Experimental Design

  1. Please read the following description of an experiment and answer the questions below.
    A researcher wants to test the assumptions of social disorganization theory. Specifically, the idea that
    neighborhood disorder and disorganization signal that no one cares about the neighborhood and leads to
    greater deviance and crime rates in the neighborhood.
    To test these assumptions, the researcher decides to set up an experiment using clean bathrooms and dirty
    bathrooms. The clean bathroom represents neighborhoods that are organized while the dirty bathrooms
    represent neighborhoods that are disorganized. Note that the dirty bathrooms are staged as dirty by a member
    of the research team.
    Using the classical experimental design, the researcher invites 30 incoming freshmen to campus for an
    orientation. Using random assignment, she divides the students into an experimental and a control group. Each
    group will take two bathroom breaks during the day. The groups will take bathroom breaks at different times so
    that the two groups do not interact.
    Both groups will first be directed to the clean bathrooms during their first break (pretest). On the second break,
    the control group will be directed to the same bathroom (clean) and the experimental group will be directed to
    the “dirty bathrooms” (posttest). A member of the research team will be present in the bathrooms discreetly
    recording how students interact with the environment.
    The researcher believes that students will be careful to leave the “clean” restroom as they found it (clean) and
    students will interact with the “dirty” bathroom in a disorganized manner (throwing trash on the floor, not wiping
    up splashed water, etc.).
  2. Was the classical experimental design the right experimental design to use to test the hypothesis? Why or
    why not?
  3. What are some of the limitations (threats to validity) associated with the classical design? Do you think my
    design properly controlled for some of these limitations?
  4. If you were designing the study, what would have done differently (different experimental design,
    procedures, controls)?

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