Project #61689 - Research

For each study described below, identify the independent and dependent variables, as well as their apparent relationship (1/2 point) assess the validity of the study, all that apply (Operationalization, Validity/ Construct validity, Content validity, Factor Analysis, Face Validity, External Validity, Internal Validity, Criterion, Validity, Predictive Validity, Participant mortality, Reactivity, Selection Bias, Reliability, Accuracy, Precision, Test-retest, Split half)(2 points), the ethics of the study(Confidentiality,Anonymity, No harm, Deception, Debriefing, Coercion, Institutional review boards, Informed consent, Opt-out rule (1.5 points), and discuss which theoretical viewpoints informed the study, and why. You may also discuss how other theoretical viewpoints may have led researchers to address these questions differently (1 point total for the theory section). Your answer for each of the four studies should be at least a page in length. I would also appreciate if you would label the sections of each of your answers appropriately.


I. Robert G. Morris and John L. Worrall – Prison Architecture and Inmate Misconduct (2010)


A little less than 1 percent of all of the people in the United States are currently in jail, the highest rate of incarceration in the world (about 30 percent higher than the number two country, Russia), making the understanding of prisons important to American scholars and policy makers. There have been any number of factors which have been found to predict which prisoners will get into trouble while behind bars – length of sentences, previous violent behavior, gang membership, and so on – but Morris and Worrall decided to look at characteristics of prisons, and how they impact inmate behavior.

Modern American prison designs generally fall into two categories. There is the traditional “telephone pole” style prison, in which multi-story cell blocks are placed parallel to each other, with only one or two corridors connecting them, making them look, from above, like a telephone poll with rungs attached. Other prisons make use of a campus-style layout, in which the cell blocks are divided up around a central outdoor area. The telephone pole design was created, in part, to make it harder for inmates to escape  - there’s only one way in or out – but has been criticized for having very long corridors that may be difficult for guards to monitor. The campus style buildings are easier for guards to monitor, and are thought to be less degrading for prisoners. 

To see if the design of the prison makes a difference, Morris and Worrall looked at the prison records – all of which are public records, available to any interested party – of male inmates sentenced to between 3 years and life in Texas prisons, and assigned to either telephone pole or campus-style prisons, not including private prisons, local jails, and drug punishment prisons. Overall, this resulted in a total population of 12,981 inmates. The researchers then randomly chose 2,500 records to analyze, and tested if the architecture of the prison to which they were assigned had any impact on the likelihood of committing further crimes while in prison. After controlling for other factors, like the initial crime that the inmate committed, the length of the sentence, age of the inmate, and so on, they found that while the style of the prison didn’t have an effect on violence, inmates in campus-style prisons were more likely to have been reprimanded for property offenses (like stealing) and security-related offenses (like making threats, or violating safety rules). These findings are interesting because they seem to indicate that older-style, seemingly more dehumanizing prisons actually led to fewer reprimands for inmates than the newer-style prisons, though, as the authors point out, it could just be that inmates in the campus-style prisons are more likely to be caught.



II. Nicholas Gueguen – Menstrual Cycles and Courtship Behaviors (2009)

Nicholas Gueguen – a psychologist at the University of Bretagne-Sud in France – has done a number of studies on the factors that lead people to pick up hitchhikers, ask someone out in a nightclub, and the role that attractiveness plays in these behaviors. In this study, he looked used a field experiment to confirm a number of laboratory studies that find a relationship between women’s receptiveness to men’s advances and their fertility. Researchers working from evolutionary psychology based theories have found that women are more receptive to men’s sexual advances when they’re approaching the part of their menstrual cycle when they’re most likely to conceive. The problem with these studies, from Gueguen’s perspective, is that they’ve all been carried out in a laboratory, with women looking at pictures of men, or reporting past behaviors, rather than in the real world. To test these findings in the real world, Guegen had confederates approach women on the street in a French city, and ask them out. Confederates are essentially actors playing a role in the experiment, without the participants in the study being aware of it. Like any stimulus in the experiment, researchers should be careful to ensure that the confederates are the same, to the greatest extent possible, every time the experiment is run. We’ve encountered confederates like these before, in the discussion of Milgram’s obedience studies, but researchers generally try to avoid using confederates if at all possible: they’re expensive, require extensive training, and it can be difficult to ensure that they’re doing their job correctly. Delivering the same line, in exactly the same way, many, many times, is difficult for anyone, which is one of the reasons Gueguen had monitors observing the confederates. After the women responded to the man’s request, one way or the other, a different confederate approached the woman, explained the study, and asked her to complete a brief survey which included questions about her use of birth control pills, and her current place in her menstrual cycle.

However, this study only works if a few things are in place. First, Guegen had to be certain that at least some women would agree to go out with the men. If the men were unattractive, and very few women agreed to go out with them, there would be no way to find differences based on fertility. So, Gueguen and his team had 28 women rate the photographs of 22 male volunteers on their attractiveness. The five men who were rated as being the most attractive were used in the experiment; Gueguen also made sure that the five men used weren’t rated as being significantly different in their attractiveness.

Next, Gueguen and his team had to make sure that the women knew that they were being asked out. As such, he pre-tested the scripts used by the men to ask the women out. The script used was one that a group of young French women had previously rated as being a clear courtship solicitation; to make it obvious, this script was combined with a separate script (a request to have a drink together) that had also been pre-tested to ensure that it was perceived as a courtship solicitation.

Gueguen’s pre-tested courtship solicitation:

“Hello; my name’s Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty. I have to go to work this afternoon, and I was wondering if you’d give me your phone number. I’ll phone you later and we can have a drink together someplace.”


Once he had said his line, the confederate was told to wait 10 seconds, smile and gaze at the woman, and wait for her response. If she gave her number, he wrote it down and said “see you soon.” If not, he said, “Too bad. It’s not my day. Have a nice afternoon.” The men were being watched by other researchers, sitting a little bit away, to make sure that the men approached any eligible young women walking alone down the street, and that they didn’t vary the script. 

Thirty seconds after the male confederate left, a female confederate approached the woman, explained the study, and asked her to fill out the survey. Of the more than 500 women approached in this way, only two refused to participate, and they were excluded from the study.

About eight percent of women who were in the non-fertile periods of their menstrual cycles gave the men their numbers; among women in the fertile periods of their cycle, 22 percent agreed. Among women using birth control pills, which tend to even out hormonal cycles, the effect was smaller. 


III. Carl Hart – The Rationality of Drug Addicts (2013)


It’s commonly thought that drug addicts are fundamentally irrational, always looking for their next fix, regardless of the consequences. Columbia psychology professor Hart, however, argues that most drug users aren’t actually addicted, but simply choosing to continue their use of the drugs. As such, they should choose to stop using if proper incentives are in place.

To test this theory, Hart used ads in a free New York newspaper (the Village Voice) to recruit crack addicts. He offered them a minimum of $950 to stay in a hospital ward for three weeks, while receiving doses of crack derived from pharmaceutical grade cocaine. Participants were vetted to ensure that they were, in fact, addicts, using crack on a daily basis, and were given the opportunity to attend counseling and drug treatment while in the hospital ward where the experiment took place. Once enrolled, the participants were fully briefed on the potential benefits and harms of the study, and were evaluated to ensure that they fully understood the study. Nearly all of the participants who were fully enrolled were homeless African-American men.

In the study, all of the participants were given a hit of crack at the same time each morning (they had the option to refuse, but none did). The crack was given to them by a trained nurse, who loaded the crack pipe with a randomly determined amount of crack. To ensure that the participant could not see how much crack was being administered, they were blindfolded, and the whole process was observed by experimenters from behind one-way glass.

At regular intervals throughout the day, the participants were given the opportunity to get another hit of crack in the same amount that had been given in the morning. Alternately, they could choose to receive a $5 gift card for a local store or $5 cash, to be given to them when they were done with the study (participants were randomly assigned to the gift card or cash condition – there was no significant difference between participants in the two groups). Participants who had received a small hit of crack in the morning – and would therefore get another small hit – were much more likely to turn down the hit of crack and take the money (or gift card), despite the fact that it wouldn’t be paid out for as much as three weeks in the future. The researchers then replicated this study with participants addicted to methamphetamines, finding almost exactly the same results. In a final version of the study, they upped the monetary payout to $20 for each time the participant took the money instead of the crack; in this condition, respondents universally – literally every time – took the money over the crack.

Hart and his colleagues take these results to show that crack and meth addicts are not the mindless drug seekers commonly portrayed in the media. They understand the marginal cost of a drug, and will forego it if the cost is high, and take the drug if the marginal cost is low. The fact that they’re not addicted in the way that addiction is commonly perceived – and Hart has argued that the vast majority of drug users are not actually addicted – has profound implications for treatment and law enforcement.


IV. O’Connor – Genetics, Adoption and Divorce

It’s well known in developmental psychology research that divorce has a strongly negative impact on children: in general, children of divorced parents have lower self-esteem, lower academic achievement, more substance abuse and more emotional problems than children whose parents never divorced. There’s plenty of reasons why this might be the case: the children might be stressed, the families almost always have less money than they did before a divorce, the children might be moving from house to house, and so on. It’s easy to blame these problems on the divorce, but there’s another potential explanation: genetics. It’s possible that parents who have lower self-esteem, lower academic achievement, more substance abuse and emotional issues are more likely to get divorced than other parents, and are likely to pass these traits onto their biological children. If this is the case, the divorce might not be having a negative effect at all: the children could well be displaying these effects regardless.

Resolving this problem requires somehow separating out the environment of a divorced family from the genetic relationship between parents and children. In an experiment, this would normally require researchers to randomly assign parents to start fighting and get divorced, or randomly assigning children to couples: even if researchers could get participants for such a study, the IRB would probably have some concerns.

O’Connor – a researcher at the London Institute of Psychiatry – and his colleagues came at the problem a different way, taking advantage of the fact that not all children are genetically related to their parents. They used data from the Colorado Adoption Project (CAP), which tracks infants adopted through two large agencies in Colorado between 1975 and 1982, as well as a matched comparison group of non-adoptive families.  The children and their families are regularly given a battery of psychological tests to assess their emotional well-being, as well as other measures like teacher reports about the children and behavioral assessments of the children. By the time O’Connor and his colleagues started working with the CAP data, it included a significant number of divorced families. That allowed the researchers to compare the effects of divorce on adoptive and non-adoptive families. Since the adopted children in the CAP had been with their families since they were infants, they had the same environment as children who hadn’t been adopted; the only difference is that they weren’t genetically related to their parents. As such, if the children of divorced biological parents were worse off than the children of divorced adoptive parents, the case could be made that genetics is playing a role.


In ten of the 12 measures that O’Conner’s team looked at, the effects of divorce on children was greater in non-adoptive families than in adoptive families. This isn’t saying that divorce didn’t negatively impact adopted children: it did, but their problems weren’t as bad. This implies that some of the problems associated with divorce don’t have to do with the divorce itself, but are part of the child’s genetic inheritance: some of the same characteristics that lead their parents to divorce lead their children to suffer more for it.


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