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If you want to give students a gentle introduction to articles, just have them read Study 4 of

Markman, K. D., & Guenther, C. L. (2007). Psychological momentum: Intuitive physics and naïve beliefs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 800-812.


The entire article is interesting and well written. However, if you want student to boost students’ self-efficacy about reading studies, assign only Study 4 (it starts in the second column of page 807 and ends midway through the first column of page 808), and the appendix containing the scenarios that Study 4 participants read (Appendix B on page 811). To make the study even easier to read, (a) have students skip the first paragraph and (b) give them Table 1 (below).


Table 1

Helping Students Understand the Article


 Tips, Comments, and Problem Areas

Study 4, 1st paragraph

Much of this paragraph summarizes an idea discussed earlier in the article: the theory (Positive Momentum Theory) that people believe their team, their own actions, and other people’s actions can—like a rock rolling down a hill--build momentum. Note that the second paragraph clarifies this idea—without the terminology. Thus, if you do not fully understand the first paragraph as you read it, don’t be discouraged—you will understand it better after you read the second paragraph.

The authors assume (incorrectly, in this case) that you have read the earlier part of the article. Thus, although this paragraph does not contain complex information, you could get a little lost in its terminology and abbreviations—unless you refer to the notes below.


Line 2: “naïve premise”: what people believe to be true.

Line 3: positive momentum”: things are going very well; what many people just call “momentum.”

Line 6: “PM”: abbreviation for “Positive Momentum,” “PMT”: positive momentum theory

Line 7: “construed”: viewed, seen

Line 7: “extrapersonal force”: a force that is outside the person and not under the person’s control – like gravity and momentum, it is not in you.

Line 15: “higher degree of positive momentum”: really on a roll


Study 4, 2nd paragraph

 Line 4, “experiencing momentum”: currently making good progress; on a roll


      Participants and design


Note random assignment makes it an experiment. Note that, although participants are sometimes run in groups as large as 10, what booklet one person in the group gets does not affect what booklet another participant gets. For example, when the researchers ran 10 participants in one group, 5 of them might have been in the “momentum” group and 5 might have been in the “steady” group. Thus, the research complied with the requirement discussed on pages 285-287 of Research design explained—that observations be independent.





Please see Appendix B, page 811 of the article. There you can read what the participants read. Note that, except for the italicized part, the two groups read the same description.


Dependent measures

So, the dependent measure was something like this

How difficulty do you think it will be for Jane to finish her paper by the deadline?


 1                 2               3                4                 5                 6                7

not                                                                                                        very

at all


APA formatting  tip: Note that the words describing what the numbers represented are italicized.

Results and Discussion

Note that, in this Results section, you could understand what was going on, even if you ignored all the numbers. The authors tell you what the results mean in terms of the hypothesis and then use the numbers just to support their point. Try to use that strategy when you write a Results section. Note also that the means (abbreviated with an italicized M) help the reader see what happened. That is, from the means we can visualize the results as looking a little like this:

Text Box: XE
Text Box: Xc




 1                 2               3                4                  5                  6                7

not                                                                                                        very

at all


In other words, you could imagine that  the average participant in the control group (Xc) made a rating close to 4 (indicated by an “X” with a “C” subscript, “C” being  for control), whereas the average participant in the experimental group (indicated by an “X” with a “E” subscript, “E” being  for experimental) made a rating of 5 or higher.


SD: an abbreviation for standard deviation, a measure of how spread out the scores are (to learn more about the standard deviation, see pages 545-546 of Research design explained).


t(38)= 2.96, p =005, d = .93: If you read pages 310-313, you should know what this line of numbers means. Specifically, you should know (a) how many degrees of freedom there were for the t test, (b) how many participants were studied, (c) what the chances of obtaining this result would be if the manipulation really doesn’t have an effect, and (d) about  how large (small, medium, or large)  most psychologists would consider this effect to be.




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