Exemplar Study: Social Exclusion and Prosocial Behavior (Multigroup Design)

This article indicated that being excluded from social groups leads to
decreases in prosocial behavior. Participants received either no feedback on a
personality measure or one of three types of false feedback that indicated a
future full of rewarding relationships, loneliness, or unfortunate accidents.
Participants receiving the social exclusion feedback were unwilling to
volunteer for further lab experiments and, after receiving payment for study
participation, donated less money to a student emergency fund. In addition,
those receiving the future exclusion feedback were less likely to help in a
mishap where a cup of pencils accidentally spilled on the floor and cooperated less in a game with another student.

Twenge, J. M., Baumeister, R. F., DeWall, C. N., Ciarocco, N. J., & Bartels, J. M. (2007). Social exclusion decreases pro-social behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 55-66. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.92.1.56

Discussion Starters:
• What are the design elements (IV, DV) and operational definitions?
• What are the potential confounds?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of the study design?
• How do you expect prosocial activity after social exclusion to differ in a laboratory setting versus in the real world?
• Results in the lab were obtained after one encounter with social exclusion feedback. What type of responses might repeated daily social exclusion produce?
• What other behaviors might change if participants receive feedback that they will be alone later in life? How could researchers assess these behaviors?
• Is it ethical to give people false negative feedback in psychology experiments? When might such methods be justified and necessary and when might they not?
• Introduce the idea that self-report and behavioral measures are often inconsistent. Have students consider whether self-reports of prosocial behavior would have matched actual behavior. In other words, would participants have predicted their decrease in prosocial activity after receiving the socially excluding feedback?

In-class Activities:
• This study used false feedback from a personality measure to manipulate social exclusion (future alone, future belonging, future misfortune, and no feedback control). Ask the class for other ways to manipulate participants’ feelings of belonging and exclusion. As a class or in small groups, generate and develop a new manipulation that includes exclusion, belonging, and at least one control group.
o Suggestions in case students get stuck: peer selection; have participants work in a group and subsequently tell each participant that (1) no one chose to work with him or her, (2) everyone wanted to work with him or her, or (3) nothing. Then introduce the dependent variable.
• How researchers operationally define variables determines the results of a study. This study used various ways to assess prosocial behavior. Ask the class for other ways to assess helpfulness (i.e., find a new way to operationally define it). As a class or in small groups, generate and develop new methods to measure prosocial behavior. Suggestions in case students get stuck: holding a door for others, offering directions, allowing a student to borrow notes for a class.

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