Walking in nature is good, except when we're looking at our phones: Experimental design practice

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Walking in nature is good for us, but what if we’re looking at our phones while we’re walking in nature? Is that walk still beneficial? Researchers Randi Collin and Elizabeth Broadbent at the University of Auckland recognized that this was an empirical question (Collin & Broadbent, 2023).

If you’d like to give your students some experimental design practice when you cover stress and coping, ask your students to work in small groups to design an experiment that would test one of Collin and Broadbent’s hypotheses: “phone walking would cause stooped posture, slower walking, lower arousal, and worse mood and affect than walking without a phone.” Students should identify their dependent variables and the experimental and control conditions of their independent variable, including operational definitions. Because this is an experiment, remind students that in their proposed study, participants will need to be randomly assigned to conditions. Invite each group to share their designs.

As a take-home assignment, ask students to read Collin and Broadbent’s freely available research paper and answer these questions:

  1. The researchers had two hypotheses. One we discussed in class: “phone walking would cause stooped posture, slower walking, lower arousal, and worse mood and affect than walking without a phone.” What was their second hypothesis?
  2. What was the study’s independent variable? Identify the experimental and control conditions. What operational definitions for each did the researchers use?
  3. When identifying participants for their study, researchers had two requirements that participants had to meet. What were they?
  4. When identifying participants for their study, researchers had two things that would exclude a volunteer from their study. What were they?
  5. From the “measures” section of the article, identify all of the dependent variables the researchers measured. What operational definitions for each did the researchers use?
  6. For each dependent variable, describe whether the researchers found any statistically significant differences between the two conditions. (The article refers to significant differences, but it is understood that they mean statistically significant differences.)
  7. Near the end of the discussion section, the researchers identify several limitations in this study. Each limitation is effectively a hypothesis and an invitation to other researchers to test these hypotheses. Choose one of their identified limitations, create a hypothesis based on that limitation, and then design an experiment to test that hypothesis. Identify your dependent variables and the experimental and control conditions of your independent variable. Be sure to include operational definitions.

 

 

Reference

Collin, R., & Broadbent, E. (2023). Walking with a mobile phone: A randomised controlled trial of effects on mood. Psych, 5(3), 715–723. https://doi.org/10.3390/psych5030046

 

 

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.