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Psychological research is often done by developing and testing theories. A theory on the other hand is a well established, principle which has been developed to give a reasonable explanation to some worldly phenomenon. Most theories arise out of repeated observations, testing and other scientific facts, laws and tested hypotheses.
In most cases, deductive approach is used to generate specified predictions from other general theories. The process through which detailed predictions are drawn concerning the validity of a theory is the testing of hypothesis.
A hypothesis is a specified concept about a certain concept which can be tested about the anticipation of the outcome in the study (DeCarvalho, 1991, 48). For instance, a research developed to study the relationship between study habits among students and examination anxiety could have a hypothesis that states, “The study is developed to evaluate the hypothesis that students who studied better experienced less anxiety for examinations”.
The hypothesis explains what the researcher is expecting as the outcome unless it is explorative (Coon & Mitterer, 2011, p. 23). Therefore the first role of hypothesis is presenting the premise on which the psychological study is based on.
A well developed hypothesis in psychology will hence be able to give the researcher the direction of the experiment or investigation. The investigator will know which kind of data to collect, the methods to evaluate and measure the data, how to interpret and draw conclusions.
Therefore the hypothesis in psychological expereiemns has explanatory power. They also suggest to the researcher the expected association between the variables under investigation (Coon & Mitterer, 2011, p. 29). The hypothesis are required to be testable and aligned to the current pool of knowledge about certain concepts and factors.
The hypothesis also gives the reader a prelude of an experiment and therefore good hypothesis for psychological study should be simple and concise.
A hypothesis provides the psychologist with an uncertain explanation of an observable fact therefore sparking a feeling of curiosity and therefore inspires and facilitates expansion of knowledge in that sector. A hypothesis also gives the investigator a relational statement which can be tested by scientific methods and therefore helps to determine the type of study method that will be used for investigations.
As the method determines the data collected, hypothesis also guides the reporting of the findings and making conclusions (DeCarvalho, 1991, 48). This is because, the researcher seeks to accept or reject the hypothesis. And this is often the goal of the research.
In psychological studies, hypotheses are normally drawn from the existing knowledge and theories. As such hypotheses in this field function as the working instrument of certain theories that need to be proven or need more knowledge in terms of literature or findings (DeCarvalho, 1991, 48).
Psychology is described as the science of mental wellbeing and deals with both the status and the functioning. As a science, psychology is constituted by two essential principles (Hand 2004, p. 34). The first is that there has to be measurement. Hypothesis states the variables to be measured as a second role.
This role is very important because in science, before any phenomenon has been subjected to measurement it cannot attain a standing and dignity as a scientific fact (Fiske et al, 2010, p. 45). The second principle is that, psychological research should inform and be informed by a number of theories and hypotheses. By having a testable hypothesis, psychological research is made valid as it can be examined (Hand 2004, p. 36).
In psychology, there are two major empirical models of doing study and two types of hypotheses that can be tested. The different approaches deal with differ hypotheses. There is the causal hypothesis and the associative hypothesis. Sometimes the two can be examined together (Coon & Mitterer, 2011, p. 28).
Causal hypothesis helps a psychologist or a researcher to observe how manipulating some factors affects the outcomes of other variables in future. Associative hypothesis on the other hand investigates the frequency at which certain events happen concurrently (Coon & Mitterer, 2011, p. 29). Causal hypothesis therefore uses random allocation experimental methods of study. Causal uses random sampling.
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In general, psychological researches revolve around generation of hypothesis and testing them (Fiske et al, 2010, p. 45). As hypotheses are speculation and testing them helps to develop other theories with integrity. Many studies focus on the methods of hoe these hypotheses are tested and dwell less on their generation strategies. Design of hypothesis determines the methods to be used for testing.
Body of Knowledge
The more specific the hypothesis in a research is, the more intuitive the research will be and therefore the results will be more actionable. Normally, psychological research hypotheses are developed by a number of means. The common one is inductive reasoning and in this strategy, the researcher makes some observations which lead to him or her to develop a presumption (Fiske et al, 2010, p. 45).
To conduct the study, the researcher then employs larger battery of deductive methods to create a hypothesis that is falsifiable and practical.
Hypotheses help the research to build on the current knowledge in that they form precursors to theories and research problem which in most cases are questions in a research. For instance asking why student experience anxiety when examinations are going on. The problem question could be framed as ‘why do student experience anxiety during examination period?’ this is a very broad statement which is not testable by research method.
However it can draw literature views (Fiske et al, 2010, p. 45). To look into it, the researcher will have to conduct a literature review and use previously acquired knowledge and intuition to answer it. Intuition is not scientific.
A research hypothesis pairs down the problem to form a concept that is testable and falsifiable. From the above example, the investigator could the anxiety could be because student do not prepare well for the examinations (Coon & Mitterer, 2011, p. 29).
A psychologist must create a realistic hypothesis where the experiment will be designed. The researcher will then keep on referencing to the hypothesis for thought process and development of solutions to the research problem.
Psychologists regularly suggest theories to explain how human beings behave. On a more informal approach, people judge others, their intentions, the motivations and the cause of certain actions. These subjective and anecdotal opinions are subject to tests.
Hypotheses can be developed where these assumptions or perception can be tested by scientific methods in an object and systematic approach. It is pertinent to note that then hypothesis cannot be proved nor disapproved, rather the investigator accepts or rejects the hypothesis. When the hypothesis is rejected, it leads to development of another hypothesis which can also be tested.
Coon, D & Mitterer, J., 2011, Psychology: Modules for Active Learning with Concept Modules with Note-Taking and Practice Exams, 11th Ed., Cengage Learning, New York
DeCarvalho, R.J., 1991, The Growth Hypothesis in Psychology: The Humanistic Psychology of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, EMText, San Francisco
Fiske, S.T., Gilbert, D.T., & Lindzey, G., 2010, Handbook of Social Psychology, Volume 2, John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex
Hand, D. J. 2004, Measurement Theory and Practice: The World through Quantification, Edward Arnold, London