Statistics in psychology enable us to make sense of and interpret vast amounts of data. Consider how much data you encounter in a single day. How many hours did you sleep last night? Number of classmates ate breakfast this morning? How many people live within a mile of your house? We can organize and interpret all of this information in a meaningful way by using statistics.
Understanding statistical methods can help you excel in almost every other class. You will spend a significant amount of time learning about research, whether you are studying social psychology or human sexuality. Your statistical foundation will enable you to make more sense of the research described in your other psychology courses.
Second, consider all of the claims about psychology that you come across on a daily basis outside of class. Magazines publish articles about the most recent scientific discoveries, self-help books proclaim various approaches to problems, and news reports interpret (or misinterpret) psychology research.
You will be able to become a wise consumer of psychology information and make better judgments of the information you come across if you understand the research process, including the types of statistical analyses that are used. You can make better decisions about your health and well-being if you understand statistics.
Role of Statistics in Psychology
It is all too easy to become overwhelmed when dealing with a massive amount of information. Statistics enable psychologists to present data in more understandable ways. Visual displays such as graphs, pie charts, frequency distributions, and scatterplots allow researchers to gain a better understanding of the data and spot patterns that they might otherwise overlook.
Consider what happens when researchers amass a large amount of data on a group of people. The United States Census Bureau is a prime example. We can accurately describe the information gathered using statistics in an understandable manner. Descriptive statistics are used to summarize what already exists in a given population, such as the number of men and women, children, and people who are currently employed.
Make Data-Based Inferences
Researchers can infer information about a given sample or population by employing inferential statistics. Psychologists use the information they have gathered to test a hypothesis or make a prediction about what will happen. Researchers can use statistical analysis to determine the likelihood that a hypothesis will be accepted or rejected.
Limitations of Statistics in Psychology
These limitations are as follows:
- Statistics only work with quantitative data, which is made up of numbers. To make statistics work with qualitative data, we must first convert the data to numbers.
- Statistics, while a branch of mathematics, has some limitations. It gives us an estimate rather than precise results. Furthermore, it is concerned with social sciences, which are concerned with humans. We cannot predict human behavior with 100% accuracy, but it provides the most accurate findings.
- Statistics only work with a sample of the population and not with individuals. When studying any variable in psychology, the use of statistics allows us to examine the variable in the public as a whole rather than among individuals.
- The findings of any statistical results may occasionally lead the readers to some confusing information. For example, suppose a newspaper or media outlet reports that 33% of an institution’s administrative staff is depressed. The reader may be surprised to learn that the vast majority of the administrative staff suffers from depression. However, because the administrative staff of that specific institution is only three people and only one of them is depressed, we will have a clear picture of the findings.
The Application of Statistics in Psychology
Statistics are used in psychology to conduct research in the field. We use statistics to investigate various variables. Most educational programs in psychology require a thesis as part of the degree requirements, and all of these include some statistical analysis done with the help of statistics. We use statistics to determine the sample size, measure the correlation between different variables, and assess the role of gender and other factors. Through regression analysis, we can measure the effect of one or more independent variables on some dependent variables. Statistics are also used to conduct mediation and moderation analysis. Using statistics, psychologists create scales and tests to measure various factors. In short, statistics is required for almost every field of social science research, including psychology, economics, education, media studies, political science, and commerce.