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PSY 224 - Research II: Scientific Investigation

This guide is designed to support PSY-224 taught on CAMPUS by Dr. Peter Frost.

Research Poster Project Assignment

Instead of a final exam, this course will end with a class poster session during the last class time, Monday, December 12, 2022 from 12:30-1:45 on the 2nd floor of the Shapiro Library in the Mezzanine area above the Zachos Cafe. You can either work by yourself or with one other student on your own research project, leading to a poster presentation that will address a research question of your choosing. Your poster should be in American Psychological Association (APA) format. This is an empirical research project where you will collect data. You are encouraged to conduct a survey, correlation, quasi-experiment or experiment depending on the type of question you are seeking to address. For those of you conducting survey research, you will have free access to software called Qualtrics which you can share with others with a link you can share through social media or with others in class.

Qualtrics: Description & Help links

Potential research questions

Below are potential research questions, general methodological approaches, free and open access test materials, and example articles for your research project, though feel free to come up with your own (but please check it with the instructor ahead of time). You will be expected to find other articles on your own using library databases. Below are four research projects that you can choose from. The advantage of using one of the preset research questions and methodologies is that those projects are already approved by SNHU’s Institutional Research Review Board (IRB) ahead of time. The IRB is an independent ethics board that reviews research to ensure it complies with government and professional ethical guidelines. IRB-approved projects are automatically eligible to be presented at SNHU’s Undergraduate Research Day and Psychology conferences. If you choose your own research question, you have the advantage of pursuing a research question more specific to your interests, but you would need to apply for IRB approval if you want to present your research outside of class.

Research Question #1

Are cognitive biases related to how susceptible some people are to belief in conspiracy theories? This study is designed to explore how various cognitive biases, including jumping to conclusions, intentionalizing (ascribing intentionality to situations that are random or unintended), catastrophizing, emotional reasoning, and dichotomous thinking (seeing problems as extremes, without grey areas), might relate to the tendency to believe in conspiracy theories. Though some studies have focused on how cognitive ability relates to conspiracy theory beliefs (van Prooijen, 2017) and other studies have focused on specific cognitive biases (van Prooijen, et al., 2018), no study has focused on multiple relevant cognitive biases together in a single empirical study.

General Ideas for Methodology

Participants will be assessed for cognitive biases using the Cognitive Bias Questionnaire for Psychosis (CBQp). Though conspiracy beliefs do not constitute a clinical psychosis, it is conceivable that both could involve similar underlying cognitive biases towards illogical and/or non-evidence-based beliefs. The results of the CBQp questionnaire will be correlated with the tendency to believe in conspiracy theories as measured by The Generic Conspiracy Beliefs Scale (GCBS).

  • The Cognitive Biases Questionnaire for Psychosis (Peters et al., 2013) – This is an open-access educational resource. You can find the questionnaire in Appendix 1, pages 308-310 of this link.
  • The Generic Conspiracy Beliefs (GCB) Scale (Interactive version)– This is an open-access educational resource, but you are required to acknowledge the test is from Robert Brotherton, Christopher C. French and Alan D. Pickering (2013). Also, indicate any modifications applied to the test if applicable. List of questions on GCBS.
    • To use the interactive GCB scale test, add this text below to your Qualtrix survey:
    • For this set of questions about beliefs in conspiracies, open this link in a new window or copy and paste it into a new browser tab. For each statement, select a response from disagree to agree (with neutral in the middle) that best characterizes your response in most situations. Click "Continue" when you are done. You will be asked if you are willing to answer a few more questions after clicking "Continue" but feel free to select no in response to that question. Merely click "Get results." Please take a screenshot of your results and submit it here. Please ensure your overall scores shows as well as the "5 components". Once you submit the screenshot, you have completed this survey. Thank you!
Example Articles

Here is a secondary source (article) about the psychology of conspiracy theories. Under “existential motives,” it covers how some people are drawn to conspiracy theories to feel safe and exert control over others. This article can also lead you to primary research sources.

An article showing an example of a cognitive bias, called agency detection (otherwise known as intentionality), that is associated with belief in conspiracy theories:

Douglas, K. M., Sutton, R. M., Callan, M. J., Dawtry, R. J., & Harvey, A. J. (2016). Someone is pulling the strings: Hypersensitive agency detection and belief in conspiracy theories. Thinking & Reasoning, 22(1), 57–77.

       Here is where you can find the cognitive bias questionnaire:

Peters E., Moritz S., Schwannauer M., Wiseman Z., Greenwood K.E., Scott J., et al. (2014). Cognitive biases questionnaire for psychosis. Schizophrenia Bulletin 40, 300–313.

This article shows evidence that the conspiracy beliefs scale is valid and reliable:

Brotherton, R., French, C.C., & Pickering, A.D. (2013). Measuring the belief in conspiracy theories: The generic conspiracist beliefs scale. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 279.

Research Question #2

Past research has shown that excessive use of Instagram is associated with negative mental health outcomes and poor appearance-related self-perception. Is excessive use of Instagram associated with negative mood and negative self-perception in a non-clinical population? Please note that you cannot assess clinical mental health disorders due to ethical restrictions in conducting research for an undergraduate course, but assessing mood carries less risk and would add a new angle to existing research literature.

General Ideas for Methodology

Ask participants to estimate their average daily Instagram use in hours and minutes. Administer tests that examine mood and appearance-related self-perception. Correlate daily Instagram use with survey results related to mood and appearance-related self-perception.

Sample Article

Sherlock, M., & Wagstaff, D.L. (2018). Exploring the Relationship Between Frequency of Instagram Use, Exposure to Idealized Images,

and Psychological Well-Being in Women. Psychology of Popular Media Culture. 8(4), 482-490.

Research Question #3

How do the Big 5 personality traits relate to preference for different genres of music? This would be a correlation study that would add something new by not only using the Big 5 Traits some subcomponents of those traits called facets and a new and updated test called the Big Five Inventory – 2.

General Ideas for Methodology

Administer a test or survey that measures the Big 5 personality traits. You could measure music preference. Then see if total score for each of the Big 5 traits correlate with measures of the extent of music preference.

  • Big Five Inventory – 2 (BFI-2) - This is an open-access educational resource, but you are required to acknowledge that the test is from Soto, C.J., & Oliver, J. (2017). Also, indicate any modifications applied.
  • Short Test of Music Preferences (STOMP)The STOMP is a 14-item scale assessing preferences for four music genres. This is an open-access educational resource, but you are required to acknowledge that the test is from Rentfrow, Goldberg, & Levitin (updated 2013). Also, indicate any modifications applied.
Example Articles

Nave, G., Minxha, J., Greenberg, D.M., Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D. & Rentfrow, J. (2018). Musical Preferences Predict Personality: Evidence

from Active Listening and Facebook Likes. Psychological Science, 29(7), 1145-1158 .

Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2003). The do re mi’s of everyday life: The structure and personality correlates of music preferences.

Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1236-1256.

Research Question #4

How does the emotional context of an eyewitness episode affect memory and false memory? Specifically, memory tends to be biased towards negative emotional autobiographical events, but does that translate into increased false memory as well as memory?

General Ideas for Methodology

Run an experiment as follows: Have participants watch a YouTube video of a crime scene. Tell participants in the negative emotional context group that the video depicts an actual robbery (treatment condition). Tell participants in the neutral emotional context group that the video shows actors in a robbery scene (neutral condition). Then compare the rates of recall and false memory rates associated with each condition.

  • On a scale from 1 to 5, how sure are you that your answer to this question is accurate?
  • Not at all confident <1     2    3    4    5>  Absolutely confident

Show this video of an altercation from surveillance submitted to the Broward Sheriff’s Office depicting an altercation in which an armed robbery occurs against three young people on spring break (though the teenagers foil the robbery).

Have participants read an eyewitness account that suggests that the person in the red and black flannel shirt was the first to start punching the perpetrator and how one of the perpetrators briefly revealed a knife—two pieces of misinformation to setup potential false memories. Including true details before, in-between, and after the misinformation items.

Include these questions:

Control Questions

  • Do the tail lights of the perpetrator’s car go on after one of the perpetrators leaves the car?
  • Did the person in the blue shirt punch the perpetrator?
  • At the beginning of the video, did the young person in the red and black shirt lean against the car?
  • A fourth person gets out of the car to help his friends against the perpetrator.

False Memory Questions

  • The person in the red and black flannel shirt was the first to start punching the perpetrator.
  • One of the perpetrators briefly revealed a knife.

​​​​​​​Remember to add the confidence rating question with each question above. See if the average confidence rating for control questions is different than that for false memory questions.

Sample article

Porter, S., Spencer, L., & Birt, A.R. (2003). Blinded by emotion? Effect of the emotionality of a scene on susceptibility to false memories.

Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 35(2), 165- 175.

Other potential questions that you would need to seek IRB approval on your own should you want to present at a conference:
  • Do attachment styles experienced from a person’s parents affect later relationships with peers during young adulthood? Some studies show this to be the case with adolescent participants, but few if any have examined this correlation in young adults.
  • What leads to greater happiness: experiences or materials gains?
  • Does color affect the taste of food?

Where to look for other research question ideas:

Research Poster requirements:

Your research poster should include the following sections as shown in the examples below:

  • A title box towards the top of the poster, including the names of the authors and university affiliation.
  • An introduction section highlighting the problem addressed, brief literature review with citations and your hypothesis or hypotheses.
  • A method section describing your participants, any materials used and what you did during the experiment (procedures).
  • A results section and, if applicable, associated tables or graphs.  These panels provide your statistics relevant to the hypothesis examined.  At minimum, provide descriptive statistics.  Inferential statistics are not required but your conclusions would benefit.
  • A discussion where you relate your findings to that of other studies and draw your conclusions in light of your hypothesis.
  • A references list. Make sure your references include at least four references with three primary research articles. Primary articles describe studies in which the authors collected the data themselves.  References must be in APA format.  If you cannot fit four or more references into your poster, you should provide the references separately in a Word or pdf document.

Here is an example of a poster created by a student in PSY 224 last school year:

Sample research poster by a student

Poster templates

Sample Posters

Here is an example of a poster that some students presented at the New England Psychological conference:

Sample of poster presented by students at a psychology conference.

Here is an example of a poster based on survey research:

Photo of a poster created by students based on survey research.

Poster Session details

The Poster Session will be held Monday, December 12th, 2022 during class from 12:30-1:45pm in the Wolak Library Learning Center (Shapiro Library) 2nd floor mezzanine. You will be expected to answer questions other students/visitors have about your poster. Grades will be based on the poster and participation in the poster session.