The danger of psych experiments!

In honor of Atish Mehta’s presentation of his new site, HappyFactor, at the last QS Show&Tell, I am working on a short long post about issues affecting the assessment of mood. That will post tonight or tomorrow, I hope. But in the meantime, here is a paragraph from one of the research papers I’ll be mentioning that made me laugh out loud. See if you can find the punch line:

After completing a consent form and the initial MSQ (used in Study 2 but not in the present analyses), participants were randomly assigned to viewing one of four film clips, each lasting just over 9 min. The clips used were as follows: (1) Sadness: taken from a PBS Frontline episode (May 1985) depicting the allies’ liberation of Nazi concentration camps; (2) Threat: taken from the 1978 film Halloween; (3) Neutral: taken from a National Geographic film depicting animals in their natural habitat, grazing; and (4) Happiness: taken from the 1989 film Parenthood. Immediately after watching the clip, participants completed the MSQ again. In both studies, participants subsequently completed additional questionnaires and cognitive processing tasks, which will not be discussed here. At the conclusion of the study, those participants who had viewed the distressing clips (1 or 2) were shown a brief clip from the movie Parenthood at the request of the institutional review board. All were given a comprehensive debriefing.

Source: A premature consensus: are happiness and sadness truly
opposite affects? Motiv Emot (2006) 30:1-12

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7 Responses to The danger of psych experiments!

  1. Jarno Virtanen says:

    “(1) Sadness: taken from a PBS Frontline episode (May 1985) depicting the allies’ liberation of Nazi concentration camps;”

  2. Eshkol Rafaeli says:

    As the author of that line, I’m guessing you’re picking up on “at the request of the IRB”…

  3. Gary Wolf says:

    Hello Eshkol Rafaeli,
    Honored to have you among us, and yes, I laughed out loud when I read “at the request of the IRB,” etc. I had no idea that “Parenthood” was the correct balm for these images. I’ve tried various things, myself, and it turns out the solution was in front of my face the whole time…
    I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from reading your research papers. I discuss affective synchrony in the most recent post on the site. I would love to know your thoughts on the best practical methods for measuring mood for individual self-experimenters.

  4. Eshkol Rafaeli says:

    I’m rooting around on your archives and am learning of all sorts of neat things. So my answer(s) will probably be way behind the times for you. Still, I can talk about self-monitoring from two perspectives:
    As a researcher, I’ve been using experience sampling software (I mostly use Intel’s iESP, which may no longer be supported but was open-source free-ware for a while; here’s a link to a bunch of other software options):
    As a therapist (I’m a cognitive behavioral therapist, which means I rely a lot on tracking and monitoring things) I’ve continued to settle on paper and pencil sheets, simple and luddite but infinitely more flexible.
    So obviously, I think I’ll have to stay tuned to this blog now…

  5. Eshkol Rafaeli says:

    Wait, you didn’t mean “what technology to use”, did you…
    On the more important and much more interesting of “what to measure”, I strongly believe that you need to get at least two dimensions going: not because the circumplex is sacrosanct, but because there’s clearly more than a single dimension to moods or emotion, even if they aren’t exactly orthogonal to each other.
    If I’m sticking to a really limited set, I like “tension” and “energy”. The latter has a very clear circadian rhythm usually, the former doesn’t.
    Cheers again,

  6. Gary Wolf says:

    Eshkol – now I have to get you to think about this more (or rather, summarize your thinking for us, as I’m sure you’ve done the thinking part already). Tension and energy are not dimensions that appeared very much in the research I encountered, and I think I understand why you are choosing them, but I don’t want to assume too much. Energy is easy to get, I think – that’s what I would use, too, as a synonym for “activation” in the circumplex. But why “tension” instead of happiness or pleasure or satisfaction or something like that?
    If you have time to explain, even briefly, you can post it as a comment and I may copy it into the main page. This is a subject of real interest here, as there are people building their own measurement apps and wondering what dimensions to track.

  7. stray_visitor says:

    I have seen that.
    The only feelings that could come from that would be in the range of distress and fear.
    It seems to me that to an observer outside the orbit of middle-class America even the ‘good’ or ‘nice’ parts are a source of vexation and bewilderment.

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