As a matter of fact psychology is an extensive field comprising such specialties as clinical, educational, social, personality, experimental, counseling psychology and a number of others. An eternal question the psychologists are facing is the one concerning human behavior (Passer & Smith 2004). They conduct research to find out the reasons of people’s thinking this or that way. Understanding how they conduct it is of primary importance as it is necessary for penetrating in psychology itself. Hence, to attain this goal they are to use different methods including such an important method of psychological research as the scientific one.
A scientific approach is applied to avoid any kinds of information distortion. Actually, the method under consideration may be briefly defined as an approach concentrating on data collection and observation, hypothesis stating and testing and falsifiability of ideas. It surely includes a wide range of approaches and is better combined with other methods rather than conducted independently. The psychologists resort to this method as, if properly used, it gives them an opportunity to fulfill the following functions: to describe, understand, predict, control and influence behavior, interpret the results, implementing the theoretically gained knowledge. According to the American Psychiatric Association notes, the main steps in the scientific method are defined the following way: identifying a problem or a question, formulating a hypothesis, collecting data using different methods – experiments, surveys, case studies ”“ as well as analyzing the data collected and its interpreting, drawing analytical conclusions.
Psychologists make various observations in order to depict and measure behavior. Having observed the events, researchers create a so called theory, an explanation consistently organizing pieces of information. Only having accumulated considerable amounts of data, it is quite rational to develop a theory. Some scholars consider the notion “theory”ť to be too general and dwell upon the point that if one resorts to conjecture or speculation, comprehensive explanation of something, it is unreasonable to call it just theory as it is too ambiguous (Denker 2003). To test the hypothesis a psychologist has to conduct an experiment and sometimes he needs to revise the theory in case the data collected from the experiment does not bolster with the hypothesis.
One of the methods of obtaining data is an experiment, the validity and reliability of which should be by all means ensured. Some predictions are made before conducting the experiment, but it is quite a common practice that the predictions turn out to be not exact. Consequently, experiments may begin with one set of hypothesis and be over with a completely different one (Denker 2003). The experiment may be considered valid and the data gained from it reliable, if the data is selected properly, there should be evidence that a psychologist does not bias results. An experiment should be prearranged so, that a researcher-psychologist may take some data, analyze it, take more data again; this allows feedback from the analysis phase back to the data-taking phase. One more important point is keeping good records of everything observed, keeping data well-arranged and well accessible. Today the task is easier due to electronic records making, so modern psychologists have an advantage which often saves their time and reduces nuisance in data transmission, for instance.
Experiments used in scientific research conducted by the psychologists can be considered valid under the conditions that the psychological research meets the following criteria: replicability, falsifiability, precision and parsimony.
In order to perform a successful, so called full-fledged experiment a research should be replicable, being repeated several times it should give the same or very similar results. After it is defined as replicable, psychologists develop a theory and a hypothesis. The results of an experiment should be falsifiable, psychologists should be capable of proving a theory or a hypothesis wrong. They should apply to the principle of parsimony and provide the simplest possible explanation of their observations. They should resort to the thriftiest and logically economical explanation of what they examine.
Any experiment includes observations and some measurements, which are usually a transformation of observations into numbers, involving statistical data, diagrams, etc. Obviously, the psychologists should make up their mind what kind of measurement to apply to taking into account reliability and validity. If the measurement is unreliable, for instance, it will not give consistent outcome. According to The Scientific Method and Critical Thinking article (2006), “reliability has to do with the ability of the measurement device to consistently give the same results when measuring the same phenomenon”ť. Validity is a rational ability of the measurement device, for instance, to measure what is supposed to be measured.
Unfortunately, data is not always complete and scientists, as well as politicians or businessmen sometimes have to take decisions under such conditions. They are to be flexible to change their mind, keep track of the existing and changing data and experiments carried out. In business any mistake can be fatal, so prediction and analytical thinking have always been of primary importance. Experiments are often conducted in real world and their results are by far more serious than those performed and observed in a laboratory. They are widely used in the world of business, in PR-relations, for example, or any other sphere. Psychologists employ a number of approaches including the scientific method. Psychological theories are constantly evolving and being revised by psychologists.