Tag Archives: neuropsychology

Experimental methods: how to create a successful study

Various rules govern every science and it uses different experimental methods. It does so in order to achieve the results. These results have to be able to be ready for publishing in scientific articles. In order to come up with a successful, publishable material a researcher needs to follow specific guidelines. He needs to arrange the experiments in an understandable, easily replicable way. Every future experiment needs to be able to replicate an already published scientific one. Without this ability to replicate, we couldn’t know whether the experiments are valid and transferable to a bigger population. Scientists need to have a clear view of all the guidelines in their mind before beginning a project.

Experimental Methods

Researchers need to have as much control as possible over all of the variables. They need to try and avoid confounding. Striving for objectivity and clearness in every step of the way is the goal of science. There is no worse thing for a scientist to miss a significant contributing factor to their study. This is due to the fact that this factor could have been able to change the results greatly.

If that happens, in a lot of cases, the research will have to start again. If you are lucky, maybe re-doing one or two experiments will be enough. In many cases, the scientist needs to run the entire set of experiments again. He does that in order to reach statistical significance with the results. Re-gathering all of the data again can sometimes turn research into a walking living nightmare!

Can you imagine running 200 infant participants between the ages of 5-7 months? And then you find out that the entire design of your study is faulty and you need to start over? You will have to rethink the entire design again but also recruit the 200 infants of the required age again! That is the reason why research takes time, patience, serious dedication and on occasion job stress.

In order to prevent these types of mashups, scientists have created guidelines and sets of rules. They aim to help speed the process along and make sure that it is running smoothly.

Experiments – the key to success in experimental methods

As mentioned before, an important part of every scientific study is the experiment itself. An experiment has certain prerequisites. A scientist needs to formulate a clear and concise hypothesis and the objectives of the study.

The hypothesis predicts what your study is attempting to find – the result of the study itself. It’s a statement. There are two different types of hypotheses in research.

  1. The null hypothesis states that the two variables that you are studying do not have a relationship. That means that one of them does not affect the other in any way, shape or form.
  2. Alternative hypothesis states the variables you are studying have a relationship and do affect one another. They do so in a significant fashion.

Experimental methods for every experiment include a set of variables that will help to formulate that hypothesis. The two sets of variables include an independent and a dependent variable. Independent variable is the one that the scientist manipulates.  The dependent variable is the one that the scientist is trying to find out. The researcher needs to also control for confounding or extraneous variables. These variables can compromise the results of their study.

Experimental methods: Hypothesis example

Let’s try to create a hypothesis ourselves. We can have a theory that video game players have better reflexes compared to non-video game players. That is an alternative hypothesis that tries to predict whether video games have an effect on reflexes in human participants. The independent variable, in this case, would be the video games themselves. The dependent variable is the speed of the reflexes.

Now, we need to take into an account the confounding and extraneous variables. For example, there are many video games in this world. Is there a difference, let’s say, between strategy and action games? We further define our hypothesis saying that action video game players will have better reflexes compared to non-video game players.

Extraneous variables

Other extraneous variables come to mind. If we do find an effect, is there a subsequent gender difference or an age difference? That could potentially lead to a new series of experiments. In the first experiment, we test whether video game players have better reflexes than non-players. In the second experiment, we compare male and female video game players. We try to eliminate the possibility for gender to be a confounding variable. In the third experiment, we could compare adults to teenagers.

We can see how a simple question can turn into a lengthy study with many different participants and variables. This is by no means a well-thought out hypothesis. If we were to spend some more time on it, we’d probably find more variables that we need to control for. We’d find ourselves in front of at least four or five different experiments with the use of many experimental methods.

The experiments themselves can be classified into different categories.

Experimental methods categories

Experimental Methods

Experimental methods: Experiments

Experimental methods: Field experiments

These types of experiments happen in participant’s real life situation. The scientist here will manage the independent variable but in a setting outside of the laboratory environment.

There are certain advantages to field experiments. Due to the setting being realistic the participants will behave in a more normal and ordinary way than they would in a laboratory. This brings higher ecological validity to the experiment compared to a lab experiment.

  • Ecological validity: how can the outcome of your study apply to real life?

Due to the fact that the participants usually do not know that they are being studied, they will not change their behavior subconsciously or consciously. Participants tend to do that when they think they know the purpose of the study that the researcher is conducting. That can seriously compromise the results of any experiment due to them not being genuine and create outliers in the further statistical analysis.

Experimental methods: Drawbacks of field experiments

We can see some challenges this set of experiments can produce due to the inability of the experimenter to control the confounding and extraneous variables that will for sure appear on the horizon during the study. Due to the inability to control for extraneous variables, there is a lesser likelihood to replicate the study which could be quite damaging for the project overall.

Experimental methods: Quasi/Natural experiments

The main difference between ‘Natural experiments’ and ‘Field experiments’ is that in the first one the scientist has no control over any variables that occur during the experiment. Because the experiment occurs in even more real-life settings than the field experiment, the participants are a lot more likely to act genuinely and naturally. This is one of the main strengths of these type of experiments. The ecological validity of them is quite high when compared to laboratory experiments and, even, field experiments. Because the participants do not know about the study or they might not suspect they are being studied, they will not try to subconsciously or consciously sabotage the results of the study which is a huge advantage in itself.

Experimental methods: Drawbacks of quasi/natural experiments

The scientist can go virtually anywhere and observe any situation. A big and obvious limitation of these types of experiments is the serious lack of control over any variables so it is either very difficult or sometimes virtually impossible for a future researcher to conduct a study in a similar way.

Experimental methods: Laboratory experiments

Laboratory experiments are the most controlled ones out of the three and they can use a variety of experimental methods for data collection due to the fact that they are the most objective ones. They allow the scientist to measure things and control for everything that he can possibly control for due to the fact that the researcher himself decides the place of the experiment, the time, the participants and the circumstances.

Participants: Random assignment

Usually, for the best outcome, the researchers try to get a random assignment of the participants to avoid a bias of only picking females over the age of 35 of higher-middle class. That would be quite a significant confounding variable that would surely compromise the results of any study. Sometimes, however, a certain population needs to be used, for example, if the scientists are testing a new drug for schizophrenia. Clearly, the participants of that study would have to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia beforehand.

Drawbacks of laboratory experiments

Laboratory experiments are easily replicable due to the fact that everything that happens in the experiment needs to follow a concise step-by-step procedure that the researcher will then share in his methods section. Avoidance of the extraneous variables becomes easier due to this controlled environment. A big limitation of laboratory controlled experiments in the field of psychology is the control itself.Due to the fact that many studies in psychology deal with human participants, the artificial environment may encourage the participants to act in a way that is not genuine or normal for them. On top of that, the participants usually know that they are a part of the experiment and, therefore, might subconsciously or consciously sabotage the results.

Experimental methods: Data collection

There are various different experimental methods of collecting data and two different types of data can be distinguished.

Experimental methods: Two types of data

Qualitative data is mainly a part of an exploratory research. It is less objective than quantitative data. Some common types of qualitative analysis include interviews, focus groups, participation/observation and case studies. In case studies, in particular, researchers are able to look into one specific problem or one particular participant that is of their interest.

Quantitative data usually generates data that is numerical and is able to be statistically analyzed. Quantitative data is the type of data that is mainly used in laboratory research because it allows structure and standardization. Scientists use quantitative research to study behaviors, opinions and other variables that are clearly defined. Usually, researchers will use a small sample and then attempt to generalize the results to a larger population.

Quantitative data can come in the form of surveys, interviews and questionnaires and longitudinal studies. During the experiments, other various scientific and experimental methods are used in the form of eye-tracking and neuroimaging methods.

Experimental methods: Patience, hard work, and dedication

This is by far not all that there is to know about the experimental methods in the field of psychology. People become statisticians for the sole purpose of analyzing data and clinical lab technicians that help with the experiments themselves. Despite that, it gives an insight of what it is like to be a researcher in the modern society and how many different variables need to be taken account of. Just to think that completely different ethical guidelines are used for animal and human research and different countries have distinct guidelines for both! It is important not to despair because only through research we are able to find out about ourselves. Only through research, we can look for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of various diseases. It’s important to follow the guidelines and the rules for the society’s benefit.

Self-appraisal: apply this method to improve your performance.

What is self-appraisal? What is it for? What are its advantages and disadvantages? In this article, we will answer these questions and more. Also, we will give advice so that you can apply, self-evaluations to any aspect of your life. This method is not only great for students, it’s also necessary to establish what abilities are needed from us in different areas of life.

Self-appraisal

Self-appraisal: Meaning and importance

What is self-appraisal? A self-appraisal or self-evaluation is a method that allows evaluation of one’s own strengths and weaknesses in a specific task. The difference from hetero-evaluation and co-evaluation, is that the first is usually done by your boss or a superior and the latter is done by members of your group.

It’s possible to do self-assessments or self-appraisals through different methods. They are an essential tool in order to face with assurance any challenge. If we want a positive outcome it’s important to do a self-assessment in order to extract convenient conclusions and act accordingly.

Practice tests in driving education or at the end of a book chapter are examples of self-appraisals. Here you will find out everything you need to know so you can adequately estimate your knowledge and performance in different areas.

What are the purpose of self-appraisals?

We have all done have done a self-appraisal for one reason or another, be it to cause a good impression public speaking, to test our memory, or to inquire our strengths and weaknesses as friends or partners, etc. We will write the areas in which self-appraisal is key and how to use this tool.

Self-Appraisal in education

Regardless of the education stage, self-evaluation of knowledge, aptitude and cognitive abilities is essential to pass any subject. Generally, even if we haven’t done a self-assessment, when taking an exam or giving in a paper, we have an idea what the outcome might be. However, taking practice tests beforehand may help adjust our skills to the task objectives and help us overcome our academic challenges with precision and effectiveness. Self-appraisals allow each student to learn at their own pace in a responsible manner.

Nerves before an exam or a challenge is something natural in spite of our preparation. However, if we have practiced and corrected our mistakes previously we can tackle the task with trustworthiness and self-control. On the other hand, professors can also benefit from this tool to enhance their work performance or even make self-appraisal a class objective.

Neuroscience and educational neuroscience have aimed to improve formative assessments and self-appraisals in schools. CogniFit educational technology and platform, based on neuro-education, is one of the most popular and used computer-based program in educational neuroscience. It has been applied in different schools around the world with high effectiveness for all students, especially for students with special needs or learning disabilities.

Self-appraisal: CogniFit neuro-education evaluation

This scientific resource, designed to optimize self-appraisal and educational processes, has been created for educators and has proven to be quite effective in exploring cognitive processes involved in learning.

This CogniFit tool evaluates different cognitive areas that can help teachers, parents, and students know themselves better and identify certain neurological causes related to school failure.

Through this tool, CogniFit, develops personalized cognitive training and rehabilitation for children so that they can improve their cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, planning and others that are fundamental for learning and performance in different subjects.

How does it work? This tool is easy to use, the first is for students to develop a baseline by completing the full cognitive evaluation. This self-evaluation and its report will determine with precision which cognitive areas are strong and which require training. All of the brain games developed by CogniFit have been designed and validated clinically in order to identify cognitive strengths and weaknesses involved in learning.

Also, using the results of this initial evaluation, CogniFit program, designs and programs specific training for each child according to their needs.

School failure is one of the biggest concerns in the educational system. Therefore it is of importance to teach about brain knowledge in education.  For students to develop full learning skills it’s important for schools to have neuro-educative tools at their disposal.

Self-Appraisal at work

Self-assessment at the workplace should become a habit for most of us. Some companies ask their employees that they self-evaluate periodically while others just expect the initiative to come from themselves.

When faced with a promotion or discovering that we are not being efficient, it’s crucial to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses in order to maximize our capacities and correct our mistakes. To elaborate a previously reasonable diagnosis is the first step to problem resolution.

Moreover, self-appraisal is not the only thing necessary when evaluating our performance. If the analysis of our self-evaluation is correct, we can even manage to increment our motivation, self-efficacy, and self-control. Sometimes we are stuck in our ways and can’t see a different way of doing things, making it difficult to leave our comfort zone. However, asking ourselves if we are responsible, on time, team players, organized or have other qualities that are relevant for our job might help us find other opportunities. Stopping to examine our work situation in a holistic and unbiased way may open the doors to improving our performance, work relationship, correcting mistakes, etc.

Self-Appraisal in health

There are signs and symptoms relative to our mental and physical health that we can observe in our bodies. Checking our body for these signs is important when detecting or discarding any diseases. Negative thoughts and self-evaluations can cause acne or other skin problems. Nonetheless, if after a self-appraisal we notice something unusual it’s important not to rush into conclusions without consulting with a physician or other professionals capable of professionally making a diagnosis. Currently, there are several online cognitive assessments, that help us measure our cognitive abilities and understand brain areas and brain functions.

Self-evaluation in everyday life

It’s common for people to question their acts and thoughts. Have I offended him with my words? Is this outfit fit for an interview? It’s normal, healthy and acceptable to reflect on our day to day actions (unless we are being irrational or too hard on ourselves).

In this case, we don’t have specific parameters from which to make a self-evaluation. Everyone is free to choose what are their aspirations and goals. Our well-being depends mainly on who we want to be and what aspects we consider relevant. Therefore, our self-appraisals will differ from person to person.

There are no reliable, valid or fair guides about what models should we follow when doing a self-assessment, however, we must not let subjectiveness lead the way. Aspects such as our social relationships, how much time we dedicate to what makes us happy if we behave according to our values and other aspects of our personal life should be reviewed periodically in order to develop our personal growth.

Self-Appraisal: Examples

With these examples, you will be able to apply these different self-appraisal methods to the areas you consider most important. The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that you must feel comfortable with the method and it should adapt to your goals.

  • Book: textbooks usually have different chapters which end with a review section where they invite readers to critically think about aspects in the chapter and sometimes even include mini assessments or tests. This is a self-appraisal that allows checking how much knowledge we retained of the subject at hand.
  • Digital resources: Web pages and apps that enable us to evaluate our knowledge are in constant growth. Online self-appraisals or self-evaluations give immediate answers to different questions and are accessible at any moment in time. Unfortunately, they are limited to closed answers and don’t leave much space for creative answers. For example, we can download tests on a specific topic in Biology or on our knowledge of emotions.
  • Self-appraisal sheet: We can write how we think we did in a specific activity, the areas that need improvement, our strengths, how much progress have we made since our last self-appraisal, etc. We may find a document that already includes the questions we need or custom make it fit your needs. In order to create your own, it’s paramount to think about relevant things (for example, Am I nice to strangers), order and rate them accordingly.

Regardless of the format, the fundamental aspect is that we know how to interpret our results and continue practicing motivated. Any resource that helps us learn, maintain information and retain content will contribute to further skill building in any field.

Self-Appraisal: Benefits

Self-evaluations have many benefits, that combined with other strategies are a fantastic tool.

  • They are fit for any age: From preschoolers to older adults can benefit from this tool and learn to be critical about themselves (in a healthy way). In each stage in life we have interests and different missions, therefore, we have to self-evaluate ourselves in different spheres. No matter the case, a self-assessment is always going to be helpful.
  • They grant us to know our level in a specific task: Sometimes we think we have tried everything in order to reach our goals. We have been polite to our neighbors, we have read loads of information on leadership, etc. However, we might not be adapting how we should to the different circumstances. If the self-appraisal is done correctly, it is easier for us to tackle our goals with a more realistic approach.
  • Useful way to practice: Self-appraisal facilitates knowledge and abilities in a flexible and practical way that we can adapt to our needs. They are a perfect addition to activities we decide to do, regardless of the activity itself.
  • Reinforces knowledge: When taking a moment to establish new goals, we usually review the subjects we studied or focus on a specific aspect of our life. When performing a self-evaluation we tend to make connections between ideas, enabling for them to be retained in our long-term memory.
  • Helps us get to know ourselves better: Self-appraisal stimulates self-examination. It not only allows us to dive in our general knowledge but also leads us to question personal aspects of ourselves regardless of the purpose of the self-evaluation. For example, the things we most question are our sense of responsibility, virtues, defects, etc.
  • Encourages independence: self-appraisal is a habit we should incorporate in our lives since it permits us to control our progress and deficits and helps us be more responsible and independent when dealing with tasks.
  • Increases our motivation: Receiving feedback can motivate us to continue working hard. Knowing our deficiencies and still being able to get good results is a good incentive to continue. Are you up for a self-appraisal?

Self-Appraisal: Tips to improve learning

Do self-evaluation relaxed

If you are tired, stressed or for some reason can’t concentrate in the self-appraisal, it’s better to postpone it. If you carry on in that state, your performance will decrease and your results won’t be representative.

Be realistic

Only by performing a self-assessment we won’t progress, we need to establish a specific goal. For example: improve our memory.

Be honest with yourself

It’s tempting to perform a self-appraisal guided by a book that contains answers or have a friend help us answer, or search the internet for the best option, etc. However, this is just a way to cheat ourselves. If we want to take advantage of this tool, we have to be as truthful as possible.

See failure as a good thing

It’s normal to fail and our self-appraisals will not be what we expected. Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s important to recognize our mistakes but also our merits. It’s important to know the weight of our criticism on ourselves. Pessimism will only come back as negative performance.

Be organized

If you want to progress it’s important to be systematic in your actions and never stop challenging yourself. If meditating these aspects is difficult, set a time and place for self-appraisal, it doesn’t take much time and the benefits are worth it.

Test different types of self-appraisal

You might not like a multiple choice test but rather short essay questions where you can write about your opinions and knowledge. It’s ok to try different methods and you can even combine as many as you like in order to achieve a broader perspective.

Take advantage of new technologies

Recently, neuro-education is booming. Thanks to new advances in this field and in different technologies, life is changing rapidly and many resources are being created to increase the quality of life. Each day we have more information on how our brain works.

CogniFit is a leading company in cognitive evaluation and cognitive stimulation. It’s mainly for professional researchers and doctors. However, anyone can have access to its online platform. Through different and fun brain games it makes it possible to detect and train cognitive areas that need a bit more exercise.

 

Thank you for reading. Have you ever performed a self-appraisal? Do you think it’s a good tool? What strategies do you use? Please feel free to comment below.

 

This article is originally in Spanish by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar.