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Research Methods in the News

Page history last edited by Jeremy Houska 7 years, 1 month ago Saved with comment

Main -> In the News: Research Methods


Facebook Tinkers With Users' Emotions in News Feed Experiment, Stirring Outcry (NY Times, 6/29/2014)

"Facebook revealed that it had manipulated the news feeds of over half a million randomly selected users to change the number of positive and negative posts they saw. It was part of a psychological study to examine how emotions can be spread on social media. The company says users consent to this kind of manipulation when they agree to its terms of service. But in the quick judgment of the Internet, that argument was not universally accepted."


LINK to Kramer, Guillory, and Hancock (2014) article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Concept Map with Summary and References (Courtesy of Michael Britt, via TIPS)


Column "Facebook's Unethical Experiment" (Slate, 06/2014)

Blog Post "In Defense of Facebook" (Tal Yarkoni, 6/28/2014)


Half of a Drug's Power Comes From Thinking It Will Work (NPR, 1/10/2014) (Courtesy of Erica Noles)

"Placebos rival the effect of active medication in patients with asthma; that even when patients know they're taking a placebo, they can get relief from the cramps, bloating and diarrhea of irritable bowel syndrome; and that those subliminal suggestions can activate patients' placebo response."


Is Psychology About to Come Undone? (Chronicle, 4/17/2012)

Article describes the Reproducibility Project, an effort to replicate (2008) findings from Psych Science, JPSP, and JEP: LMC. (Hat tip to @briankurilla via Twitter) 


Does This Ad Make Me Look Fat? (NY Times, 3/8/2013) (Courtesy of Ali O'Malley via STP Facebook Group)

"The fact that the causal conclusion may coincide with a moral belief — that it is wrong to tempt people who overeat by showing them ads for food — does not make it valid."


Vigorous Exercise Linked with Better Grades (NY Times, 6/3/2010) (Thanks to Mike Palij via TIPS.)

The author is careful to explain why we cannot draw causal conclusions from correlations. "They found that students who regularly participated in vigorous physical activity had higher G.P.A.’s. But does exercise really boost grades — or are high academic achievers simply more likely to be higher achievers in physical activity as well?"

Discussion questions: What explanations does the author of the article offer for this correlation?

Original press release from the American College of Sports Medicine.  The press release clearly draws a causal conclusion.


Happiness May Come with Age, Study Says (NY Times, 5/31/2010) (Thanks to Joan Warmbold via TIPS.)

This is a good example of survey research and another good example of causal conclusions being drawn from correlational data. "On the global measure, people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good about themselves, and then, apparently, life begins to throw curve balls. They feel worse and worse until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier as they age. By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with themselves than they were at 18."

Discussion questions: Identify several research questions that are raised by this survey data. Explain why we are unable to draw causal conclusions from correlational data like these.  For example, being elderly is correlated with happiness.  Provide some possible explanations for why those two variables may be related.

Original journal article: Stone, A.A., Schwartz, J.E., Broderick, J.E., & Deaton, A. (2010). A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1003744107 [Click here for abstract.]


A Life Lesson from the Majors: Smile, You'll Live Longer (Boston.com, nd) (Thanks to Beth Benoit, via TIPS.)

Baseball players were classified by their 1952 photographs as having no smile, partial smile, or full smile.  The broader the smile, the longer the players lived.

Discussion questions: What should be the next step in this research?  Does this mean that if you smile in your photographs, you'll live longer?

Original journal article: Abel, E.L. & Kruger, M.L. (2010). Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity. Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610363775 [Click here for full text.]


Study: Chocolate Could Reduce Heart Risk (Salon.com, 3/30/2010)

"According to a new study, small doses of chocolate every day could decrease your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 40 percent."  It could.  But this was a correlational study, not an experiment.  

Discussion questions: Why doesn't this study warrant the conclusion of a cause-effect relationship?


Talk Deeply, Be Happy? (NY Times, 3/17/2010)

Those who have deeper conversations report greater happiness.  The author of this NY Times piece notes "doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the kind of conversations one has and one’s happiness."

Discussion questions: Why doesn't the study "prove a cause-and-effect relationship"?

Original journal article: Mehl, M., Vazire, S., Holleran, S., & Clark, C. (2010) Eavesdropping on happiness: Well-being is related to having less small talk and more substantive conversations. Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610362675. [Click for the full text.]


Medical Study: Autism-Vaccine Study Flawed (CNN, 2/3/2010)

This CNN video discusses research on Autism and vaccinations. This is a highly debated subject and recently the landmark study which originally found a link between Autism and vaccinations has been retracted. This is a great example of flawed research methods and a good issue to discuss in a child development course.


New Poll Shows Support for Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (NY Times, 2/11/2010)

The wording of a question can influence the response.  In this poll, 70% of respondents believe that gay men and lesbians should be able to serve in the military, but only 59% think homosexuals should be able to serve.  Interestingly, the difference was greatest among Democrats: 79% were in favor of gay men and lesbians serving, but only 43% were in favor of homosexuals serving.

Discussion questions: Why do you think the terms make a difference?  Why do you think the difference is so pronounced among Democrats?  For what other groups might different terms make a difference?


Fraud Case Seen as a Red Flag for Psychology Research (NY Times, 11/2/2011)

          Useful article to help introduce an Ethics unit.








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