methodology

Part 8: Coding Between the Lines

For the most part, my research has reached a pleasant stasis since my last blog post. A team of experimenters and I have been running sessions every week and slowly but surely collecting data.

That being said, I’m still working on new things. I am now working on a new part of data collection/analysis: coding response data. (I know this is CMU, but no, not programming coding.) A section in my study is where participants write about whether they made a sacrifice for their partner and what their motives were for their actions. My focus is on whether they had intrinsic motivation, but I am also assessing other types of motives to see how they all relate with each other and fit with the literature’s findings. Now we have to take the participants’ responses and code them for what kinds of motivations appear so we can see what kinds of motivation touch promotes.

Unfortunately, no one has released a standardized coding scheme for motivation for writing responses. Researchers have come up with definitions and methods to categorize behaviors as certain types of motives, but no one has implemented a way for how these motivations would manifest in writing. Thus I have to work from scratch. I started with the basic definition of each motivation and then thought about how these would play out in responses. For example, intrinsic motivation is about doing an activity because you truly want to do that activity, such as doing something out of enjoyment or interest. A phrase such as “I wanted to help my partner” would be coded high on intrinsic motivation because phrases like “I want” indicate that the participant truly wanted to make a sacrifice.

coding-manual-edits

Fun fact: 90% of my life is just editing

Of course, there’s always the danger of reading too much into what a participant wrote or making too many leaps of inference. That’s why it’s important for coders to give higher ratings for statements that are explicit and clear and to not overthink ambiguous statements. For now, I am working with my advisor to work out the kinks of how to code these responses and how to make it easy and clear for new coders to learn. We should be able to have a workable coding scheme come January.

Part 6: Calm Before the Semester

It wouldn't feel right if I didn't end the summer without mentioning Au Bon Pain in some way.

It wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t end the summer without mentioning Au Bon Pain in some way.

As I was writing this blog post, it occurred to me that I’m going to start school in a couple of weeks, meaning that I have two weeks to get my research study ready for the start of the academic year. This is where I would say that’s plenty of time to get my study ready, but to be honest, I won’t actually know if it’ll be enough time until the semester starts because anything can happen in these two weeks. I feel pretty prepared for whatever can come up though, so bring it, last two weeks!

Even if I don’t manage to get piloting done before school starts, I have still accomplished a lot over these past three months. I had to squeeze researching background literature, brainstorming a procedure, crafting questionnaires, writing a proposal and drafting the introduction section of my thesis paper all in one summer. Especially since I haven’t done any of this by myself before, I’m pretty impressed at what I’ve done. I’ve received a lot of guidance and help from my mentor, but I still got to exercise a lot of agency in what I wanted for my project. So, if anything, I can definitely look back at this summer fondly as the summer that I worked my butt off for work that I really enjoy!

Anyway, other than piloting and waiting for the IRB, my schedule regarding the fellowship has calmed down. I’ll be taking my first break and go back home about a week from now (I’ll still be working, but at least it’ll be in a relaxing environment). I’m definitely going to take advantage of this mini vacation because things are going to ramp up once I get back. That said, I love running studies, so despite my busy schedule in the fall, I’m also super looking forward to seeing my summer work flourish into a real study!

Part 3: A Methodological Breakup

Authenticity and Intrinsic Motiv Differences

I’ve debated whether or not I should even make a blog post about this issue, but I’ve decided that it would be more beneficial to make a post not only because it would make later posts clearer but also because it demonstrates a way to handle the hurdle I’m encountering, which is bound to come up in any major project. Also, I believe it’s important to acknowledge my struggles as well as my progress.

To put it simply, I can’t study authenticity anymore, and I have to focus on a different topic: intrinsic motivation.

I started my project thinking that I would study how people can make more authentic sacrifices in their relationships, or, in other words, to make a sacrifice for their partner because they truly want to. So the old construct I had was authenticity: the degree to which you are true to yourself and how that shows through your actions, thoughts, beliefs, etc. The construct I must work with now is intrinsic motivation: the degree to which you do an activity because you truly enjoy doing that activity and get pleasure out of it. While I explain these constructs separately, they are definitely related and feed off of each other. It just happened that the way I first framed my study, authenticity seemed to be the more appropriate construct to study, so I went with authenticity as my primary focus instead of intrinsic motivation.

As I furthered my research and started getting into making measures about authenticity, my adviser noticed that the authenticity literature was messier than we anticipated. It was hard to find past work on authenticity that matched up with what I wanted for my project, and the past work did not do a good job of clearly defining authenticity in general. My adviser then suggested to focus on just intrinsic motivation because its past literature was cleaner, and it would be easier for me to measure and to work with.

It was hard accepting this change of focus. I don’t want to say that my background research on authenticity was for nothing, but frankly, I can’t use the information I’ve found on authenticity anymore, and now I have to do more research on intrinsic motivation. That being said, I’m fine (and rather relieved) now with this change (or sacrifice, if you will). I think everyone has gone through letting go of something you’ve been invested in from the beginning and knowing how hard that can be. But if I didn’t decide to move on, my project would probably have even more issues and cause me more grief later. So, sorry authenticity, it was nice to have known you, but I’m afraid our relationship was not meant to be!

Anyway, once I get my intrinsic motivation research up to speed, I’ll be back to making measures, and hopefully I will get a better picture of what my procedure will be in a week or two.

Part 2: Asking the Right Questions

Since I’ve started studying research design, I’ve never had to think in so much detail about asking questions. You would think you just put the questions you want to ask, but noooooo, there’s much more to it than that.

For my research, the basic question I want to explore is: what can lead to more authentic or genuine actions for people in relationships? So far, I think that affectionate touch between couple members can promote more authentic behaviors, such as sacrifices made for the partner. But it’s not enough to just ask whether A (touch) leads to B (authenticity); I need to also see how A leads to B. This link between A and B is called a mediator, and it basically explains the reason why A makes B occur.

To get all of the data I need for each part of this process, I will need to manipulate touch (so participants will either touch each other or not), have participants do a task where they have an opportunity to sacrifice for their partner and then ask them how authentic they felt about making that sacrifice. I would similarly do this with the mediator, but my issue is that I don’t know what my mediator(s) should be yet…

Wu Touch Mapping2

Mapping out what the mediator(s) can be

My adviser suggested that I map out what happens in this process to help brainstorm what kind(s) of mediator(s) I should look at. The main ones I’m interested in I’ve circled, so I’m thinking that touch leads to more authenticity because the touch receiver has higher security, empathy, commitment and responsiveness to their partner’s needs. All of these contribute to how salient one’s partner’s needs are to the person receiving the touch.

More specifically, I’m hypothesizing that when you receive touch from your partner, you feel more secure because touch conveys that the touch-provider (your partner) is there for you when you need them. You may also feel more empathetic because there is a physical connection between you and your partner, which makes you think of your partner more and can promote understanding. Touch can also lead to more commitment because now that you know your partner is there for you, you would feel more committed to your relationship at that moment. Responsiveness would also go up because touch would increase how attentive you are to your partner’s needs. Overall, your partner’s touch would make them and their needs more salient to you because touch is a physical indicator that you partner is there and cares for you, thus touch would make you more likely to reciprocate their feelings.

This is just my current, rambling train of thought, though, and I’m going to talk this over more with my adviser to sort out the kinks. Then I’m going to have to do more research (see, you do have to do background research forever!) about how people have measured these mediators, and then write out my questionnaires.

Side note: You know how sometimes you fill out questionnaires and it seems like the questions are asking you the same thing multiple times? That’s on purpose. That’s just how researchers make sure that they’re measuring the correct construct, or concept. In my case, I would want to ask multiple questions along the lines of “How true to yourself were you while doing this task?” to make sure that I’m measuring authenticity as completely as possible. So now you know, so don’t be too weirded out if you see this kind of thing in questionnaires.