Langer & Rodin 1976 - Aims & Context
- Control: The extent to which an individual feels able to direct/regulate his or her behaviour.
- Adler (1930) described the need to control one's personal environment as an "intrinsic necessity of life itself".
- Bettleheim (1943) described "Muselmanner" (walking corpses) as they "came to believe the repeated statements of the guards - that there was no hope for them...".
- Stotland & Blumenthal (1964) found that students who could choose the order in which they took tests were less anxious when taking them.
- Langer et al (1975) found that hospital patients with a greater sense of control requested fewer painkillers and also showed less anxiety.
- Langer & Rodin highlighted the importance of perceptions of personal control, and believed that the desire to control the world around us is a fundamental characteristic of human beings.
- The aim of Langer & Rodin's study was:
- To investiate the effects of enhanced personal responsibility and choice in a group of nursing home patients.
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Langer & Rodin 1976 - Procedures
- Nursing home in Connecticut, USA. 2 floors were used; Floor 2 and Floor 4.
- Floor 3 separated the 2 floors, ensuring there was no contact.
- Experimental Group (RIG) was made up of 8 males and 39 females.
- Control Group (CG) was made up of 9 males and 35 females.
- The RIG were given the choice to rearrange their rooms, choose the film night, look after their own plant, and give opinions on complaint handling.
- The CG were told which night was film night, their plant was looked after by someone else, and their complaints were handled by staff. The staff were in control.
- They were given the same message 3 days later.
- They were given 2 questionnaires; 1 before the briefing and 1 three weeks after the briefing.
- First Questionnaire:
- Assessed how much control the residents felt they had.
- Assessed how alert they felt.
- Used an 8 point scale.
- Second Questionnaire:
- Completed by 2 nurses who were unaware of the terms of the study.
- They rated the residents' happiness, alertness, sociability and activity levels.
- First Questionnaire:
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Langer & Rodin 1976 - Findings & Conclusions
- In the first questionnaire, there were no significant differences between the 2 groups.
- In the second questionnaire:
- RIG had greater happiness levels after the experiment than the CG.
- RIG had 48% happier residents, compared to 25% of the CG.
- RIG reported themselves to be more active after the experiment.
- RIG were reportedly more alert.
- 20% of the RIG didn't know what control meant, so their answers weren't meaningful.
- RIG spent less time engaging in passive activities (e.g. watching TV).
- CG spent more time engaging in passive activities.
- 93% of the RIG considered to have improved.
- RIG had higher film night attendance.
- RIG had higher participation in the jelly bean competition.
- Supports the view that "inducing a greater sense of personal responsibility...produces improvement"
- 71% of the CG become more debilitated over the 3 week period.
- Increase in responsibility lead to increased happiness, which lead to behavioural improvements.
- Behavioural improvements were significant in the RIG.
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Langer & Rodin 1976 - Evaluating The Methodology
- Method - Field Experiment:
- Can't control the extraneous variables.
- Participant behaviour is more natural because they don't know they're being observed - reduced demand characteristics.
- Two nurses made the same decisions on the questionnaires, gives the study inter rater reliability.
- External reliability; Langer et al (1975) found similar findings with hospital patients.
- Nurses were unaware of the experiment purpose, so their questionnaire answers are valid and unbiased.
- High internal validity; the independent variable (IV) of control led to the dependent variable (DV) of happiness.
- Low population validity due to all the participants being American, so findings can't be generalised to British residents due to cultural differences.
- Gender bias because most residents were female, so the findings can't really be generalised to males.
- Ethical Issues: Protection; CG left experiment feeling more debilitated than before.
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Langer & Rodin 1976 - Alternative Evidence
- Suls & Mullen (1981) - Supports:
- They used SRRS to assess life changes.
- They noted which changes were and weren't controllable.
- Uncontrollable life changes were associated with illness.
- Savell (1991) - Contradicts:
- 43 institutionalised adults were exposed to different opportunities for choice.
- The study found no difference between choice and no choice groups in terms of well being.
- Wurm et al (2007) - Develops:
- 1000 participants were assessed at the beginning of a study, and then again 6 years later.
- Wurm et al found a negative correlation between the sense of control and physical wellbeing.
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