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Monthly Archives: February 2013

The best way to study psychology

According to Borden and Abbott (2008) the choice of the method used to conduct psychological research is dependent on what the researcher wants to find out and how they want their data to show this. Borden and Abbott claimed that scientific studies concentrate on one of two approaches including: exploratory data testing (concerned with descriptive data) and hypothesis testing (concerned with identifying links between two variables, either casual or relational).
The researcher must first begin by choosing to collect descriptive data or investigating links with variables. If you choose to research descriptive data, you would need to choose to either look at individuals, simply involving a case study, or groups which can be more complex. If they then choose to observe behaviours they will choose a simple observational study e.g. observing aggressive behaviours however if they wish to ask for information they will either use an interview to gain detailed results or a survey suitable for large scale experiments.
If you are looking at links between variables, relational links will use a correlational study however casual links could simply use an experiment e.g. is there a link between attachment types and the extent of celebrity worship?

Popperian versus Kuhnian conceptions of scientific progress

When researching data, psychologists have generally gathered data using empirical methods and then induction or deduction. This is a traditional approach which was criticised by Popper (1959) who made the valid argument that it is easy to find evidence for a theory however this does not necessarily prove a theory to be correct yet one piece of contradictory evidence could completely disprove a theory, invalidating the supporting evidence. To create an example to explain his theory Popper used a hypothetical scientist who only ever sees black swans flying past his island and puts forward the hypothesis that all swans are black, however a year later after thousands of black swans flying past the one white swan he sees disproves his hypothesis completely. He created a model of how science should be done and a theory of how science progresses suggesting that there are a number of stages: Identify a problem, develop a hypothesis on the problem, devise a study to test this, analyse and evaluate the results to see whether or not they support the hypothesis, modify and repeat process and develop a theory. The key point here is that the most relevant test is falsifiability.  However like any theory involving specific stages, there is slight reductionism invloved here, experiments can vary dramatically and the stages may not apply to all studies depending on what they are researching, suggest that Popper is simply presenting an idealistic version of how studies should be completed.
Kuhn (1996) takes a more realistic approach suggesting that research actually occurs very differently considering humans’ emotional responses, suggesting that scientists have the tendency to cling onto theories even if contradictory evidence occurs, this creates a paradigm and these assumptions limit and define the type of questions that scientists ask. This would continue until there is a lot of contradictory evidence and is the science community accepts the new theory, this then becomes the next paradigm which is a constant cycle. 
In general Kuhn suggests that the progress of science is characterized by long periods of normal science using one paradigm followed by revolution when a new one takes over. This means it is difficult to introduce new ideas or a new paradigm since it can be considered an attack on established members of the community, slowing down the progress of psychological research.
In general, it may be assumed that Kuhn’s ideas are more relevant as he considers a realistic approach however again, it would be extremely reductionist to assume that this applies in every instance when a new paradigm is attempting to be introduced. Both ideas can be argued however Popper’s theory may be considered an outdated approach.

Discuss what psychological research tells us about obsession with celebrities, why it comes about and what variations are evident in these behaviours

It is arguable that most individuals form attractions with celebrities due to their presence and dramatic lifestyles dominating the media today however the tendency to form obsessions and parasocial relationships with celebrities has been researched by psychologists. McCutcheon et al. (2004) argues that there are three levels to parasocial relationships including: the entertainment/social level, the intense personal level and the borderline pathological level which gives a description of different types of obsessions over celebrities however this could be arguably reductionist as there are only three specific levels explained which may not be universal and does not consider individual differences. 
In terms of how we view parasocial relationships Maltby et al. (2001) argues that there are two different views: the pathological view which takes the cognitive approach that they are formed due to poor psychological adjustment and the positive/active view which argues that they are healthy and fulfill important social functions, this could be considered a behavioural approach as it claims they have a positive effect on our social behaviours. The absorption-addiction model, which argues that people form these obsessions due to lacks within their real life in an attempt to escape these issues, supports the pathological view. People may follow celebrities to feel self fulfillment through another person’s successes, in general the model argues that the weaker the sense of personal identity of a person the more likely they are to reach the borderline pathological stage in the three levels of parasocial relationships which is also the stage where people may be likely to reach stalking of celebrities. This model is useful in that it explains in detail the reasons for obsessions with celebrities however there is little evidence to show that this is the main reason for the formation of parasocial relationships, it also fails to consider determinism as people may be able to make the choice not to form these obsessions and just because someone may feel a lack of personal identity does not necessarily mean they will go on to be borderline pathological or stalkers. Also the positive/active view suggests that not all formations of parasocial relationships should be seen in a negative way as they could help to create social networks with other fans.
Attachment theory is another explanation of obsession with celebrities which suggests that insecure attachment types are more likely to become strongly attached to celebrities than those with secure attachment types. This theory was supported by McCutcheon et al. (2001) who created a questionnaire to test the connection between insecure attachment types, mild celebrity following and the approval of stalking behaviours to find that there was no link between insecure attachment types and the tendency to form parasocial relationships with celebrities however they were more likely to find stalking of celebrities to be acceptable. However the validity of this could be questioned as the study was self-report meaning participants could have possibly lied in fear of being judged by peers or experimenters, also the study was completed between one group of 299 students suggesting culture bias again forcing us to consider the results may not have been relevant across all countries.
Taking a biological approach my focusing on health, Maltby et al. (2001) set out to look for links between poor mental health and celebrity worship. They found that there was a link as people with high celebrity worship tended to have some degree of social dysfunction however, to consider these results a reliable source for concluding that the pathological view is correct would be reductionist. The study involved clear culture bias as they used a sample of UK students living in South Yorkshire which means the results may not be relevant across other cultures such as less developed countries. There are also ethical issues in that identifying students having social dysfunctions could cause distress and they need the option to get help if necessary.
There is clearly a lot of evidence supporting theories of why we form obsessions with celebrities and what variations are evident however we cannot consider this reliable evidence without considering how this links in the real world. In a modern society it is generally considered ‘normal’ to read up and find information on celebrities daily or to request to take a photograph with them, therefore it is difficult to differentiate with what is acceptable and what is not. Also many of these studies do not consider evolutionary explanations such as Henrich and Gil-White’s (2001) prestige hypothesis. This suggests that we have the innate tendency to imitate members of a social group who have prestige or power… isn’t this exactly what people do with celebrities? Overall evidence suggests that a combination of these approaches would be the only valid explanation fo rour obsessions with celebrities.

Celebrity Worship Experiment

Our aim of this experiment was to find if the amount of ‘celebrity stalking’ an individual does or their attitudes towards celebrities is related to their relationship and attachment types. We did a slightly altered replicate of McCutcheon et al. (2006) study. We chose a self- report technique using questionnaires and being in a school meant opportunity sampling was our best option to receive as many results as possible, as we had less opportunity.
We gave our questionnaire to students aged 15-19 in a British school asking them to complete three measurements: a celebrity attitude scale rating how much they agree with statements about their attitudes to celebrities, a celebrity stalking scale rating how appropriate they find scenarios of stalking and a relationship questionnaire asking about their attachment types. Unlike McCutcheon et al. we chose not to include a parental bonding scale due to the young ages of our participants as they would be unable to give a view of their parental relationships until the age of 16 if they were not yet 16 years old.
The celebrity attitude and stalking scale included several scenarios, some ranging from ‘entertainment/social’ to ‘borderline pathological’, asking participants to agree on statements and rate the appropriateness of scenarios e.g. ‘you see your favourite celebrity in the mall, you follow them constantly into several shops until they leave’
We found support that there was a link between insecure attachments and the likeliness for someone to form a parasocial relationship with a celebrity but the type of attachment was specific. Secure attachments tended to score average scores between 20-30, insecure-avoidant attachment types scored low scores which where generally under 20, insecure-ambivalent and disorganised attachments tended to score specifically high. This suggests that these people are more likely to from parasocial relationships and they were more likely to think that stalking behaviours were acceptable than those with secure or avoidant attachment types. Reasoning for this could be fear of rejection as they know parasocial relationships cannot result in this.

Ethical Issues
We were sensitive with participants due to the personal questions asked in the questionnaire and gave participants the option to be debriefed if they so wish.

Methodological Issues
As we were limited in time and with our participant samples, we used teenage participants in the same school within the same school, this could suggest culture bias however in Dubai we were able to use participants from several cultures making our results more valid.
An issue with self-report is that participants may feel the need to lie in fear of being judged by peers however we addressed this issue by making the questionnaires anonymous, only taking age and gender as well as asking participants to complete the scales with no discussion between their peers.