Episode 45: Basic Research Design – Part 1

Independent variables, dependent variables, t-tests, anovas, the experimental method, between subjects, within subjects, confounds…confused? You won’t be after you watch this week’s video episode. Learn research methods in psychology the fun way – by choosing an interesting topic. In this video I explain the basic concepts of research while examining the effect of gray hair on credibility. More fun than…let me think…well, trust me, it’ll be interesting.

Resources for This Episode

  • The web site where you can change your appearance by mixing your photo with celebrities is called Hairmixer.


  • Independent Variable: the variable you manipulate (“type of hair” in this example).

  • Dependent Variable: the variable you measure (“credibility” in this example).

  • Operational Definition: the exact data that you will collect. In this example, a subject’s rating on a 1 to 10 credibility scale is my operational definition of credibility.

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Episode 37: The Effects of Video Game Violence

Syphon Filter: Dark MirrorImage via Wikipedia

What do psychologists think about the effects of violent video games and violence in the media on viewers? Does it lead people to be more aggressive? More violent? Or is it the other way around – that aggressive people are drawn to violent media? We explore this question in this episode along with taking a close look at the classic “Bobo” doll study that was conducted by Albert Bandura. And we throw in a little James Bond along the way.

Resources For This Episode

Here’s the video from YouTube called “Watching You” which demonstrates how we learn by observing others:

Episode 16: Personal Space Invasion: What Happens When Someone Invades Your Personal Space?

Do feel slightly uncomfortable in the bathroom? How does the presence of others in the bathroom affect you? What about places other than the bathroom? How close is too close? A psychological study was done in 1976 in which psychology researchers hid in men’s bathrooms to observe…well, you’ll find out. Learn more about personal space in this episode of The Psych Files.

The article discussed in this episode:

Middlemist, R. D., Knowles, E. S. & Matter, C.F. (1976). Personal Space Invasions in the Lavatory: Suggestive Evidence for Arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33 (5), 541-546.

Click here to listen to a follow-up episode in which I discuss how the authors of this study responded to criticisms of their ethical procedures.

Watch this episode from NPR video on personal space in Second Life: “Avatar gender and personal space invasion anxiety level in desktop collaborative virtual environments.”

Helpful Links:

Shy Bladder website
Paruresis website

Episode 13: Big Brother? What Your Grocery Store Knows About You

Psychological Research in your life: does your local grocery store know more about you than you do? We take a look at the research that’s been done to learn more about your behavior in the supermarket and how that information is used to get you to buy more than you planned for.

From the MSN article “15 Ways Stores trick you into spending”

  • Shopping Carts: they are large and tend to be right near the entrance to entice you to use them
  • Toys: far from the entrance
  • The most expensive versions of items are at eye level while bulk options are at the bottom
  • Items that are not on sale are arranged to look like they are on sale (placed at the end of the isle with a large sign)
  • Commodity items, like socks, are surrounded by non-commodity items, like shirts and jeans (for example, peanut butter and jelly are placed near each other)
  • There usually isn’t a section where inexpensive items are placed all together – inexpensive items are placed among expensive ones
  • “Stores are designed to maximize the number of stops you have to make” because you buy when you stop
  • Restrooms are placed far from the entrance to force you to go past things you might buy

From the article “The Theory of Supermarkets”

The New York Times Magazine, March 10, 1996

  • The stock of your typical store (10 years ago) held about 30,000 items – tough competition among all these products
  • have you noticed that the first thing you see when you walk in the door is produce? This is done to give you the idea of freshness and “bounty”. Notice also the colors, the water that rains down on the celery, etc. Gets you “in the mood” Other supermarkets begin with flowers
  • Butchers have no blood on them because research has shown that this turns customers off (bloodier activities take place in the back)
  • Cart behavior: when you turn the cart in one direction, you tend to look in the other direction. So, if we can steer you just right through the isles, we can put “specials” on the “strong side”
  • you will buy more soup if it is not in alphabetical order
  • store labels are always to the left of popular brands. Why? like reading, after your eye is caught be a familiar label, you tend to look left next. so, put the store brand on the left of the popular brand.
  • The best viewing angle: the average eye height of a woman is 59 inches and a man: 64 inches, so 15 degrees below horizontal (51 to 53 inches off the floor)
  • by the way, when you examine a shelf you’re likely to stand 4 feet away.
  • background music: slow it down to about 60 beats/min and your cart will slow down as well and you’re more likely to see things you might purchase. classical music gives your products a higher degree of perceived value:
  • play classical in the background – barnes and noble/ new agey
  • play upbeat – clothes stores
  • play rock – music stores, etc.
  • Cereal arranged by type (flakes, brans) rather than by brand will decrease sales
  • Also on cereal: make it difficult to compare them: create different size boxes, and call them by different names (Apple Cinnamon or Honey Nut) and it makes it diffiuclt to compare.

Other research:

  • The smell of cucumber makes a room feel larger, while the smell of barbeque makes it feel smaller
  • Lavender smell is relaxing
  • Red colors tend to draw you physically closer

How to fight back?

  • Use a list
  • Don’t come hungry
  • Don’t use a shopping cart unless you need to
  • At the checkout re-think everything you put into your cart
  • Start at the back and work forward
  • Look at the bottom shelf first
  • Carry a calculator
  • If you don’t know for sure that something is a good deal don’t buy it (it’s probably not a good deal and you’re being tricked into thinking it might be)

How to Buy Food: The Psychology of the Supermarket

Musical Resources

David Temple
The classical guitar music you hear throughout the podcast is performed by David Temple and used by permission. You can go to David’s website by clicking here.

Rock Music: “Moonscape” by 37Hz. Click here to go to the site for 37Hz on Podsafe Music.

Upbeat Music: “If there was no people” from Chachi On Acid. Click here to go to their site in the Podsafe Music site.

Episode 11: What Does Your Bowling Style Say About You?

In this video episode we look at superstitions and how they develop. We’ll start with your bowling style. Your bowling style actually have a lot to say about superstitions – how you get them and why you keep them. For psychology students, here’s a good example of operant conditioning at work in the real world. And by the way, why do you keep pressing that elevator button?. We’ll look at that too.

Resources for this episode

  • From Academic Earth: Professor Bloom opens with a brief discussion of the value and evolutionary basis of unconscious processing. The rest of this lecture introduces students to the theory of Behaviorism, particularly the work of prominent behaviorist, B. F. Skinner. Different types of learning are discussed in detail, as well as reasons why behaviorism has been largely displaced as an adequate theory of human mental life.