Correlational Research: Part 3 of 3

Part 1

Since the survey was conducted exclusively by telephone. it improperly sampled only those voters who could afford to own a phone. Thus the survey based its prediction on a sample of relatively well-to-do voters completely ignoring the possibility that many poorer people, not included in the sample because they didn’t own telephones, might vote for the other candidate Surveys can be administered by telephone or in the form of written questionnaires. Interviews, in other ways much like surveys, are usually conducted face-to-face. This is quite an expensive means of gathering information, and is usually done only when the interviewer’s particular skills are needed. Instead of following a fixed set of questions the interviewer is free to deviate from the format and to ask further questions exploring aspects of the interviewee’s opinions or personality.

Within some areas of psychology the case-study method has been an   invaluable technique for gaining important information and drawing   hypotheses. The case study may be regarded as a special form of the interview method. The number of subjects surveyed (one) is of course very much smaller than in the usual survey, but the number of possibly relevant facts collected about that individual is very large. The case study involves very detailed knowledge about a single individual. Thus if you observed some striking behavior in that person, you could sift through your   knowledge of his or her history and make guesses about the causes of that   behavior. Your guesses might be wrong, but you could test them by studying new arid additional cases.

For example. if you knew the detailed life history of a certain person with a severe stuttering problem you might be struck by the fact that he had an unusually domineering father who often punished him severely. Perhaps your intuition would suggest that people with domineering fathers have trouble expressing themselves and may thus become severe stutterers. This is just the sort of hunch or tentative hypothesis that psychologists derive from a case study. In this case, though, the hunch is wrong; there is no indication that stutterers have more   domineering parents than do nonstutterers. So you can see chat the danger of the case-study method is that it may confuse a striking coincidence with a true relationship.

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