"Watching 'Real Housewives' Makes You Violent" At least, that's the claim in the headline from the Daily Beast. I imagine that most of us feel squeamish after watching episodes of trashy television. But can it really make us violent? Fortunately, psychological researchers are able to test such a claim, and they recently did so. Here's how one journalist explained the study:
127 college students watched Real Housewives and Jersey Shore to ascertain the effects of verbal aggression on-screen, Little People, Big World and The Little Couple to see supportive relationships, and Dexter and CSI to gauge the impact of physically hostile shows.
Half of the study’s participants then received an ego threat....with aggression quantified using “the intensity and duration of noise administered to an ostensible opponent on a competitive reaction time task.”
This is a fairly clear description of the method. In describing the results, the journalist should have mentioned that the results of the study showed that overall, people who received an ego threat were more aggressive than those who did not receive one. What about the effects of the different TV shows? The journalist reports:
... those who had been dabbling in the dark arts of the Shore’s GTL crew had the most aggressive reactions, casting our viewing habits into an entirely new light.
...The study also showed that those who watched violent crime dramas weren’t exactly sweetness and light afterwards: such shows also provoked a more aggressive response from participants than the family-centered programs did, refreshing enduring fears about the impact of screen crime on real lives.
a) What kind of claim is it to say, "Watching 'Real Housewives' Makes You Violent?" What are the variables in this claim?
b) Reread the journalist's description of the study, above. Does the study appear to be an experiment or a correlational study? Why?
c) What are the variables in this study?
d) For each variable, indicate whether it is an IV or DV. Is it measured or manipulated (or can't you tell?) If it's an IV, can you tell whether it was manipulated as between-subjects or within-subjects?
e) Sketch a graph of the results of the study, based on the pattern described above. Does your graph show any main effects? Interactions?
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a) it is a causal claim because of the verb, "makes". The variables are "type of TV show" and "Level of Violence"
b) It appears to be an experiment, because it suggests that people were made to view different types of shows, and then measured on their violent behavior. In fact, it's a little tricky to figure out from the journalist's discussion, but, this is a 2x3 experiment.
c & d) Variable 1: "Type of show", 3 levels (Violent Reality TV, Crime Drama, or Family Reality TV)
This is an independent variable. But because of the way the journalist describes the study, it is not clear if it was manipulated as within or between groups. The journalist writes that people watched show xx, show yy, and show zz--the use of "and" imples a within-subjects design. However, I would assume between groups because it might be hard to have people view all three types of shows, and then test their violent reactions after each one.
Variable 2: "Ego threat," 2 levels (Ego Threat or No Ego Threat)
This is also an independent variable. The journalist says that "half of the participants received an ego threat" which implies that this was manipulated as between-subjects.
Variable 3: "Level of violence"
This was a measured variable--it was the dependent variable.
e) You can read the official report in the empirical journal article here. Compare what the journalist said to what the article found. You can also compare the empirical results to the sketch you made. You'll probably note that the researchers found two main effects, but no interaction between type of show and ego threat. The results of the study showed that ego threats made people more violent than no threat. And the study also found that verbally aggressive reality TV made people the most aggressive, followed by the crime dramas, followed by the family-oriented reality shows.