30 Sep

I was unsure what to write my blog on so I decided to choose a research methods related topic that was good for debate: The most important factor when choosing a research topic is to ensure it is reliable and therefore replicable. Though there are many different types of reliability, general reliability is described as ‘the extent to which a measure or the parts making up that measure give the same or similar classification or score’[1]. This means that the study/test in continuous over time which is important for replicability.

Studies that are high in reliability ensure that the study or parts of the study are replicable over time and space ie: the same/similar tests could be done at a different point in time or in another place but the results would be similar to the original. This is crucial for psychological research as it is important that a study/ theory can be verified by replication. For example take Zimbardos Stanford Prison Experiment. Set in the basement of Stanford University the experiment randomly assigned male students a role of either prisoner or guard in a mock prison. Each wearing the uniforms or their assigned character Zimbardo found that the participants came to adopt the stereotypical role of their character ie: the guards became cruel and treated the prisoners inhumanely and the prisoners became increasingly passive and submissive. Due to the unethical circumstances of the experiment it is now impossible to have and a replication of the original therefore it cannot be repeated and the findings of the original cannot be verified. If an experiment cannot be replicated how can the findings be used in societal explanation eg: explaining why soldiers at Abu-Ghraib prison acted in the atrocious way they did. Can the finding of Zimbardos study ever be used in official settings eg: courts if the finding haven’t been verified by replication? 

In conclusion due the ever increasing influence psychology is having on society I feel that psychologists have a societal responsibility to ensure that research is able to be replicated to ensure a progressive society. Without this regressive theories could be adopted and cause harm to individuals and society in general.

[1] Dennis Howitt and Duncan Cramer, Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology, Second Edition, p418


3 Responses to “Week1”

  1. rebeccag92 October 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    When reading your blog and the definition of reliabilty you provided ‘Studies that are high in reliability ensure that the study or parts of the study are replicable over time and space…’ I started questioning whether anything can ever truly be reliable in reference to this definition? In relation to reliability over time can we really assume we would ever get the same results? Are we not as humans changing, developing and evolving in accordance to the world around us too quickly? I’m not sure I personally belive that in 100, possibly even 50 years time the attriubutes and idiosyncrasies we apply to human behaviours and natures at the moment will be similar in the slightest. So I suppose this raises another question; how long a time gap should we leave before declaring something ‘reliable’ if we were to use the definition you’ve provided?

  2. hcrettie October 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    Your last paragraph provided an interesting insight into the importance of reliability, and the idea that regressive theories could cause harm in the future made me more concisely consider the effects a study’s reliability can have on an individual or society.

    Alongside the importance of reliability, one should consider its relationship with validity and generalisation, as the three of these provide extremely accurate results.

    Although the Stanford Prison Experiment has never been exactly replicated, similar experiments have provided evidence for and against the ideas of authority and conformity. For example Milgram’s study into obedience (1963) was before Zimbardo, however the idea that one conforms blindly to a given role is also evident.

    I also advise you take a look at the link below. The BBC Prison Study in 2002, although not a complete replica of Zimbardo’s work, has an extremely similar procedure. I found it a fascinating read, as it explores the other side of the debate of conformity, and has been widely accepted and published in many psychological journals. Perhaps it shows that even when direct replicability cannot be achieved, the development of a new study can be just as enlightening.

  3. rebeckiny October 4, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    I agree with you that we as psychologists have a duty to make sure our research is replicable and therefore reliable. Without being able to replicate our findings how can we ever guarantee that our findings truly ARE reliable? I think the use of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment is a perfect example of this issue. Without a replication of the research we cannot ever state that the behaviour exhibited in that research is fact when we have no other evidence to compare it to, therefore making the research actually unreliable despite its huge impact on psychology.

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