Research Methods Essay

850 words - 4 pages

Evidence suggests that cell phone usage and car accidents are correlated. Currently, twelve states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving (Governer's Highway Safety Association, www.ghsa.org). These laws are supported by research and hypothesis such as this one: "The NSC model estimates 21 percent of crashes or 1.1 million crashes in 2010 involve talking on hand-held and hands-free cell phones" (National Safety Council, www.nsc.org). However, correlation isn't causation. In order to avoid falacy, researchers cannot rule out rival hypothesis. Virginia Tech conducted research and deducted that talking on a phone isn't dangerous. "Our analyses separated talking and dialing tasks and found that talking on a phone did not increase crash risk among experienced or novice drivers, while dialing increased risk for both groups" (Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and co-author of the study via Joseph Rose, www.oregonlive.com). To test the hypothesis between the negative correlation of cell phone usage and driving skills, it is important to conduct research using experimental designs and controlled conditions.

Experimental design, also known as experiments, permit cause-and-effect inferences. This is the best research design for testing this hypothesis as researchers have the ability to manipulate variables, such as cell phone use, and to see their affect on driver behavior. The main idea is that it is a controlled form of research, whereas correlational experiments, case studies, or naturalistic observation research designs include/measure preexisting differences in participants. These participants should be approved for the study by the process of random selection; every person in the population (of eligible drivers) should have an equal chance to participate. More importantly, every participant must be safe as this hypothesis tests a theoretically unsafe practice. The APA Ethical Principles for Human Research state that "Psychologists must take reasonable steps to avoid harm to research participants".

In order to accomodate the APA regulations, the experiment should be designed with the use of driving simulations. If the hypothesis turns out to be correct, the participants should not be in real cars. Each condition, such as type of simulation, environment (i.e. climate), time of day, and duration of the simulation should be exactly the same for every single participant. These are the dependant variables. Half of the participants will "drive" their simulation with these variables only and in a controlled setting, with no cell phones. This will be the controlled group. The other half of the participants will "drive" their...

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