The topic for is social comparison.
• Let’s imagine that you ran an online experiment using first year psychology students from QUT as your participants. Participants read about the study on Sona and followed a link to the study in Qualtrics if they wished to participate in return for course credit.
• You randomly assigned participants to experimental conditions in a 2 x 2 between-subjects factorial design. You programmed Qualtrics to randomly assign participants to condition when they clicked on the link.
• You ran 200 participants in total (50 per condition). As is typical of the population, you ended up with more female (70%) than male participants.
• One independent variable was comparison direction (upward vs. downward). You based this on the social network response (upward-high activity vs. downward-low activity) manipulation that Vogel et al. (2014, Study 2) used. Because Facebook no longer displays “like” counts, you adapted this to focus on comments. Here, there is room to exercise your judgment and figure out the exact details of this manipulation for the report.
• The other independent variable was similarity to the comparison target (similar vs. dissimilar). You based this on Young et al.’s (2012, Study 1) same vs. different birthday manipulation and incorporated it into a Facebook profile that you displayed to participants. In order to carry this out, you asked participants to enter their birthday at the beginning of the study, so you could later show them a target with the same or different birthday.
• The dependent variable was self-esteem. You used the same scale that Vogel et al. (2014, Study 2) used. You will need to find the reference for this measure in Vogel et al.’s paper, and then retrieve the relevant details from the original source. Summarise this measure in your own words, citing the sources appropriately.
• You used a similar cover story to the one that Vogel et al. (2014, Study 2) used. See their paper for details and describe the cover story in your report, in your own words.
• Aside from the high vs. low network response, the content of the target’s posts was the same for all participants. You can decide what kind of posts to use, they don’t have to be related to health. You kept the other aspects of the profile the same across conditions, as Vogel et al. did (especially number of friends). You matched the gender of the profile to the gender of the participant, as Vogel et al. did. You did this by asking the participant to indicate their gender at the beginning of the study and then programming Qualtrics to show them a same-gender target.
• This study involved some deception. You were not be able to explain the full purpose of the study at the outset, as this could have affected participants’ responses. Accordingly, you provided a debriefing at the end of the study where you explained your aims in more detail.
You will need to consult the literature and generate directional hypotheses that make sense in terms of past theory and research. You will need to come up with two hypotheses: one for the expected difference in self-esteem when participants are exposed to a dissimilar upward target vs. dissimilar downward target, and one for the expected difference in self-esteem when participants are exposed a similar upward target vs. similar downward target.
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