WJEC PY2 Langer & Rodin

Langer & Rodin

  • Created by: Chantel
  • Created on: 26-05-12 17:41

Aims and Context

Langer and Rodin aimed to 'assess the effects of enanced personal responsibility and choice on a group of nursing home residents'. They did this because previous experimental research suggested a link between lack of control and unhappiness/onset of ill health and death in the elderly.

Furthermore, Langer and Rodin were keen to find out the extent to which this was due to biological factors - the aging process and environmental factors - loss of control over their own lives.

Bengston (1973) argued that 'Typically the life situation does change in old age. There is some loss of roles, norms and reference groups, events that negatively influence one's percieved competence and feeling of responsibility'. So therefore, it was argued that aging brings with it significant life changes which can reduce an individual's sense of happiness which appeared to lead to a loss of control over their lives.

Furthermore, according to Lehr and Puschner (1963): 'perception to these changes in addition to actual physical decrements (hearing impairements, eyesight, dementia) may enhance a sense of aging and lower self esteem.

Langer, Janis and Wolfer (1975) found that inducing the perception of control over stress in hospitals patients by means of cognitive control subjects requested fewer pain relievers and sedatives and were seen by nurses as evidencing less anxiety

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Aims and Context

Indeeed research by Blumenthal (1964) adds further weight to these claims. Blumenthal's participants were all told they would be taking part in 'a number of important ability tests'. They were also told thar the order in which they did  these tests would not affect their scores. Half were told they could choose the order in which the tests were taken and the other hald were told there was no choice as the order had been decided for them already. The results showed that hose in the no choice condition showed more signs of anxiety than the choice condition

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He delivered a different message to each group. (This is the IV)

Responsibility induced group heard this:

  • Take responsibility for caring for yourself, of deciding whether or not you want this to be a home you can be proud of and happy in. You decide how you want your rooms to be arranged and you should be deciding how you want to spend your free time, whether you want to be visiting your friends who live on this floor or other floors, in the lounge etc..
  • Also I wanted to take this oppurtunity to give you each a small present from Arden house (a box of small plants was passed aroung, and patients were given two decisions to make, first whether or not they wanted a plant at all, and second to choose which one they wanted. The plants are yours to keep and to take care of as you like.
  • One last thing, I wanted to tell you that were showing a movie two nights next week, Thursday and Friday. You should decide which night you'd like to go, if you choose to see it at all.
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The comparison group heard this:

  • We feel its our responsibility to make this a home you can be proud of and happy in and we want to do all we can to help you. Also I wanted to take this oppurtunity to give you each a present from Arden House (the nurse walked in with a box of plants and each patient was handed one). The plants are yours to keep. The nurses will water and care for them for you. On the last thing, I wanted to tell you that were showing a movie next week on Thursday and Friday. We'll let you know which day you are scheduled to see it.

The major difference between two communications was that on one floor the emphasis was on the residents responsibility for themselves, whereas on the other floor, the communication stressed the staff's responsibility for them. 

The DV was the outcome of this manipulation determined by the ratings given to two questionnaires designed to assess the effects of induced responsibility. Each was administered 1 week prior and 3 weeks after the responsibility communication.

The two questionnaires were:

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  • Administered by a female research assistant to the residents themselves.
  • Took place one week before the nursing home administor read his communication.
  • Double blind - no one knew
  • Residents asked to rate how they felt about 'how much control they felt they had over general events in their lives and how happy and active they felt' on a scale of 0 (no control) to 8 (total control)
  • Afterwards, the research assistant rated the residents on an 8 point scale or alertness. 

Post change:

  • Given to the nurses on two different shifts and who worked on the two floors used in the study. Like the residents, these nurses did not know the study was taking place.
  • Took place three weeks after the nursing home administrator read his communication.
  • The nurses were asked to provide a rating of 0-10 on issues such as how happy, dependent and active the residents were as well as answer questions about their eating and sleeping habits, how much tv they watched and if they sat alone doing nothing. There were two ratings for each resident because the questionnaire was administered to nurses on two different shifts.
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The conditions were allocated to each floor on a random basis. The two experimental conditions and number of participants were:

1. responsibility-induced group (4th floor) = 39 females, 8 males

2. comparison group (1st floor) = 35 female, 9 males 

There were 91 ambulatory adults ranging in age from 65 to 90 in total. Anyone on either of these floors who was deemed by the nursing staff to be bedridden or non-communicative were omitted from the sample.

Occupational therapist kept a record of movie attendance. This was to measure active participation, the method was double blind. (The occupational therapist had no idea of the aim)

Another measure of activity was the jelly-bean guessing contest where residents were asked to guess the number of beans in a jar. Those who volunteered to take part left their answers in a box beside the jar.

On the 10th night following the study, 2 inches of white adhesive tape was secretly stuck to the wheel of a randomly selected group of residents wheel chairs so the dirt up over the next day could be measured as to the amount of activity undertaken. The tape was matched to an index card the following night to determine this.

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Findings and conclusions

93% of the responsibility-induced group showed improvement during the 3 week experimental period. These residents as well as their nurses also reported them becoming happier, more active and having a higher level of interaction and mental alertness.

71% of the control group became more debilitated during the 3 week experimental period.

The ratings from all the questionnaires

1.According to the pre-test questionnaires (residents, nurses and the ratings given by the research assistant) were compared. Before the experiment there no significant differences between the group.

2.According to the post-test questionnaire: The rated level of happiness given by the responsibility-induced group was significantly higher after the experimental treatment compared to the comparison group. The percentage in the responsibility induced group was 48% compared to 25% in the comparison group.

3.The responsibility induced group was also rated themselves to be more active in the post-test questionnaires compared to the comparison group. 

4. The ratings given by the research assistant on levels of alertness was also significantly higher for those in the responsibility induced group in the post-test questionnaire.

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Findings and conclusions

5.The rated level of percieved control by the residents yielded no significant changes between the pre and post-test questionnaires for the responsibility induced group. It was also found that 20% of the patients did not understand what was meant by the term control in the question so no discrimination was made between groups on the basis of this question.

Behavioural measures showed:

Ratings increased where responsibility was given

Movie attendance one month before communication was administered showed no group differences.

The movie attendance was significantly higher in the responsibility induced group than in the control group after the experimental treatment.

The adhesive tape showed very little dirt in all cases and there was no significant difference between the two conditions.

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Findings and conclusions


  • It appears that inducing a greater sense of personality responsibility in people produces improvement
  • It suggests that some of the negative consequences of aging might be retarded,reversed or possibly prevented by returning to the aged the right to make decisions and a feeling of competence.”
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  • real nursing home, ecological validity, natural, real life setting.
  • easily replicated - both  groups given a talk by the same person.
  • environment was the same, activites were the same.


  • Two groups of patients took part in two conditions. There could be individual differences in the two groups.
  • Sample - small number of men, hard to generalise, however reflects what real nursing homes are like.
  • Experiment only took part in one nursing home, cannot generalise to all nursing homes.
  • Poor wording of the questions, patients did not understand, avoid questions, affects validity
  • No informed consent
  • Deception - nurses did not know about the study.
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Alternative Evidence

Bengston (1973)

Stefanou et al (2004) found that giving children choice in their classroom seating arrangement, choice of learning materials and the chance to work independently and take responsibility for generating solutions to problems led directly to better motivation to learn.

Patall, Cooper and Robinson (2008) reviewed 41 studies looking at the effects of giving people choices. These studies included both lab experiments and trials set in real life settings. They concluded that choice generally led to increased motivation, improved performance and perception of greater ability. Supports Langer and Rodin because the children were motivated to learn when they gave them choice they were more independent. 

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