Chapter 2. Psychological Research

Figure 2.1. Psychologists use empirical studies to better understand the mind and behavior in animals and humans.

The discipline of psychology is based on evidence that is gathered in research studies. This research plays a pivotal role in our understanding of human behavior, cognition (thinking), and emotions. By conducting rigorous studies, researchers uncover valuable insights into the complexities of the human mind and its underlying mechanisms. Psychology research helps to shed light on issues such as mental health, social interactions, and learning processes. It can provide evidence-based solutions for real-world problems, aiding in the development of effective therapeutic interventions, educational strategies, and organizational practices. There are many different approaches to conducting research in psychology — let’s dive in and take a look.

How do psychologists create knowledge?

We often make assumptions that certain groups of people behave differently from others, but, we are not always correct in our intuitions. Consider a common stereotype about gender differences. Many people believe that women are more talkative than men. What do you think? What information are you using to form your opinion? Psychologists use empirical methods to answer research questions like this one. Empirical methods involve collecting and organizing evidence (data) and using it to draw logical conclusions. In 2007, a group of psychologists led by Matthias Mehl conducted an empirical study to investigate whether women did actually talk more than men. Nearly 400 college students wore voice recorders for a few days, and the researchers counted how many words the research participants spoke in the recordings. They found that both men and women spoke about 16,000 words per day on average. Thus, they concluded that there was no basis to the stereotype (Mehl et al. 2007).

There are many different ways to conduct research in Psychology, depending on the research question. Each method has its pros and cons and no one method is perfect. Using different methods provides different types of information and all contribute to a large body of knowledge about the mind and behavior.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the different types of research methods used by psychologists
  • Describe the steps of the scientific process in psychology
  • Describe the key elements of an experiment and how it differs from a quasi-experiment
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of case studies, naturalistic observation, surveys, and archival research
  • Describe the various ways that researchers collect data
  • Compare and contrast correlation and causation
  • Explain what a correlation coefficient tells us about the relationship between variables
  • Identify independent and dependent variables
  • Define the concept of replication crisis in psychology and explain its potential consequences for scientific research.
  • Compare and contrast qualitative research with quantitative research in psychology, highlighting the strengths and limitations of each approach.
  • Describe how research involving human subjects and animals is regulated
  • Describe how psychology studies can help fight for social justice


The text in this chapter has been edited by Jill Grose-Fifer. Most of the material has come from the OERs mentioned in the REFERENCE section at the end of this chapter.



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Introduction to Psychology (A critical approach) Copyright © 2021 by Jill Grose-Fifer; Rose M. Spielman; Kathryn Dumper; William Jenkins; Arlene Lacombe; Marilyn Lovett; and Marion Perlmutter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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