What happen in the Dilemma Zone

The purpose of this project is to conduct a correlational, observational study in which samples drawn from two different populations (or from the same population in two different social contexts) are compared on one of three social psychological variables (aggression, altruism, or conformity). The project allows you to learn about issues that arise when attempting to reliably quantify behavior. You will conduct background research on your conceptual variables, create a theoretically-driven research hypothesis, and develop a coding scheme. You will also observe and code your target populations’ behaviors, conduct a chi-square analysis of the relationship between the variables, and write a research report on your findings.
You MUST be a non-participant observer, which means you must observe the chosen behaviors for your study as they occur naturally (that is, you cannot influence the environment or intervene/interact with participants in any way to try and elicit a particular behavior).
Participants should not be aware that they are being observed. Observations should be made discreetly or anonymously, and no informed consent will be obtained in this situation). Once again, you cannot interact with participants or alter the environment in any way!
The following are the issues that you will need to consider:

  1. Select populations: Choose two populations that you can easily observe without being intrusive.
  2. Select an outcome variable: Choose a conceptual variable that you can observe in your target populations that is of interest to you and that occurs frequently enough in a natural situation that you will be able to assess it. The only outcome variables that you may use are: Aggression, Altruism, or Conformity. Create an interesting operational definition of the variable (in other words, how will you define the variable in terms of your study).
    The outcome variable should be a 2 or 3 level variable representing the occurrence or non- occurrence of a given behavior in an individual. For instance, if you were measuring helping, you might code whether the person helped or did not help. Alternatively, you might have a 3- level variable (did not help; helped a little; helped a lot).
  3. Select a predictor variable: You will need to select one predictor variable that you think may affect your outcome variable. Think about some variables that are known or believed to influence your outcome variable. Consider how these variables might influence the expression of the outcome variable differently in two different populations (for instance, differences between individuals who wear blue jeans and those who wear bow ties), or in a single population observed under different conditions (for instance the behavior of college students in math class versus PE class).

Additionally, NO vulnerable populations may be used (e.g. children, prisoners, etc.).

  1. Background literature review: Conduct a background literature search on your predictor and outcome variables. Read and include citations and references for at least five primary sources that discuss previous research on your predictor and/or outcome variables. THREE of your sources must be journal articles that come from the following five journals:
    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Journal of Applied Social Psychology European Journal of Social Psychology
  2. Create a research hypothesis. On the basis of the literature search, develop a research hypothesis that states an expected directional relationship between the predictor and outcome variable: For instance:
    Individuals will help more frequently at religious events than at sporting events.
    Fully consider the theoretical reasons WHY you are predicting the relationship that you are predicting (it is not sufficient to simply make the prediction).
    Have your project approved by the instructor.
  3. Coding Scheme Development:
    a. Develop a list of behaviors that will serve as the operational definition of your outcome variable. Remember that you will be observing individuals (for instance, helping behavior might be operationalized as whether or not the person holds a door open or whether or not a person picks up litter).
    b. Decide what type of sampling procedures will be most appropriate (see textbook).
    c. Pilot Test. Go and observe your target population(s). Conduct a pilot test where you attempt to code the behaviors of selected individuals (you will code each individual).
    d. Make your actual observations for the research study and do your final coding of the observed behaviors when you collect your data. Code both of your populations (so, note which group each participant is in with regard to the predictor variable, and code observed behavior(s) regarding the outcome variable).
  4. Data Analysis:
    Conduct a chi-square analysis to test your research hypothesis about differences between groups (see attached handout).
  5. Research Report. Write a formal research report, following the guidelines given in the American Psychological Association Publications Manual. Maximum length is 15 pages, including Title page, Abstract, Tables, and References. You must make your own decisions about what table(s) to include in the report, but there should be at least 1 APA-formatted table.

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