• Yena Kim

Updated: Jan 5, 2020


It's a Friday night out with your best friends.

You are laughing out loud and simply having a good ol' time while walking down an alley. Everything seems perfect, and you just can't stop smiling throughout the entire night. You and your friends are dancing like crazy kids, and everybody is having a good time.

But fast forward to the following Monday. You walk down the same exact alley after school. This time, you are alone. All of your friends are no longer around you. You start to feel a bit anxious as your eyes sharply dart left and right. You don't really remember the street lights being turned off, and every step you take seems to create an endless ruckus. It smells like something died, and you feel beads of sweat crawling down the sides of your face.

Hmm... This seems awfully confusing. Why does the alley feel completely different from last week? Was it something you ate? Is it something in the air? When you went down the alley last time, you felt completely fine.

Nah, blame it on the signal detection theory.

Every second, our brains receive loads of information from our senses. Perception is how we interpret and process all of this incoming information. The signal detection theory is one of the many perceptual theories known to date. This theory states that the level of things you can detect depends on your expectations, your physical and psychological state, and the intensity of those things.

So, think back to when you were walking with your friends. At that time, you were having way too much fun to be more aware of the darkness, cluttered environment, creepy noises, and strange smells. You were simply not motivated to pay more attention to these things, so your ability to detect different signals was interrupted. However, when you were alone, you didn't have those distractions to bother you. Everything around you seemed to be more intense despite the fact that you were in the same exact alley in both situations.

Our power to perceive things is a lot more complicated than we think. Can you think of other examples of the signal detection theory affecting your life?

#signaldetectiontheory #perception #sensation #yenakim

  • Yena Kim

Updated: Jan 5, 2020


Imagine that you're sitting by yourself in the park. As you're happily soaking up the autumn weather, you discover a dark blue minivan with stick figure family car window stickers: one dad, one mom, three kids, and a small cat.

A guy sitting next to you on the wooden bench suddenly turns to you and says, "Did you know that families that have those family window stickers also have happier kids than families without them?" One of your eyebrows perks up as soon as you hear his words. Seriously? Is that even true?

You hesitantly thank him for giving you this information, and you start walking back home. His claim strikes you as a bit outlandish, but you begin to wonder if there is some truth to it. Sounds like the perfect chance to do some research!

Conducting research is super important in the world of psychology because psychology is a science. Claims about our mind and behavior can be empirically supported through the scientific method. The scientific method is an organized and systematic way to discover how things in the universe work.

It's helpful to know the different ways to conduct research:

  1. Descriptive Research ​focuses on how we describe what is happening. There are two main types of descriptive research:​

  • ​​​​Naturalistic Observation is when you just sit and watch your participants in their natural habitats and never interact with them at all. For example, look for about 20 different families with cars that do have stickers and ones without stickers. Follow the families around all the time but never intervene in their daily activities. As you're writing down notes, you would be trying to get a realistic picture of how having car stickers may be associated with certain behavior of the kids. ​

  • Case Studies are useful when you want to get a detailed picture of one participant or a small group of participants. For example, find a single family that owns a car with family car window stickers. After you interview, get DNA samples, and write careful notes on the kids in that particular family, then you would definitely get a clear picture of the kids. Now, although you may conclude that the kids from that particular family seem to live happy lives, you can never generalize this information to a larger population and say "All kids are happier if their families own cars with stickers!" because it was just ONE family!

  1. Correlational Method is when you try to look for a significant relationship between two variables. This could be done through a survey, naturalistic observation, or a case study. For example, you may find that compared to families that don't have cars with stickers, families that do own cars with those stickers usually have happier kids. However, does this mean that having stickers causes this mysterious increase in happiness in kids? No, you simply found an association.

  2. Experimental Method is the only way for you to find a cause-and-effect relationship. Experiments can be done by randomly assigning participants to different conditions. They can also be divided into laboratory experiments and field experiments​.

So... how should we approach our research question? Could the random guy at the park be right? Well, there's only one way to find out!

#yenakim #research #scientificmethod #descriptiveresearch #naturalisticobservation #casestudy #correlationalmethod #experimentalmethod

  • Abby Flyer

Updated: Jan 5, 2020


Allison is a kindergarten teacher with a problem: She suspects that one of her students, Brett, is a slow learner. When she seats her students, she makes sure to seat Brett next to the other slow learners so that he’s not intimidated by the pace of faster students. When she asks a math question in class and calls on Brett, she’s not surprised when he gets it wrong. Shaking her head, she sighs and says, “It’s okay, I didn’t expect you to get that one.” She makes sure to speak more slowly and in simpler terms when speaking to Brett. After three months of class, she gives all of the students a basic assessment, and she’s not surprised to find that Brett scores near the bottom of the class.

However, what Allison didn’t know is that Brett is of completely average intelligence. Had she given him the assessment at the beginning of the year, he probably would have scored right in the middle of the class. What happened?

Allison’s belief about Brett’s intelligence created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because she believed that he was a slow learner, she treated him like a slow learner, and because he was treated like a slow learner, Brett became a slow learner, confirming Allison’s initial belief.

But what if Allison had been told at the beginning of the year that Brett was a gifted student? She might then have seated him with the smartest kids in the class, exposed him to more mature vocabulary, and pushed him to keep up with a faster pace, possibly leading him to become a better student!

Self-fulfilling prophecies are proof of how much we can be affected by other’s expectations. They teach us that if we want someone to succeed, we should treat them like we expect them to succeed.

After all, you can do almost anything if someone really believes in you.

#abbyflyer #selffulfillingprophecy #believe #expectations

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