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University of California Los Angeles Critically Evaluating Experiments Discussion

University of California Los Angeles Critically Evaluating Experiments Discussion

Question Description

QALMRI INSTRUCTIONS

The QALMRI method provides a means for critically evaluating experiments,as well as for organizing your own experiment proposals. It helps you to findconnections between theory and data by making explicit the question beingasked, the approach used to answer it, and the implications of the answer

Q stands for Question All research begins with a question, and the point of the research isto answer it. For example, we can ask whether a placebo is better than no action inalleviating depression. For most journal articles, the General Introduction should tell thereader what question the article is addressing, and why it is important enough that anyoneshould care about the answer. Questions fall into two categories: broad and specific. In yourQALMRI, state both the broad and the specific questions being asked. Broad questions aretypically too general to answer in a single experiment, although one should view theexperiment as one step on a journey to answer the broad question. An example of a broadquestion might be “Does language influence perception?” This sort of question provides thegeneral topic of the paper, and can only be answered through compiling many experimentalresults. In contrast, the specific question can typically be addressed in a single experimentor set of experiments. A specific question might be “If one language has a specific term forone color, and another language does not have any term for that color, will speakers of thetwo languages perceive the color differently?” Again, be sure to identify the broad andspecific question relevant to your data collection.

A stands for Alternatives Good experiments consider at least 2 possible alternative answersto a specific question, and explains why both answers are plausible. For example, thepossibility that speakers of different languages will perceive colors differently is plausiblebased on evidence that topdown processes can affect perception. The alternativehypothesis, that language does not influence perception of color, is also plausible becausecolor perception in particular might be impervious to top-down influences. That is, it mightbe based solely on properties of the visual system which are unaffected by language. Whendescribing an existing article or when proposing an experiment, you should identify thealternatives the authors considered. There are always at least 2 alternatives: that factor Xwill show an effect, or that it won’t (that a null result will be obtained). If possible, identifyother alternative patterns as well.

L stands for Logic The logic of the study identifies how the experiment’s design will allowthe experimenter to distinguish among the alternatives. The logic is typically explainedtowards the end of the study’s introduction, and has the following structure: If alternative 1(and not alternative 2) is correct, then when a particular variable is manipulated, theparticipants’ behavior should change in a certain way. For example, the logic of the colorexperiment would be: If a person’s native language influences their perception of color, thenspeakers who have a term for a given color should respond differently to that color than

speakers whose language contains to term for that color. Alternatively, if language does notinfluence color perception, then speakers who have a color term should respond nodifferently than speakers who lack the term. Note that the logic of the experiment isintegrally connected to the alternatives you stated in the last section. Indeed, this sectionshould be comprised of a series of “If…then…” statements in which you restate thealternatives you offered (“If X…”), and then state what pattern of data would support thatalternative (“…then Y”). You should therefore have equal numbers of alternatives andIf…then statements.

M stands for Method This section identifies the procedures that will be used to implementthe logical design. It should state the independent variable (the factor being experimentallymanipulated) and the dependent variable (the behavior being measured) of the experiment.It should also describe the subjects, including whether subjects were divided into groupsreceiving different experimental manipulations. What materials were used to conduct theexperiment, and what were the experimental stimuli like?

R stands for Results What was the outcome of the experiment? Describe the results of theprimary measures of interest. For example, did different subject groups yield different groupmeans? What were these means? Or did the entire subject population produce a distinctivepattern of responses? Describe that pattern. Did the results seem reliable, or do you feelthey might have been an artifact of the way the experiment was conducted? For thissection, it is often a good idea to use graphs or tables to illustrate the pattern of data youobtained.

I stands for Inferences. What can the results of the experiment tell us about thealternatives? If the study was well designed, the results should allow you to eliminate atleast one of the possible alternatives. For example, if a language lacks a color word but thespeakers of that language respond to the color no differently than speakers of a languagelacking a term for the color, then the experiment supports the view that language does notinfluence color perception. At this point, take a step back and think about any potentialproblems with the experiment that could have led to the pattern of results you obtained.Were there confounds that could have caused the results? For example, if you did find adifference between the subject groups, are there other ways in which the groups differ thatare not language-related? Might this have caused the result? Were there problems duringthe data collection? In addition, this is the section in which to consider the hypothetical nextstep in answering the broad question. If you were to conduct a follow-up experiment, whatwould it be (hint: think of questions that remain unanswered by the present results, andsketch a study that could bear on one or more of those questions)? What questions do yourresults raise?

oFocus on the chimp trials and results
§You can briefly talk about the comparison between children and chimps,but you don’t have to explain those methods or results.

oIgnore:
§Other variables section about rearing history and age§Reduced inhibition test

oBriefly summarize:
§The point of the reverse contingency test. No need to get into the detailsof the experimental conditions.

The point of the big-to-bigger control trialsoFocus on the chimp trials and results


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