Analyzing Findings

Critical Thinking Questions

Earlier in this section, we read about research suggesting that there is a correlation between eating cereal and weight. Cereal companies that present this information in their advertisements could lead someone to believe that eating more cereal causes healthy weight. Why would they make such a claim and what arguments could you make to counter this cause-and-effect claim?

Hint:

The cereal companies are trying to make a profit, so framing the research findings in this way would improve their bottom line. However, it could be that people who forgo more fatty options for breakfast are health conscious and engage in a variety of other behaviors that help them maintain a healthy weight.

Recently a study was published in the journal, Nutrition and Cancer, which established a negative correlation between coffee consumption and breast cancer. Specifically, it was found that women consuming more than 5 cups of coffee a day were less likely to develop breast cancer than women who never consumed coffee (Lowcock, Cotterchio, Anderson, Boucher, & El-Sohemy, 2013). Imagine you see a newspaper story about this research that says, “Coffee Protects Against Cancer.” Why is this headline misleading and why would a more accurate headline draw less interest?

Hint:

Using the word protects seems to suggest causation as a function of correlation. If the headline were more accurate, it would be less interesting because indicating that two things are associated is less powerful than indicating that doing one thing causes a change in the other.

Sometimes, true random sampling can be very difficult to obtain. Many researchers make use of convenience samples as an alternative. For example, one popular convenience sample would involve students enrolled in Introduction to Psychology courses. What are the implications of using this sampling technique?

Hint:

If research is limited to students enrolled in Introduction to Psychology courses, then our ability to generalize to the larger population would be dramatically reduced. One could also argue that students enrolled in Introduction to Psychology courses may not be representative of the larger population of college students at their school, much less the larger general population.

Peer review is an important part of publishing research findings in many scientific disciplines. This process is normally conducted anonymously; in other words, the author of the article being reviewed does not know who is reviewing the article, and the reviewers are unaware of the author’s identity. Why would this be an important part of this process?

Hint:

Anonymity protects against personal biases interfering with the reviewer’s opinion of the research. Allowing the reviewer to remain anonymous would mean that they can be honest in their appraisal of the manuscript without fear of reprisal.