Variables: Thinking of the World in Terms of Relationships Between Variables
It should be clear from the preceding chapter that research methods can be understood as means of minimizing the probability that observers will distort the facts. But what is the nature of the facts that psychologists seek? And what need researchers observe to obtain these facts? The point is made in this chapter that what have to be observed are things called variables, and that the facts sought are relationships between variables. Psychological questions are more readily answered when they are restated as questions about the relationships between variables.
Events and phenomena that are potentially variable, and in which observers have some interest, are called variables. Deciding what is of interest, and what needs to be observed, is still part of the creative process of psychological research and psychological theorizing. The range of variables that are of interest to psychologists continuously expands and changes, but generally concerns overt and covert responses and characteristics that fall into the following five categories: abilities (such as intelligence or memory), responses (such as reaction times or helping behavior), attitudes (such as being religious or liking some individual), cognitive states (such as attention or