# Computation

When it comes to the word 'computation', most people automatically think of it as an overly-complicated process. In reality, researchers often use computation in research to express data and simplify it.

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For instance, it may be difficult for readers to understand if we see data in a published report written as a fraction. However, if this were written as a percentage, you would probably understand it better, right? This explanation will go back to the basics to show you how research uses computation.

• To begin, we will look at the computation definition in psychology.
• Then we will look at computation calculation methods such as estimating data and recognising and using expressions in decimal and standard form.
• We will look at some computation calculation examples, such as the computation formula for ratios, percentages and fractions, to understand how the different computation methods are used in research.
• And to finish off, we will learn how computational arithmetic operations such as calculating arithmetic means can be calculated.

Psychological researchers often use computation to express data in a simplified way that is easy for readers to understand, freepik.com/storyset.

## Computation Definition in Psychology

Calculating computation is often used to analyse data derived from research. Computations allow researchers to organise better and describe their data.

The computation definition in psychology refers to making calculations of data collected from research.

### Computation Calculation Methods: Significant Figures

When collecting data, researchers occasionally make rough estimations on data to get an understanding and to identify expected results.

Suppose a researcher found that 53,286 participants had responded to their questionnaire and 366 participants did not complete the questionnaire. The researcher would round the figures up and down, to 50,000 participants minus 400 participants. So, the researchers would assume that roughly 49,600 questionnaires would be later analysed (50,000 - 400 = 49,600).

### Computation Calculation Methods: Recognise and Use Expressions in Decimal and Standard Form

In research, there are specific standards concerning data presentation. For example, reported data should always be rounded to two decimal places.

2.57823 has five digits following the decimal point. To round the figure to two decimal points, you must look at the third digit after the decimal point.

As the number is above five, it should be rounded to 2.58. However, if the digit were below five, it would be rounded down to 2.57.

As the digit is 8, we round it up to 2.58.

In research, the figures can occasionally be too small or too large. These are typically difficult to report. Researchers often express these figures in standard form when this is an issue. Let's take a look at how you can convert a number into its standard form.

In this example, let's use the number 0.000138. The first step is to move the first digit that is not a zero to before the decimal point. In this case, the figure would be 1.38. Then, you need to identify how many times the digit must be multiplied by 10 to get to the original number. For this example, it is multiplied by -4.

So, in standard form, this would be written as 1.38 x 10-4.

We multiple it negatively to move it back into the decimal place. If the number was 13,800, we would write it as 1.38 x ${10}^{4}$.

## Computation Calculation Examples

Let's examine how ratios, percentages and fractions are calculated and used in research!

### Computation Formula: Ratios

Ratios are a form of computation used to compare the amounts of two things, similar to fractions are commonly reported in their simplest form.

A researcher may want to compare how many females to males participated in their study. An easy way to illustrate these two groups' differences is by writing the data in ratio form.

In the study, 18 females and 36 males took part. The ratio of females to males would be written as 18: 36. The smallest number that these can be divided into is 3. So, this would be written as 6: 12. This can be further divided into 2: 4 and finally 1: 2, which is the ratio in its simplest form.

The ratio indicates for each female recruited, two males were recruited.

### Computation Formula: Percentages

Percentages are often used to show the frequency of variables. A percentage is the proportion of something in comparison to a whole. For example, if 15% of readers already know the definition of percentages, we can infer that 85% of readers do not know what it is.

If we add 15 and 85 together, it equals 100. When totalled, Percentages should equal 100; hence the cent in percentages.

Let's look at the example frequency table below and calculate the percentage for each variable, for 80 colour choices.

 Variable Frequency Calculation for percentage Percentage (%) Blue 30 30/ 80 x 100 37.5 Pink 10 10/ 80 x 100 12.5 Yellow 25 25/ 80 x 100 31.25 Green 15 15/ 80 x 100 18.75

As expected, if we add all the numbers in the Percentage (%) column, they equal 100.

We first need to find the total frequency (80) to calculate the percentage. Then we can calculate percentages by calculating: frequency / total frequency x 100.

### Computation Formula: Fractions

Fractions are used to illustrate parts of a whole. After looking at this example, you will understand the meaning of fractions.

Lucy just ordered pizza; she ordered enough for her dinner and breakfast the next day. There were eight slices total, but she ate five for her dinner. Therefore, she ate five parts of the whole (eight) pizza. As a fraction, this would be written as $\frac{5}{8}$.

$\frac{5}{8}$ can't be simplified; this means that five cannot go into (be divided) eight. However, if she had eaten four slices, this would be written as $\frac{4}{8}$ the most simplified form of this fraction is $\frac{1}{2}$.

Researchers can sometimes use fractions to make estimations. From the amount of pizza that Lucy ate, we can estimate that she ate just over half of the pizza and had less than half left for her breakfast in the morning.

Now that we have understood the concept of fractions let's look at how we can convert a fraction into decimal form. Although this may sound complicated, you simply divide the part by the number representing the whole.

Using the example of Lucy described above, you need to divide 5 by 8. The answer is 0.625.

You probably recall that figures in psychology are reported to two decimal places; therefore, the answer should be written as 0.63 (2dp).

## Computational Arithmetic Operations: Arithmetic Means

The above forms of computations are used to identify proportions within data, e.g. of variables, but some types of computations such as the mean can be used to describe data. The mean is used to measure the average of data. The mean can be found by totalling the numbers in the dataset and dividing it by the number of digits.

Example dataset: 13, 12, 10, 24, 5, 6, 12, 30.

There are 8 digits here.

To find the arithmetic mean you need to: 13 + 12 + 10 + 24 + 5 + 6 + 12 + 30 = 112/8 = 14.

Therefore the mean is 14.

## Computation - Key takeaways

• The computation definition in psychology refers to making calculations of data collected from research.
• Computations allow researchers to organise better and describe their data.
• Researchers can use different computation calculation methods to calculate percentages, ratios and fractions.
• Calculating arithmetic means is a standard computational arithmetic operation used in research.

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What is computation in psychology?

The computation definition in psychology refers to making calculations of data collected from research.

What is computation in cognitive psychology?

Computation in cognitive psychology is the theory that the brain works similarly to computers.

Is cognition a computation?

Computation in cognitive psychology is the theory that the brain works similarly to computers. The theory proposes that when the brain receives an input (an order such as recognising an object), the brain does so and leads to output (the recognition of the object). Similarly, if we give a computer an order, e.g. to power on, the computer computes this and leads to an output, i.e. the computer powers on.

What are the types of computation?

Some computation calculation examples are ratios, percentages, fractions and arithmetic means.

What is an example of computation in psychology?

There are many examples of computation methods in psychology research, such as estimating data, recognising and using expressions in decimal and standard form and calculating percentages, fractions, ratios, and arithmetic means.

## Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

If the third digit in a number is above 5, how should the figure be rounded?

Which of the following should be reported in their simplest form?

Suppose a study recruited 18 females and 36 males. What is the calculated ratio in its simplest form (females to males)?

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