Participant time is often sacrificed in many psychological studies so that subjects can participate in tests or answer surveys. They participate because they are compensated or because it is a requirement for their academic study. Beyond this, however, little is known regarding the factors that influence study participants.
Some individuals might be in need of assistance, perhaps searching for a mental health diagnosis for a problem they’re having. Participating in a psychological study could be “perceived as a cheap substitute or alternative to obtain some professional help,” according to a team of Polish researchers. In order to find out if participants in psychological studies were more likely to have a personality condition or be going through melancholy or anxiety, they set out to research this.
Their findings were released in the open-access publication PLOS ONE.
Researchers frequently assume that how they publicize their studies and who they enroll has little to no impact on the results, according to the study’s writers. According to our research, people with personality disorders are more attracted to studies where they can communicate their pain and may even be more apt to volunteer for research.
Izabela Kamierczak and coworkers at Maria Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw, Poland, performed several studies comparing individuals who had previously participated in psychology studies with those who had never done so. A total of 947 subjects (62% of whom were women) participated in the studies.
They discovered that study subjects showed signs common to people with personality disorders, melancholy, or anxiety. A person with a personality disorder thinks, feels, behaves, or interacts with others differently from those who do not have one. There are many distinct kinds of personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. For instance, they might place responsibility on others or exhibit unpredictable aggression.
Why it matters
The results of this new research point to a possibly concerning problem with self-selection. The findings of the research may be overly affected by a large number of participants of a specific type participating since research users choose which studies to participate in. Study prejudice is a significant problem.
Psychology study is planned and mostly done in colleges, like many other scientific fields. However, psychology needs human interaction unlike many other fields, and as a result, students create a useful subject pool from which to draw.
Many experts in the field have been left wondering how study conducted primarily on 18 to 22-year-old Western students can offer conclusions that are even remotely applicable to any group other than 18 to 24-year-old Western students.
Research must be reliable, and if we can’t say that our results apply to a larger group (a concept referred to as “generalizability”), we have a significant problem. This new research demonstrates that the psychic makeup of the subjects who are being tested may very well affect our conclusions.
However, we have no control over the pupils who volunteer their time to suffer through our formalities. For instance, we are unable to include directions on employment ads that state that applicants who exhibit signs of personality disorders are not required. However, we can and must be more selective in who we choose to participate.
We need to conduct research with a sizable enough sample size, and repeatable work that will increase our confidence that our conclusions are applicable outside of the classroom.
All disciplines must navigate their own rough terrain, and psychology has recently been doing just that. When other psychologists replicated experiments that were once thought to be innovative, they failed to generate the same outcomes. The “replication crisis” or “reproducibility crisis” is this.
The impact of Diederik Stapel’s scientific treason, a Dutch psychologist who made up all of his data and even completed studies, is still being felt. The image of psychology has definitely suffered.
However, psychologists are diligently working to create methods and openness that we hope will restore the confidence of the larger scientific community. The subjects themselves may very well be self-selecting, as this most recent article has demonstrated. As a consequence, our results may once more be called into doubt. Although we may believe that we are using a representative sample of the community in order to generalize the findings to a larger group, this may not always be the case.
This result will raise red flags for those trying to improve psychology’s credibility and image. It should be treated carefully.
The findings confirm what we already knew in a more official way. Those of us conducting a psychological study with subjects primarily selected from a pool of psychology students must be extremely selective in how we recruit participants. For example, we might need to be cautious when designing research so that it is not affected by the participant’s demeanor or mood, or we might need to evaluate the participants in our study. The authors of this most recent research, for instance, advise filtering out individuals who have participated in prior psychology studies.
Most significantly, we must exercise extreme caution when claiming that our “groundbreaking” study has a significant impact on the population as a whole. It appears that such an assertion may not hold up to close examination.