Perusing the Journal of Personality and Social Essay

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Perusing the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP) for the year 1980 revealed several trends in the studies produced across that year. There were a large number of studies comparing gender differences on a number of variables in the year 1980. Probably more studies looked at gender differences on some quality than any other single independent variable (this finding most likely would occur in many years of JPSP). Other variables that stood out included investigating the nature of certain attributions or how attributions are formed, judgment or measurement of affect or emotion, the contribution of personality variables to social psychological concepts, motivation, attitude formation, and several articles on locus of control were also noted. From this review it appears as if topics related to attribution, motivation, and attitude formation were hot topics in 1980. There were few commentaries and several studies using archival data also noted.

In a more in-depth analysis of the first issue (January, volume one) it was noted that there were 18 total entries. Of these entries one was a review based on archival data and two were commentaries of a previously written article. Of the 39 authors contributing to the 18 entries 10 were female (26%) and 27 were male (69%). The gender of two of the authors could not be determined by their names. Thus, a vast majority of the contributors in this issue were male.

Of the remaining 15 entries, all approached their analysis via an experimental type design. All the remaining studies then used a variable manipulation under controlled conditions. There were no naturalistic observational studies or survey-driven studies present. Of these 15 entries 10 studies (67%) used only one experiment in their write up, two studies (13%) utilized two experiments, and three studies (20%) utilized three experiments in their write up. This reflects the nature of social psychology's commitment to understanding the causal or directional nature of relationships and explaining behavior in terms of contingencies. Social psychologists seek to actively understand behavior in an empirically grounded format (Funder & Joachiam, 2004). We would expect that as a great number of social psychologists are employed in academic settings the sample of convenience for social psychologists would be college students. The purely academic nature of many of the social psychological findings is illustrated in the fact that all 15 studies relied on college undergraduates as their participants. This trend is somewhat discouraging, but not surprising. Using primarily college students of course results in rather limited generalziability of the findings of many studies performed in social psychology. In a sense, this limits the utility of many of the conclusions and principles from social psychology. Such a trend, the reliance on convenience samples of college students, should be targeted as one area of improvement for the future in social psychology if the findings of social psychologists are to be used in more practical situations (Calder, Phillips & Tybout, 1982).

Of the studies the majority (11 studies or 73% included both male and female students). One study utilized females only and there were five of the experiments using male only subjects. Twelve of the 15 studies also discussed ethical issues concerning the data-collection methods (mentioned informed consent was received) or in regard to the generalziability of the findings. Thus, many social psychologists tend to understand the need to report ethical concerns and also recognize their own short-comings in so far as the external validity of their findings.

Shapiro, Gottman & Carrere (2000) sought to predict changes in married couples' levels of satisfaction by the way couples described their past relations. The study also attempted to identify buffers that would predict resilience to the transitions that married couples experience. The sample data was collected initially recruited via newspaper advertisements for childless couples married within nine months and then the sample was limited to 130 couples in the Seattle area that had an even distribution of satisfaction scores (after exclusions the final number was 82 couples). The couples were followed for 4-6 years via a longitudinal correlational design using self-report data (survey and interview data). Other demographic variables were stratified to match the city of Seattle. In terms of generalziability, the study certainly has strong external validly to couples in the Seattle area, but this may wane somewhat compared to other regions of the country. Moreover, there may be differences in couples who answered the recruitment ad compared those who do not answer such ads not accounted for by the study. The concepts measured were marital satisfaction and a number of variables related to this such as we-ness, negativity, fondness, disappointment, and expansiveness as well as how conflict was handled. The general overall findings were interesting, although no divorces were recorded in couples that became parents (compared to 17 divorces of 39 couples in those who did not), a greater percentage of the wives who became parents reported greater dissatisfaction (also wives that became pregnant had initially significantly higher levels of satisfaction than those who did not, another confound). Husbands did not show a significant decline in satisfaction and were not reported on. The findings indicated there were some variables that predicted satisfaction in the wife, mainly the cognitive room allocated by each partner for the other and the fondness and admiration feelings for the partner were especially important. The we-ness variable, thought by the researchers to be important, was not significant. All in all the study is fairly sound, but interestingly, a causal connection is inferred by the authors in their description of the findings. The conclusions of the study are weakened by this. Prediction does not infer causation, for instance rising ice cream sales predict an increase in rapes, but does anyone believe eating ice cream causes rape? So while the authors may have described some interesting associations and variables to predict the wife's marital satisfaction more research needs to be performed. What other variables contribute to these predictors? Why is it that no child-bearing couples divorced? How can satisfaction be improved? What are the dispositional variables that contribute here? There are many other questions raised by this study, which is what good research should actually do.

The article by Deleon (1999) is not really a study of any type, but a review of some recent research on parenting, interviews with some researchers who discuss their findings and personal interpretations of their research, and a guide to some ongoing self-help programs in the area for new parents. As a popular article in a local newspaper the piece is not concerned with methodology, controls, or statistical interpretations, but instead it is providing an interesting filler for a local newspaper. The goal of the article is to describe a potential problem that new parents may face in their relationships, discuss some "expert" opinions, and describe some ways to resolve the issue. Deleon does refer to the Shapiro, Gottman & Carrere (2000) findings in a general manner and discusses the implications of the study and previous research with Shapiro and Gottman in his article. There is no sample data so to speak of; instead the article describes archival data and some interview data with a few select subjects. As such the ability to generalize to broader populations is quite limited, but the article does offer value in terms of qualitative information and personal descriptions which some people may find useful. The no real measurement or statistical analysis, except for the quoting of general summations of some select research findings, even though the article presents the relationship of newborn baby-broken marriage as causal. So the article is obviously weak from a standpoint of understanding potential biases to the findings discussed, how often this phenomenon occurs in couples, what couples are at risk (the risk factors offered are generalizations and might apply to many couples), and how this process may work.…[continue]

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