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LostInParadise's avatar

Will the subjects of psychological experiments eventually try to second guess what is going on?

Asked by LostInParadise (27952points) December 27th, 2015

I have read about a lot of psychology experiments where the subjects are not told what they are really being tested for. A typical experiment may, in addition to the control group, have one group do a vocabulary test using positive words and another group do a test using negative words. Then all groups might be asked to evaluate a piece of writing, with the hypothesis being that the evaluations will be more likely favorable or unfavorable based on the vocabulary words.

Based on what I have read, if I were ever a subject in a psychological experiment, I would keep trying to guess what they were trying to test for. For example, if I were in an experiment like the one I described, I might make an extra effort to not be influenced by the vocabulary words that were offered. This might not make for very accurate testing, regardless of whether I guessed correctly.

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10 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I think that would explain lots of my life.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@LostInParadise If it’s a good experiment they won’t have a clue. If the participants can even think of second guessing then it’s not designed properly.

JLeslie's avatar

I think a lot of people do try to figure out what is being tested, but when it’s designed well they don’t figure it out.

ibstubro's avatar

I don’t know if this link will work, @LostInParadise, but are you familiar with the idea that some people are just naturally test wise and instinctively correctly answer questions by the way the questions are asked?

My father always said he was test wise, and I inherited the trait from him. I started college the 32 hours CLEP test credits, including 3 hours of Sociology, my only experience having been ½ hour general ed in HS.

When I was a kid I could sit down and take nearly any test on any subject and average, probably, B- on subjects I was unfamiliar with.

LostInParadise's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me , I would start out second guessing for any experiment that I might be in. I understand that, in the interest of science, it may be necessary to hide certain things from the subjects, but nobody likes being conned, even in the interest of science.

CWOTUS's avatar

Given the well-known failure rate to replicate psychological experiments in general, I guess my response would be a thoughtful and considered, “Who cares?”

Lightlyseared's avatar

They always try to guess what’s going on. Which often means that they are told something different is going before the test and then told what’s actually going on after the test. Although even then you can never be sure. I usually just take the money and run.

Adagio's avatar

@ibstubro In the research test example given by the OP there would be no correct or incorrect answers, it’s not a case of right or wrong answers.

ibstubro's avatar

Admittedly, I find the question confusing, @Adagio.

“This might not make for very accurate testing, regardless of whether I guessed correctly.”

LostInParadise's avatar

Let me clarify. What I am saying is that even if I do not guess what the experimenters are up to, anything that interferes with the expected thought process may give strange results. For example, suppose that the walls in the room where I am sent for the evaluation are very brightly colored. I may suppose, incorrectly, that this is supposed to get me to give a more favorable review. To counter that, I may deliberately make the review more negative than I otherwise would have.

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