1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.
Kendra Cherry

Kendra's Psychology Blog

By

Follow me on:

Questions About Correlations

Sunday June 1, 2014

One reader writes: "I just finished taking the research methods quiz, and I think the answers to two of the questions might be wrong. On the one question, I am thinking that the weakest relationship is indicated by -0.74 (c), and not +0.10 (a) as given in the quiz answers. For the other question, I am thinking that the strongest relationship is indicated by +0.79 (b), and not -0.98 (d) as given in the quiz answers. Or maybe I am simply missing a point."

When it comes to correlations, be careful not to equate positive with strong and negative with weak. A relationship between two variables can be negative, but that doesn't meant that the relationship isn't strong.

Remember, correlation strength is measured from -1.00 to +1.00. The correlation coefficient, often expressed as r, indicates a measure of the direction and strength of a relationship between two variables. When the r value is closer to +1 or -1, it indicates that there is a stronger linear relationship between the two variables. A correlation of -0.97 is a strong negative correlation, while a correlation of 0.10 would be a weak positive correlation. When you are thinking about correlation, just remember this handy rule: The closer the correlation is to 0, the weaker it is, while the close it is to +/-1, the stronger it is.

So, for the first question, +0.10 is indeed a weaker correlation than -0.74, and for the next question, -0.98 is a stronger correlation than +0.79.

Of course (and you've probably heard this a million times in all your psychology classes), correlation does not equal causation. Just because two variables have a relationship does not mean that changes in one variable cause changes in the other.

About.com's Guide to Statistics, Courtney Taylor, also has some great information designed to help students understand correlation and its limitations. Learn more in his overview of correlation.

Links to further information that you might find helpful:

Image: Spiritia / Wikimedia Commons

How to Deal With Procrastination

Saturday May 31, 2014
overcome procrastination

Procrastination is one of those things that even the most well-organized and punctual fall victim to at some point or another. Think about the last time you found yourself watching television when you really should have been doing homework. While common, procrastination can have a detrimental impact on your life, including your grades.

It may come as no surprise that procrastination is a serious problem among students. Experts estimate that between 25 and 75 percent of college students put off doing their academic work on a regular basis. So why is it students fall into this deadly time trap? Researchers Ferrari, Johnson and McCown suggest that some cognitive distortions help contribute to this tendency to put important things off until the last moment.

Students tend to:

  1. Overestimate how much time is left to complete assignments
  2. Overestimate how motivated they will be in the future
  3. Underestimate how long various tasks will take to finish
  4. Mistakenly believe that they need to feel inspired or in the right frame of mind to begin an assignment

So what can students do to overcome procrastination and avoid the stress, anxiety and poor performance that comes from completing assignments at the last second? Researchers suggest that developing a schedule, carefully planning academic tasks, and improving time-management skills are all effective ways to cope with procrastination.

Some techniques you might try include making a list of assignments that must be completed and breaking each assignment down into manageable portions. Next, estimate how long it will take to complete each step and then double that number. Chances are good that it will take you longer than you think to complete each assignment. Finally, offer yourself some type of reward for each task you complete.

Learn more about the psychology of procrastination including why we tend to procrastinate and some of the excuses we use to justify this behavior. Not sure if procrastination is really a problem in your life? Take this quick procrastination quiz to get a better idea of the impact that procrastination has on your day-to-day existence. If you do struggle with this problem, be sure to check out our tips for overcoming procrastination.

Image by Renato Benicio

Sign Up for the Free Psychology 101 E-Course

Friday May 30, 2014
free psychology class

Have you ever wanted to learn more about psychology, but weren't quite sure where to begin? Whether you're preparing for a class, supplementing your study or simply interested in the subject, this free ten-week class can provide you with a great overview of psychology. Get started by signing up for the Psychology 101 e-course!

Focus On Prenatal Development

Friday May 30, 2014
Prenatal Development

The period of time from conception to birth is full of dramatic changes that can have an impact on future growth and health. Learning more about the earliest developmental processes provides a basis for understanding later childhood development. If you have ever taken a course in developmental psychology, you can probably remember spending the first few days of class discussing prenatal development as well as issues such as inherited diseases and environmental factors that can influence fetal growth. Whether or not you plan on ever becoming a parent, understanding prenatal growth and development provides an essential foundation for further learning in developmental psychology.

Learn more about the stages of prenatal development.

In the majority of cases, prenatal development follows a fairly normal and predictable path. However, problems do sometimes occur. Learn more about some of the environmental and genetic factors that can lead to problems in prenatal development.

More About Child Development

Image by M Nota

Get the Latest Psychology Updates on Facebook or Twitter

Monday May 26, 2014
Psychology on Facebook

If you have a profile on Facebook, you can follow the About.com Psychology page to get all of the latest news stories and updates. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Don't forget to sign up for the psychology newsletter if you haven't already done so. This weekly newsletter showcases the news, site updates, features, reader polls and discussions from the About.com Psychology site. After signing up for the newsletter, you will receive the latest edition of the newsletter right in your email inbox. The newsletter can be a great resource for students, educators, or psychology enthusiasts interested in learning more about the wide world of psychology.

Just visit the subscription sign-up page and enter your email address. If you do not receive your first issue within seven days, be sure to check your junk mail folder to be sure that it isn't being stopped by spam filters. You can prevent such problems by adding "psychology@aboutguide.com" to your address book.

Is a Career In Counseling Right for You?

Thursday May 22, 2014
counseling careers

Do you enjoy working with people? While there are a wide variety of career options available to students of psychology, counseling is one area that is particularly popular. Counseling can be an exciting career path, especially for students looking for a job centered on working directly with people to help solve real-world problems. If you are thinking about pursuing a job in this area, start by checking out some of the many specialty areas that are available. While school counseling and mental health counseling might immediately come to mind, there are lots of other options including marriage and family counseling, vocational counseling and additions counseling.

While the educational requirements can vary based on the state where you plan to work and the specialty field that you choose, in most cases a minimum of a master's degree in counseling, social work or psychology is necessary. If this job area sounds appealing to you, be sure to check out this overview of counseling that includes further details on the areas of employment, educational requirements and salaries.

More Career Overviews

Photo by bo1982

A Closer Look at Intrinsic Motivation

Monday May 19, 2014
intrinsic motivation

When was the last time you did something just for the enjoyment of the activity itself? Some examples might include painting a picture, playing a game, writing a story, and reading a book. When you pursue an activity simply for enjoyment, you are doing so doing so because you are intrinsically motivated. Your motivations for engaging in the behavior arise entirely for within rather than out of a desire to gain some type of external reward such as prizes, money, or acclaim.

Of course, that isn't to say that intrinsically motivated behaviors are without their own rewards. Instead, these rewards involve creating positive emotions within the individual. Activities can generate such feelings when they give people a sense of meaning (like participating in volunteer or church events), a sense of progress (seeing that your work is accomplishing something positive), or competence (learning something new or becoming more skilled at a task).

What do experts have to say? What factors can influence this type of motivation? Learn more about intrinsic motivation.

Image: Ariel da Silva Parreira

How Do External Rewards Impact Your Behavior?

Thursday May 15, 2014
extrinsic motivation

When you want to get someone to do something, such as getting your kids to do their homework, what is the best way to motivate them? Many people might start by offering some type of reward like a special treat or toy. This is a great example of what is known in psychology as extrinsic motivation, since the behavior is motivated by a desire to gain an external reward. Unlike intrinsic motivation, which arises from within the individual, extrinsic motivation is focused purely on outside rewards.

Extrinsic motivation can be very effective in many situations, but some researchers suggest that it is not always the best choice. In one classic study, kids who were already intrinsically motivated to play with a particular toy were then extrinsically rewarded for playing with that particular toy. What the researchers found was that after being rewarded, the kids then became less inclined to play with the toy in the future. Why? In some cases, giving excessive reinforcement for things that we already find internally rewarding can interfere with the motivation to engage in the behavior.

Of course, that doesn't mean that extrinsic motivation is a bad thing. Experts suggest that it can be particularly effective in situations where people simply have no intrinsic desire to engage in a behavior. It can also be used to help people learn new skills and gain an interest in an object or activity.

Learn more about the psychology behind extrinsic motivation.

Image: Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Help! I Don't Understand My Assignment!

Thursday May 8, 2014

Cynthia writes: "My psychology teacher has told us to write a paper, but I don't understand the topic or what she wants us to write about. I'm so confused and I'm scared that I'll mess up and get a bad grade! What should I do? Can you explain this assignment to me?"

Thanks for writing, Cynthia! Your problem is actually a very common problem for many students. I often receive requests from high school and college students asking me to interpret their teacher's instructions and tell them how to complete an assignment.

The problem, obviously, is that the only person who really knows what your instructor wants on a particular assignment is your instructor.

My advice? Talk to your teacher.

Call her, email her, or go visit her during her posted office hours. No matter what method you choose, get in touch with her as quickly as possible so you can get answers to your questions and get started on your assignment.

While students sometimes worry that their instructors will think that such questions are stupid, your teachers not only want to hear about your questions, they need to hear them. If you are confused about a certain aspect of an assignment, chances are good that other students in the class are also having problems. By voicing your questions, you can get the answers you need to complete the assignment correctly and on time.

Are you not quite sure how to approach your instructor with your questions? About.com's Guide to Homework / Study Tips, Grace Fleming, has some great advice that might help in her article on how to talk to teachers.

Related Topics

Photo by Diego Cervo / iStockPhoto

Happy Birthday Sigmund Freud!

Tuesday May 6, 2014
Sigmund Freud

Today marks 158th anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud. Or at least, today marks the day most frequently identified as the day Freud was born. The day on which Freud himself believed he was born. The traditional date differs from the one given in town records where he was born, which list March 6, 1856 as the correct birth date.

In an article published on the Psychology Today website, psychologist Jesse Bering described a bit of the history behind the discrepancy:

"The story goes something like this: in 1968, a researcher was surprised to discover that records from Freiburg, Moravia, the town where Freud was born, indicated Freud's birth date as being March 6. It remains unclear as to whether this discrepancy between the date celebrated as his birthday and that which is noted in the town's register is a simple clerical error or, as at least one scholar suggests, belies a more scandalous affair. Freudian historiographer Marie Balmary has argued that, despite what even Freud himself thought to be true, March 6 is in fact Freud's real birthday. Balmary alleges that Freud's parents adopted the phoney May 6 date to hide the fact that Freud's mother, Amalie, was already pregnant when she married his father Jakob."

He's been described as one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century, but he is also one of the most controversial. His life and legacy continue to fascinate, but his theories are often dismissed as outdated and unscientific. While he can be a polarizing figure in psychology history, there is no question that Freud left an indelible mark on psychology as well as other disciplines.

On the anniversary of his birth, take a moment to learn more about his life and influence.

Photo by Max Halberstadt

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.