- What is descriptive research?
- Case studies
• Sacks (1985); Gauthier, Behrmann, and Tarr (1999)
- Archival research
• Frank and Gilovich (1988)
- Observational research
• Bowker et al. (2009)
• Rosenhan (1973)
• Simon and Levin (1998)
- Descriptive research describes the characteristics and behaviors of individuals or
- They are not necessarily designed to test hypotheses.
Types of descriptive research
• Case studies • Archival research
• Observational research • Survey research
- Case studies are intensive descriptions and analyses of a single individual (Shaughnessy,
Zechmeister, Zechmeister, 2006).
Famous Case studies
- Phineas Gage (Damasio et al., 1994; Harlow, 1848)
- Victor ofAveyron (Itard, 1806) • Victor: had been completely isolated from human social interactions, acted like an
animal. New doctor in the field took victor on as his project and tried to humanize
him. Had major impacts on development and socialization
- HM (Scoville & Milner, 1957)
- “S”, the mnemonist (Luria, 1968)
- Genie (Curtiss, 1977)
• Genie: neglected child, father locked her in closet from 2-12 years old, wouldn’t
allow anyone to talk to her, when this was discovered, they tried to help her,
humanize her, teach her language.
- Oliver Sacks (Awakenings, 1973; The man who mistook his wife for a hat, 1985; An
anthropologist on Mars, 1995).
- Have to be careful because you can never be absolutely sure of the causation; can’t make
The case of Dr. P(Sacks, 1985)
- Dr. P was a teacher, a musician, and an artist.
- He was cultivated and articulate.
- Although his vision was normal and he could identify abstract objects (e.g. solids), he
could not recognize familiar faces and objects.
- He relied on songs and music to maintain his “existence”.
- Visual agnosia. The inability to recognize objects, persons, and/or shapes while vision is
not defective nor is there any significant memory loss.
- Prosopagnosia.Adisorder of face perception (sometimes known as face blindness)
where the ability to recognize faces is impaired, while the ability to recognize other
objects may be relatively intact.
- Visual agnosia and prosopagnosia are both very rare
Neurological causes of agnosia
- Visual agnosia is associated with lesions of the left occipital and temporal lobes
- Prosopagnosia is associated with a lesion of the occipitotemporal gyrus
- They can be caused by: • Brain Damage
• Neurological Disorders
The advantages of case studies
- They can be the source of extraordinary story telling
- They are a source of insight – they suggest future research
- They give researchers the opportunity to study rare phenomena
- Idiographic research vs. nomothetic research: studies on individuals vs. groups – typical
The limitations of case studies
- Arguments made from case studies have low internal and external validity: “One always
fears that a case is ‘unique’, especially if it has such extraordinary features as those of Dr.
P.” (p. 19)
- Observations may be biased.
- How can individual cases be transformed into experimental research?
Experimental evaluation of agnosia
- Gauthier, Behrmann, and Tarr (1999). Can Face Recognition Really be Dissociated
from Object Recognition?
- Do pure cases of prosopagnosia exist?
• Face recognition module hypothesis
• “Boring” single-system object recognition hypothesis
• Prosopagnosic patients (SM and CR)
• Control participants (undergraduate students)
Simultaneous-matching task with faces
- Conditions: 1 - same, 2 - different gender and identity, and 3 - different identity. - Would show 2 faces and participant would need to identify if it is the same face or not
- Measure accuracy and response time
Simultaneous-matching task with objects
- Conditions: 1 – same, 2 – different category (Bird vs. Chair), 3 – two members of the
same category (Duck vs. Pelican), and 4 - two instances of the member of a category
(Duck 1 vs. Duck 2).
- Also included object recognition tasks
- Still measuring accuracy and response time
- If the patients SM and CR are “pure” cases of prosopagnosia, then:
• Accuracy for objects should be greater than for faces
• Accuracy and RTs for faces should be worse than that of controls
• Accuracy and RTs for objects should be similar to that of controls
- For face recognition: SM and CR are worse at identifying correctly than controls
- As for objects, SM and CR are on par with Controls
- First hypothesis is supported
Response time results Response time results from Experiments 1 and 2
• Patients are responding differently than controls
• 4 seconds slower-this is huge for cognition
• Patients are much slower, although their accuracy is similar, something is going on
internally that is slowing them down
- The object RTs for SM and CR were much slower than those of the controls even though
the accuracy rates were similar.
- The evidence for the face recognition module is equivocal. - Gauthier et al.’s (1999) study shows that exceptional cases can be the focus of
- This shows you can take a single case study and turn it into a neurological experiment
- In archival research, researchers analyze data pulled from existing records (Shaughnessy,
Zechmeister, Zechmeister, 2006):
• Census data
• Court records
• Personal letters
• Newspaper reports
• Magazine articles
• Government documents
- In combination with other methods, archival research can be used to test hypotheses with
an emphasis on external validity.
- Try to quantify variables to see if you can make sense of it
- Don’t need ethics approval because you’re using data that’s already out there
- Because data is already out there, you cannot manipulate the variables
An example of archival research
- Frank and Gilovich (1988). The Dark Side of Self- and Social Perception: Black
Uniforms andAggression in Professional Sports
- Black is viewed as the color of evil and death in virtually all cultures.
- Can a cue as subtle as the color of a person's clothing might have a significant impact on
his or her behavior?
- To test this possibility, Frank and Gilovich examined whether professional hockey teams
that wear black uniforms are more aggressive than those that wear nonblack uniforms.
• Will the uniforms obtain greater malevolence ratings? • Will the teams wearing black uniforms be penalized more often?
Study 1: Malevolence ratings
- “Sports naïve” participants rated each 85-86 season uniform on five 7-point semantic
differential scales: good/bad, timid/aggressive, nice/mean, active/passive, and
- Will black uniforms be seen as more malevolent (bad, aggressive, and mean) than other
- The teams in black are the most malevolent.
Teams Ratings Teams Ratings
VANCOUVER 5.33 Minnesota 4
PHILADELPHIA 5.17 Buffalo 4
BOSTON 5.13 NY Rangers 3.9
New Jersey 4.45 NY Islanders 3.8
PITTSBURGH 4.27 Winnepeg 3.78
CHICAGO 4.18 St. Louis 3.75
Montreal 4.18 Washington 3.73
Detroit 4.15 Toronto 3.58
Edmonton 4.15 Quebec 3.33
Calgary 4.13 Hartford 3.32
LA Kings 4.05
Study 2: Penalties by teams
- The number of penalty minutes for 16 seasons (1970-71 to 1985-86) were calculated for
each team and transformed into z-scores.
- Will the teams in black obtain more penalty minutes?
- Z-score is standardized score
• Average is 0
• Positive is more
• Negative is less
- Archival data because they went through NHL data and found this information
Results - In gen