Statistics and Psychology

I probably have mentioned about this word "statistics" in several posts before, but it has not really been discussed in depth.  (To know in which posts "statistics" have been mentioned, double click on the word and search for it in the search box on the right.)  So this post will be all about statistics and psychology.

When I first mentioned the word "statistics" to students, the first thing that come to their minds is usually "maths".  And for students who are not very good in maths, or those who enrolled into the psychology program thinking it is going to be an all social arts course, a soft groaning noise may be heard in the masses of students.  My usual reply to them would be: "Psychological research is not just about statistics, and statistics is not just about maths."  So what is statistics?

According to American Statistical Association:
Statistics is the science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling, and communicating uncertainty; and it thereby provides the navigation essential for controlling the course of scientific and societal advances (Davidian, M. and Louis, T. A., 10.1126/science.1218685).
Statisticians apply statistical thinking and methods to a wide variety of scientific, social, and business endeavors in such areas as astronomy, biology, education, economics, engineering, genetics, marketing, medicine, psychology, public health, sports, among many.  "The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone else's backyard." (John Tukey, Bell Labs, Princeton University)

But how is statistics and psychology linked?
In psychological experiments and studies, especially quantitative studies, statistics is one of the usual methods/steps used to analyse the results.  It is usually done with the IBM SPSS program. But that is pretty much what it is, as there is much much more other things that should be focused on in doing psychological quantitative studies.
In quantitative studies, it could mainly be divided in two parts, research methods (sampling, design, and measurement, etc.) and analysis (hypothesis testing, with statistics being only one section of the hypothesis testing).  It is important that  a psychological researcher emphasizes on both parts, as both parts complement each other and work together.  Without good research methods, the results obtained through the analysis would be flawed; without good analysis and results, the experiment would not be completed even with good research methods.

My advice would be to focus on the foundations of research methods and statistics, as you start your learning in research methods and statistics.  Here is a website that I have always found to be quite useful in understanding the concepts in research methods and statistics: Social Research Methods Knowledge Base section.  This will help in your later understanding of statistics in quantitative studies.  Lastly, even if you still worrying about statistics as you may not be very good at maths, do not worry; there is always the SPSS program that can assist you in the analyses, so all you gotta do is to be good at using the program and knowing which results to use.

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