Statistics and Research Methods: Psych 3101

Statistics is one of the most important tools in psychology, and in most other sciences as well. It is also valuable for everyday life by enabling you to be a critical consumer of political, economic, and medical information (e.g., polls, surveys, and clinical trials) that are often based on statistical methods. In psychology, statistics enables you to tell how likely it is that something you found in an experiment is true of people in general (which is what psychologists usually want to know about). Because people's behavior is often highly variable, the results of psychological experiments are noisy. With the usual small number of participants run in a psychology experiment (typically 25-50), the noise in the data can make the results difficult to interpret just by looking at them. This is where statistics comes in --- it allows you to make solid, mathematically justified conclusions based on noisy data. This course will build up to the standard tools of statistics (t-tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA), correlation and linear regression) by first establishing a firm understanding of what noisy data looks like, and how it can be summarized by a few powerful numbers (called parameters). The emphasis is on developing a firm conceptual understanding, not on memorizing formulas. You will learn to use powerful computer software to crunch the numbers. We will also discuss how to design experiments to best get at different kinds of psychological questions (i.e., research methods).

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Last updated: 08/14/00