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Operational Definitions & Measurements for Research Methods in Psychology

by: Emily Notetaker

Operational Definitions & Measurements for Research Methods in Psychology PSY 3213

Marketplace > University of South Florida > Psychlogy > PSY 3213 > Operational Definitions Measurements for Research Methods in Psychology
Emily Notetaker

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Operational Definitions & Measurements PSY 3213
Research Methods in Psychology
Dr. Brannick
Class Notes
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Popular in Research Methods in Psychology

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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Emily Notetaker on Monday February 22, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSY 3213 at University of South Florida taught by Dr. Brannick in Summer 2015. Since its upload, it has received 31 views. For similar materials see Research Methods in Psychology in Psychlogy at University of South Florida.


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Date Created: 02/22/16
Operational Definitions and Measurement Measuring Psychological Variables  Measured versus manipulated variables o In this section, we will focus on MEASURED variables From conceptual variable to operational definition  In psychology, not every variable is obvious to the human eye  For example: how do we get at agreeableness? Extraversion? Risk tasking? Shyness?  These are ABSTRACT CONCEPTS (conceptual definitions)  We need to operationally define our variables  Operational definition: Process of turning a concept of interest into something we can all see Constructs and operationalizations  So, we start out with a conceptual variable (aka construct): o Self-control: capacity to overcome one’s desires, thoughts, and habitual patterns of behavior in order to conform to the demands of social life  And we figure out a way to operationally define it (operationalize it) o General capacity for self-discipline; inclination for deliberate/nonimpulsive action; work ethic; healthy habits  Delay of gratification (wait for it…) Self-report measures: 1. Free format o Projective measure (e.g. the Rorschach inkblots) o Associative lists o Advantages: rich set of data o Disadvantages: requires content analysis (difficult and time-consuming) o Questionable validity in many cases 2. Surveys o Well-developed set of response formats (items) ready to use o Easily replication quantitative data (diff. researchers get the same numbers  Scales – diff. items designed to measure the same conceptual variable 1. Likert scales I spend too much money 1 2 3 4 5 Not at all Very much like me like me 2. Yes/no or agree/disagree  I spend too much money a) True b) false 3. Forced-choice scales Narcissistic response Non-Narcissistic Response a. I know that I am good b. when people compliment b/c everybody keeps me I sometimes get telling me so embarrassed Self-report measures: pros & cons  Pros o Surveys allow collecting data from many people at once o Surveys are inexpensive o Can assess at unconscious motives (projective & free response)  Cons o Lack of insight o Validity of some measure o Reactivity  Social desirability  Pleasing the experimenter  Malingering/faking Example of associative tests  Alcohol makes me feel _________  Implicit association test – pair good vs. bad with other stimuli (e.g. race, sex, or other category), measure reaction time  IAT and work completion rely on unconscious process; somewhat controversial Observational/behavioral measures  Behaviors are counted and/or coded o Strange situation – Ainsworth child attachment o Airport separation  Fraley and Shaver (1998), Airport Separation: A naturalistic study of adult attachment dynamics in separating couples, journal of personality and social psychology  Fraley (1998) measured adult avoidant and anxious attachment  Observed ad took detailed notes on the behavior and interactions of couple members who were about to separate from each other in airports  Can also involve things like time (e.g., reaction time) rather than counting behaviors o Amount of time child cries after mother returns o Speed of walking (distance/time) Observation/behavioral measures – pros & cons  Pros o Participant is often not aware of measurement o Participant may not realize what is being measured o Harder to fake them self-report o Interesting actual behaviors  Cons o Hard to get large samples unless lots of observers o Reliability of observer judgements o Expensive Physiological Measures  Body’s physiological and endocrine responses o Heart rate o Blood pressure o Skin conductance (finger/skin sweating) o Cortisol level – spit test o Brain stuff: fMRI, EEG  Physiological pros & cons o Pros  Difficult to control or fake  Brain explanations are perceived as compelling o Cons  Nonspecific (cortisol shows general stress, or just shyness, ager, etc.)  Expensive  Perceived as invasive Summary: Operational Definition  Operational definition – a very concrete definition of the latent construct  Process for operationalizing: first, specify what kind of things go into a latent construct o E.g., depression – should involve depressed mood, lack of interest in activities, social withdrawal, lack of energy, whatever  Then, figure out a way of MEASURING it so that anyone else can get the same number   anyone should be able to get the same score if they use the same measurement  In operational definitions, you want to get a score or a number on some measure Scale types  Nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio o Nominal – categories. No ordering; mean has no connection to attributes – football numbers o Ordinal – rank order only – US News ranking of colleges o Interval – rank order plus equal interval. Ratio of differences has meaning – centigrade temperature o Ratio – rank order, equal intervals, rational zero point. Ratio of numbers has meaning – Kelvin temperature. o Ex: Nominal Ordinal Interval Ratio ID Number Rank order of the Time of day of Elapsed time finish finish from start 043 1 10:57 a.m. 4 min 011 2 10:59 a.m. 6 min 136 3 11:01 a.m. 8 min 112 4 11:02 a.m. 9 min 086 5 11:04 a.m. 11 min


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