We know that meaningful social support and relationships with friends and family are good for our health and well being. But what about superficial small talk--even with strangers? Well, it turns out that seems to be good for us, too. Here are some examples of experiments that were conducted out in the real world--subway trains and coffee shops. These studies were described in the New York Times.
Here's the first one:
The behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder approached commuters in a Chicago area train station and asked them to break the rules. In return for a $5 Starbucks gift card, these commuters agreed to participate in a simple experiment during their train ride. One group was asked to talk to the stranger who sat down next to them on the train that morning. Other people were told to follow standard commuter norms, keeping to themselves. By the end of the train ride, commuters who talked to a stranger reported having a more positive experience than those who had sat in solitude.
a) What are the variables in the study above? For each variable, is it manipulated or measured?
b) What type of experiment is this? Pretest-posttest? Posttest only? Repeated measures? or Concurrent measures?
c) How do you think they measured "having a positive experience"? What are some ways to measure this variable with good construct validity?
Here's the description of another study they ran:
In a recent study, we recruited people on their way into a busy Starbucks with a $5 gift card. We asked some customers to “have a genuine interaction with the cashier,” smiling and having a brief conversation. Others were told to be as efficient as possible: Get in, get out, go on with the day. Those who lingered left Starbucks feeling more cheerful. Efficiency, it seems, is overrated.
d) What are the variables in the study above? For each variable, is it manipulated or measured?
e) What type of experiment is this? Pretest-posttest? Posttest only? Repeated measures? or Concurrent measures?
f) How do you think they measured "feeling cherful"? What are some ways to measure this variable with good construct validity?
g) Sketch a graph of the study's results. Pay close attention to labelling your axes carefully.
h) Can either of the studies above support the causal claim raised in the story, that:
"Even the bit players in our lives may influence our well-being."
Apply the three causal criteria to this statement, and decide if a causal claim is justified.