Exemplar Study: Texting to Ostracize (Factorial Design)

This study sought to determine if a woman’s appearance influences perceptions of her ability to perform a job. Undergraduates rated photographs of women as part of a 2 (Career: office assistant vs. CEO ) X 2 (Appearance: professional attire vs. sexual attire) design. Participants rated photos along several dimensions such as grade point average, organizational skills, leadership, dependability, and intelligence. The findings, that a sexually dressed CEO was perceived most negatively, replicated a previous study.

Smith, A., & Williams, K. D. (2004). R U there? Ostracism by cell phone text messages. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 8, 291-301. doi:10.1037/1089-2699.8.4.291

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?
• The authors described the use of texting as a “more conservative test of the impact of ostracism” (p. 294). What did they mean by “more conservative,” and why might an experimenter opt for a more conservative test of the phenomenon of interest?
• The authors wanted to explore possible moderating factors influencing the impact of ostracism on individuals. What is meant by a moderating factor? How does this differ from a mediating factor?
• What factors influence the statistical power in a study? The authors stated that they excluded the data from three participants who guessed the true purpose of the experiment. Was this really necessary, especially as the exclusion reduced the statistical power of the study?
• Why was it important that the raters who analyzed the content of the text message be blind to the experimental conditions of the participants? How might knowing what condition the participant was in influence the coding process?
• Why did the authors include manipulation checks? What role do manipulation checks play when someone evaluates the internal validity of a study?
• Why was it important that the authors evaluated the reliability of the individual
questionnaire items before they created index scores for each dependent variable?
• The authors reported that very few participants filled out the open-ended questions on the post experimental questionnaire. How might the authors have encouraged more participants to respond to these questions?

In-class Activities:
• The authors described the coding categories they used to analyze the participants’ text messages. Have students develop coding categories to content analyze the types of text messages that college students send. If a student is willing to share his or her text messages, have the class try to categorize those messages using the developed classifications. This activity can lead to a discussion of the role of reliability and validity in content analysis.
• The authors manipulated in-group/out-group status by leading the participants to believe they were either similar to or different from the confederates with respect to smoking habits. Have students suggest other ways that the authors might have manipulated in-group/out-group status that would be meaningful to college students. Have students compare their suggested strategies in terms of manipulation strength.
• Have students suggest other ways that the authors might have manipulated participants’ feelings of ostracism.

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