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Discuss how and why particular research methods are used at the cognitive
level of analysis (for example, experiments, observations, interviews, etc.)
This paper will explore how and why particular research methods are used
in the cognitive level of analysis by examining the effectiveness of experiments,
observations, and interviews. In general, each research method has its to its
strengths and limitations, and researchers use the most appropriate method to
the research question they are investigating.
Laboratory Experiments
Loftus and Palmer (1974a) did a laboratory experiment to investigate the role of
leading questing in recall. The procedure consisted of 45 students to whom
videos were shown of car accidents. After having seen the different clips, they
were asked critical questions such as “how fast were the cars going when they
hit each other? each time replacing the word hit for bumped, smashed, contacted,
and collided. Their independent variable was the verb they used and the
dependent variable, recall. Loftus and Palmer used this method because it
enabled them to show cause from effect and because it is an experimental study
this experimental study can be easily replicated. In addition, we could argue that
because all the variables were controlled, the results are very accurate. However,
it has very low ecological validity because the experiment is conducted in an
artificial environment.
Furthermore, Loftus and Palmer (1974 b) conducted a second experiment to
see whether misleading post event information can lead to the creation of false
memories. An experiment such as this explores the relationship between the
independent variable and dependent variable, which in this case is misleading
post event information using word choice, and the accuracy of false memories,
respectively. An independent measures design was used where 150 students all
shown a video clip of car accident. Two groups were asked how fast the cars
were going when they hit or smashed each other, while the control group was
not asked to estimate the speed of the accident. One week later they were asked
a critical question, “Did you see any broken glass?” but in actuality, there was no
broken glass. The 2nd group who were initially asked “How fast were the cars
going when they smashed into each other?”, on average, gave higher speed
estimates and that they recall seeing broken glass. This experiment is an example
of quantitative research, which generates numerical data, clarifying any
ambiguities and may address the initial hypothesis. Laboratory experiments are
the common in cognitive psychology as the reliability of the results increases, if
the experiments are replicated and similar findings are found in these
replications. Researchers use this method because they can strictly control
variables in this setting such that no other external factors can distort the data.
However, this means that while such experiments are easy to replicate, the
environment is artificial. Hence, there was low ecological validity. This may
cause demand characteristics for the participants wherein behavior outside the
laboratory is overlooked and they react differently.
Brown & Kulik (1977) were the first researchers to describe the theory of
Flashbulb Memory. Their research consisted of interviews and surveys about
dramatic events that have happened in the past. Interviews and surveys are a
good way to collect and gather data because of the direct interaction with the
participants. You are able to get information first-hand with direct observation
and experience rather than by hearsay. With the interview method, the ability to
study real events that have happened in the past gives the researcher to collect
any personal insight from the participants. However, the interview strategy
along with the one-on-one interaction could also lead to demand characteristics.
The participants could get an idea of what the researcher is up to (the fact that
they’re being interviewed and they want to know something specific), so they
would act the way they think the researcher would want them to act and
respond. In their interview study, the sample of 80 US participants who where
interviewed tended to have vivid memories of political assassinations, such as
the John F. Kennedy assassination. However, they discovered that the AfricanAmerican participants had a better recall on the death of Medgar Evers, a civil
rights worker. Their results showed the importance of the relevance of the
information, and how culture seems to have a big impact and influence on our
knowledge. Thus, finally concluding the theory of Flashbulb Memory was
developed from this work. An interview was an effective method to investigate
the topic, however, their technique has been criticized because of its non
experimental design.
Case Studies
The case of Clive Wearing (Sacks, 1997) is the rarest of its kind. This is due
to the fact that he suffered from both anterograde and retrograde amnesia,
which prevents him from making new memories and losing his old memory, with
a few exceptions. This is a topic of great interest to cognitive psychologists
interested in memory. Clive wearing still remembers how to play the piano,
meaning that the part of the brain that is concerned with music or playing an
instrument is different from the parts of Clive Wearing’s was not affected. This is
because he had a complication of an infection, Herpes simplex encephalitis that
affects his hippocampus, which prevented the transfer of memories from the
STM to the LTM. This further supports the MSM (multi store model) because this
case study shows that there are two separate stores of memory, the LTM and the
STM – showing a clear biological factors and memory. Clive Wearing also showed
that he had a brief understanding of current events, if asked properly. This
shows that there is some form of neural plasticity because he can still retain
some form of memory more than the 30-second time span he usually has. Again,
we can see that specific brain areas related to the cognitive function of memory.
However, the fact that some of his memories functions remain enact show that
more research is required to come to more concrete conclusions about this. This
method allows researchers to gather rich data about unusual cases, but it is also
difficult to generalize the findings of this research to the general population,
As evident in the previous paragraphs, experiments, case studies, and
interviews have demonstrated their respective flaws and strengths. There
cannot be a definite answer as to which method of research is the best, because it
is up to the discretion of the researcher to examine the requirements of his
research and decide upon which method will accommodate the study and
maximize the results. Furthermore, through using a combination of research
methods, a researcher can employ triangulation, allowing one to get a deeper
understanding of human behavior.