Analysis: Understanding how to extract knowledge from research

It is important that you are able to read peer reviewed research and understand knowledge contained within. Research can be intimidating because of all the big words, data; tables and other obfuscating details.

However this activity is designed to make you a psychology detective, get your Sherlock Holmes on and demystify research!

This particular piece is relevant to our understanding of the effect of technology on cognition and is a recent study getting a lot of attention: It can be found on the google doc activity linked HERE

A Research Crisis in Psychology?!


There has been A LOT of press recently (as well as nerdy argumentation) regarding the extent to which psychological science is suffering from terrible research.

Why is this a problem? Because Psychology claims to be a science and bases it’s claims, theories and postulates on the “scientific method” however the scientific method necessitates accuracy, honesty, and replication.  Three elements that the most recent report in the Journal SCIENCE ( have noted are too frequently missing. Thus, where does that leave psychology?

Read the summary by VOX Below:

And consider the following: 

*Can we trust any piece of research? 

*What makes research valid? Is there such a thing as “more valid” and “less valid” research? 

*What does the word “power” mean when applied to psychological research? 

Below is further coverage of the issue (specific to the concept of ego depletion) from

Correlation Vs. Causation

Correlation vs. Causation

The reported health benefits of drinking moderate amounts of red wine have been widely reported in the news over the past decade.

The question of course is what is it about wine drinking that increases our health?  Wasn’t alcohol meant to be bad for you? 

Consider the following study excerpted from the 2015 book, The Dorito Effect: 

In 2002, four Danish scientists began examining grocery receipts. This may sound like a waste of taxpayer dollars, but in fact it was the kind of experiment other scientists describe as “elegant.” For years, science had been grappling with the unexplained health benefits of wine—wine drinkers seemed more resistant to coronary heart disease and certain cancers, but no one knew why. Predictably, there was a large-scale effort to rip wine apart in search of whatever compound was working its peculiar magic on the human body and turn it into a pill. (Resveratrol was one.) The Danish group came at it from a different angle. They didn’t need a gas chromatograph. They needed receipts.

–STOP– Why would they look at receipts?? Discuss with your seat partner. now. 


They wanted to know what else all those healthy wine drinkers were buying when they visited the supermarket.

Altogether, they examined 3.5 million transactions from 98 supermarkets. They found that wine drinkers didn’t shop the same way as beer drinkers. Wine drinkers were more likely to place olives, low-fat cheese, fruits and vegetables, low-fat meat, spices, and tea in their carts. Beer drinkers, on the other hand, were more likely to reach for the chips, ketchup, margarine, sugar, ready-cooked meals, and soft drinks.

Perhaps the health of wine drinkers isn’t caused by wine so much as by the fact that wine drinkers like wine in the first place. The greatest predictor of health, these results suggest, doesn’t come down to this or that nutrient. It comes down to what a person finds delicious.

— Adapted from The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor, by Mark Schatzker (published by Simon & Schuster in May)

 Here are some more examples of mistaken causation by the media:

Correlation in the media

Understanding Ethics In Research

Psychology is a science.  It utilizes the following research methods in order to formulate, test, and refine hypotheses regarding human behavior:

  • case study
  • naturalistic observation
  • survey
  • correlational study
  • Experiment

In all the above, Psychological researchers are guided by the Ethics put forth by the American Psychological Association (APA) . These requirements are:

  1. Informed consent.  Participants must be informed about the nature of the research as well as be informed of the results at the conclusion of the study. After being informed about the nature of the research, the participants must CONSENT to participate in the study
  2. Right to Withdraw. Participants have the right to withdraw from the study as well as withdraw their results at any time.
  3. Protection of Participants.  Participants cannot be caused distress or harm.
  4. Cannot DECEIVE the participants. Some deception may be necessary, but it should be minimal.
  5. Confidentiality. The participants names must be held confidential and may not be publicized in any way until after death.

ONe of the principles of psychology is that there are correlates between animal behavior and human behavior. Thus, animals are often used to inform psychological research. There are ethical guidelines for animals treatment as well:

“The acquisition, care, housing, use, and disposition of nonhuman animals in research must be in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local, laws and regulations, institutional policies, and with international conventions to which the United States is a party. APA members working outside the United States must also follow all applicable laws and regulations of the country in which they conduct research.”

Read the following article on the controversial use of Monkeys in Animal Research at the University of Wisconsin Madison: