How Experimenter Attitude May Affect Participant Performance

Adair, J. G., Demand characteristics or conformity: Suspiciousness of deception and experimenter bias in conformity research. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science/Revue Canadian Sciences of Comportment, 4(3). 238-248.

The objective was to examine if subjects are suspicious of deception, and the effect of this suspiciousness on his response to the conformity pressure. The present observation of a significant experimenter bias effect adds to the methodological concerns, especially in view of the prominent role played by experimenters in conformity studies. The data were collected from forty-three female and forty-four male subjects. All subjects and experimenters were students at the University of Manitoba. The conformity data were collected in six sessions, with four experimenters testing sixteen subjects on each occasion. Subjects were arranged in groups of four people (or three, if a subject failed to appear) and assigned to an experimenter who told them that the subjects were placed in groups according to their attitudes toward contemporary issues (e.g., Vietnam, drugs, etc.) Participants were randomly assigned with the restriction that the sexes be equally represented in each group. In the similar attitude condition, they were told that this congruence had been achieved and that subjects in their group possessed similar attitudes, in the dissimilar conditions. Subjects were told that unfortunate such congruence had not been achieved and, therefore, that their attitudes were dissimilar. Subjects were told that the die test involved rapid judgements and was related to leadership ability. The suspicious and non-suspicious were analyzed in a 2 X 2 X 2 analysis of variance with sex of subject and sex of experimenter as the other variable. The mean PRS scores for suspicious subjects (199.24) The mean scores for suspicious subjects (199.24) and for non-suspicious subjects (193.77) were in the predicted direction, but the difference was not statistically significant, which suggested that the two sets of subjects were responding to opposite cues in the experiment. The present study clearly demonstrated that extensive role played by demand characteristics in determining subjects’ conformity behavior.

Barnes, M. L., & Rosenthal, R. (1985). Interpersonal effects of experimenter attractiveness, attire, and gender. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(2), 435-446. 

The researchers aim to find how gender, attractiveness and attire of an experimenter can affect how a subject will score on some form of test. The general theory being addressed is the fact that without even trying there can be outside circumstances causing differences in data collected. In this study the researchers are acknowledging that something as benign as attire can cause a change in data collected. The researchers predicted that “attributes” of the experimenter will influence their own behaviors and the behaviors of the subjects and therefor an effect on the subjects scores. Convenience sampling was performed in a Harvard University dining Hall. Both participants and experimenters were only told that the study was over attire, but the interactions would be videotaped. Experimenters were split into two groups and instructed how to dress (impressing a date vs. working the garage). Subjects were given both a photo-rating task and the General Vocabulary Test A. The photo-rating test asked subjects to rate a person’s success based on their photo. The researcher was not present when the experimenter instructed the subjects. Separate raters were then brought in to rate the experimenters on a nine-point scale from “not at all attractive” to “extremely attractive” using a five-second clip from the previous video tapes. The behaviors of the experimenters were also tallied (such as smiling, anxiety etc.) from the videotapes. The study determined that subjects rated success higher for those better dressed, performed better on the tasks when the person was considered attractive and of the opposite sex and that experimenters who dressed better showed more warm and positive attributes towards their subjects. This research shows that seemingly trivial parts (gender, attire and attractiveness) of an experimenter can be considered when doing research.  It also shows that subject’s scores can be manipulated by changing things that seem completely unrelated to the experiment

Blanck, P. D., & Rosenthal, R. (1984). Mediation of interpersonal expectancy effects: Counselor’s tone of voice. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(3), 418-426.

The basic research question of this study is does the position of the counselor’s tone of voice influence mediation of interpersonal expectancy effects. The did this study as to see if the effect was still there in a more natural setting, which is why they used the camp counselor instead of an experimenter. The researchers based their theory on the four-factor of the mediation of interpersonal expectancy effects. This theory states that feedback, input, response opportunities, and climate variables affect behavior and performance. The authors predicted that counselors would speak in a warmer, less hostile tone about the children that they have higher expectations for and that counselors would speak in a colder, more aggressive tone about the children they have lower expectations for. The research method used was the empirical study method. The variables measured by the judges were warmth and hostility of the speaker on a nine-point scale. The researchers found that the judges rated the counselor’s tone of voice as significantly warmer and less hostile when these counselors were talking about children for that they had high expectations for. This relates back to the theory in that people create a warmer socioemotional environment for those that they have higher expectations for.

De Jager, P. (2015) The effects of gender and competition on performance. The Huron University College Journal of Learning and Motivation, 1(53), Article 3.

The researchers aim was to use the participants’ scores (time) being compared to look for

evidence of an interaction between gender and competition on performance. Male and female

young adults were asked to construct a simple two-dimensional red sol-cup pyramid (four layers

with four cups on the bottom layer), under timed conditions, either by themselves or alongside a

competing participant of the same biological sex. The general theory being assessed is to figure

out if there is a difference in performance or competition when it comes to the gender of the

individuals. It was found that there was no noticeable effect of the gender and competition

interaction on performance. The researchers predicted that competitiveness of the experimenter

will influence their own behaviors and the behaviors of the subjects and therefor an effect on the

subject’s ratings. The researcher examined the effects of competition and reward on intrinsic

motivation in males. It can be concluded that a combination of gender and competition could

have a reasonable effect of performance in a task. Hypothetically, it would make sense that

males would respond differently to competition than females because it has always been said that

males tend to be more completive, but according to this study it didn’t turn out that way. A 2 X 2

between-subject’s analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to look for a significant effect

of the interaction between gender and competition on performance measured in mean time per

seconds. The participants were young adults, primarily Huron University College first year

Psychology 1100E students. They used a total of seventeen students. Experimenters used the solo-cups that were stacked in a simple two-dimensional pyramid fashion: four cups as the bottom ‘layer’ or ‘row’, three cups to make up the next layer, two cups as the next layer, and finally one cup at the very top. The best times of everyone were used in the statistical analysis. The researcher was present the entire time. There seems to be no obvious effects of gender or status on mean time, nor is there a clear interaction between the two independent variables on mean time.

Edlund, J. E., Hartnett, J. L., Heider, J.D., Perez, E.J., & Lusk, J. (2014). Experimenter Characteristics and Word Choice: Best Practices When Administering an Informed Consent. Ethics & Behavior, 24(5), 397-407.

The authors are seeking an answer to find how experimenter greeting, presence of other participants, and verbiage affect the process of informed consent, feelings of coercion, and performance on difficult tasks in a lab setting. The theory that the authors were asking was, “How does experimenter characteristics and word choice affect the participants?”. The authors predicted that the more formal dressed the experimenter was the more secure the participant would feel, their results suggested that the highest level of dress had produced the highest levels of feelings of coercion in the participant. The authors had also predicted that using first-person in the consent form is not necessary in ensuring coercive performance or any other variable but ensuring that the participant can understand the verbiage easily instead is important. These authors ran two different studies. In the first experiment, they measured persistence in the experimental task by presenting the experimenter in one of two different types of greetings (either good or neutral mood), and one of the three different type of consent forms (first-person, second-person, or third-person). The second task in the first study ran was measured by how quickly a participant could finish a word-completion task. The second task also used a five-point Likert style scale to measure the participant’s knowledge retained from the consent form. Primary research the authors found was that understandable language is more important than language perspective in the informed consent. They also found significance in how the participant is greeted dependent on gender, and that the best choice of dress by the experimenter should be jeans and a t-shirt. They did not find importance in the idea that running studies with more than one participant is problematic. By manipulating the experimenters’ characteristics and word choice, the participants’ outcomes varied.

Elfenbein, H. A., & Eisenkraft, N. (2010). The relationship between displaying and perceiving nonverbal cues of affect: A meta-analysis to solve an old mystery. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(2), 301-318. 

The researchers are attempting to define the line between display and perception of nonverbal affect, and how humans discern one from the other. The theory behind this study calls for nonverbal display and nonverbal perception to exist opposite of one another; in that nonverbal communication requires clear expression as well as clear perception. This meta-analysis explores both positive and negative relationships between displaying and perceiving affect through nonverbal cues, but also research whether there is a relationship at all between the two. The researchers found through their meta-analysis that what people are capable of expressing in terms of nonverbal cues and what they usually express in terms of nonverbal cues may not be related, they also determined the possibility that nonverbal cues are better understood by those who have a higher range of emotional intelligence over those who did not. Display performance of the nonverbal cues had been the most consistent with perception performance in those who displayed more emotional abilities and distinct emotional skills. The researchers go on to explain the applications of this knowledge, like how often individuals should be examined as to how they perceive nonverbal cues, and that information can provide greater understanding into any clinical or psychological aspects of that person. The intentional nature of emotional display had a more prevalent relationship between display and perception than the naturalistic means of displaying and perceiving emotion, so when participants were aware of the nonverbal cues in the research environment, but researchers showed concern in that with the lack of environmental cues playing a part in the display and perception, that perceivers may be making judgments rather than following natural tendencies as they would in their natural environments.

Komulainen E, Meskanen K, Lipsanen J, Lahti JM, Jylhä P, Melartin T, et al. (2014) The effect of personality on daily life emotional processes. PLoS ONE, 9(10): e110907.

The researchers aim of this study was to shed light on what personality features represent in daily life by investigating the effect of the Five Factor traits on different daily emotional

processes using an ecologically valid method. The general theory being addressed is that

Personality features are associated with individual differences in daily emotional life, such as

negative and positive affectivity, affect variability and affect reactivity. Alterations in an

individual’s emotional life, especially experiencing strong and persistent negative affect, are

closely related to internalizing disorders which leads to an effect on your performance on a daily

task. Personality features are known to be associated in many ways with individual differences in

emotional life, such as negative affect and affect reactivity. In this study researches are trying to

determine whether the Five factor traits influence an individual’s mood. The researchers

predicted that the neuroticism would predict higher negative and lower positive affect, higher

affect variability, more reported negative daily incidents, and higher reactivity to these incidents.

The Experience Sampling Method was used to collect repeated reports of daily affect and

experiences from one hundred and four healthy university students during one week of their normal lives. Personality traits were assessed using NEO Five Factor Inventory. Participants comprised one hundred and four university students aged between nineteen and thirty-five years. The subjects were screened with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders to rule out any current psychiatric disorders. For the first half of the sample (fifty-one subjects), (the small portable PsyMate device) was used to collect data. For the second half of the sample (fifty-three subjects), an Android smart phone application, developed in-house for momentary assessment purposes, was used. Both were programmed to beep ten times per day at semi-random intervals (maximum time between beeps 4 h, minimum 15 min) between 7∶30 AM and 10∶00 PM. The subjects were instructed to use the device for 7+/−1 day. At each beep, the device presented a series of questions in a multiple-choice format about current emotions, activities, social context, and events since the last beep. The questions had to be answered within fifteen minutes of the beep to ensure real-time assessment. The subjects answered the questions using the touch screen of the device. They were asked to continue their normal lives without changing their daily routines and to keep the assessment device with them always. The study determined that Neuroticism was significantly associated with higher average of daily sadness and nervousness and lower positive affect as well as lower activity and calmness. The study hypothesized that this was an effective way to determine the mood of individuals. Their results showed that personality features can influence several different daily emotional processes, i.e. average level, variability, subjective evaluation of daily incidents, and reactivity.

Lamarche, L., Gammage, K. L., & Gabriel, D. A. (2011). The Effects of Experimenter Gender on State Social Physique Anxiety and Strength in a Testing Environment. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(2), 533-538.

The research question that these authors are seeking to answer is how does experimenter gender, level of strength of experimenter, and social physique anxiety in the participant effect the participant in a testing environment. The theory behind the question that is being asked is, “How does varied social influences change the participants test outcome?”. Authors predicted that the social environments in where the tests are conveyed may unintentionally influence the participants score. This experiment measured the participants test outcome by having participants perform a strength test given by either a female experimenter with a muscular build, or a male experimenter with a lean body build. There was also a demographic survey given measured by a five-point Likert scale regarding how they felt about their physique, pre-strength test. The researchers wanted to measure the level of social physique anxiety participants had and strength level they would perform at dependent upon whether they were in the male or female experimenter group. The primitive research findings were that if a male participant was given a strength test by a female, he had higher levels of social physique anxiety and performed at a higher strength value. The same results were found for women, in that, when women were given the strength test by a male experimenter, they also had high levels of social physique anxiety and they also performed at a higher strength value. This study determined that overall, women had a higher level of social physique anxiety than men. It is interesting that they found that although women had higher ratings of social physique anxiety, men had higher levels of strength value in their test performance. This article suggests that there are significant social influences in regards to test performance and how social physique anxiety relates to this theory.

Moyner, K. H., (2008) Debilitating and facilitating anxiety effects on identification. Journal of Undergraduate Psychological Research, 3, 6-20.

The researchers aim to find out how anxiety has been shown to affect performance even

among subjects without clinical anxiety disorders. experiment. Participants were asked to

complete an anxiety questionnaire, then to view briefly and identify in limited time one of two

structures built of Widgets, a building toy. Debilitating Anxiety, associated with decreased

problem-solving coping, and Facilitating Anxiety, associated with enhanced and proactive

problem-solving coping, were assessed. The main theory being addressed is that the fact that an

individual cannot have a clinical anxiety disorder and their performance can still be affected by

anxiety. The researchers predicted that worriers and non-worriers identify their anxiety

differently. When given the test, worriers identified increased anxiety as “Debilitating”, while

non-worriers identified increased anxiety as “Facilitating. It was hypothesized that dominant

Debilitating Anxiety would correspond to more errors than dominant Facilitating Anxiety.

Thirty-nine students and two employees at a public northeastern university voluntarily

participated in the experiment. Participants were asked to identify one of two structures built of

Widgets, a building toy. A box covered the structure. Numbered cards with ten different pictures

of Widgets structures were placed in envelopes. Participants also received the Alpert Haber

Achievement Anxiety Test (AAT). The AATis presented in the Appendix. The experimenter

timed viewing and response time on a wristwatch with a second hand. A2 x 3 experiment was

conducted. Participants were randomly assigned to view one of two Widgets structures.

Separately, each group was seated in a test room. Each participant’s responses to an anxiety

questionnaire determined which of three anxiety groups the participant was assigned to. The

numbered anxiety questionnaire and the envelope containing the Widgets cards, marked with the

same number, were placed face down in front of each participant. All participants were asked to

turn over the questionnaire and complete it. Participants were then told that a building toy was

under the box. The participants would have five seconds to view the building. They would then

open the envelope, and circle the number of the picture that corresponded to the structure they

saw. Participants had ten seconds to identify the structure. A 2×3 between–subjects ANCOVA

was used to analyze the results. The study determined that Debilitating Anxiety represented 66%

of the total, with dominant Facilitating Anxiety 32%. The researcher was not present when the

experimenter instructed the subjects. The hypothesis that dominant Debilitating Anxiety would

correspond to more errors than dominant Facilitating Anxiety was supported.

Poulin-Dubois, D., Chow, V. (Nov 2009). The effect of a looker’s past reliability on infants’ reasoning about beliefs. Developmental Psychology. 45(6) 1576-1582.

The researchers investigated whether 16-month old toddler’s experience with an experimenter’s gaze reliability influence their expectations about the person’s ability to form beliefs. Infants were first administered a search task in which they observed an experimenter show excitement while looking inside a box that either contained a toy (reliable looker conditions) or was empty (unreliable looker condition). The theory suggested that infants encode the identity of experimenters based on past reliability and attributes beliefs such as how long the experimenter gaze in the infant’s eyes during the experiment during the second year of the child’s life. Forty-nine 16-month-old infants participated in the study. Twenty-two infants were assigned to the unreliable looker group and twenty-seven infants were assigned to the unreliable group. Most participants were Caucasian and came from middle-class backgrounds. All infants were recruited from birth records provided by a government health services agency. In the search task, they used a child seat attached to a table and three opaque cylindrical plastic containers with loose-fitting lids (yellow, blue, and orange), two blocks (blue and pink), and four small toys (teddy bear, fish, ladybug, cat) that made a sound when manipulated. Two video cameras were used to record the sessions. Other cups, boxes and attributes were used in the true belief task. The experimenter head, a camera lens. Lens also protruded from an opening of the puppet theatre to code the direction of the infant’s gaze during the trials. The looking time for each trial was monitored and coded by a second experimenter. The infants were first brought to a reception room where they were familiarized with the experimenter while their parents completed the consent form. Next the infant and parent were brought into the testing room, for the infants first task, next was the belief task. Then the infants were assigned to reliable looker condition and an unreliable looker condition. The three-way ANOVA was used to analyze the data collected. The mean of the reliable looker: 3.91 unreliable looker: 3.67, about equal. Infants register and recall readily what a specific person is experiencing when she looks referentially at objects and develop expectations about her future actions based on the credibility of her referential behaviors.

Salas, C. E., Radovic, D., & Turnbull, O. H. (2012). Inside-out: Comparing internally generated and externally generated basic emotions. Emotion, 12(3), 568-578. 

In this article researchers are looking at different methods (Internal vs. External) of inducing moods in individuals to determine which one is most effective. The theory being addressed is the ability for individuals to elicit certain mood states during experiments as a way of controlling internal validity confounds such as participant mood. Researchers predicted that mood induced by internal forces (thinking back on an event) would generate a stronger mood response than that induced by external forces (watching a film). Participants volunteered and were given course credit for their participation. They were told to recall personal events based on the emotion they were trying to elicit then given a questionnaire. Participants were then shown a clip and given a second questionnaire. Both questionnaires were used to determine how the participant felt during the task and to what extent they felt that emotion. Research found that there was not much difference between internal and external when it came to inducing a mood. However, the level that mood was felt was more intense when they produced it internally versus externally. This relates back to the theory by showing that it is possible to induce moods in participants. Based on this research one could argue that using internal methods it’s the most effective when attempting to get a stronger mood however, both can be effective at simple induction.

Shields, G. S., Moons, W. G., Tewell, C. A., & Yonelinas, A. P. (2016). The effect of negative affect on cognition: Anxiety, not anger, impairs executive function. Emotion, 16(6), 792-797. 

Researchers are attempting to determine whether induced anxiety or anger affect cognitive abilities more. The theory behind this is that negative affect can cause impairment in processes but there has not been research into what is meant by negative.  Studies have shown that certain types of negative affect may improve cognitive processes. The distinction between types of negative affect have not been specifically investigated and thus the need for this research. Researchers predicted that anxiety would impair functioning but anger would not. An experiment using random assignment assigned participants to three groups: anger, anxiety and neutral. The groups were instructed to either write an essay of an unresolved anxiety or anger inducing experience or simply the activities of the previous day (for neutral). A baseline and post induction executive function test was conducted. Participants also completed a self-report of emotions and motivation on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much). Researchers found that induction of anxiety did in fact illicit impaired executive functioning. This research shows that not all negative affect induction can be considered equal and that in fact it is the type of motivation that the affect stimulates that is more important. Anxiety tends to incite an avoidance-based motivation while anger is more approach based.

Siegwarth, N., Larkin, K. T., & Kemmer, C. (2012). Experimenter Effects on Cardiovascular Reactivity and Task Performance During Mental Stress Testing. The Psychological Record, 62, 69-82.

The basic research question that is being investigated is, “How will different experimenter greetings, interpersonal styles, and clothing influence the participant’s effort and performance during a cardiovascular reactivity and mental stress test?”. The theory behind the question is to measure how heavily does the experimenter effect weigh on these kinds of tasks. The researcher predicted that the way in which the experimenter presented him or herself (either warm or cold) would influence the participants test outcome. The investigators measured heart rate, blood pressure, and their anxiety levels. The participants heart rate and blood pressure were measured during rest periods throughout the mental arithmetic and mirror-tracing task. The participants rated their anxiety in a self-report. The investigators revealed that participants in the warm experimenter conditioned did rate the experimenter as being more friendly overall and less arrogant than the cold experimenter. Their findings also revealed that although the participants had a consistent rating for the warm experimenter as being a warm individual, the participants who were put in the cold condition did not consistently rate that experimenter on his or her level of coldness. It was discovered that participants in the warm experimenter condition did exert greater effort comparatively to the participants in the cold experimenter group in both tasks. Although there was a significance in excelled effort and performance in both tasks, there was no evidence that suggested a relation to participant heart rate or blood pressure. It appears their findings supported the idea that the experimental effect in this experiment did influence motivation but not physiological or emotional outcomes from either group of participants.

Tuyttens, F., de Graaf, S., Heerkens, J., Jacobs, L., Nalon, E., Ott, S., … Ampe, B. (2014). Observer bias in animal behaviour research: can we believe what we score, if we score what we believe? Animal Behaviour, 90, 273-280.

In this study, they were looking at the effect of observer bias in observers rating of animals. The theory behind this study was that the more negative the bias, the lower the rating of the video of the animal and the more positive the bias, the higher the rating of the video of the animal. The authors predicted that the participants who were given negative information about animals (negative bias) would give a lower rating to the animal’s video. The researchers in this study used an experimental research method by manipulating the information given to the participants about the animals, using a negative condition and a positive condition. They then measured the before and after ratings that the participants gave of the slightly modified, yet same videos of animals. They measured this by self-report of the participant. The researchers found that observer bias was present when it came to animals as well. They reported that the more positive information the participants knew about the animals the more positively they rated the animals video, and the more negative information the participants knew about the animals the more negatively they rated the animals video. This confirms the above theory that negative

information can affect an individual’s thoughts and feelings towards things, whether it be an

animal or human.

Vigil, J. M., DiDomenico, J., Strenth, C., et al., (2015) Experimenter effects on pain reporting in women vary across the menstrual cycle. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2015 1-8.

In this article, the authors are looking to see if there is an effect on experimenter gender and women reported pain tolerance, depending on where she is at on her menstrual cycle or if she was on a hormonal contraceptive. The theory behind this is that women being around men brings an innate need to be physically fit for finding a mate. This means the woman would say she has a higher pain tolerance to the man, so he would view her as more physically able to bear children. The authors predict that the experimenters gender, even though they give only necessary directions, will influence the reported pain tolerance of women who are in the high fertility phase of their menstrual cycle more so than women who are in the low fertility phase of their menstrual cycle or women using a hormonal contraceptive. They used an experimental research method, where they manipulated the sex of the experimenter gender. They then measured the pain tolerance of the women by doing a cold processor test. Pain tolerance was then measured by self-report of the women. The primary research findings were that women who were in the high fertility phase of their menstrual cycle reported a significantly higher pain tolerance with a male experimenter. However, there was no effect on the women in the low fertility menstrual cycle and women who took hormonal contraception. This relates back to the main theory in that it shows that women in high fertility are innately trying to show that they are physically fit and able to bear children, especially since there was only an affect when the male experimenter was present.

Vrugt, A.; Vet, C. (2009) Effects of smile on mood and helping behavior. Social Behavior and Personality, Palmerston North, 37(9) 1251-1258.

The researcher’s objective was to evaluate if gender differences of their smile could affect the smile, mood and helpfulness of the participants. The theory being addressed in the study is whether when the reception smile from the experimenter to the participant encourage helpfulness that takes more time and effort. In this study the researchers approached that something as simple as a smile could predict if the participants would participate in their research. They wanted to prove that a smile could get more help than a neutral face. The researchers wanted to see if their smiled, would it change the participant’s mood and helping behavior. The experimenters asked two hundred and forty men and two hundred and forty women, but only sixty-one men and sixty-seven women concurred to participate in the study. Their ages ranged from twenty to forty years old. The study took place at the University of Amsterdam. They participants were given a smile as a reward. The participants casually and neatly dressed were taken to the entrance of the university building while holding a pen and paper. Participants were told to say ‘excuse me sir or ma’am, may I ask you something’, to keep eye contact, and to end with a neutral face or a smile with an open mouth. The log-linear statistical method was used to analyze the data. Videotapes were used to rate if the experimenters gave higher positive ratings to men or women when they smiled to the participants. They rated their mood on four adjectives: pleasant, neutral, cheerful, and irritated but they also had the choice of one disagree to four disagree. The researchers gained control of the passer-by’s emotions with simply acknowledging them with a smile. The smile from the male researcher increased his helpfulness from the participants. The smile from the women did not affect help from the participants. The results showed that pleasant and cheerful faces correlated. There was no significance between neutral and negative. When 50.4% of participants smiled, they had received help. When 23% of participants did not smile, they did not receive help.

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