Thursday, September 6, 2007

441 Re: soap operas

Message no. 441[Branch from no. 438] Posted by Thomas Culhane (1311520071) on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 2:31pm Subject: Re: soap operas

Patrice et al. -- this is a fascinating discussion -- and with Patrice's probing questions - which form "testable hypotheses" we enter finally into the realm of environmental psychology, where I can comment.

Always keep in mind that our goal in this course is to not only raise questions and contribute observations but TO FORM HYPOTHESES and FIND WAYS TO TEST THEM.

Patrice, you have given us two questions that can be turned into hypotheses and tested. The first is "do soap operas sell more soap" (or other products -- they are called "soap operas" because they were used as tools by advertising executives to get primarily women consumers who stayed at home and were responsible for domestic cleaning to buy dish soap and clothes washing powders. The companies who make such products realized that if they could get a captive audience for their "sales calls" (commercials brought the travelling salesman into the living room without having to knock on the door) they could dramatically increase the bottom line.

So the first question: does watching soap operas increase sales? The null hypothesis (H0) is: watching does not increase purchasing behavior" , and the H1 or alternative hypothesis is that it does. Now all we need to do is determine our sample frame and sample size. Our frame here is "students in the environmental psych class who either do or do not watch soap operas." Our sample size is 11 (those of you in the class). Our variable could be "watches or doesn't watch". Now we need a CONTROL. The control could be the choice of a single product advertised on the show. We would test if watching a soap opera that advertises that product increases its sales among our population sample.

While 11 is a small sample and unlikely to be statistically significant, it could be suggestive of further research with a larger population (please remember that ALL OF YOUR OBSERVATIONS SO FAR ARE WHAT WE CALL "ANECDOTES". They are not yet "evidence" or "data", because we have not engaged in any formal methodology. Even if all of you agree that "soap operas are addictive" that does not constitue proof that they are. And if you all say, " I think I was more likely to buy what I saw in the commercials" that still is not proof. But if you can show that those who watched the soap opera bought, on average, 5% more palmolive hand soap than those that don't, THAT would be data!

Dawn -- you said in your post that you get "p'd off" by the commercials. I have no doubt that that is true! But class -- can we infer that therefore Dawn buys less soap than Michelle or Daniela or Adrienne or Daniela? Is it possible that even though Dawn hates the commercials, their message still haunts her subconscious so that when she gets to the store she still buys more soap than if she hadn't watched the soap opera?

Could we set up a test where we looked at those who have TIVO and cut out their commercials and those who don't? How might we conduct such a test?

For your final project you will have the opportunity to conduct a real environmental psychology study. You should start now to think about how you would design it. EVERY OBSERVATION YOU MAKE should now be placed in the context of "HOW WOULD I TEST THIS?" Ask yourselves EVERY TIME YOU POST "Can I be certain of what I am saying? Is this just my opinion, or is there a way to prove it". So many of you are convinced that "things are different today than when I was young". Or you say "kids these days don't have..." or "it was safer back when..." or "the youth these days..."

I chuckle when I read this from some of the younger ones among you, because I remember these things being said when I was your age... we all believed that things were really different too.

We call this "the nostalgia effect." Things always look different through the rosy glasses of nostalgia. Every generation complains about "kids these days" and how much better things were when they were kids. As we get older, we do this even more often, so I equally chuckle when I read those of you who are from my generation or thereabouts saying these things. Of course these are valid observations, but once again, we are using "anecdotal evidence". Time to get more rigorous, my crewmates! Let's start saying things like "I believe that society has gotten more dangerous and to support my argument I offer the following as evidence"... and then give us a MECHANISM such as "life may be more dangerous because with population increase resources are more scarce and unemployment is up" and then say "to test this hypothesis I propose that we see if, as one of you said, rural Virginia , which is less dense, is safer than downtown D.C." or something like that!

See what I am getting at? Patrice has led the way with testable hypothetical questions. She asks us also if we build up feelings of trust about Luke and Laura (did I get that right?) . How do we test that? Are Luke and Laura using the soap in the soap opera, in a kind of product placement way (like James Bond wearing a certain watch or driving a certain car) so that we trust their judgement, or do we trust the product by ASSOCIATION -- i.e., our beloved stars (even though they are mere actors and have no control over the advertisements) would never be associated with bad products.... HOW WOULD SUCH A MECHANISM OPERATE?

Great stuff -- now let's get rigorous. Environmental psychology helps us understand HOW THESE THIINGS WORK.

Let's be environmental psychologists together! Give me your ideas on how we test all this stuff!!


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