Does thinking about the elderly cause young people to act more like old folks themselves?
One 1996 study said yes. Psychologist John Bargh and his colleagues asked one group of participants to complete a word search puzzle in which hidden words—like “stubborn,” “alone,” and “Florida”—were all related to stereotypes of the elderly.
After completing the puzzle, the researchers found that these same participants walked more slowly when compared with people from a control group. It is amazing to think that it might be possible to sub-consciously “prime” behaviors simply by exposing people to an idea—and Bargh’s study was widely covered by the media and cited by other researchers.
Unfortunately, the results weren’t replicated. Two attempts to re-create that original study met with no success. In fact, in one of the later studies, participants exposed to the same words walked faster!
Recently, a team of 270 psychologists, led by Brian Nosek at the University of Virginia, tried to reproduce 100 experiments to see if their findings still hold up. The result of the three-year initiative is a public-relations nightmare for social and cognitive psychology: The team got the same results in only one-third of the studies.
This might be especially troubling for positive psychology, the scientific study of factors that allow individuals and communities to flourish. Heavy commercialization of this relatively new field—and the fact that it is an applied science—leads to a consumer economy of blogs, books, and seminars that favors single study results. I am, admittedly, a part of this process, and so is the nonprofit publication, Greater Good, in which these words appear.
In this context, replication is especially important—and the field’s replication crisis presents us with a great opportunity to explain why. It is also a reminder that science always needs to take the long view. Consumers increasingly want comprehensive theories of happiness and finalized positivity ratios—when we are, at best, a few decades old as a science. So where does that leave us? Should the average person and practitioner just ignore positive psychology until it grows up?
My answer is no, in part because we can learn a great deal from the exploration itself. Read More…
Related Online Continuing Education Courses
Professional Development Resources is a Florida nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) approved to offer continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA): the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners. We are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within one week of completion.