Research Projects 2014 – Feedback

Some superb work has been done on these projects. Well done. We have managed to develop some scientifically valid research while learning the research methods concepts you need for A2.

The stand out finding is that, as with the 2013 projects, there are clear differences in males and females in their attitudes to mental health issues. This comes out clearly in the work by Paige and Lauren and Chloe and Laura. What makes this year’s work really interesting is that we have not only replicated this finding but also done some variations to test it further. Ines, Bethan, Ricki, Hannah and Millie did a variation where they tried to focus on behaviour rather than attitude. The idea of this was to get round the problem that boys might think it is socially desirable to give negative answers in order to live up to a tough, male stereotype. This group found a significant difference between males and females. This suggests that there is an underlying issue with boys’ attitudes: it is not just a product of the methodology. A further fascinating insight comes from Katie M and Hannah. They looked specifically at males and females over the age of 30. They found no significant difference in attitudes. This suggests that the problem of male attitudes to mental health is specifically a problem of young men. This has considerable implications for anyone interested in their health and welfare.

Hannah, Freya, Jess, Carly and Louise have also found something significant. They have found a significant difference in attitudes between higher and lower socio-economic status participants. A difference related to socio-economic status is something Evans-Lacko et al (2013) report consistently across different measures. A group tried this last year and found it did not replicate which makes this group’s results interesting. There is however a possible participant variable to be addressed: participants were all working in this school. Whether the finding generalises to other settings and therefore has external validity is something we would need to test further.

There remain two mysteries. The first concerns the work of Maisie, Georgia, Rachel, Yasmin and Emily. They looked at familiarity with mental health issues in order to see if there was a difference between high and low familiarity participants in attitude. They found no significant difference. This is odd because familiarity is seen to have a powerful effect in Evans-Lacko et al (2013). We spent some time discussing this but did not come to a clear view. One idea we looked at is that low familiarity participants still give socially desirable answers. Again, the research method is the issue.

The other mystery concerns age. Evans-Lacko et al (2011) find no effect for age in their research. Several groups here investigated age but most have not found a significant difference. Data comes from  Livia, Mikaela, Simone; Amy, Eleise, Lauren, Lucy; Teddy, Seren, Charley, Katie S; Emily and Siobhan Mc. It would be reasonable to suggest there is no mystery here as we are reliably replicating published research findings. However, Mel and Kirsty did find a significant effect. As I have only just read their report, I have not had the chance to discuss why they think their results are different from other people’s. Two ideas come to mind. Firstly, there may be an issue of sampling. There may be an extraneous variable which influences the type of people sampled by Kirsty and Mel which does not apply to samples collected by other groups. Secondly, Kirsty and Mel were careful about mixing their questions so that there was a mixture of positive and negative statements to which participants had to respond. This may have affected the responses of both groups of participants. More generally, it has emerged that there may be factors in particular age groups which dividing participants into “older” and “younger” misses. Mikaela, Livia and Simone’s research hints at this. They had an over 60 group where there was great divergence between scores.

Finally, there’s always one group which tries to do things differently. This year, that was Tash and Jasmin. They did a correlation between attitude and experience. It is complicated but they found a sort of curve. Participants with very low or very high experience tend to have the highest scores. There is great variation in the scores of people with medium amounts of experience. This suggests that at least for some people, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and leads to negative attitudes. It is perhaps people in this category that awareness campaigns need to target.

Thank you to all of you for your contribution to this. It represents true A2 standard work and looks towards the collaborative research  projects which you will be doing in many different disciplines at university. I can acknowledge your contribution in my reference for you. You will see that research report marks are not particularly high. That is in some ways to be expected on a first go. When we did coursework, people submitted many drafts. The research reports have done the job of enabling you to see what the research process is like and also have contained enough detail for me to be able to raise the issues in this post. That is quite an achievement.

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