ways. There are assessments, surveys, watching subjects do things, time in which it takes subjects to do things, reactions to specific situations an etc. These all help to find an answer to a question or theory. In psychology the main question is why do people act the way they do? In the question alone, endless research questions are formed and then studied. An example would be: Why do people have bad attitudes and act angry when they are sleep deprived? Research can be done on how sleep deprivation affects a person’s ability to function normally. There are many areas that can be measured such as hours of sleep and rate of anger and hostility or hours of sleep and how well the subject functions with normal daily activities.

Research and Statistics go hand in hand. In psychology they are even more important together. There are many ways to measure a specific research subject. Research is finding out answers to questions by using statistics to measure the data.

Clay Helberg, “Pitfalls of Data Analysis”
David Lane, Via Hyperstat Online textbook, “Introduction to Statistics”
Kendra Cherry, “The Essential Role of Statistics”
Leda Cosmides & John Tooby, “Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer”

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