Ok, so basically, a case study is where information is gathered in detail about a specific person or group of people. (ideographic research). They are often longitudinal or can also be retrospective and contain details of what happened to that particular group or individual in the past. But how useful are they in scientific research?
Well, they have many advantages, such as the fact that it can produce rich quantitative data. Look, for example, at Little Albert. For those of you who don’t know about him, here is a link: http://psychology.about.com/od/classicpsychologystudies/a/little-albert-experiment.htm. There is so much we learned about human conditioning based on Pavlov’s work just by looking at Albert. Another benefit is that because you are studying people in their natural environment over a long period of time, there is high levels of ecological validity.
However, there are some negatives to case studies, the main one being generalisability (validity). If it is based on one person or only a few people, how do we know how generalisable it is to everybody else? Reliability is another issue to address. It is extremely hard to replicate accurately a case study as it occurs over time and involves a particular person. It is extremely hard to keep all of the variables the same when replicating. Finally, researcher bias can be extremely high. Imagine you are looking at one person’s life for several years, it is hard not to become emotionally involved in the experiment, and if you’ve spent ten years conducting an experiment, maybe due to not wanting to waste that many years of your life you might be likely to see an effect even when there isnt one, which can call into question the credibility of some case studies.
Although there are many cons to a case study, i also believe that there are multiple pros and the information gained can be extremely valuable to psychological research and is an important part of it.
We have been using animals in research for hundreds of years, and there are strict guidelines put forward by the APA. ‘http://www.apa.org/science/leadership/care/guidelines.aspx‘. These state that research can be carried out using animals only when it meets the following:
The research has to have evidence of potential significance in order to justify using animals
Animals should be kept in appropriate housing
Discomfort to the animal should be minimised
Although these guidelines are in place to protect animals, there are still a major issues with the use of animals in research. One of these is that will looking at animal behaviour actually help us to understand more about ourselves? What i mean is that we dont act the same as animals. A lot of research is carried out on rats adn mice, now i don’t know about you but i dont spend my life crawling about on all fours. They behave differently to us so why can we justify experimenting on them? An animal reacts very differently to some drugs than we do so not only is there the potential to harm the animal, but it might not provide any benefits to people in the first place. Another argument is that when studying animal behaviour in lab conditions, they do not behave how they would naturally and so any data is likely to be incorrect anyway. Finally, animal testing is expensive. I mean yes, you do tend to have to pay participants to complete your research, however when using animals, you need several of them to test, you have to pay for housing and food etc too, and so this can be costly.
There are however, several benefits to testing on animal. Firstly, and probably the most important reason is that if testing drugs, it is important to make sure they are safe before testing them on humans, and the only way to do this is by testing on animals as they are the closest thing to us, for example we share 75% of our genomes with rats.
As you can see, there are more cons than pros when considering animal testing, however, they need to be used in order to ensure that the research process, whether it be drugs or behaviour analysis, is safe for human participants. When it comes to animal testing, everyone has an opinion. Some cases there is more to be gained than there is to loose in animal testing, and in others there is more to loose, therefore i think in this case it is one of the most important times to conduct cost/benefit analysis.
In short, i think that the answer is no.
There are many arguments as to why social networking sites are an excellent source of data, and to be honest I can see where these people are coming from. In one short click it is easy to find data that is useable and in huge quantities. I mean, think of how many different social networking sites there are about nowadays – twitter, facebook, tublr etc. http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/facebook-statistics-stats-facts-2011/ according to this website, in 20 minutes, there are over 1.5 million wall posts on facebook alone. Imagine how much money and time could be saved in research if instead of jumping in a car and driving into work, driving to participants, printing off questionnaires, doing interviews etc, you could just click on the internet and have access to 32% of the worlds population ( the percentage of people who own a computer and who typically use the internet). Also, as a public domain, we all have a right to look at this information. This, however, is where i begin to doubt whether this data is acceptable to use in research.
According to the ethical principles of psychological research, all participants must give fully informed consent, a debrief and a right to withdraw from research, and here is where the lines between whether it is acceptable or not blur.
Yes, these sites are public domain, however, how can you give someone a consent form or a debrief if you dont know who they are or have no way of contacting them? And how are these people able to withdraw if they dont know that they are involved in research in the first place. I mean, yes you can ask people via email etc if you can get hold of them and ask, in which case that is a different matter, but even so, using data off the internet is tricky even without the issue of ethics.
How many times throughout high school, college, and even uni have we been told not to use information off Wikipedia for our work? Why? Because most of it is put on by your average person, not experts, just people that have a vague interest. This means that there is no garantee that what is written on there is correct. If this is true for wikipedia, then why shouldn’t the same go for anything else put on by the general public? How many times have we looked at someones facebook page and gone ‘pfft. yeah, as if’ ? Or looked at someones photo and though ‘photoshop.’ ? We could get a lot of data from social networking sites, and yeah ok, it would save time and money, but then how do you know any of the data being used is accurate? You don’t, and therefore you’d have to still conduct research anyway, so you may as well do it properly in the first place.
I can see why many researchers prefer using sites like these to get a lot of rich data quickly, however, i believe that there is very little point as you have no garantee that the research is corrects, which not only messes up hours of analysis, but also could cause type I or type II errors.
Psychological studies have been conducted for many years now, on a variety of topics, but does it relly matter when they were conducted? Does historical bias really matter?
Well, i think some people could argue that it doesnt matter at all. I mean, look at Milgram’s study. This was conducted in 1961, 51 years ago and we are still using his research today. Freud began studying in 1873, nearly 140 years ago. His research is still the basis of many theories today, so i guess you could legitimately argue that there is in fact no reason why history should be important when looking at when a study was conducted.
However, i also think that there are multiple reasons why when a piece of research was carried out is incredibly important. Sherif’s Autokinetic light experiment was conducted in 1935. For those of you who don’t know what that is, here’s a brief overview. Basically, he shone a light and asked people to judge how far it had moved. These judgements were made while in the presence of other participants also estimating it. http://aqabpsychology.co.uk/2010/07/sherifs-experiment-1935/. They showed high levels of conformity both when asked in the group and when asked individually. this research is still used today. However, consider the historical significance of when this experiment occured. The first world war had just ended, and the second was just about to start. in times of war, there were people who were ridiculed in the street, accuased of being spies and even beaten for disagreeing with the war effort and not going along with the social norms in that period. Conformity was likely to be high. And yet we are stil using this research today. whereas nowadays we are celebrated as individuals and we are encouraged to ‘be yourself.’
I know some research such as Milgram’s experiment, we are no longer able to repeat due to ethical reasons, yet i believe that wherever possible, research which was conducted in the past should be repeated as society has changed, and surely therefore the way we think has changed? If that is true then this could render the previous research invalid. If we are constantly changing as people, then so will the results of experiment and therefore i believe that historical context is extremely important when considering the relevence of a particular study to the modern day.
Well, i know that every psychologist has heard of these, but heres a small recap for those of you (like me) who are currentyl carryingtoo much infromation in their brains to remember what we did at A level.
The Helsinki convention, set up in 1964 was made to protect all members of the public that psychologist work with and that participant wellbeing is cared for above everything else. There are currently 32 main rules that researchers have to adhere to, and the full list, for those of you that are interested, can be read here: http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/b3/17c.pdf. There are, however, 5 basic ethical principles which were originally set out. these are:
1. Beneficience and Nonmaleficence – i.e. only benefitting and not harming those people they work with
2. Fidelity and Responsibility – i.e. a responsability to maintain trust
3. Intergrity – responsibility to promote truthfulnes, accuracy and honesty in their work
4. Justice – ensuring equality for all people that they work with
5. Respect of rights and dignity – need to respect and individuals rights to confidentiality, dignity and privacy.
These basic ethical principles have caused much controversy between psychologists and other scientific fields that adhere to these guidelines. Although I dont think anyone thinks that we shouldnt protect the people around them, (and if they did, maybe they are sitting on the wrong side of the desk) but I think the main issue here is the fact that this hinders a lot of important research in the field of psychology and medical science. Think, for example, of those psychologists such as Zimbardo and Milgram, they would not have been able to conduct these experiments now, yet they provided so much important research in their fields.
However, if using cost/benefit analysis, the cost of harming a person, either mentally or physically is always going to cot more than the benefits of gaining more information. Yes, if we do not do drastic experiments such as Milgrams and Zimbardos, it is going to take us a lot longer to get to that next big advancement in whatever theory that we’re studying, but i know, if it was me researching, i’d rather have to conduct a few more experiments and have a clear conscience knowing all my participants were healthy, than make a huge advancement and know that i’d killed off a few people along the way.