Step 2: Choosing Your Background Theory and Research Hypothesis

Instructions: Click on the sections below to see the explanations

Background Theory/Model (Click)

To explore its research question, your experiment will have to test a recognized theory or model. If you chose one of the recommended studies, relevant theories/models are briefly explained in the “Background” section. This points you to the right direction, but you still need to do the following:

  • Depending on the study, the “Background” might propose several possible explanations and background theories/models. In this case, choose only one of them. Your choice can be based on the findings of the original study, or you can choose the theory/model that you find most interesting.
    NB. This does not apply in cases where particular background theories/models are related to more general theories/models. For instance, if a particular cognitive bias is related to Dual System (System 1 / System 2) Theory, you should not choose between them: both are your background theory.
  • Conduct further research on your background theory/model, either by using the links provided in the “Background”, or by using other resources, such as

Research Hypothesis (Click)

Psychological theories and models provide general explanations of human behaviors, including how they operate and interact with different factors. As such, your background theory/model will imply a particular answer to the research question, which will be your research hypothesis as it predicts an influence of the factor under investigation (independent variable, IV) on the behavior under consideration (dependent variable, DV).

Depending on the case, this research hypothesis can be either directional, meaning that it predicts a particular influence of the IV on the DV in a given direction (either positive or negative), or non-directional, meaning that it only predicts a general influence of the IV  on the  DV, without specifying in which direction. 

Based on your findings, your report will determine whether this prediction (answer to the research question) was confirmed and whether the theory/model from which it was derived was supported by your own experiment. However, whether your research hypothesis is confirmed or not by your experiment will not impact your grade. If the results of your experiment do not confirm the research hypothesis, they will challenge the background theory/model and confirm the null hypothesis, which is the prediction that the independent variable will have no influence on the dependent variable. Either way, and as long as it is properly conducted and reported, your study will have answered the research question by testing the background theory/model.

QUESTIONS: Click on the questions below to see the worked examples

Answer all questions below on your individual Experiment Creation Form.

Question 5: What is the background theory/model behind your experiment? (Click)

Your answer should indicate the following:

  • Name of the theory/model.
  • Reference to a peer-reviewed publication where it was presented (name of researchers, date of publication, and link).
  • Further resources presenting the theory

Table 2: Example of Background Theory/Model

Question 6: Outline the background theory/model of your experiment. (Click)

NB. The outline of your background theory/model should be detailed enough to explain how it answers the research question and implies (predicts) the research hypothesis.

Table 3: Example of Outline of Background Theory/Model

Question 7: What is the research hypothesis of your experiment? (Click)

Your answer should indicate the following: 

  • Independent variable (IV)
  • Dependent variable (DV)
  • Predicted influence of the IV on the DV
  • Is this prediction directional or non-directional
  • Null hypothesis

NB. Some studies have more than one IV and/or DV. In this case, you should simplify the study and make sure that your experiment only has one IV and one DV.

Table 4: Example of Research Hypothesis and Null Hypothesis