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Critical evaluation of psychological paper
Jones, E. E. & Sigall, H. (1971). The bogus pipeline: a new paradigm for measuring affect and attitude. Psychological Bulletin, 76, 349-64.
This work critically evaluates the paper by Jones and Sigall (1971) in which the author’s build a case for favoring the unique value of deception for measuring abstract phenomenon like attitudes and behaviors, particularly in the context of socially contentious issues. The rationale for the study is drawn from the inherent weaknesses of rating-scale measures in capturing potentially conflicting social situations or circumstances which tend to be biased. (Roese and Jamieson, 1993) The authors have undertaken a comprehensive literature review in order to justify deception and reconciling the weaknesses or ethical constraints that typify human subject research. Three experimental studies are dealt with in detail to arrive at conclusions that research imperative may sometimes call for such bogus pipeline recommendations. The argument is built progressively from one study to the next, and taking care to acknowledge the loose ends. Based on a utilitarian perspective, the authors back the bogus pipeline paradigm as an acceptable practice to unravel phenomenon that are not amenable to evaluation in an experimental setting. By doing so, deception, to a large extent, removes the chances of confounding errors that might have otherwise caused the respondents to err on the side of caution. Without providing any definitive policy prescription, the paper’s analysis provides credence to the arguments in favor of use of bogus pipeline paradigm despite the inherent ethical constraints.
(IUPsyS, 2008) (Roese and Jamieson, 1993) (Werch, Gorman , Marty, Forbess & Brown, 1987)
Psychological research differs from physical sciences in several basic fundamental ways. (Kalat, 2002) In an experimental setting, the response is invariably affected by the context. Moreover, subjects may undergo voluntary or involuntary reaction to the experiment itself. The article critically evaluates the use of bogus pipeline paradigm described by Jones and Sigall (1971). In particular, it builds a case in favor of the unique value of resorting to deception for assessing abstract phenomenon like attitudes and behaviors. This is inevitably more with respect to socially contentious issues. (Roese and Jamieson, 1993) The rationale for the study is drawn from the inherent weaknesses of rating-scale measures in capturing potentially conflicting social situations or circumstances which generally tend to elicit defensive rather than offensive response. Further, deception may also be valuable in controlling the effect of environmental (contextual) elements that influence the attitudes or behaviors in either way (positive or negative). (Lord & Lepper, 2009) Possible contributing factors are ‘power differential’ between researcher and study subjects, ‘halo effect’, and the myriad social influences on ‘behavioral measures’ of attraction.
The paper builds its case for justifying deception on the basis of an analysis of 3 experimental studies. The flow of arguments is rather deftly maneuvered and which, prima facie, have a logical basis. For example, the studies collectively build the argument progressively from one study to the next in a logical flow; tying the loose ends on the way, so to speak. Perhaps the intuitively logical flow of narrative is the most notable strength of the study. Indeed, it provides credence to the author’s arguments in favor of bogus pipeline paradigm despite the inherent ethical constraints. (Quigley-Fernandez and Tedeschi, 1978) However, given the very nature of psychological research, a utilitarian perspective, should, of necessity, draw on a special case orientation for such potentially controversial research paradigms.
However, since every individual in real life indulges in deception (not necessarily for causing harm), but also for benefiting others. This is a powerful argument that is hard to discredit since this behavior occurs in real life, sometimes even without conscious realization. Given the potential of social good, the author’s assertions have face validity. However, all the 3 studies have shortcomings in methodological rigor. For example the procedures are too complicated and involving complex equations between dependent and independent variables. Finally, the subjective and environmental influences are not adequately controlled for in comparing inter group variability. To the author’s credit, the drawbacks and inherent weaknesses of the methodology are well articulated in the initial half of the paper. The study of interpersonal attitudes and behaviors is also something in which objective inferences are hard to elicit in psychological research. (Kalat, 2002)
However, all the 3 studies have shortcomings in methodological rigor. Most importantly, generalizability of the study findings is certainly not a claim that the authors have made to justify their conclusions. For example the procedures are too complicated and involving complex equations between dependent and independent variables. Subjective and environmental influences are not adequately controlled for in comparing inter group variability. To the author’s credit, he has done well to provide an elaborate consideration to the various drawbacks at the outset. The study of interpersonal attitudes and behaviors is also something in which objective inferences are hard to elicit.
Given the desirability of understanding phenomenon like social deviation and stigma, it’s a tradeoff that best falls within the purview of institutional ethical review mechanisms. While the three studies that are analyzed provide contextually rich information, on methodology rigor criteria, they may not qualify since objectivity is fluid and subject to change and/or contingent on individual perceptions. (IUPsyS, 2008) (Kalat, 2002) (
Some issues neglected are the baseline characteristics of subjects which are not described in two studies. Moreover, the selection criteria, sampling strategy are not articulated in enough detail.
The paper by Jones & Segal (1971) is an important piece of psychological research that provides a framework to overcome the inherent challenges of measuring attitudes. (Ref) As against the traditional standard attitude scales (e.g., Likert and summated rating scales), the authors base their rationale on the well documented tendencies among study subjects for risk aversion and their perceptions of the social desirability of the potential response. (Werch, Gorman , Marty, Forbess & Brown, 1987) Many of these are influenced by contextual influences including, to a large extent, by the power differential between researcher and the subject. The authors argue that in real life people report attitudes that may or may not be in conformity to their actual behavior in real life. (e.g., attitudes towards smoking, drinking alcohol) Moreover, the author’s reference to “sociometric choices” has also been confirmed by evidence. For example, Lord & Lepper (1999) showed that people’s response to a question is influenced by what they think of that question per se. (Lord and Leppper, 1999)
The methodology has been described in quite detail. The three studies selected represent a range of phenomenal contexts where deception was resorted to by the investigators. Two of the three studies aim to measure attitudes where there is likely to be a motivation (conscious or even subconscious) to respond in socially acceptable ways in response to potentially contentious subjects (stigma, stereotype). The third study evaluates cognitive dissonance that probably is lesser controversial but equally important since it captures the tension that individuals feel when their behavior defies their general attitude, particularly, if their behavior does not pleases them. These are all complex phenomenon that have no easy solutions. Given that the objective of psychology is to improve the lives of people. It has also been acknowledged that real life environment is almost impossible to replicate in experimental conditions. It comes to a choice between ‘what’ and ‘how much’ is acceptable. This inevitably is a contextual consideration and drawing firm decision rules intuitively confronts the very basis on which the discipline’s foundation is laid. (Kalat, 2002) (Hahn, Fatch, Kabami, Mayanja, Emenyonu & Martin, et al. 2012)
John, Bell & Aronson’s study on Galvanic Skin Responses tried to study interpersonnel dynamics and how our attitude towards others is affected by our perception of their reciprocal attitude towards us. The interplay between this perception and the perceived similarity or dissimilarity between the two subjects is adequately captured. The methodology is discussed in detail and the findings have face validity since the essence is to capture information that may not be available through any other means. Moreover, although the role of experimental conditions cannot be discounted, the study showed a similar proportion of variance between meter-estimation measure and the attraction ratings.
The behavioral attributes in a real world scenario are virtually impossible to replicate in experimental settings. The logic and justification provided for using deception has enough face validity. (Hahn, Fatch, Kabami, Mayanja, Emenyonu & Martin, et al. 2012)
he author has also gone ahead and considered in detail the weaknesses of the earlier experiments where physiological responses were recorded for measuring attitudes. However, despite the limitations, he describes the evidence from studies that have incrementally provided new insights and improvement over earlier methodologies. e.g., correlation between Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) to Negro contact and ethnocentrism scale. The authors also acknowledge the weakness of physiological responses since many factors can influence them e.g., leading questions, instructions and cognitive dissonance, among other s.
Weakness : Some of the arguments cited are rather based on plausibility and anecdotal evidence. For instance, the author alludes to folklore by comparing the story of prince. The study of interpersonal attitudes and behaviors is also something in which objective inferences are hard to elicit. The study uses an innovative approach using the dependent variable paradigm. For example, this controls for the general proclivity for appearing as a mature person. (Hahn, Fatch, Kabami, Mayanja, Emenyonu & Martin, et al. 2012) These phenomenon have been an issue that has never quite been controlled for effectively. (Kalat, 2002)
The tendency to align with the normative prescription is inherent in all social interactions. Another convincing assumption is that people tend to evaluate their behaviors harshly. The paper describes this phenomenon as the tendency for ‘negative errors over positive errors’. The analogy can be drawn from the tendency of individuals to under-commit and over perform in any context where compelling reasons for failing to completion of the given task are present.
Another assumption is that the use of fake apparatus draws more on the affective component (evaluative component) rather than on the cognitive component for recording physiological effects.
The use of deception is the major ethical challenge in the study. Evidence shows that debriefing at the end of research can be stressful to certain categories of participants. It might be stressful to certain participants when disclosed during debriefing. However, for several reasons, the author’s justification is condoned. Firstly, there is no harm done. Secondly, the objective of the method is to gain insights that may not be attainable otherwise, i.e., if revealed to subjects. That defeats the very purpose of the experiment. The methodology proposed has the potential to provide more knowledge to the discipline and the benefits may far outweigh the harm. It qualifies the definition of eliciting ‘both effects and effectiveness‘ described by Robson (1993).
Dignity is not compromised and this also qualifies the discipline’s responsibility to increase scientific and professional knowledge in ways that allow the promotion of the well-being of society and all its members.
Hahn JA, Fatch R, Kabami J, Mayanja B, Emenyonu NI, Martin J, Bangsberg DR (2012). Self-report of alcohol use increases when specimens for alcohol biomarkers are collected in persons with HIV in Uganda. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. 1;61(4):e63-4. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e318267c0f1.
International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS) (2008). Universal declaration of ethical principles for psychologists. Retrieved 14 Feb 2015 from http://www.iupsys.net/about/governance/universal-declaration-of-ethical-principles-for-psychologists.html#principle1.
Kalat, J. W. (2002). Social Psychology. In Introduction to psychology (6th Ed., pp. 533-543). Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth-Thomson Learning.
Lord C.G. & Leppper, M.R. (1999). Attitude representation theory. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology; 31; 265-343.
Moshagen M, Hilbig BE, Erdfelder E, Moritz A. An experimental validation method for questioning techniques that assess sensitive issues. Experimental Psychology;61(1):48-54.
Quigley-Fernandez B, Tedeschi JT. (1978) The bogus pipeline as lie detector: two validity studies. Journal of Personal and Social Psychology;36(3):247-56.
Roese N.J. and Jamieson, D.W. (1993).Twenty years of bogus pipeline research: A critical review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin; 114(2), 363-375.
Werch CE, Gorman DR, Marty PJ, Forbess J, Brown B. (1987) Effects of the bogus-pipeline on enhancing validity of self-reported adolescent drug use measures. Journal of School Health;57(6):232-6.
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