A study on the effects of illusory correlation

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Research based on previous work on psychologists to study the effects on an illusionary correlation. The study showed participants responses about two schools, the hypothesis was that school B, even though it had the same ration of undesirable statements as School A, would be perceived as less desirable. The study used participants from the University of Kent who were students at the university studying psychology. Participants were shown PowerPoint slides with statements about two different schools, school A and school B; some statements were desirable qualities other were undesirable. The results found that there was an illusionary correlation between rating a school undesirable if undesirable statements were shown first. The results of the study prove the hypothesis set out.

An illusory correlation is seeing a relationship between two things when no such relationship exists, with a illusionary correlation we try to seek evidence to prove that it does exist the opposite of this is called a invisible correlation.

A illusionary correlation is often seeing things that are not there and often using previous opinions to form an impression about something. For example if you meet someone from France and they are unkind, and then meet another person from France and they are unkind, you may perceive that next time you meet a French person they will be unkind.

Illusory correlations are of interest to psychologists. The original research by Chapman and Chapman, studied the effect illusionary correlation had on perceived signs on psycho diagnostic signs. Their studied showed that projective testing (such as inkblot tests) is not useful in making a diagnosis of mental disorders. Psychologists used them for the correlation they saw with attributes of patients and what they see.

Hamilton & Gilford (1976) came up with the paradigm of studying illusionary correlation by presenting information about three social groups, with one group having more statements than the other. A finding that occurs is that negative statements and the minority group form an illusionary correlation. Hamilton & Gilford to test this constructed 39 statements, each statement had the name of the person, the group they belonged to and a behaviour that was undesirable or desirable, statements about group B were presented less frequently.

In our study we will be using statements similar to Hamilton and Gilford but instead of three groups, there will only be two.

Method

Participants

Participants consisted of students studying introduction to Psychology on a social science first year course and evening psychology research methods second-year class and the University of Kent.

Materials

Participant’s responses were recorded using a rating sheet. Microsoft PowerPoint was used to show statements.

Design

The study used an experimental design. We are predicting an illusory correlation between the rarer statements describing an undesirable behaviour and membership of the minority group school ‘B’. Presence of an illusory correlation is tested by favourability of trait ratings on a scale from 1 to 9 where a higher number indicates a more negative rating We also asked participants to estimate the number of negative statements about students at each school to see if they did overestimate more for B than for A. The two independent variables were statements about school A and school B and the dependant variables the mean trait ratings for School A and for School B and the estimates of the number of negative statements viewed for School A and for School B.

Procedure

Statements were presented of PowerPoint slides timed at 5 seconds each. One statement on one power point slide either undesirable about school A or B. Instructions were presented on PowerPoint slide after the statements were shown. Rating sheets were distributed immediately after viewing. Everyone completed the individual rating questions in the same order but approximately half rated and estimated about A first and the other half B first.

Results

Descriptive Statistics (2)

N

Minimum

Maximum

Mean

Std. Deviation

Skewness

Kurtosis

Statistic

Statistic

Statistic

Statistic

Statistic

Statistic

Std. Error

Statistic

Std. Error

AratingMean

36

2.20

5.80

3.5778

.95232

.577

.393

-.337

.768

BratingMean

36

1.40

6.20

4.0500

1.09479

-.429

.393

-.199

.768

Valid N (listwise)

36

Descriptive Statistics for school A (3)

N

Minimum

Maximum

Mean

Std. Deviation

Skewness

Kurtosis

Statistic

Statistic

Statistic

Statistic

Statistic

Statistic

Std. Error

Statistic

Std. Error

CorrectA

1

8.00

8.00

8.0000

.

.

.

.

.

AratingMean

36

2.20

5.80

3.5778

.95232

.577

.393

-.337

.768

Valid N (listwise)

1

Mean of schools Mean of correct undesirable results and estimated results for school A - Graph

Mean of correct undesirable results and estimated results for school B - Graph

Discussion

From graph one it shows that the hypothesis that people would over estimate undesirable statements for school B than A is supported. The individual graph showing the correct number of negative statements, for each individual school shows this more clearly. School A estimated mean is a lot lower than the correct mean than school B’s however the mean is a combination of all results and one result may have altered the mean. The standard deviation for School A shows is low so it shows that the results are closer to the mean, whilst the standard deviation for school B shows that it is spread out amongst a wide range of values. The histogram for school B mean shows that the distribution is right-skewed, whilst school A is left-skewed. The findings support the hypothesis that there a illusionary correlation occurs. However using the mean to compare may not be a reliable method.

The participants were psychology students this could suggest that the participants guessed the hypothesis (participant bias) this could suggest the finding of the results, also the participants being psychology students are not a good representation of the general population therefore the study cannot be generalized. The study was done in the classroom so participants may have been affected by people they was sitting next to in the future participants could be sat at different tables giving the experiment more control. Also for a future experiment participants could be members of the public that are not psychology students that have no knowledge if psychology to test the validity of the previous experiment, also this would test the reliability of the study if the same results are found. In a future experiment instead of showing a power point describing what students did, pictures of what they did should be shown so that the study is truer to real life.

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