Possible Exam 1 Questions


1. a) Give an operational definition of ________.

b) What makes that an operational definition?

c) Why are operational definitions necessary for making systematic investigations?

2. a) Why donít testimonials or anecdotes provide sufficient evidence to draw conclusions? Use the phrase "alternative explanations" in your answer.

b) In terms of the vividness effect, why do we often draw conclusions from evidence such as testimonials or anecdotes?

3. a) Describe one example of an unstructured observation mentioned in the Facilitated Communication video. What makes that kind of observation compelling evidence to people?

b) Describe one example of a structured observation mentioned in the Facilitated Communication video. What makes that kind of observation compelling evidence to people?

4. I notice that people who drink a lot of coffee seem to be better at remembering other people's names. Take me through each step of the scientific method, explaining how you could use this unstructured observation as a starting point to learn something about people. Be sure to use the example throughout your explanation of the steps. Also be sure to identify the type of research method you think should be conducted.

5. a) Circle the letter of all the questions below that are empirical (scientific) questions.

a. Why are some people happier than others?
b. Can astrology predict the future?
c. Should prayer be allowed in school?
d. Do people look like their pets?

b) Choose one of the questions you identified as non-scientific. Rewrite that question so that it could be answered scientifically.

6. a) You want to determine whether eating sardines the night before an exam helps or hurts performance on the exam. How would random assignment help control some of the variables in an experiment designed to test this question?

b) Would observing some of your friends doing poorly on exams after they ate sardines the night before be sufficient evidence to conclude that eating sardines hurts exam performance? Explain.

7. Research has found that those females who participate in sports are 50% less likely to contract breast cancer that those who donít participate in sports.

a) What kind of relationship between participation in sports and getting breast cancer is described in this finding: a correlation, a causal relationship, both, or neither? Explain.

b) Of the four goals of science, which if any, are addressed by the above research? Briefly explain.

8. I read some research that reportedly found a new method of discerning brain damage in newborns. Among other things, the researchers observed the newborns to see if they fidgeted. They found that 96% of babies with normal fidgeting were diagnosed as neurologically sound. On the other hand, 95% of those babies that did not fidget much had brain damage! This method could then be used to identify babies requiring early therapy.

a) What type of relationship (e.g., correlational, causal, both) did they find? Explain.

b) What goal or goals of science does it sound like these researchers were after? Briefly explain.

9. a) Which of the following are examples of structured observations: a) an authority; b) a correlational study; c) an experiment; d) a testimonial?

b) For those that you said were structured observations, what makes them structured versus unstructured observations for science?

10. a) Research has found that our attitudes (how we feel about something) are related to our behaviors (how we act towards something). Is that the same thing as concluding that our attitudes lead to our behaviors? Explain.

b) Explain how concluding that attitudes lead to behaviors could illustrate the directionality problem.

c) Explain how concluding that attitudes lead to behavior could illustrate the third-variable problem.

11. a) Explain how the believers of astrology are similar to the believers of facilitated communication.

b) Pick one of the two cases (astrology or facilitated communication) and describe how it illustrates the importance of the scientific method.

12. a) If I wanted to discover if women were more likely to apologize for bumping into someone than men were, would I more likely use an experimental or a quasi-experimental design? Explain.

b) If I wanted to discover if stretching after exercise was more likely to reduce the chance of injury than stretching before exercise, would I more likely conduct an experiment or a correlational study? Explain.

13. a) If a correlation exists between two variables, is there also a causal relationship between those two variables?  Explain.

b) If a causal relationship exists between two variables, is there also a correlation between those two variables?  Explain.

14. a) When conducting experiments, what specific strategies are used by researchers to control for alternative explanations?

b) Why aren't those same strategies used in a correlational study?

15. a) What is the primary purpose of a theory in the scientific method?

b) How much evidence is needed to say for certain that a theory is true? Explain.

16. a) What do psychologists mean by the statement, "believing is seeing"?

b) How are pseudosciences able to use this "believing is seeing" effect to their benefit?



Possible Terms



Operational definition

Case study


Positive correlation

Negative correlation

Correlational study


Naturalistic observation

Random assignment

Random sample (same thing as random selection)

Independent variable

Dependent variable

Structured observation



Directionality problem

Third variable problem



Vividness effect

Confirmation bias