Anecdotes, Correlation and Causation–Exercise Two

Read the following four excerpts from four news articles and answer the five questions immediately below each.

As you read the questions, remember what the “experimental variable” is. The researchers are to figure out whether or not the experimental variable causes anything. For example, if a scientist is trying to figure out whether or not the drug “Hairinol” causes the runs, Hairinol is the “experimental variable.”

Excerpts:

Study Shows Teens Who Don’t Skip Breakfast Eat a Healthier Diet, WebMD News Archive, March 3, 2008

http://www.webmd.com/diet/20080303/eating-breakfast-may-beat-teen-obesity

“A new study shows teenagers who eat breakfast regularly eat a healthier diet and are more physically active throughout their adolescence than those who skip breakfast. Years later, they also gained less weight and had a lower body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height used to measure obesity.

Although adolescents may think that skipping breakfast seems like a good way to save on calories, findings suggest the opposite. Eating a healthy breakfast may help adolescents avoid overeating later in the day and disrupt unhealthy eating patterns, such as not eating early in the day and eating a lot late in the evening,” says researcher Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, of the University of Minnesota, in a news release.”

  1. What is the main question the research described is trying to answer? Does ___________________ cause ________________?
  2. What is the experimental variable? _________________________
  3. Was the experimental variable randomly assigned by researchers or self-selected by subjects?
  4. Does the information presented show evidence of causation or correlation?
  5. If the above is a correlation, name one plausible competing hypothesis (one possible third variable).

The Problem With Positive Thinking, New York Times OCT. 24, 2014
By GABRIELE OETTINGEN
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/opinion/sunday/the-problem-with-positive-thinking.html?_r=0

Does positive thinking fool our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, making us less likely to put in the necessary effort to achieve it?

”In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, we asked two groups of college students to write about what lay in store for the coming week. One group was asked to imagine that the week would be great. The other group was just asked to write down any thoughts about the week that came to mind. The students who had positively fantasized reported feeling less energized than those in the control group. As we later documented, they also went on to accomplish less during that week.”

  1. What is the main question the research described is trying to answer? Does ___________________ cause ________________?
  2. What is the experimental variable? _________________________
  3. Was the experimental variable randomly assigned by researchers or self-selected by subjects?
  4. Does the information presented show evidence of causation or correlation?
  5. If the above is a correlation, name one plausible competing hypothesis (one possible third variable).

The Nation’s Health November/December 2011 vol. 41 no. 9 E46

Teens who often eat dinner with family less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs by Teddi Dineley Johnson

http://thenationshealth.aphapublications.org/content/41/9/E46.full

“Amid the vast array of scientific literature on reducing teens’ risk for substance use, a new report offers a method as pure and simple as pulling up chairs around the family dinner table.

Teens whose families eat dinner together at least five times per week are less likely to smoke, drink and use drugs, according to a recent report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. But teens whose families gather around the dinner table fewer than three times per week are almost four times more likely to smoke, more than twice as likely to use alcohol and two and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”

  1. What is the main question the research described is trying to answer? Does ___________________ cause ________________?
  2. What is the experimental variable? _________________________
  3. Was the experimental variable randomly assigned by researchers or self-selected by subjects?
  4. Does the information presented show evidence of causation or correlation?
  5. If the above is a correlation, name one plausible competing hypothesis (one possible third variable).

Study Finds Family Therapy More Effective for Depressed Preadolescents

http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/03/04/study-finds-family-therapy-more-effective-for-depressed-preadolescents/81917.html

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 4, 2015   ~ 1 min read

Study Finds Family Therapy More Effective for Depressed Preadolescents

New research suggests Family Based Interpersonal Psychotherapy (FB-IPT) is more effective for treating preadolescent children with depression than child-centered therapy (CCT).

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine randomly assigned 42 preadolescents (ages seven to 12) with depression to one of two therapy conditions. Researchers compared FB-IPT, an intervention that included parents in the child’s treatment and focused on improving family and peer relationships, to child-centered therapy (CCT), a supportive therapy for children. Preadolescents receiving FB-IPT had higher rates of remission (66 percent vs. 31 percent), a greater decrease in depressive symptoms from pre- to post-treatment, and lower depressive symptoms at post-treatment than did preadolescents with depression receiving CCT.

Children receiving FB-IPT also reported significant reductions in anxiety symptoms than did preadolescents in the CCT group.

In addition, the study demonstrated that FB-IPT helped to reduce social impairment in depressed preadolescents, and these changes were associated with decreases in their depressive symptoms.

  1. What is the main question the research described is trying to answer? Does ___________________ cause ________________?
  2. What is the experimental variable*? _________________________
  3. Was the experimental variable randomly assigned by researchers or self-selected by subjects?
  4. Does the information presented show evidence of causation or correlation?
  5. If the above is a correlation, name one plausible competing hypothesis (one possible third variable).