Sometimes studies go wrong and for different reasons. Sometimes things are falsely reported, sometimes participants face risks of injury, and sometimes the experiment itself challenges people mentally beyond their comfort. With this following study, I’ll discuss which of these challenges were very foreseeable and how they were avoided.
In the first portion of this study, infants at the age of 6.5 months were shown either a face or a body exhibiting one of two emotions: anger or happiness. They were then shown a face or body with the remaining emotion. The duration of a baby’s gaze between the visual affect and the bodily representation was measured and this is what would determine the matches and mismatches babies were able to process.
One of the concerns of the study was that children would have a general preference towards expressed happiness which would bias results. How was this avoided? A familiarization task was done with the infants before the actual test. In that task, when they were shown the angry condition, they failed to show a preference for happy expression. In conclusion? Do familiarization tasks. They may help prevent false reporting.
Adverse events don’t always deal with publication issues. Some studies can put participants in an uncomfortable situation- whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally. With this particular study, parents brought their children into a dark chamber with a computer monitor and seated on them on their laps. If it was taken into account that seating the child on the lap of a confederate would cause the child to be emotionally uncomfortable and uncooperative, then letting the parents hold their own children was certainly a method of mollification. Other than that, there were no other serious adverse consequences that needed to be avoided.