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Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology
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This indispensable sourcebook covers conceptual and practical issues in research design in the field of social and personality psychology. Key experts address specific methods and areas of research, contributing to a comprehensive overview of contemporary practice. This updated and expanded second edition offers current commentary on social and personality psychology, reflecting the rapid development of this dynamic area of research over the past decade. With the help of this up-to-date text, both seasoned and beginning social psychologists will be able to explore the various tools and methods available to them in their research as they craft experiments and imagine new methodological possibilities.


‘This is by far the most comprehensive and cutting-edge collection of research methods in social and personality psychology. The first edition was an invaluable part of my graduate research methods course and this new edition looks even better.'

Stephen J. Read - University of Southern California

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Page 1 of 2

  • Chapter seven - Research Methods in Social and Affective Neuroscience
    pp 123-158
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    The goals of empirical research in social psychology can be differentiated into three broad categories: demonstration, causation, and explanation. Research performed for the purpose of demonstration is conducted to establish empirically the existence of a phenomenon or relationship. The tripartite distinction between internal, external, and construct validity, provides the basis for organizing the discussion of validity issues. Construct validity refers to inferences made at both stages of research linking concepts to operations. The chapter uses the concept of demand characteristics to illustrate the difference between methodological confounds (which affect construct validity) and methodological artifacts. Construct validity represents one form of generalizing from the observed results of an empirical study to conclusions that go beyond the results themselves. The debate includes discussions of whether there are necessary trade-offs among the various aspects of validity or whether it is possible to demand that research maximize internal, external, and construct validity simultaneously.
  • Chapter eight - Behavior Genetic Research Methods
    pp 159-187
  • Testing Quasi-Causal Hypotheses Using Multivariate Twin Data
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    Research design is inextricably linked to data analysis. Research designs can be divided into three fundamental categories: experimental design, quasi-experimental design, and nonexperimental or passive observational design. This chapter focuses almost exclusively on experimental design, for two main reasons. In an experimental design there are always at least two factors such as fixed and random factors or independent variables, variables that are considered to influence the dependent variable response. The chapter discusses a series of questions that must be answered regarding each individual factor in a design. It considers the possible ways that multiple factors included in a single experiment may be interrelated. Multiple factors in a design can be crossed, nested, or confounded. Issues involving the dependent measures in a study are also part of experimental design, and these choices can influence statistical conclusion validity (power), internal validity, construct validity, and external validity.
  • Chapter nine - Methods of Small Group Research
    pp 188-219
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    This chapter introduces the researchers to randomized and non-randomized designs that permit relatively strong causal inferences, particularly in field settings. It discusses the perspectives on the generalization of causal effects. The chapter considers some basic issues in inferring causality, initially drawing on work by Rubin and his associates in statistics and later drawing on work by Campbell and his associates in psychology. It also considers three classes of quasi-experimental designs, the regression discontinuity design, the interrupted time series design, and the nonequivalent control group design. The emphasis on designs for field research in the chapter contrasts sharply with standard practice in basic social psychology. Randomized experiments are typically considered to be the gold standard for causal inference. Some basic research in social psychology and personality now focuses on areas such as the influence of culture, major life stressors, religion, intimate relationships, and evolution of social behavior.
  • Chapter ten - Inducing and Measuring Emotion and Affect
    pp 220-252
  • Tips, Tricks, and Secrets
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    This chapter describes the use of field research for development of psychological theory. Field research helps identify which phenomena are most psychologically and behaviorally consequential. The chapter focuses on the kinds of theoretical insights afforded by research in field settings. It explains what one means by field research as opposed to laboratory research, and discusses advantages that come from finding and testing ideas in the field. Observational methods can be put to many important uses in field settings. The chapter examines the experimental research in the field that is explicitly designed for the purpose of comparison and causal inference. It explores the range of theoretical goals that can be accomplished with field research. The chapter outlines the strengths and weaknesses of various field research techniques and best practices of each one. It concludes with practical suggestions and reasons for researchers at various stages of experience to engage in field research.
  • Chapter twelve - Implicit Measures in Social and Personality Psychology
    pp 283-310
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    This chapter discusses the nature of neurophysiological processes and the utility of physiological measures as state-of-the-art empirical indexes of constructs fundamental to social psychological theories. It covers the relevant background information, including the evolution of social psychophysiology. The chapter provides a brief discussion of relevant epistemological issues, and the nature of physiological indexing. It briefly reviews and integrates general information regarding physiological control processes and general technological approaches to their measurement. The chapter reviews information important to psychophysiological indexing. It also reviews the rationale underlying the index and its validation and provides an example or two of its use. The chapter also discusses the threats to validity in physiological measurement. It presents illustrations of state-of-the-art physiological indexes of important motivational and affective constructs. Specific psychophysiological indexes derive their validity from psychophysiological theory confirmed via systematic empirical work.
  • Chapter thirteen - The Mind in the Middle
    pp 311-344
  • A Practical Guide to Priming and Automaticity Research
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    This chapter provides a concise and up-to-date description of neuroimaging methods in the context of eight conceptual questions used by social neuroscientists, particularly functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), for an audience of social and personality psychologists. It briefly discusses what kinds of questions can be answered using social neuroscience methods. The chapter describes how fMRI studies are designed and how their data are collected, analyzed, and reported. It focuses on EEG and event-related potential (ERP) studies. In neuroimaging, typically psychological processes are the independent variables and neural activity is the dependent variable. The anteriorization-abstraction hypothesis suggests some challenges for social neuroscience. The main challenge is that statistics that involve central tendency (e.g., means) are less powerful toward the abstract/anterior end of the gradient. Finally, the chapter also discusses the recent debates and controversies in social neuroscience and related fields.
  • Chapter fourteen - Behavioral Observation and Coding
    pp 345-372
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    Research methods in both behavioral genetics and personality are currently at a crossroads. This chapter examines the disagreement about the genetics of behavior by reformulating its methodological foundation of twin and family studies. It applies the reformulation of older methods to gain realistic understanding of the newer ones that capitalize on the availability of measured DNA. The chapter highlights a particularly problematic aspect of scientific inference in the human behavioral sciences: the inference of causality from nonexperimental data. Religiosity was measured using four items (rated on four-point or five-point ordinal scale) assessing importance of religion, frequency of prayer, attendance at religious services, and attendance at youth groups. Random effects model was estimated in monozygotic (MZ) twin pairs using PROC MIXED in SAS. Linkage analysis has been the earliest molecular method to be adopted in the study of behavior because it requires minimal knowledge of actual genetic sequence.
  • Chapter fifteen - Methods for Studying Everyday Experience in Its Natural Context
    pp 373-403
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    This chapter explores the contemporary methods for conducting research on group phenomena and convinces the reader that investigating something as complex as individual behavior in groups can be stimulating and rewarding. Group processes and outcomes can be, and often have been, studied outside the laboratory using nonexperimental methods. The chapter provides only a basic overview of these methods as they have been applied to the study of group phenomena, primarily by citing some representative examples from the literature. Observational field methods have been divided into two principal types: nonparticipant observation and participant observation. The chapter examines a number of special techniques for analyzing group structure. It also examines a number of methodologies in which some guided form of group interaction has been held to provide a useful context and means for achieving some other goal, such as solving a problem, assessing opinion, generating ideas, and so on.
  • Chapter sixteen - Survey Research
    pp 404-442
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    This chapter reviews the typical methods that are used to create and measure the physical states and subjective feelings that researchers refer to as affect or emotion, keeping in mind the scientific distinction between these two constructions. It reviews the variety of induction methods and measurement techniques that are used most frequently in social and personality psychology. The chapter outlines thirteen laboratory induction techniques such as films, images, faces, music, words, peripheral physiological manipulations, and virtual reality that are the most frequently and successfully used laboratory-based inductions. It presents a brief summary of each method, including a description, prototypical references, and advantages and disadvantages of each method. A psychologist's task is to discover facts about the mind (changes in affect or emotion) by measuring responses from a person (reaction times, perceptions, eye or muscle movements, bodily changes, or perhaps electrical, magnetic, blood flow, or chemical measures related to neurons firing).
  • Chapter eighteen - Measurement
    pp 473-503
  • Reliability, Construct Validation, and Scale Construction
  • View abstract


    This chapter summarizes the research methods commonly used to explore the cognitive representations and processes that mediate between environmental events and human reactions to them, be those responses impressions, judgments, evaluations, emotions, goals, or behavior. It focuses primarily on passive, or unintentional, forms of cognitive mediation in an attempt to keep it distinct from motivational mediation as much as possible. Priming and automaticity research techniques share a concern with the ways that internal mental states mediate, in a passive and hidden manner, the effects of the social environment on psychological and behavioral responses. There are a variety of experimental techniques that fall under the general umbrella of priming research: conceptual priming, mindset priming, and sequential priming. There are two major ways of establishing the existence of the automatic connections: through analyses of output order in free-recall memory measures (clustering) and through sequential priming techniques.
  • Chapter nineteen - Exploring Causal and Noncausal Hypotheses in Nonexperimental Data
    pp 504-533
  • View abstract


    This chapter provides an overview of behavioral observation, including the contexts researchers use when observing, the forms in which they record behaviors for analysis (e.g., coding), the methods available to document that different observers coded behaviors similarly (i.e., interrater agreement, an element of reliability), the necessity of establishing other forms of reliability as well as validity, and methods of analyzing behavioral observation data. Observational settings exist along a continuum of researcher influence ranging from unfettered natural environments to tightly controlled experimental situations. Behavioral observation coding systems are of two types: topographical coding systems and dimensional coding systems. The chapter discusses the most common interrater agreement statistics, as well as some useful alternatives. When analyzing behavioral data, one must consider both how the behavior is measured and how often it is measured. The chapter describes recent analytic developments for observational data that will likely be of interest to many social-psychological researchers.
  • Chapter twenty - Advanced Psychometrics
    pp 534-570
  • Confirmatory Factor Analysis, Item Response Theory, and the Study of Measurement Invariance
  • View abstract


    This chapter describes everyday experience methods from both conceptual and practical vantage points. It begins with a conceptual rationale, discussing the paradigm's perspective on social behavior and its contribution to social psychological methods. Everyday experience studies have three general purposes: establishing the prevalence and/or qualities of phenomena, testing theoretically generated hypotheses and propositions, and serving as a discovery technique for generating new hypotheses. The chapter reviews several protocols relevant to research in social and personality psychology. It highlights representative studies employing everyday experience methods. The chapter also reviews the practical matters arising in everyday experience research and statistical techniques for capitalizing on the extensive data sets typically obtained. It considers the role of everyday experience studies in complementing other methods in programmatic research. Everyday experience methods, in conjunction with laboratory and global self-report strategies, offer a substantial alternative with which to enhance the validity of a research program.

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