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PSY 3211 Research Methods and Design I Discussion #2 Confound It All!
Instructions: First on your own and then with your discussion group, look over the following
studies and then determine the independent variable used in the study, the dependent variable
used in the study, and extraneous or nuisance variable (or what Smith and Davis call
“confounds”) in the study design (if present! There may not be one!). I then want you to describe
how the confound could be either fixed or have its impact limited. For the fifth “study”, come up
with your own study idea. It can be on any topic that you like, but provide the IV, the DV, find
one potential confound, and then tell me how you would lessen the impact of that confound.
Identifying Confounds
A. A professor is interested in studying whether caffeine consumption influences her
students’ participation in class activities. She gives everyone in her 3pm section of
research methods and design one cup of coffee at the beginning of class, and she gives
her 9am section no coffee before class (and instructs them to not drink caffeine within
three hours of coming to class). She then compared their participation in I<Clicker
question during class. She found that those in her 3pm (caffeine) class performed
significantly better on I<Clicker questions than those in her 9am (no caffeine) class.
1. What is the independent variable?
Amount of caffeine (one cup of coffee or none)
2. How many levels are there for the independent variable?
Two
3. What is the dependent variable?
I<Clicker participation scores
4. What is the confound?
The time of day. Those in the 3pm class may be naturally more awake and participatory
than those in the 9am class, regardless of caffeine intake. Also those who chose to take an
afternoon class may be different (more engaged) than those who chose to take the
morning class.
5. How could the confound be fixed?
Standardized procedures between classes. Test the differences between classes held at the
same time of day. Or randomize people within one class to either get caffeine or no
caffeine.

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B. A researcher is interested in examining how the amount of time you are exposed to blue
spectrum light (the light emitted from TVs and smart phones) before bed influences sleep quality.
She instructs one group of participants to browse their personal social media (Facebook or
Instagram) accounts on their smartphone for one hour before bed, a second group to watch a
30-minute documentary (titled, “The History of Button Manufacturing in the United States”) on
their TV prior to going to bed, and a third group to not have any screen time for 30 minutes
before bed. She then measures their sleep quality. She finds that the group that had one hour of
screen time had worse sleep quality than the group that had 30 minutes of screen time.
1. What is the independent variable?
The amount of time they are exposed to blue spectrum light (1 hour vs. 30 minutes vs. no
time)
2. How many levels are there for the independent variable?
Three
3. What is the dependent variable?
Sleep quality
4. What is the confound?
The modality of the activity is the biggest confound, it could be that engaging with your
smart phone keeps you up more because it’s a more interactive activity than watching tv.
Also, the content is likely different (maybe the documentary was boring and made them
sleepy, whereas browsing social media might be more engaging and interesting). There
are other possibilities here as well (e.g., the control condition may not be comparable to
the other two conditions, perhaps the act of doing something (tv or smartphone)
influences sleep quality, rather than the blue light itself.
5. How could the confound be fixed?
Hold the modality constant (1 hour of smart phone vs 30 minutes of smart phone OR 1
hour of tv vs 30 minutes of tv). Make the control group more constant, for example,
could have instructed the control group to read a book or magazine, rather than doing
nothing before bed) Grader note: There are lots of ways to fix this, so allow for
originality!
C. A researcher is interested in studying whether group psychotherapy is better than individual
one-on-one psychotherapy for treating depression. She randomly assigns a group of depressed
participants to receive 4 weeks of group therapy lead by Dr. Smith, and a second group of
depressed participants to receive 5 weeks of traditional one-on-one psychotherapy from Dr.
Jones. She finds that the participants in the one-on-one psychotherapy group have less
depression after therapy is over than those who had group therapy.
1. What is the independent variable?
Therapy
2. How many levels are there for the independent variable?
Two (group vs. individual therapy)
3.What is the dependent variable?
Depression
4. What is the confound?
The person leading the psychotherapy (dr. smith vs. dr jones) could influence depression
(maybe dr. jones is just a better therapist than dr. smith). Also, the number of weeks is a
confound (the one-on one group got 5 weeks and the group therapy only got 4).
5. How could the confound be fixed?

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PSY 3211 – Research Methods and Design I – Discussion #2 – Confound It All! Instructions: First on your own and then with your discussion group, look over the following studies and then determine the independent variable used in the study, the dependent variable used in the study, and extraneous or nuisance variable (or what Smith and Davis call “confounds”) in the study design (if present! There may not be one!). I then want you to describe how the confound could be either fixed or have its impact limited. For the fifth “study”, come up with your own study idea. It can be on any topic that you like, but provide the IV, the DV, find one potential confound, and then tell me how you would lessen the impact of that confound. Identifying Confounds A. A professor is interested in studying whether caffeine consumption influences her students’ participation in class activities. ...
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