With a Grain of Salt
Upon researching for psychological tests on an individual’s sex life, a plethora of results come up. But why even begin to test whether one is satisfied with their sex life, or dissatisfied with their genital appearance? Does it have some sort of psychological significance, or physiological effects in one’s life? Apparently so. Multiple studies have demonstrated that the satisfaction of one’s sex life allows them to be less distressed about their life, their romantic relationship, and in some cases even their self-esteem. Studies find an association between those who deem their intimate life as unsatisfactory and suffering from increased sexual dysfunction disorders, depression, and a generally decreased quality of life.
But who’s to say that the link between sexual satisfaction and mental health disorders is not spurious? Perhaps men and women who are already suffering from sexual dysfunctions experience less of an intimate relationship with their partners, due to difficulty in performing sexually. Or maybe these individuals are already depressed, causing a lower quality of life, in turn affecting their sex life and romantic relationships. That being said, we are normally told that we must take the associations that we see being made in psychological studies with a grain of salt.
When beginning as a psychology student, one of the very first topics every Psychology professor emphasizes is that correlation is NOT causation. Additionally, correlational studies can suffer from biases like outliers that are not controlled for, confounding variables, and third or unknown variables. The epitome of the disadvantage of correlational studies is the inability to conclude why a relationship exists between two variables in the first place. It can be helpful to indicate that a relationship exists, but we can never determine which variable is dependent on the other, nor can we ever be 100% sure as to why the link exists.
On the other hand, correlational studies do have some benefits in that they allow a large sample to be compared at once, and can hone in on phenomenon that we encounter on an everyday basis. Although many different psychological tests do exist, correlational studies are sometimes used as a marker, which can begin more meticulous studies based on these correlational findings. It is after a correlational study is conducted that academics and graduate students can explore a relationship further; by creating a study with experiments and other tests that will focus on a particular relationship of interest.
The plethora of studies that we can find today when researching the McGill library, or even just a regular search engine, we can probably thank those correlational studies that we usually take with a grain of salt.
Filipowich, M. (n.d.). What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Correlation Research? Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.ehow.com/info_8359597_advantages-disadvantages-correlation-research.html