Laboratory experiments and animal learning studies used by the behaviourist approach Behaviourists favour and conduct most of their research around laboratory experiments on animals because of their need for scientificness. The laboratory experiment gives the researcher ‘absolute control over the experiment: ‘the who, what, where, when and how’ (McBurney 1983). It can be used to test theories, conclude the conditions under which particular events happen, or extend current research by advocating new research problems. StrengthsProcedures can be repeated by other researchers to see if they acquire similar results.Experimentation allows the pace of research to be forced, making it unneeded to wait for natural events to reproduce the appropriate scenario.The control over variables is easier in the laboratory than in other settings or with other research methods, so high levels of precision can be achieved.Possible to generalise experimental results to the rest of the population from which the participants have been drawn, if a representative sample of participants has been selected to take part.An experiment yields quantitative data which can be analysed using inferential statistical tests. The laboratory may be the only place in which technical equipment can be used and accurate measurements made.WeaknessesThe potential for order effects resulting from the order of presentation of the experimental conditions or from the effects of individual differences between participants. Through high levels of control and narrowly defining independent and dependent variables, an experimental situation may become artificial and recognisably different from real-life situations. Demand characteristics-These occur when participants try to make sense of the situation they find themselves in and act accordingly (Orne, 1962). These may seriously threaten the validity of an experiment. The participants in many experimental investigations reflect on overrepresentation of males and of specific cultures, and have often been volunteers.ExampleThe ‘Stroop effect’ is a term that has come into play in psychology since the discoveries from a number of experiments by J.Ridley Stroop (1935) were published in the 1930’s. The term refers to how colour name words have an interfering effect on the time taken to name the ink colours of non-matching colours. For example, naming the ink colour of the word ‘blue’ written in green ink takes longer that it does for the same word written in blue ink. In one of the experiments, the colour names red, blue, green, purple and brown were selected. Animal studiesDue to behaviorists’ wish to be scientific, nearly all behaviourist research involved animal learning studies. Animal learning studies were performed due to the cause and effect relationships being a vital aim of science. To perform the animal experiments in laboratories granted absolute control of any extraneous variables but also the variables they changed and measured. Behaviourists believed that there was little difference between man and animals with reference to the general laws of learning and so used animals in experiments as duplication was easier and using animals was more useful. Strengths of animal learning studiesAnimals can be used in experiments but it is not morally correct to use humans. Animals can be reproduced to enable developments in their line of ancestry and they can also be retained in their natural habitats to be examined for long durations of time. Beneficial things may be discovered. Weaknesses of animal learning studiesThe dilemma of generalisability. Even if we welcome evolutionary psychology, humans have evolved to be so contrasting from animals. The outcomes of analysing animals may be invalid, reductionist and deceitful. Ethics: Many people are highly against testing on animals.ExampleHarry Harlow (1950’s to 1960’s) performed animal studies on rhesus monkeys to discover the bond between a mother and infant. The mother would be replaced with a ‘wire monkey’ which provided milk and a ‘cloth monkey’ for comfort. The results were that the rhesus monkey had equal needs for both the ‘wire’ and ‘cloth’ monkey substitutes. Harlow next scared the monkey with a machine and the results showed that the monkey would retreat to the ‘cloth’ monkey for comfort as opposed to the ‘wire’ monkey, regardless of the fact that the ‘wire’ monkey could dispense milk which would keep the monkey alive. Case studies are research methods that involve a detailed study of an individual, institution or event. Cognitivists operate their research under strict laboratory conditions. A dependent variable is measured and an independent variable is changed. StrengthsCase studies of high levels of validity as they go into depth and give insight.They allow researchers to study events that they could not practically or morally manipulate.Case studies are efficient and reliable as it only takes one case study to disprove a theory.WeaknessesIt is hard to generalise because case studies are based on small samples.The researcher can become too involved in case studies and lose their objectivity, therefore possibly misunderstanding or influencing results. It can be difficult to establish cause and effect because case studies often only occur after the event, for example, after one has endured brain-damage. ExampleThe case study of Little Hans by Freud (1909) is about a five year old boy who was afraid of horses. The boy’s father seeked support from Freud, Freud concluded that the boy’s fearful reactions produced proof in aid of his theory that infants go through five steps of psychosexual development. Cognitivists believe in objective, regulated and scientific methods for examining and determining behaviour. Conclusions on mental processes can be made through the results of cognitivists’ investigations. For experiments of brain-damaged patients, psychologists can work out which sections of the brain are used to process types of information, by examining in contrast their performance on mental tasks with that of unharmed humans. Experiments use mainly quantitative data because the dependent variable has to be measured to establish cause and effect.StrengthsExperiments of brain-damaged patients such as Scoville and Milner’s study of H.M provide additional evidence to support existing experimental studies.WeaknessesWith relation to brain-damaged patient experiments, it is hard to make generalisations to the wider population. Even though a part of the brain is associated with a lack of new long-term memories being created, it does not mean that part of the brain is accountable.ExampleScoville and Milner’s study of H.M. H.M (Henry Molaison) experienced severe epilepsy. Doctor Scoville cured the epilepsy by removing the hippocampus, a part of H.M’s brain. Henry suffered from retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia following surgery. Milner performed tests on Henry such as the star-drawing test and declared several case studies on his circumstances in the 1950’s-1960’s. It was confirmed that without a hippocampus, Henry was able to learn grammatical memories but was unable to develop new intermittent memories and procedural memories.Open-ended questionnaires, unstructured interviews and unstructured observations used by the humanistic approach Humanistics refuse to use scientific methods such as experiments. Instead, they use research methods that are qualitative. These research methods include open-ended questionnaires, unstructured interviews and unstructured observations. Qualitative research is beneficial to discover in detail, the ways in which humans feel or think. If people talk openly and honestly and we are attentive to what they are saying, we are more likely to get on their wavelength and appreciate their feelings and concerns. Open-ended questionnairesOpen-ended questions are those in which the researcher does not restrict the range in available answers, for example, ‘What are your thoughts on animal cruelty?’. This produces a greater depth of qualitative information but at a cost – answers are often harder to analyse as the range of possible answers is so wide.StrengthsCan be used in a wide range of research situations.Once constructed, questionnaires involve a well-understood technology and can be carried out with not much training.Large amount of information can be gathered from a large number of respondents in a short time. Large amounts of data can be gathered fairly cheaply.WeaknessesThere is no guarantee that respondents answer questions truthfully.If a researcher administers the questionnaire personally, then respondents may be influenced by such factors as the researcher’s ethnic origin, age or gender.It is hard to ensure that survey data are collected under controlled conditions and that other uncontrolled variables do not influence responses.Different respondents may answer in different ways if questions are at all ambiguous. Leading questions may influence responses. Different interpretations of language.ExampleHassles and Uplifts (Kanner et al. 1981) was a psychological study where hassles were the frustrations of everyday life and uplifts were positive experiences. This particular version developed by the researchers for this study consisted of 117 hassles and 135 uplifts that might occur regarding health, work, family or friends. Participants were asked to rate how often each hassle or uplift had occurred in the last month on a three point scale.Unstructured interviews may start with some popular questions but normally the interviewer just has a topic that they wish to cover. The interviews are like conversations with a broad framework to guide discussion. They tend to be directed by the participant as opposed to the researcher. The questions are determined by the answers that the interviewee gives. Unstructured interviews containing open questions will produce qualitative data due to responses being individualised and in detail.individualised and in detail.StrengthsNo pre-set questions therefore the interviewer can follow new lines of enquiry.Very detailed and valid results.WeaknessesMisinterpretation of data.Interviewees may be unable to put their thoughts precisely into words.Ethical issues arise, for example, participants may be deceived if the true purpose of the interview is disguised. .Effects on the interviewees such as social desirability bias.ExampleLynch (1960) was interested in environmental perception and in particular, in the cognitive maps people have of their home areas. He interviewed residents in three American cities (Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles) about their feelings for local landmarks, major routes and areas that they passed through when driving around. From his interviews, Lynch was able to produce a general image of each city that identified the basics of the urban landscape. Unstructured (naturalistic) observations take place in a natural setting, involving observing people in their natural environment. This means the behaviour observed is mostly unconstrained and people have a choice in how they behave. StrengthsHigh levels of ecological validity, people are being observed going about their usual behaviour in a situation which is not set up. Findings should be generalisable to real life.Weaknesses Observing without intervention means there are many uncontrolled variables making it difficult to draw any conclusions about causation. ExampleKawamura (1963) recorded the spread of new behaviours through a population of Japanese macaques on Koshima Island. Researchers observing these monkeys spread sweet potatoes on a beach in an attempt to lure monkeys into a situation in which their behaviour could be more easily observed. One female macaque called Imo began to use a stream to wash sand from the sweet potatoes before eating them. Other members of the group imitated this habit and within ten years the behaviour had been acquired by the majority of the population.Clinical interviews and case studies, (see the cognitive approach previously for strengths and weaknesses of case studies) are the main research methods for the psychodynamic approach. Clinical interviews produce qualitative data meaning they produce thorough recordings of events with no numerical examination. Clinical interviews are conversations among a patient and a psychologist to assist the psychologist to diagnose and treat the patient.StrengthsVery flexible, sensitive and valid.Quite reliable and straightforward to examine.Supplies in-depth information.WeaknessesHard to repeat.The interviewer’s expectations may influence the interviewee’s answers (interviewer bias). Participants may not give truthful answers.Cause and effect cannot be implied. ConclusionPsychologists have adopted a range of research methods when investigating their subject matter. No single method is appropriate or successful in all circumstances and in all contexts. Both experimental and non-experimental approaches to investigation have their place and can be considered complementary to each other, since different types of research situations require different methods of investigation. The different viewpoints of those advocating the use of experimental or non-experimental methods also reflect fundamental differences in perception about what psychologists should be doing and how they should go about it. Although research methods can be divided into specific categories, these methods often merge into one another. The appropriate method is used for a given research situation, rather than the descriptive label placed on that method. Experiments which are quantitative are nomothetic. Psychologists who believe in the nomothetic approach are interested in scientific laws. Case studies, interviews, questionnaires, unstructured observation which are qualitative are idiographic. Psychologists who believe in the idiographic approach are interested in the study of the single person.