Try out the process of randomization. Go to the website www.randomizer.org and click on “Randomize Now” at the bottom of the page. Type numbers into the randomizer for an experiment with two groups and 20 individuals per group. Repeat the process for an experiment with four groups and 10 individuals per group. Plot the numbers corresponding to each individual in each group. Does the distribution of numbers within each group truly seem to be random?
Split class into teams of four or five people. Have each design a before-and-after quasi-experiment that can be conducted in class for other students. (This usually works best if you instruct each individual student to come to class with at least one idea about an in-class experiment and works best if you conduct a sample experiment.) During the next class period, allow each group to conduct their experiments on the rest of the class (in a large class, experiments might need to be run concurrently). Have each group discuss their results and decide whether the experiment was successful and what could be done to improve their experiment. Each group may present their findings to the class, while other students should be encouraged to engage in constructive criticism.
(3) Social Contagion?
This experiment must be conducted with one or two other participants. It is an effort to test the effect that one person’s interest in a product (or item) has on the actions of others.
(a) Pick a store display (or on campus display) that faces a busy sidewalk or mall interior. To prepare for the experiment, observe pedestrians going past the display and note how many glance at the display. You will need to develop some rules for classifying a behavior as a “glance.”
(b) The experimental treatment is to be one of the participants looking appreciatively at something in the display. Develop a plan to observe the behaviors of other pedestrians unobtrusively, so you can observe the pedestrians but not interfere with their behavior in any way.
(c) Begin the experiment by counting the number of people who pass the window and the number of times they glance at the display during a 5-minute period. Be sure that you and the other participants involved in observing are unobtrusive or far enough away that you won’t be noticed by passersby. Also be sure to begin the observational period when no one is standing and gazing at the display. Record the counts in a small notebook without attracting attention to yourself. Now have one participant stand in front of the display and gaze intently at it for 5 minutes. Repeat the count.
(d) Now repeat the cycle of observing with and without the observer present. Continue until you have completed five cycles of the process.
(e) Calculate the number of glances per passerby for each 5-minute observational period. If counts are available from two or more observers, average them before performing the calculations.
(f) Calculate an overall average “glances per passerby” for the periods when your display gazer was present and when he or she was not.
(g) Was there a difference in the glances made by passersby based on whether someone was already observing? Comment on the size of the difference and the possibility of influences other than the presence of your window gazer.
Participate in a social psychology experiment on the web. Go to http://www.socialpsychology.org/. Pick an experiment in which to participate and follow the instructions. After you finish, write up a description of the experiment and evaluate it using the criteria discussed in the chapter.
Individual and Group Activities
(1) Evaluating the Stanford Prison Experiment
This project relates to the Stanford Prison Study, which was discussed in Chapter 3. Locate information on the Stanford Prison Experiment website (http://www.prisonexp.org/). Watch the slide show. Write an essay in which you answer each of the following.
(a) In your own words, describe the experiment.
(b) What type of experimental, quasi-experimental, or nonexperimental design was used? Explain.
(c) What were the findings of the experiment? Do you find them to be valid? Are the findings generalizable? Explain.
(d) Did the Stanford Prison Experiment violate any ethical issues in experimental research? Explain.
2. Evaluating Experiments
Split the class into teams. Select a topic that has been the subject of numerous experiments, such as obedience to authority, the effect of supervisory styles, or behavior in small groups. Assign students to find as many studies as possible that use an experiment to investigate the topic. Instruct students to summarize the experiment in terms of measurement of the independent and dependent variables (i.e., the experimental stimulus and the pre-/posttest) and to the experimental or quasi-experimental design. Have each group bring their findings back to class to compare the experiments. Have one group volunteer to explain an experiment that they found. Ask another group to explain another that no one else has, and so on. As each group explains, keep track of the different experimental designs and measurements. When all have been discussed, have students debate as to which experiment had the highest internal validity and which had the highest external validity.