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Research Methods in Psychology

Describe a famous case study in the history of psychology. Then explain what did the field of psychology learn from this case study? How does the scientific community view the results of case studies like these? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method?

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Such a research method as a case study is widely used by modern psychologists. One can describe examples of this technique; one of them is the famous case of Susan presented by Irving Kirsch (as cited in Shaughnessy Zechmeister & Zechmeister 2008, p. 215). It focuses on the female patient, who convinced herself that she had significant memory deficiencies and low IQ. Yet, the results of her intelligence and memory tests indicated that her anxiety was unfounded.

To a great extent, it was motivated by autosuggestion and the fear of looking “stupid” (Shaughnessy Zechmeister & Zechmeister 2008, p. 215). This case indicates that self-disparagement can significantly lower the patient’s self-esteem. The main advantage of this research method is that it provides opportunities for direct observation of the subject. It is particularly useful for the formulation of a hypothesis and testing clinical innovations (Shaughnessy Zechmeister & Zechmeister 2008, p.216).

Nonetheless, this technique has some limitations as well, especially the inability to generalize the findings, which can be applied only to one patient. Besides, one should not forget that the results of case studies can be invalidated due to the so-called observer’s bias.

Describe a situation where you would use the ABAB approach to change your own behavior (or someone else’s). Make sure to include the target behavior and the method that you are using to effect this change. For example, perhaps you are trying to get your children to clean up their rooms daily. After establishing a baseline, you implement your new strategy. You give each child a star at the end of the day if his or her room is clean. If they earn five stars by the end of the week, they get to go to the toy store and pick out a toy. After one week of the new strategy, you return to the baseline. This is just an example. Can you think of another example of the ABAB approach to research? How about the multiple baseline approach? What are the pros and cons of these methods?

It is possible to adopt the ABAB approach to measure the changes in such target behavior like smoking. At the initial or baseline stage, it is necessary to obtain the following information:

  1. the number of cigarettes that a person smokes;
  2. the situations when he/she does so.

The main intervention will be nicotine replacement therapy, for example, nicotine gums. The main point of the ABAB approach is that the researcher will alternate two conditions, namely “treatment” or “no treatment.” The intervention will be considered effective if the frequency of the target behavior will reduce in comparison with the baseline stage. However, under such circumstances, the researcher has to pay attention to the second baseline stage. If a patient smokes less frequently during the period when the therapy is withdrawn, one can conclude that the intervention has been more or less effective.

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Describe the quasi-experimental research method in detail. Design and describe an experiment that uses this approach. Clearly define the independent and dependent variables as well as how you will assess these different measures. Make sure to discuss why the quasi-experimental approach is necessary and how this study could be redesigned into a true experiment.

The main distinctive feature of a quasi-experiment is the inability of the researcher to control the situation. In other words, he/she cannot intervene provided that the intervention proves to be ineffective or dangerous (Shaughnessy Zechmeister & Zechmeister 2008, p. 240). There are various examples of this research method; one of them is the warning labels on cigarette packs that tell about the dangers of smoking.

In this case, the use of such labels will be the independent variable, while the consumption of the tobacco products will be the dependent variable that has to be measured. Such experiments can be suitable for a large-scale intervention during which a researcher cannot monitor the behavior of every subject. It is rather difficult to redesign this study into a true experiment because it will require the experimenters to observe many subjects, and the observers will not be able to control the factors that affect the subject’s conduct.

Design another quasi-experimental research project, and discuss the seven different threats to internal validity that Cook and Campbell (1979) outlined in the text(ch.9 , table 9.2, p. 242). Make sure to discuss the threats that you feel are present in the study that you designed. As a researcher, what can you do to overcome some of these limitations?

Another example of a quasi-experimental design will be the use of warning signs which tell about the fines imposed on a person who drops litter in public places. The main goal is to measure their effects on people’s attitudes. For this purpose, the researchers will need to select a certain area designated for public use. They can conduct their observation and post warning signs there. Again, it will be necessary to combine two conditions, namely when the signs are erected and when they are removed. The main dependent variable will be the number of people who drop litter in public places.

There are some threats to the internal validity of this study. One of them is maturation or the changes in the participant’s behavior over time. For instance, they can change their conduct because they know about the penalties. This is why the researcher should increase the number of sites in which experiments are conducted and make observations during a longer period of time.

Reference List

Shaughnessy J., Zechmeister E., & Zechmeister J., 2008. Research methods in psychology. NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

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Zechmesister J., Zechmeister E., & Shaughnessy J., 2003. Essentials of research methods in psychology. NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

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