Research Design Explained: Supplement

You may want to assign Experiment 1 of

Butler, J. L., & Baumeister, R. F. (1998). The trouble with friendly

faces: Skilled performance with a supportive audience. Journal

of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1213-1230.




This well-written and interesting article shows that although people think they perform better if they have  a supportive audience, participants actually performed worse on a difficult task when they thought a friend was watching them  than when they thought a stranger was watching them. The article describes three experiments, but the only simple experiment is Experiment 1.   As of this writing, the article is available from APA’s web site at

We recommend assigning the section of the article between the captions "Experiment 1" and "Experiment 2." To make the article even easier to digest, we also recommend handing out Table 1 (below).



Table 1.

Tips for Understanding Experiment 1 of   Butler & Baumeister (1998)

Experiment 1


Competing hypotheses”:  The hypothesis that supportive audiences will improve performance versus the hypothesis that supportive audiences will hurt performance.





Note that, to maintain independence (see pages 248-249 of Research design explained), participants did not interact .




Note that a participant who counted backwards  “1470, 1460, 1447, 1434,” would be counted as having made  only one error. 


evaluation anxiety: worry  about being judged.

Results and Discussion


First paragraph:

The researchers did a ttest with 40 participants. The p did not reach the standard level of significance (p of .05 or less). The d refers to the estimated effect size. For more about d, see Box 9-2 on page 275 of Research design explained.


Second paragraph: 

As Chapter 9 points out (see page 283 of Research design explained, as well as pages 248-249 of that text), in a simple experiment, observations must be independent.  Therefore, the authors argue that their observations were independent.


Third paragraph:

Note how this paragraph makes it relatively easy for you to understand the results. The firstsentence explains what behavior the researchers are measuring so you know what the scores are that are being analyzed; the second sentence foreshadows the next sentence by telling you that the statistical analysis led to a certain general conclusion (the authors tell you the "bottom line"); the third sentence (the onlysentence in the paragraph that has numbers in it) shows how the table of means and the statistical tests provide specific evidence for that conclusion; and the fourth sentence summarizes the paragraph.


Fourth paragraph:

speed-accuracy trade-off”: Often, the faster  people do a task, the more errors they make; conversely, the slower they do a task, the fewer errors they make. The authors explain the speed-accuracy trade-off in the next paragraph.


Fifth paragraph:

Good summary and discussion of the results reported in the previous paragraph.


Sixth paragraph:

 postexperimental questions”: questions asked after the participants had performed the experimental task (counting backward).


marginally”: The p did not reach the standard level of significance (p of .05 or less). Therefore, the authors could not say that the results were statistically significant.


perceived evaluation pressures”: worries about being judged










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