helpful professor logo

15 Famous Experiments and Case Studies in Psychology

psychology theories, explained below

Psychology has seen thousands upon thousands of research studies over the years. Most of these studies have helped shape our current understanding of human thoughts, behavior, and feelings.

The psychology case studies in this list are considered classic examples of psychological case studies and experiments, which are still being taught in introductory psychology courses up to this day.

Some studies, however, were downright shocking and controversial that you’d probably wonder why such studies were conducted back in the day. Imagine participating in an experiment for a small reward or extra class credit, only to be left scarred for life. These kinds of studies, however, paved the way for a more ethical approach to studying psychology and implementation of research standards such as the use of debriefing in psychology research .

Case Study vs. Experiment

Before we dive into the list of the most famous studies in psychology, let us first review the difference between case studies and experiments.

  • It is an in-depth study and analysis of an individual, group, community, or phenomenon. The results of a case study cannot be applied to the whole population, but they can provide insights for further studies.
  • It often uses qualitative research methods such as observations, surveys, and interviews.
  • It is often conducted in real-life settings rather than in controlled environments.
  • An experiment is a type of study done on a sample or group of random participants, the results of which can be generalized to the whole population.
  • It often uses quantitative research methods that rely on numbers and statistics.
  • It is conducted in controlled environments, wherein some things or situations are manipulated.

See Also: Experimental vs Observational Studies

Famous Experiments in Psychology

1. the marshmallow experiment.

Psychologist Walter Mischel conducted the marshmallow experiment at Stanford University in the 1960s to early 1970s. It was a simple test that aimed to define the connection between delayed gratification and success in life.

The instructions were fairly straightforward: children ages 4-6 were presented a piece of marshmallow on a table and they were told that they would receive a second piece if they could wait for 15 minutes without eating the first marshmallow.

About one-third of the 600 participants succeeded in delaying gratification to receive the second marshmallow. Mischel and his team followed up on these participants in the 1990s, learning that those who had the willpower to wait for a larger reward experienced more success in life in terms of SAT scores and other metrics.

This case study also supported self-control theory , a theory in criminology that holds that people with greater self-control are less likely to end up in trouble with the law!

The classic marshmallow experiment, however, was debunked in a 2018 replication study done by Tyler Watts and colleagues.

This more recent experiment had a larger group of participants (900) and a better representation of the general population when it comes to race and ethnicity. In this study, the researchers found out that the ability to wait for a second marshmallow does not depend on willpower alone but more so on the economic background and social status of the participants.

2. The Bystander Effect

In 1694, Kitty Genovese was murdered in the neighborhood of Kew Gardens, New York. It was told that there were up to 38 witnesses and onlookers in the vicinity of the crime scene, but nobody did anything to stop the murder or call for help.

Such tragedy was the catalyst that inspired social psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley to formulate the phenomenon called bystander effect or bystander apathy .

Subsequent investigations showed that this story was exaggerated and inaccurate, as there were actually only about a dozen witnesses, at least two of whom called the police. But the case of Kitty Genovese led to various studies that aim to shed light on the bystander phenomenon.

Latane and Darley tested bystander intervention in an experimental study . Participants were asked to answer a questionnaire inside a room, and they would either be alone or with two other participants (who were actually actors or confederates in the study). Smoke would then come out from under the door. The reaction time of participants was tested — how long would it take them to report the smoke to the authorities or the experimenters?

The results showed that participants who were alone in the room reported the smoke faster than participants who were with two passive others. The study suggests that the more onlookers are present in an emergency situation, the less likely someone would step up to help, a social phenomenon now popularly called the bystander effect.

3. Asch Conformity Study

Have you ever made a decision against your better judgment just to fit in with your friends or family? The Asch Conformity Studies will help you understand this kind of situation better.

In this experiment, a group of participants were shown three numbered lines of different lengths and asked to identify the longest of them all. However, only one true participant was present in every group and the rest were actors, most of whom told the wrong answer.

Results showed that the participants went for the wrong answer, even though they knew which line was the longest one in the first place. When the participants were asked why they identified the wrong one, they said that they didn’t want to be branded as strange or peculiar.

This study goes to show that there are situations in life when people prefer fitting in than being right. It also tells that there is power in numbers — a group’s decision can overwhelm a person and make them doubt their judgment.

4. The Bobo Doll Experiment

The Bobo Doll Experiment was conducted by Dr. Albert Bandura, the proponent of social learning theory .

Back in the 1960s, the Nature vs. Nurture debate was a popular topic among psychologists. Bandura contributed to this discussion by proposing that human behavior is mostly influenced by environmental rather than genetic factors.

In the Bobo Doll Experiment, children were divided into three groups: one group was shown a video in which an adult acted aggressively toward the Bobo Doll, the second group was shown a video in which an adult play with the Bobo Doll, and the third group served as the control group where no video was shown.

The children were then led to a room with different kinds of toys, including the Bobo Doll they’ve seen in the video. Results showed that children tend to imitate the adults in the video. Those who were presented the aggressive model acted aggressively toward the Bobo Doll while those who were presented the passive model showed less aggression.

While the Bobo Doll Experiment can no longer be replicated because of ethical concerns, it has laid out the foundations of social learning theory and helped us understand the degree of influence adult behavior has on children.

5. Blue Eye / Brown Eye Experiment

Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, third-grade teacher Jane Elliott conducted an experiment in her class. Although not a formal experiment in controlled settings, A Class Divided is a good example of a social experiment to help children understand the concept of racism and discrimination.

The class was divided into two groups: blue-eyed children and brown-eyed children. For one day, Elliott gave preferential treatment to her blue-eyed students, giving them more attention and pampering them with rewards. The next day, it was the brown-eyed students’ turn to receive extra favors and privileges.

As a result, whichever group of students was given preferential treatment performed exceptionally well in class, had higher quiz scores, and recited more frequently; students who were discriminated against felt humiliated, answered poorly in tests, and became uncertain with their answers in class.

This study is now widely taught in sociocultural psychology classes.

6. Stanford Prison Experiment

One of the most controversial and widely-cited studies in psychology is the Stanford Prison Experiment , conducted by Philip Zimbardo at the basement of the Stanford psychology building in 1971. The hypothesis was that abusive behavior in prisons is influenced by the personality traits of the prisoners and prison guards.

The participants in the experiment were college students who were randomly assigned as either a prisoner or a prison guard. The prison guards were then told to run the simulated prison for two weeks. However, the experiment had to be stopped in just 6 days.

The prison guards abused their authority and harassed the prisoners through verbal and physical means. The prisoners, on the other hand, showed submissive behavior. Zimbardo decided to stop the experiment because the prisoners were showing signs of emotional and physical breakdown.

Although the experiment wasn’t completed, the results strongly showed that people can easily get into a social role when others expect them to, especially when it’s highly stereotyped .

7. The Halo Effect

Have you ever wondered why toothpastes and other dental products are endorsed in advertisements by celebrities more often than dentists? The Halo Effect is one of the reasons!

The Halo Effect shows how one favorable attribute of a person can gain them positive perceptions in other attributes. In the case of product advertisements, attractive celebrities are also perceived as intelligent and knowledgeable of a certain subject matter even though they’re not technically experts.

The Halo Effect originated in a classic study done by Edward Thorndike in the early 1900s. He asked military commanding officers to rate their subordinates based on different qualities, such as physical appearance, leadership, dependability, and intelligence.

The results showed that high ratings of a particular quality influences the ratings of other qualities, producing a halo effect of overall high ratings. The opposite also applied, which means that a negative rating in one quality also correlated to negative ratings in other qualities.

Experiments on the Halo Effect came in various formats as well, supporting Thorndike’s original theory. This phenomenon suggests that our perception of other people’s overall personality is hugely influenced by a quality that we focus on.

8. Cognitive Dissonance

There are experiences in our lives when our beliefs and behaviors do not align with each other and we try to justify them in our minds. This is cognitive dissonance , which was studied in an experiment by Leon Festinger and James Carlsmith back in 1959.

In this experiment, participants had to go through a series of boring and repetitive tasks, such as spending an hour turning pegs in a wooden knob. After completing the tasks, they were then paid either $1 or $20 to tell the next participants that the tasks were extremely fun and enjoyable. Afterwards, participants were asked to rate the experiment. Those who were given $1 rated the experiment as more interesting and fun than those who received $20.

The results showed that those who received a smaller incentive to lie experienced cognitive dissonance — $1 wasn’t enough incentive for that one hour of painstakingly boring activity, so the participants had to justify that they had fun anyway.

Famous Case Studies in Psychology

9. little albert.

In 1920, behaviourist theorists John Watson and Rosalie Rayner experimented on a 9-month-old baby to test the effects of classical conditioning in instilling fear in humans.

This was such a controversial study that it gained popularity in psychology textbooks and syllabi because it is a classic example of unethical research studies done in the name of science.

In one of the experiments, Little Albert was presented with a harmless stimulus or object, a white rat, which he wasn’t scared of at first. But every time Little Albert would see the white rat, the researchers would play a scary sound of hammer and steel. After about 6 pairings, Little Albert learned to fear the rat even without the scary sound.

Little Albert developed signs of fear to different objects presented to him through classical conditioning . He even generalized his fear to other stimuli not present in the course of the experiment.

10. Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage is such a celebrity in Psych 101 classes, even though the way he rose to popularity began with a tragic accident. He was a resident of Central Vermont and worked in the construction of a new railway line in the mid-1800s. One day, an explosive went off prematurely, sending a tamping iron straight into his face and through his brain.

Gage survived the accident, fortunately, something that is considered a feat even up to this day. He managed to find a job as a stagecoach after the accident. However, his family and friends reported that his personality changed so much that “he was no longer Gage” (Harlow, 1868).

New evidence on the case of Phineas Gage has since come to light, thanks to modern scientific studies and medical tests. However, there are still plenty of mysteries revolving around his brain damage and subsequent recovery.

11. Anna O.

Anna O., a social worker and feminist of German Jewish descent, was one of the first patients to receive psychoanalytic treatment.

Her real name was Bertha Pappenheim and she inspired much of Sigmund Freud’s works and books on psychoanalytic theory, although they hadn’t met in person. Their connection was through Joseph Breuer, Freud’s mentor when he was still starting his clinical practice.

Anna O. suffered from paralysis, personality changes, hallucinations, and rambling speech, but her doctors could not find the cause. Joseph Breuer was then called to her house for intervention and he performed psychoanalysis, also called the “talking cure”, on her.

Breuer would tell Anna O. to say anything that came to her mind, such as her thoughts, feelings, and childhood experiences. It was noted that her symptoms subsided by talking things out.

However, Breuer later referred Anna O. to the Bellevue Sanatorium, where she recovered and set out to be a renowned writer and advocate of women and children.

12. Patient HM

H.M., or Henry Gustav Molaison, was a severe amnesiac who had been the subject of countless psychological and neurological studies.

Henry was 27 when he underwent brain surgery to cure the epilepsy that he had been experiencing since childhood. In an unfortunate turn of events, he lost his memory because of the surgery and his brain also became unable to store long-term memories.

He was then regarded as someone living solely in the present, forgetting an experience as soon as it happened and only remembering bits and pieces of his past. Over the years, his amnesia and the structure of his brain had helped neuropsychologists learn more about cognitive functions .

Suzanne Corkin, a researcher, writer, and good friend of H.M., recently published a book about his life. Entitled Permanent Present Tense , this book is both a memoir and a case study following the struggles and joys of Henry Gustav Molaison.

13. Chris Sizemore

Chris Sizemore gained celebrity status in the psychology community when she was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociative identity disorder.

Sizemore has several alter egos, which included Eve Black, Eve White, and Jane. Various papers about her stated that these alter egos were formed as a coping mechanism against the traumatic experiences she underwent in her childhood.

Sizemore said that although she has succeeded in unifying her alter egos into one dominant personality, there were periods in the past experienced by only one of her alter egos. For example, her husband married her Eve White alter ego and not her.

Her story inspired her psychiatrists to write a book about her, entitled The Three Faces of Eve , which was then turned into a 1957 movie of the same title.

14. David Reimer

When David was just 8 months old, he lost his penis because of a botched circumcision operation.

Psychologist John Money then advised Reimer’s parents to raise him as a girl instead, naming him Brenda. His gender reassignment was supported by subsequent surgery and hormonal therapy.

Money described Reimer’s gender reassignment as a success, but problems started to arise as Reimer was growing up. His boyishness was not completely subdued by the hormonal therapy. When he was 14 years old, he learned about the secrets of his past and he underwent gender reassignment to become male again.

Reimer became an advocate for children undergoing the same difficult situation he had been. His life story ended when he was 38 as he took his own life.

15. Kim Peek

Kim Peek was the inspiration behind Rain Man , an Oscar-winning movie about an autistic savant character played by Dustin Hoffman.

The movie was released in 1988, a time when autism wasn’t widely known and acknowledged yet. So it was an eye-opener for many people who watched the film.

In reality, Kim Peek was a non-autistic savant. He was exceptionally intelligent despite the brain abnormalities he was born with. He was like a walking encyclopedia, knowledgeable about travel routes, US zip codes, historical facts, and classical music. He also read and memorized approximately 12,000 books in his lifetime.

This list of experiments and case studies in psychology is just the tip of the iceberg! There are still countless interesting psychology studies that you can explore if you want to learn more about human behavior and dynamics.

You can also conduct your own mini-experiment or participate in a study conducted in your school or neighborhood. Just remember that there are ethical standards to follow so as not to repeat the lasting physical and emotional harm done to Little Albert or the Stanford Prison Experiment participants.

Asch, S. E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: I. A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 70 (9), 1–70.

Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63 (3), 575–582.

Elliott, J., Yale University., WGBH (Television station : Boston, Mass.), & PBS DVD (Firm). (2003). A class divided. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Films.

Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58 (2), 203–210.

Haney, C., Banks, W. C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1973). A study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison. Naval Research Review , 30 , 4-17.

Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10 (3), 215–221.

Mischel, W. (2014). The Marshmallow Test: Mastering self-control. Little, Brown and Co.

Thorndike, E. (1920) A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology , 4 , 25-29.

Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of experimental psychology , 3 (1), 1.


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) 5 Top Tips for Succeeding at University
  • Chris Drew (PhD) 50 Durable Goods Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) 100 Consumer Goods Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) 30 Globalization Pros and Cons

Leave a Comment Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • The 25 Most Influential Psychological Experiments in History

Most Influential Psychological Experiments in History

While each year thousands and thousands of studies are completed in the many specialty areas of psychology, there are a handful that, over the years, have had a lasting impact in the psychological community as a whole. Some of these were dutifully conducted, keeping within the confines of ethical and practical guidelines. Others pushed the boundaries of human behavior during their psychological experiments and created controversies that still linger to this day. And still others were not designed to be true psychological experiments, but ended up as beacons to the psychological community in proving or disproving theories.

This is a list of the 25 most influential psychological experiments still being taught to psychology students of today.

1. A Class Divided

Study conducted by: jane elliott.

Study Conducted in 1968 in an Iowa classroom

A Class Divided Study Conducted By: Jane Elliott

Experiment Details: Jane Elliott’s famous experiment was inspired by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the inspirational life that he led. The third grade teacher developed an exercise, or better yet, a psychological experiment, to help her Caucasian students understand the effects of racism and prejudice.

Elliott divided her class into two separate groups: blue-eyed students and brown-eyed students. On the first day, she labeled the blue-eyed group as the superior group and from that point forward they had extra privileges, leaving the brown-eyed children to represent the minority group. She discouraged the groups from interacting and singled out individual students to stress the negative characteristics of the children in the minority group. What this exercise showed was that the children’s behavior changed almost instantaneously. The group of blue-eyed students performed better academically and even began bullying their brown-eyed classmates. The brown-eyed group experienced lower self-confidence and worse academic performance. The next day, she reversed the roles of the two groups and the blue-eyed students became the minority group.

At the end of the experiment, the children were so relieved that they were reported to have embraced one another and agreed that people should not be judged based on outward appearances. This exercise has since been repeated many times with similar outcomes.

For more information click here

2. Asch Conformity Study

Study conducted by: dr. solomon asch.

Study Conducted in 1951 at Swarthmore College

Asch Conformity Study

Experiment Details: Dr. Solomon Asch conducted a groundbreaking study that was designed to evaluate a person’s likelihood to conform to a standard when there is pressure to do so.

A group of participants were shown pictures with lines of various lengths and were then asked a simple question: Which line is longest? The tricky part of this study was that in each group only one person was a true participant. The others were actors with a script. Most of the actors were instructed to give the wrong answer. Strangely, the one true participant almost always agreed with the majority, even though they knew they were giving the wrong answer.

The results of this study are important when we study social interactions among individuals in groups. This study is a famous example of the temptation many of us experience to conform to a standard during group situations and it showed that people often care more about being the same as others than they do about being right. It is still recognized as one of the most influential psychological experiments for understanding human behavior.

3. Bobo Doll Experiment

Study conducted by: dr. alburt bandura.

Study Conducted between 1961-1963 at Stanford University

Bobo Doll Experiment

In his groundbreaking study he separated participants into three groups:

  • one was exposed to a video of an adult showing aggressive behavior towards a Bobo doll
  • another was exposed to video of a passive adult playing with the Bobo doll
  • the third formed a control group

Children watched their assigned video and then were sent to a room with the same doll they had seen in the video (with the exception of those in the control group). What the researcher found was that children exposed to the aggressive model were more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior towards the doll themselves. The other groups showed little imitative aggressive behavior. For those children exposed to the aggressive model, the number of derivative physical aggressions shown by the boys was 38.2 and 12.7 for the girls.

The study also showed that boys exhibited more aggression when exposed to aggressive male models than boys exposed to aggressive female models. When exposed to aggressive male models, the number of aggressive instances exhibited by boys averaged 104. This is compared to 48.4 aggressive instances exhibited by boys who were exposed to aggressive female models.

While the results for the girls show similar findings, the results were less drastic. When exposed to aggressive female models, the number of aggressive instances exhibited by girls averaged 57.7. This is compared to 36.3 aggressive instances exhibited by girls who were exposed to aggressive male models. The results concerning gender differences strongly supported Bandura’s secondary prediction that children will be more strongly influenced by same-sex models. The Bobo Doll Experiment showed a groundbreaking way to study human behavior and it’s influences.

4. Car Crash Experiment

Study conducted by: elizabeth loftus and john palmer.

Study Conducted in 1974 at The University of California in Irvine

Car Crash Experiment

The participants watched slides of a car accident and were asked to describe what had happened as if they were eyewitnesses to the scene. The participants were put into two groups and each group was questioned using different wording such as “how fast was the car driving at the time of impact?” versus “how fast was the car going when it smashed into the other car?” The experimenters found that the use of different verbs affected the participants’ memories of the accident, showing that memory can be easily distorted.

This research suggests that memory can be easily manipulated by questioning technique. This means that information gathered after the event can merge with original memory causing incorrect recall or reconstructive memory. The addition of false details to a memory of an event is now referred to as confabulation. This concept has very important implications for the questions used in police interviews of eyewitnesses.

5. Cognitive Dissonance Experiment

Study conducted by: leon festinger and james carlsmith.

Study Conducted in 1957 at Stanford University

Experiment Details: The concept of cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting:

This conflict produces an inherent feeling of discomfort leading to a change in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to minimize or eliminate the discomfort and restore balance.

Cognitive dissonance was first investigated by Leon Festinger, after an observational study of a cult that believed that the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood. Out of this study was born an intriguing experiment conducted by Festinger and Carlsmith where participants were asked to perform a series of dull tasks (such as turning pegs in a peg board for an hour). Participant’s initial attitudes toward this task were highly negative.

They were then paid either $1 or $20 to tell a participant waiting in the lobby that the tasks were really interesting. Almost all of the participants agreed to walk into the waiting room and persuade the next participant that the boring experiment would be fun. When the participants were later asked to evaluate the experiment, the participants who were paid only $1 rated the tedious task as more fun and enjoyable than the participants who were paid $20 to lie.

Being paid only $1 is not sufficient incentive for lying and so those who were paid $1 experienced dissonance. They could only overcome that cognitive dissonance by coming to believe that the tasks really were interesting and enjoyable. Being paid $20 provides a reason for turning pegs and there is therefore no dissonance.

6. Fantz’s Looking Chamber

Study conducted by: robert l. fantz.

Study Conducted in 1961 at the University of Illinois

Experiment Details: The study conducted by Robert L. Fantz is among the simplest, yet most important in the field of infant development and vision. In 1961, when this experiment was conducted, there very few ways to study what was going on in the mind of an infant. Fantz realized that the best way was to simply watch the actions and reactions of infants. He understood the fundamental factor that if there is something of interest near humans, they generally look at it.

To test this concept, Fantz set up a display board with two pictures attached. On one was a bulls-eye. On the other was the sketch of a human face. This board was hung in a chamber where a baby could lie safely underneath and see both images. Then, from behind the board, invisible to the baby, he peeked through a hole to watch what the baby looked at. This study showed that a two-month old baby looked twice as much at the human face as it did at the bulls-eye. This suggests that human babies have some powers of pattern and form selection. Before this experiment it was thought that babies looked out onto a chaotic world of which they could make little sense.

7. Hawthorne Effect

Study conducted by: henry a. landsberger.

Study Conducted in 1955 at Hawthorne Works in Chicago, Illinois

Hawthorne Effect

Landsberger performed the study by analyzing data from experiments conducted between 1924 and 1932, by Elton Mayo, at the Hawthorne Works near Chicago. The company had commissioned studies to evaluate whether the level of light in a building changed the productivity of the workers. What Mayo found was that the level of light made no difference in productivity. The workers increased their output whenever the amount of light was switched from a low level to a high level, or vice versa.

The researchers noticed a tendency that the workers’ level of efficiency increased when any variable was manipulated. The study showed that the output changed simply because the workers were aware that they were under observation. The conclusion was that the workers felt important because they were pleased to be singled out. They increased productivity as a result. Being singled out was the factor dictating increased productivity, not the changing lighting levels, or any of the other factors that they experimented upon.

The Hawthorne Effect has become one of the hardest inbuilt biases to eliminate or factor into the design of any experiment in psychology and beyond.

8. Kitty Genovese Case

Study conducted by: new york police force.

Study Conducted in 1964 in New York City

Experiment Details: The murder case of Kitty Genovese was never intended to be a psychological experiment, however it ended up having serious implications for the field.

According to a New York Times article, almost 40 neighbors witnessed Kitty Genovese being savagely attacked and murdered in Queens, New York in 1964. Not one neighbor called the police for help. Some reports state that the attacker briefly left the scene and later returned to “finish off” his victim. It was later uncovered that many of these facts were exaggerated. (There were more likely only a dozen witnesses and records show that some calls to police were made).

What this case later become famous for is the “Bystander Effect,” which states that the more bystanders that are present in a social situation, the less likely it is that anyone will step in and help. This effect has led to changes in medicine, psychology and many other areas. One famous example is the way CPR is taught to new learners. All students in CPR courses learn that they must assign one bystander the job of alerting authorities which minimizes the chances of no one calling for assistance.

9. Learned Helplessness Experiment

Study conducted by: martin seligman.

Study Conducted in 1967 at the University of Pennsylvania

Learned Helplessness Experiment

Seligman’s experiment involved the ringing of a bell and then the administration of a light shock to a dog. After a number of pairings, the dog reacted to the shock even before it happened. As soon as the dog heard the bell, he reacted as though he’d already been shocked.

During the course of this study something unexpected happened. Each dog was placed in a large crate that was divided down the middle with a low fence. The dog could see and jump over the fence easily. The floor on one side of the fence was electrified, but not on the other side of the fence. Seligman placed each dog on the electrified side and administered a light shock. He expected the dog to jump to the non-shocking side of the fence. In an unexpected turn, the dogs simply laid down.

The hypothesis was that as the dogs learned from the first part of the experiment that there was nothing they could do to avoid the shocks, they gave up in the second part of the experiment. To prove this hypothesis the experimenters brought in a new set of animals and found that dogs with no history in the experiment would jump over the fence.

This condition was described as learned helplessness. A human or animal does not attempt to get out of a negative situation because the past has taught them that they are helpless.

10. Little Albert Experiment

Study conducted by: john b. watson and rosalie rayner.

Study Conducted in 1920 at Johns Hopkins University

Little Albert Experiment

The experiment began by placing a white rat in front of the infant, who initially had no fear of the animal. Watson then produced a loud sound by striking a steel bar with a hammer every time little Albert was presented with the rat. After several pairings (the noise and the presentation of the white rat), the boy began to cry and exhibit signs of fear every time the rat appeared in the room. Watson also created similar conditioned reflexes with other common animals and objects (rabbits, Santa beard, etc.) until Albert feared them all.

This study proved that classical conditioning works on humans. One of its most important implications is that adult fears are often connected to early childhood experiences.

11. Magical Number Seven

Study conducted by: george a. miller.

Study Conducted in 1956 at Princeton University

Experiment Details:   Frequently referred to as “ Miller’s Law,” the Magical Number Seven experiment purports that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. This means that the human memory capacity typically includes strings of words or concepts ranging from 5-9. This information on the limits to the capacity for processing information became one of the most highly cited papers in psychology.

The Magical Number Seven Experiment was published in 1956 by cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Princeton University’s Department of Psychology in Psychological Review .  In the article, Miller discussed a concurrence between the limits of one-dimensional absolute judgment and the limits of short-term memory.

In a one-dimensional absolute-judgment task, a person is presented with a number of stimuli that vary on one dimension (such as 10 different tones varying only in pitch). The person responds to each stimulus with a corresponding response (learned before).

Performance is almost perfect up to five or six different stimuli but declines as the number of different stimuli is increased. This means that a human’s maximum performance on one-dimensional absolute judgment can be described as an information store with the maximum capacity of approximately 2 to 3 bits of information There is the ability to distinguish between four and eight alternatives.

12. Pavlov’s Dog Experiment

Study conducted by: ivan pavlov.

Study Conducted in the 1890s at the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia

Pavlov’s Dog Experiment

Pavlov began with the simple idea that there are some things that a dog does not need to learn. He observed that dogs do not learn to salivate when they see food. This reflex is “hard wired” into the dog. This is an unconditioned response (a stimulus-response connection that required no learning).

Pavlov outlined that there are unconditioned responses in the animal by presenting a dog with a bowl of food and then measuring its salivary secretions. In the experiment, Pavlov used a bell as his neutral stimulus. Whenever he gave food to his dogs, he also rang a bell. After a number of repeats of this procedure, he tried the bell on its own. What he found was that the bell on its own now caused an increase in salivation. The dog had learned to associate the bell and the food. This learning created a new behavior. The dog salivated when he heard the bell. Because this response was learned (or conditioned), it is called a conditioned response. The neutral stimulus has become a conditioned stimulus.

This theory came to be known as classical conditioning.

13. Robbers Cave Experiment

Study conducted by: muzafer and carolyn sherif.

Study Conducted in 1954 at the University of Oklahoma

Experiment Details: This experiment, which studied group conflict, is considered by most to be outside the lines of what is considered ethically sound.

In 1954 researchers at the University of Oklahoma assigned 22 eleven- and twelve-year-old boys from similar backgrounds into two groups. The two groups were taken to separate areas of a summer camp facility where they were able to bond as social units. The groups were housed in separate cabins and neither group knew of the other’s existence for an entire week. The boys bonded with their cabin mates during that time. Once the two groups were allowed to have contact, they showed definite signs of prejudice and hostility toward each other even though they had only been given a very short time to develop their social group. To increase the conflict between the groups, the experimenters had them compete against each other in a series of activities. This created even more hostility and eventually the groups refused to eat in the same room. The final phase of the experiment involved turning the rival groups into friends. The fun activities the experimenters had planned like shooting firecrackers and watching movies did not initially work, so they created teamwork exercises where the two groups were forced to collaborate. At the end of the experiment, the boys decided to ride the same bus home, demonstrating that conflict can be resolved and prejudice overcome through cooperation.

Many critics have compared this study to Golding’s Lord of the Flies novel as a classic example of prejudice and conflict resolution.

14. Ross’ False Consensus Effect Study

Study conducted by: lee ross.

Study Conducted in 1977 at Stanford University

Experiment Details: In 1977, a social psychology professor at Stanford University named Lee Ross conducted an experiment that, in lay terms, focuses on how people can incorrectly conclude that others think the same way they do, or form a “false consensus” about the beliefs and preferences of others. Ross conducted the study in order to outline how the “false consensus effect” functions in humans.

Featured Programs

In the first part of the study, participants were asked to read about situations in which a conflict occurred and then were told two alternative ways of responding to the situation. They were asked to do three things:

  • Guess which option other people would choose
  • Say which option they themselves would choose
  • Describe the attributes of the person who would likely choose each of the two options

What the study showed was that most of the subjects believed that other people would do the same as them, regardless of which of the two responses they actually chose themselves. This phenomenon is referred to as the false consensus effect, where an individual thinks that other people think the same way they do when they may not. The second observation coming from this important study is that when participants were asked to describe the attributes of the people who will likely make the choice opposite of their own, they made bold and sometimes negative predictions about the personalities of those who did not share their choice.

15. The Schacter and Singer Experiment on Emotion

Study conducted by: stanley schachter and jerome e. singer.

Study Conducted in 1962 at Columbia University

Experiment Details: In 1962 Schachter and Singer conducted a ground breaking experiment to prove their theory of emotion.

In the study, a group of 184 male participants were injected with epinephrine, a hormone that induces arousal including increased heartbeat, trembling, and rapid breathing. The research participants were told that they were being injected with a new medication to test their eyesight. The first group of participants was informed the possible side effects that the injection might cause while the second group of participants were not. The participants were then placed in a room with someone they thought was another participant, but was actually a confederate in the experiment. The confederate acted in one of two ways: euphoric or angry. Participants who had not been informed about the effects of the injection were more likely to feel either happier or angrier than those who had been informed.

What Schachter and Singer were trying to understand was the ways in which cognition or thoughts influence human emotion. Their study illustrates the importance of how people interpret their physiological states, which form an important component of your emotions. Though their cognitive theory of emotional arousal dominated the field for two decades, it has been criticized for two main reasons: the size of the effect seen in the experiment was not that significant and other researchers had difficulties repeating the experiment.

16. Selective Attention / Invisible Gorilla Experiment

Study conducted by: daniel simons and christopher chabris.

Study Conducted in 1999 at Harvard University

Experiment Details: In 1999 Simons and Chabris conducted their famous awareness test at Harvard University.

Participants in the study were asked to watch a video and count how many passes occurred between basketball players on the white team. The video moves at a moderate pace and keeping track of the passes is a relatively easy task. What most people fail to notice amidst their counting is that in the middle of the test, a man in a gorilla suit walked onto the court and stood in the center before walking off-screen.

The study found that the majority of the subjects did not notice the gorilla at all, proving that humans often overestimate their ability to effectively multi-task. What the study set out to prove is that when people are asked to attend to one task, they focus so strongly on that element that they may miss other important details.

17. Stanford Prison Study

Study conducted by philip zimbardo.

Study Conducted in 1971 at Stanford University

Stanford Prison Study

The Stanford Prison Experiment was designed to study behavior of “normal” individuals when assigned a role of prisoner or guard. College students were recruited to participate. They were assigned roles of “guard” or “inmate.”  Zimbardo played the role of the warden. The basement of the psychology building was the set of the prison. Great care was taken to make it look and feel as realistic as possible.

The prison guards were told to run a prison for two weeks. They were told not to physically harm any of the inmates during the study. After a few days, the prison guards became very abusive verbally towards the inmates. Many of the prisoners became submissive to those in authority roles. The Stanford Prison Experiment inevitably had to be cancelled because some of the participants displayed troubling signs of breaking down mentally.

Although the experiment was conducted very unethically, many psychologists believe that the findings showed how much human behavior is situational. People will conform to certain roles if the conditions are right. The Stanford Prison Experiment remains one of the most famous psychology experiments of all time.

18. Stanley Milgram Experiment

Study conducted by stanley milgram.

Study Conducted in 1961 at Stanford University

Experiment Details: This 1961 study was conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. It was designed to measure people’s willingness to obey authority figures when instructed to perform acts that conflicted with their morals. The study was based on the premise that humans will inherently take direction from authority figures from very early in life.

Participants were told they were participating in a study on memory. They were asked to watch another person (an actor) do a memory test. They were instructed to press a button that gave an electric shock each time the person got a wrong answer. (The actor did not actually receive the shocks, but pretended they did).

Participants were told to play the role of “teacher” and administer electric shocks to “the learner,” every time they answered a question incorrectly. The experimenters asked the participants to keep increasing the shocks. Most of them obeyed even though the individual completing the memory test appeared to be in great pain. Despite these protests, many participants continued the experiment when the authority figure urged them to. They increased the voltage after each wrong answer until some eventually administered what would be lethal electric shocks.

This experiment showed that humans are conditioned to obey authority and will usually do so even if it goes against their natural morals or common sense.

19. Surrogate Mother Experiment

Study conducted by: harry harlow.

Study Conducted from 1957-1963 at the University of Wisconsin

Experiment Details: In a series of controversial experiments during the late 1950s and early 1960s, Harry Harlow studied the importance of a mother’s love for healthy childhood development.

In order to do this he separated infant rhesus monkeys from their mothers a few hours after birth and left them to be raised by two “surrogate mothers.” One of the surrogates was made of wire with an attached bottle for food. The other was made of soft terrycloth but lacked food. The researcher found that the baby monkeys spent much more time with the cloth mother than the wire mother, thereby proving that affection plays a greater role than sustenance when it comes to childhood development. They also found that the monkeys that spent more time cuddling the soft mother grew up to healthier.

This experiment showed that love, as demonstrated by physical body contact, is a more important aspect of the parent-child bond than the provision of basic needs. These findings also had implications in the attachment between fathers and their infants when the mother is the source of nourishment.

20. The Good Samaritan Experiment

Study conducted by: john darley and daniel batson.

Study Conducted in 1973 at The Princeton Theological Seminary (Researchers were from Princeton University)

Experiment Details: In 1973, an experiment was created by John Darley and Daniel Batson, to investigate the potential causes that underlie altruistic behavior. The researchers set out three hypotheses they wanted to test:

  • People thinking about religion and higher principles would be no more inclined to show helping behavior than laymen.
  • People in a rush would be much less likely to show helping behavior.
  • People who are religious for personal gain would be less likely to help than people who are religious because they want to gain some spiritual and personal insights into the meaning of life.

Student participants were given some religious teaching and instruction. They were then were told to travel from one building to the next. Between the two buildings was a man lying injured and appearing to be in dire need of assistance. The first variable being tested was the degree of urgency impressed upon the subjects, with some being told not to rush and others being informed that speed was of the essence.

The results of the experiment were intriguing, with the haste of the subject proving to be the overriding factor. When the subject was in no hurry, nearly two-thirds of people stopped to lend assistance. When the subject was in a rush, this dropped to one in ten.

People who were on the way to deliver a speech about helping others were nearly twice as likely to help as those delivering other sermons,. This showed that the thoughts of the individual were a factor in determining helping behavior. Religious beliefs did not appear to make much difference on the results. Being religious for personal gain, or as part of a spiritual quest, did not appear to make much of an impact on the amount of helping behavior shown.

21. The Halo Effect Experiment

Study conducted by: richard e. nisbett and timothy decamp wilson.

Study Conducted in 1977 at the University of Michigan

Experiment Details: The Halo Effect states that people generally assume that people who are physically attractive are more likely to:

  • be intelligent
  • be friendly
  • display good judgment

To prove their theory, Nisbett and DeCamp Wilson created a study to prove that people have little awareness of the nature of the Halo Effect. They’re not aware that it influences:

  • their personal judgments
  • the production of a more complex social behavior

In the experiment, college students were the research participants. They were asked to evaluate a psychology instructor as they view him in a videotaped interview. The students were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Each group was shown one of two different interviews with the same instructor. The instructor is a native French-speaking Belgian who spoke English with a noticeable accent. In the first video, the instructor presented himself as someone:

  • respectful of his students’ intelligence and motives
  • flexible in his approach to teaching
  • enthusiastic about his subject matter

In the second interview, he presented himself as much more unlikable. He was cold and distrustful toward the students and was quite rigid in his teaching style.

After watching the videos, the subjects were asked to rate the lecturer on:

  • physical appearance

His mannerisms and accent were kept the same in both versions of videos. The subjects were asked to rate the professor on an 8-point scale ranging from “like extremely” to “dislike extremely.” Subjects were also told that the researchers were interested in knowing “how much their liking for the teacher influenced the ratings they just made.” Other subjects were asked to identify how much the characteristics they just rated influenced their liking of the teacher.

After responding to the questionnaire, the respondents were puzzled about their reactions to the videotapes and to the questionnaire items. The students had no idea why they gave one lecturer higher ratings. Most said that how much they liked the lecturer had not affected their evaluation of his individual characteristics at all.

The interesting thing about this study is that people can understand the phenomenon, but they are unaware when it is occurring. Without realizing it, humans make judgments. Even when it is pointed out, they may still deny that it is a product of the halo effect phenomenon.

22. The Marshmallow Test

Study conducted by: walter mischel.

Study Conducted in 1972 at Stanford University

The Marshmallow Test

In his 1972 Marshmallow Experiment, children ages four to six were taken into a room where a marshmallow was placed in front of them on a table. Before leaving each of the children alone in the room, the experimenter informed them that they would receive a second marshmallow if the first one was still on the table after they returned in 15 minutes. The examiner recorded how long each child resisted eating the marshmallow and noted whether it correlated with the child’s success in adulthood. A small number of the 600 children ate the marshmallow immediately and one-third delayed gratification long enough to receive the second marshmallow.

In follow-up studies, Mischel found that those who deferred gratification were significantly more competent and received higher SAT scores than their peers. This characteristic likely remains with a person for life. While this study seems simplistic, the findings outline some of the foundational differences in individual traits that can predict success.

23. The Monster Study

Study conducted by: wendell johnson.

Study Conducted in 1939 at the University of Iowa

Experiment Details: The Monster Study received this negative title due to the unethical methods that were used to determine the effects of positive and negative speech therapy on children.

Wendell Johnson of the University of Iowa selected 22 orphaned children, some with stutters and some without. The children were in two groups. The group of children with stutters was placed in positive speech therapy, where they were praised for their fluency. The non-stutterers were placed in negative speech therapy, where they were disparaged for every mistake in grammar that they made.

As a result of the experiment, some of the children who received negative speech therapy suffered psychological effects and retained speech problems for the rest of their lives. They were examples of the significance of positive reinforcement in education.

The initial goal of the study was to investigate positive and negative speech therapy. However, the implication spanned much further into methods of teaching for young children.

24. Violinist at the Metro Experiment

Study conducted by: staff at the washington post.

Study Conducted in 2007 at a Washington D.C. Metro Train Station

Grammy-winning musician, Joshua Bell

During the study, pedestrians rushed by without realizing that the musician playing at the entrance to the metro stop was Grammy-winning musician, Joshua Bell. Two days before playing in the subway, he sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats average $100. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. In the 45 minutes the musician played his violin, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. Around 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32.

The study and the subsequent article organized by the Washington Post was part of a social experiment looking at:

  • the priorities of people

Gene Weingarten wrote about the social experiment: “In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?” Later he won a Pulitzer Prize for his story. Some of the questions the article addresses are:

  • Do we perceive beauty?
  • Do we stop to appreciate it?
  • Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

As it turns out, many of us are not nearly as perceptive to our environment as we might like to think.

25. Visual Cliff Experiment

Study conducted by: eleanor gibson and richard walk.

Study Conducted in 1959 at Cornell University

Experiment Details: In 1959, psychologists Eleanor Gibson and Richard Walk set out to study depth perception in infants. They wanted to know if depth perception is a learned behavior or if it is something that we are born with. To study this, Gibson and Walk conducted the visual cliff experiment.

They studied 36 infants between the ages of six and 14 months, all of whom could crawl. The infants were placed one at a time on a visual cliff. A visual cliff was created using a large glass table that was raised about a foot off the floor. Half of the glass table had a checker pattern underneath in order to create the appearance of a ‘shallow side.’

In order to create a ‘deep side,’ a checker pattern was created on the floor; this side is the visual cliff. The placement of the checker pattern on the floor creates the illusion of a sudden drop-off. Researchers placed a foot-wide centerboard between the shallow side and the deep side. Gibson and Walk found the following:

  • Nine of the infants did not move off the centerboard.
  • All of the 27 infants who did move crossed into the shallow side when their mothers called them from the shallow side.
  • Three of the infants crawled off the visual cliff toward their mother when called from the deep side.
  • When called from the deep side, the remaining 24 children either crawled to the shallow side or cried because they could not cross the visual cliff and make it to their mother.

What this study helped demonstrate is that depth perception is likely an inborn train in humans.

Among these experiments and psychological tests, we see boundaries pushed and theories taking on a life of their own. It is through the endless stream of psychological experimentation that we can see simple hypotheses become guiding theories for those in this field. The greater field of psychology became a formal field of experimental study in 1879, when Wilhelm Wundt established the first laboratory dedicated solely to psychological research in Leipzig, Germany. Wundt was the first person to refer to himself as a psychologist. Since 1879, psychology has grown into a massive collection of:

  • methods of practice

It’s also a specialty area in the field of healthcare. None of this would have been possible without these and many other important psychological experiments that have stood the test of time.

  • 20 Most Unethical Experiments in Psychology
  • What Careers are in Experimental Psychology?
  • 10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Psychotherapy

About Education: Psychology


About the Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, also in Philadelphia. After a few years in the field she accepted a teaching position at a local college where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.

  • 5 Best Online Ph.D. Marriage and Family Counseling Programs
  • Top 5 Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology
  • 5 Best Online Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology Programs
  • Top 10 Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology
  • 10 Most Affordable Counseling Psychology Online Programs
  • 10 Most Affordable Online Industrial Organizational Psychology Programs
  • 10 Most Affordable Online Developmental Psychology Online Programs
  • 15 Most Affordable Online Sport Psychology Programs
  • 10 Most Affordable School Psychology Online Degree Programs
  • Top 50 Online Psychology Master’s Degree Programs
  • Top 25 Online Master’s in Educational Psychology
  • Top 25 Online Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • Top 10 Most Affordable Online Master’s in Clinical Psychology Degree Programs
  • Top 6 Most Affordable Online PhD/PsyD Programs in Clinical Psychology
  • 50 Great Small Colleges for a Bachelor’s in Psychology
  • 50 Most Innovative University Psychology Departments
  • The 30 Most Influential Cognitive Psychologists Alive Today
  • Top 30 Affordable Online Psychology Degree Programs
  • 30 Most Influential Neuroscientists
  • Top 40 Websites for Psychology Students and Professionals
  • Top 30 Psychology Blogs
  • 25 Celebrities With Animal Phobias
  • Your Phobias Illustrated (Infographic)
  • 15 Inspiring TED Talks on Overcoming Challenges
  • 10 Fascinating Facts About the Psychology of Color
  • 15 Scariest Mental Disorders of All Time
  • 15 Things to Know About Mental Disorders in Animals
  • 13 Most Deranged Serial Killers of All Time

Online Psychology Degree Guide

Site Information

  • About Online Psychology Degree Guide

Online Psychology Degrees Logo

The Top 10 Cases In The History Of Psychology

  • By MS Broudy
  • Published October 11, 2019
  • Last Updated November 13, 2023
  • Read Time 8 mins

psychology cases

Posted October 2019 by M.S. Broudy, B.A. English, B.A. Psychology; M.A. Social Psychology; Ph.D. Psychology; 6 updates since. Reading time: 8 min. Reading level: Grade 8+. Questions on the top cases in psychology history? Email Toni at: [email protected] .

Nothing captivates us more than the human mind. We are constantly attempting to understand the origins of behavior and the intricate workings of the brain. Throughout our history, there have been particular people whose story is so astonishing that they have remained a source of constant curiosity and learning. Here are 10 extraordinary cases from the realm of psychology that continue to fascinate.

Phineas Gage

In 1848, Phineas Gage was working as a foreman on a railroad crew in Vermont. While he was using a tamping iron to pack some explosive powder, the powder exploded, driving the iron through his head. Amazingly, he survived but friends noted that he no longer acted like the same person. He had limited intellectual ability and there were acute changes in his personality. He spewed profanity, was highly impulsive and showed little regard for other people. The change in Gage’s personality is consistent with damage to the orbitofrontal cortex of his frontal lobe, which impacts affect and emotion. It was one of the first cases to show a link between the brain and personality, in addition to cognitive functions.

Louis Victor Leborgne (Tan)

Similar to what H.M. did for memory, the case of Louis Victor Leborgne made significant contributions to the study of language production and comprehension. At age 30, he was admitted to a Paris hospital after losing his ability to speak. He could only say the word “tan” and was later called by that name in recalling his case. Despite his inability to speak, his cognitive functions appeared intact. Leborgne could comprehend what was being said to him and retained his intelligence. In 1861 he met physician Paul Broca after developing Gangrene. Upon Leborgne’s death, Broca examined his brain and found a lesion in his left frontal lobe. Due to Leborgne’s language, Broca postulated that this area of the brain was responsible for speech production. This area of the brain has become known as Broca’s area (Leborgne’s condition is called Broca’s aphasia) and is one of the most significant findings in the neurological study of speech.

Bertha Pappenheim (Anna O)

Bertha Pappenheim is thought to be the first person to undergo psychotherapy. Although her case is usually associated with the work of Sigmund Freud, it was his colleague, Joseph Breuer, who was initially her treating physician. Pappenheim suffered from “hysteria” as well as hallucinations and various ailments. Despite some records noting that she was cured by talk therapy, certain historians report that her improvements were temporary and she was never cured. Although Freud never met Pappenheim, he often publicly referred to Anna O. as the first recipient of the “talking cure” and said it was her case that was responsible for the birth of psychoanalysis.

Little Albert

In 1920, psychologist John Watson and his future wife, Rosalind Rayner, experimented on an infant to prove the theory of classical conditioning. They called the baby “Albert B.” And the case became known as the “Little Albert” experiment. Watson and Rayner paired a white rat and other objects with a loud noise to condition a fear response in Albert. The experiment showed that people can be conditioned to have emotional responses to a previously neutral object and that the response can be generalized to other stimuli. One of the most important conclusions drawn from the experiment is that early childhood experiences can influence later emotional development. Of course, scaring a baby for scientific purposes is now seen as highly unethical. The Little Albert experiment has become known as much for its lack of ethical boundaries as it has for its contributions to behavioral psychology.

Henry Gustav Molaison (H.M.)

In 1955, Henry Gustav Molaison (known frequently in the literature as H.M.) had brain surgery to cure himself of debilitating epilepsy. The surgery involved removing both halves of the hippocampus. Although the operation did relieve most of his seizures, it had an unintended effect: he could no longer form short-term memories. H.M. also suffered some retrograde amnesia, losing memories for 11 years before the operation. Otherwise, his long-term memory was intact. Because the surgery was so precise, it perfectly exhibited the role of the hippocampus in memory creation. H.M. was studied for the rest of his life and, upon his death, donated his brain to science. It would not be a stretch to say that he contributed more to the study of memory than any one subject.

Kitty Genovese

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered on the street in Queens, New York. At the time, it was reported that a multitude of people saw her get killed and did nothing about it. Ever since, this event has been promoted as a prime example of the Bystander Effect: the more people that witness an event, the less likely they are to do something about it. Later investigations found that there were some discrepancies in the reporting and a couple of people at the scene may have indeed tried to report the crime. Although the basic principle of the Bystander Effect has held up over the past 50 years, the real legacy of the case is the research and activism it has inspired. The Genovese case has spurred an immense amount of psychological study across different areas, including forensic psychology and prosocial behavior. Additionally, it impacted the creation of victim services, Good Samaritan laws, and the 911 emergency call system.

Chris Costner Sizemore

You may not know the name Chris Costner Sizemore but you may have heard about her life in the movie “The Three Faces of Eve”. Sizemore’s case is one of the first and most famous involving multiple personalities, which is now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. Until the publicity of her case, the possibility that people could have multiple personalities was, for most, a fantastical notion rather than a reality. In addition, Sizemore’s case shines a light on severe psychological consequences of early childhood trauma. Sizemore believes her different personalities developed as a way to cope with certain disturbing experiences she had when she was younger. After three of her personalities were publicized in the movie, she says she continued to experience other personalities throughout her life.

Genie was brought up in a house of extreme abuse and neglect. For most of her first 13 years, she was strapped onto a chair in a single room with almost no human interaction. When Genie was found, she possessed the development level of a one-year-old. She worked with numerous professionals and learned to develop motor skills and how to comprehend language. She also obtained a decent vocabulary, but could not catch up on her grammatical skills. It seemed Genie had missed a critical period of language development, proving you cannot learn grammatical language later in life. In addition to speech development, the case of Genie exhibits the effects of severe abuse and neglect. It also illustrates the great resiliency of human beings to overcome deprivation.

Kim Peek was the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Rain Man. Although many people believe he was autistic, he was a non-autistic savant, with exceptional mental abilities. His memory and capacity to perform certain mathematical calculations were nothing short of astounding. An MRI exam showed that Peek was lacking the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres. It is thought that this brain abnormality contributed to his special abilities. Despite his uniqueness, his brain was not his biggest contribution to psychology. Ironically, the misconception of his autism helped to raise the profile of the little-known disorder into the mainstream. 

David Reimer (John/Joan Case)

David Reimer was born a boy but his penis was castrated by accident during a circumcision procedure. Instead of trying to reconstruct his penis, it was recommended by a doctor, John Money, that he be brought up as a girl. Money believed that gender was a choice and could override any natural inclination. As a result, when he was 17 months old, David underwent surgery and became Brenda Reimer. Despite Money’s assurances that the process was a success, David’s parents could tell that he was not happy as a girl. Eventually, when he was 14, his parents told him he was born a boy and David elected to reverse the gender reassignment process to become male again. David’s story has become a cautionary tale. He committed suicide at age 38. He spent much of his life campaigning against gender assignment surgery being forced upon children without consent. His case is one of the most high profile indications that gender identity is not a choice, attempting to undo the damage caused by John Money’s false assertions.

More Articles of Interest:

  • How Is Technology Changing The Study Of Psychology?
  • The 10 Most Important People In The History Of Psychology
  • 10 Key Moments in the History of Psychology
  • WWII And Its Impact On Psychology

Trending now

404 Not found


Psychology Case Study Examples: A Deep Dive into Real-life Scenarios

Psychology Case Study Examples

Peeling back the layers of the human mind is no easy task, but psychology case studies can help us do just that. Through these detailed analyses, we’re able to gain a deeper understanding of human behavior, emotions, and cognitive processes. I’ve always found it fascinating how a single person’s experience can shed light on broader psychological principles.

Over the years, psychologists have conducted numerous case studies—each with their own unique insights and implications. These investigations range from Phineas Gage’s accidental lobotomy to Genie Wiley’s tragic tale of isolation. Such examples not only enlighten us about specific disorders or occurrences but also continue to shape our overall understanding of psychology .

As we delve into some noteworthy examples , I assure you’ll appreciate how varied and intricate the field of psychology truly is. Whether you’re a budding psychologist or simply an eager learner, brace yourself for an intriguing exploration into the intricacies of the human psyche.

Understanding Psychology Case Studies

Diving headfirst into the world of psychology, it’s easy to come upon a valuable tool used by psychologists and researchers alike – case studies. I’m here to shed some light on these fascinating tools.

Psychology case studies, for those unfamiliar with them, are in-depth investigations carried out to gain a profound understanding of the subject – whether it’s an individual, group or phenomenon. They’re powerful because they provide detailed insights that other research methods might miss.

Let me share a few examples to clarify this concept further:

  • One notable example is Freud’s study on Little Hans. This case study explored a 5-year-old boy’s fear of horses and related it back to Freud’s theories about psychosexual stages.
  • Another classic example is Genie Wiley (a pseudonym), a feral child who was subjected to severe social isolation during her early years. Her heartbreaking story provided invaluable insights into language acquisition and critical periods in development.

You see, what sets psychology case studies apart is their focus on the ‘why’ and ‘how’. While surveys or experiments might tell us ‘what’, they often don’t dig deep enough into the inner workings behind human behavior.

It’s important though not to take these psychology case studies at face value. As enlightening as they can be, we must remember that they usually focus on one specific instance or individual. Thus, generalizing findings from single-case studies should be done cautiously.

To illustrate my point using numbers: let’s say we have 1 million people suffering from condition X worldwide; if only 20 unique cases have been studied so far (which would be quite typical for rare conditions), then our understanding is based on just 0.002% of the total cases! That’s why multiple sources and types of research are vital when trying to understand complex psychological phenomena fully.

In the grand scheme of things, psychology case studies are just one piece of the puzzle – albeit an essential one. They provide rich, detailed data that can form the foundation for further research and understanding. As we delve deeper into this fascinating field, it’s crucial to appreciate all the tools at our disposal – from surveys and experiments to these insightful case studies.

Importance of Case Studies in Psychology

I’ve always been fascinated by the human mind, and if you’re here, I bet you are too. Let’s dive right into why case studies play such a pivotal role in psychology.

One of the key reasons they matter so much is because they provide detailed insights into specific psychological phenomena. Unlike other research methods that might use large samples but only offer surface-level findings, case studies allow us to study complex behaviors, disorders, and even treatments at an intimate level. They often serve as a catalyst for new theories or help refine existing ones.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at one of psychology’s most famous case studies – Phineas Gage. He was a railroad construction foreman who survived a severe brain injury when an iron rod shot through his skull during an explosion in 1848. The dramatic personality changes he experienced after his accident led to significant advancements in our understanding of the brain’s role in personality and behavior.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that some rare conditions can only be studied through individual cases due to their uncommon nature. For instance, consider Genie Wiley – a girl discovered at age 13 having spent most of her life locked away from society by her parents. Her tragic story gave psychologists valuable insights into language acquisition and critical periods for learning.

Finally yet importantly, case studies also have practical applications for clinicians and therapists. Studying real-life examples can inform treatment plans and provide guidance on how theoretical concepts might apply to actual client situations.

  • Detailed insights: Case studies offer comprehensive views on specific psychological phenomena.
  • Catalyst for new theories: Real-life scenarios help shape our understanding of psychology .
  • Study rare conditions: Unique cases can offer invaluable lessons about uncommon disorders.
  • Practical applications: Clinicians benefit from studying real-world examples.

In short (but without wrapping up), it’s clear that case studies hold immense value within psychology – they illuminate what textbooks often can’t, offering a more nuanced understanding of human behavior.

Different Types of Psychology Case Studies

Diving headfirst into the world of psychology, I can’t help but be fascinated by the myriad types of case studies that revolve around this subject. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Firstly, we’ve got what’s known as ‘Explanatory Case Studies’. These are often used when a researcher wants to clarify complex phenomena or concepts. For example, a psychologist might use an explanatory case study to explore the reasons behind aggressive behavior in children.

Second on our list are ‘Exploratory Case Studies’, typically utilized when new and unexplored areas of research come up. They’re like pioneers; they pave the way for future studies. In psychological terms, exploratory case studies could be conducted to investigate emerging mental health conditions or under-researched therapeutic approaches.

Next up are ‘Descriptive Case Studies’. As the name suggests, these focus on depicting comprehensive and detailed profiles about a particular individual, group, or event within its natural context. A well-known example would be Sigmund Freud’s analysis of “Anna O”, which provided unique insights into hysteria.

Then there are ‘Intrinsic Case Studies’, which delve deep into one specific case because it is intrinsically interesting or unique in some way. It’s sorta like shining a spotlight onto an exceptional phenomenon. An instance would be studying savants—individuals with extraordinary abilities despite significant mental disabilities.

Lastly, we have ‘Instrumental Case Studies’. These aren’t focused on understanding a particular case per se but use it as an instrument to understand something else altogether—a bit like using one puzzle piece to make sense of the whole picture!

So there you have it! From explanatory to instrumental, each type serves its own unique purpose and adds another intriguing layer to our understanding of human behavior and cognition.

Exploring Real-Life Psychology Case Study Examples

Let’s roll up our sleeves and delve into some real-life psychology case study examples. By digging deep, we can glean valuable insights from these studies that have significantly contributed to our understanding of human behavior and mental processes.

First off, let me share the fascinating case of Phineas Gage. This gentleman was a 19th-century railroad construction foreman who survived an accident where a large iron rod was accidentally driven through his skull, damaging his frontal lobes. Astonishingly, he could walk and talk immediately after the accident but underwent dramatic personality changes, becoming impulsive and irresponsible. This case is often referenced in discussions about brain injury and personality change.

Next on my list is Genie Wiley’s heart-wrenching story. She was a victim of severe abuse and neglect resulting in her being socially isolated until she was 13 years old. Due to this horrific experience, Genie couldn’t acquire language skills typically as other children would do during their developmental stages. Her tragic story offers invaluable insight into the critical periods for language development in children.

Then there’s ‘Little Hans’, a classic Freudian case that delves into child psychology. At just five years old, Little Hans developed an irrational fear of horses -or so it seemed- which Sigmund Freud interpreted as symbolic anxiety stemming from suppressed sexual desires towards his mother—quite an interpretation! The study gave us Freud’s Oedipus Complex theory.

Lastly, I’d like to mention Patient H.M., an individual who became amnesiac following surgery to control seizures by removing parts of his hippocampus bilaterally. His inability to form new memories post-operation shed light on how different areas of our brains contribute to memory formation.

Each one of these real-life psychology case studies gives us a unique window into understanding complex human behaviors better – whether it’s dissecting the role our brain plays in shaping personality or unraveling the mysteries of fear, language acquisition, and memory.

How to Analyze a Psychology Case Study

Diving headfirst into a psychology case study, I understand it can seem like an intimidating task. But don’t worry, I’m here to guide you through the process.

First off, it’s essential to go through the case study thoroughly. Read it multiple times if needed. Each reading will likely reveal new information or perspectives you may have missed initially. Look out for any patterns or inconsistencies in the subject’s behavior and make note of them.

Next on your agenda should be understanding the theoretical frameworks that might be applicable in this scenario. Is there a cognitive-behavioral approach at play? Or does psychoanalysis provide better insights? Comparing these theories with observed behavior and symptoms can help shed light on underlying psychological issues.

Now, let’s talk data interpretation. If your case study includes raw data like surveys or diagnostic tests results, you’ll need to analyze them carefully. Here are some steps that could help:

  • Identify what each piece of data represents
  • Look for correlations between different pieces of data
  • Compute statistics (mean, median, mode) if necessary
  • Use graphs or charts for visual representation

Keep in mind; interpreting raw data requires both statistical knowledge and intuition about human behavior.

Finally, drafting conclusions is key in analyzing a psychology case study. Based on your observations, evaluations of theoretical approaches and interpretations of any given data – what do you conclude about the subject’s mental health status? Remember not to jump to conclusions hastily but instead base them solidly on evidence from your analysis.

In all this journey of analysis remember one thing: every person is unique and so are their experiences! So while theories and previous studies guide us, they never define an individual completely.

Applying Lessons from Psychology Case Studies

Let’s dive into how we can apply the lessons learned from psychology case studies. If you’ve ever studied psychology, you’ll know that case studies offer rich insights. They shed light on human behavior, mental health issues, and therapeutic techniques. But it’s not just about understanding theory. It’s also about implementing these valuable lessons in real-world situations.

One of the most famous psychological case studies is Phineas Gage’s story. This 19th-century railroad worker survived a severe brain injury which dramatically altered his personality. From this study, we gained crucial insight into how different brain areas are responsible for various aspects of our personality and behavior.

  • Lesson: Recognizing that damage to specific brain areas can result in personality changes, enabling us to better understand certain mental conditions.

Sigmund Freud’s work with a patient known as ‘Anna O.’ is another landmark psychology case study. Anna displayed what was then called hysteria – symptoms included hallucinations and disturbances in speech and physical coordination – which Freud linked back to repressed memories of traumatic events.

  • Lesson: The importance of exploring an individual’s history for understanding their current psychological problems – a principle at the heart of psychoanalysis.

Then there’s Genie Wiley’s case – a girl who suffered extreme neglect resulting in impaired social and linguistic development. Researchers used her tragic circumstances as an opportunity to explore theories around language acquisition and socialization.

  • Lesson: Reinforcing the critical role early childhood experiences play in shaping cognitive development.

Lastly, let’s consider the Stanford Prison Experiment led by Philip Zimbardo examining how people conform to societal roles even when they lead to immoral actions.

  • Lesson: Highlighting that situational forces can drastically impact human behavior beyond personal characteristics or morality.

These examples demonstrate that psychology case studies aren’t just academic exercises isolated from daily life. Instead, they provide profound lessons that help us make sense of complex human behaviors, mental health issues, and therapeutic strategies. By understanding these studies, we’re better equipped to apply their lessons in our own lives – whether it’s navigating personal relationships, working with diverse teams at work or even self-improvement.

Challenges and Critiques of Psychological Case Studies

Delving into the world of psychological case studies, it’s not all rosy. Sure, they offer an in-depth understanding of individual behavior and mental processes. Yet, they’re not without their share of challenges and criticisms.

One common critique is the lack of generalizability. Each case study is unique to its subject. We can’t always apply what we learn from one person to everyone else. I’ve come across instances where results varied dramatically between similar subjects, highlighting the inherent unpredictability in human behavior.

Another challenge lies within ethical boundaries. Often, sensitive information surfaces during these studies that could potentially harm the subject if disclosed improperly. To put it plainly, maintaining confidentiality while delivering a comprehensive account isn’t always easy.

Distortion due to subjective interpretations also poses substantial difficulties for psychologists conducting case studies. The researcher’s own bias may color their observations and conclusions – leading to skewed outcomes or misleading findings.

Moreover, there’s an ongoing debate about the scientific validity of case studies because they rely heavily on qualitative data rather than quantitative analysis. Some argue this makes them less reliable or objective when compared with other research methods such as experiments or surveys.

To summarize:

  • Lack of generalizability
  • Ethical dilemmas concerning privacy
  • Potential distortion through subjective interpretation
  • Questions about scientific validity

While these critiques present significant challenges, they do not diminish the value that psychological case studies bring to our understanding of human behavior and mental health struggles.

Conclusion: The Impact of Case Studies in Understanding Human Behavior

Case studies play a pivotal role in shedding light on human behavior. Throughout this article, I’ve discussed numerous examples that illustrate just how powerful these studies can be. Yet it’s the impact they have on our understanding of human psychology where their true value lies.

Take for instance the iconic study of Phineas Gage. It was through his tragic accident and subsequent personality change that we began to grasp the profound influence our frontal lobes have on our behavior. Without such a case study, we might still be in the dark about this crucial aspect of our neurology.

Let’s also consider Genie, the feral child who showed us the critical importance of social interaction during early development. Her heartbreaking story underscores just how vital appropriate nurturing is for healthy mental and emotional growth.

Here are some key takeaways from these case studies:

  • Our brain structure significantly influences our behavior.
  • Social interaction during formative years is vital for normal psychological development.
  • Studying individual cases can reveal universal truths about human nature.

What stands out though, is not merely what these case studies teach us individually but collectively. They remind us that each person constitutes a unique combination of various factors—biological, psychological, and environmental—that shape their behavior.

One cannot overstate the significance of case studies in psychology—they are more than mere stories or isolated incidents; they’re windows into the complexities and nuances of human nature itself.

In wrapping up, I’d say that while statistics give us patterns and trends to understand groups, it’s these detailed narratives offered by case studies that help us comprehend individuals’ unique experiences within those groups—making them an invaluable part of psychological research.

Related Posts

Cracking the Anxious Avoidant Code

Cracking the Anxious-Avoidant Code


Deflection: Unraveling the Science Behind Material Bending

Psychology Case Study Examples

Experiments are often used to help researchers understand how the human mind works. There have been many famous examples in psychology over the years. Some have shown how phenomena like memory and personality work. Others have been disproven over time. Understanding the study design, data, content, and analytical approach of case studies is important to verifying the validity of each study.

In considering case studies, researchers continuously test and reevaluate the conclusions made by past psychologists to continue offering the most up-to-date and effective care to modern clients. Prospective case studies are continually being developed based on previous findings and multiple case studies done in one area can lend credence to the findings. Learning about the famous psychology case studies can help you understand how research continues to shape what psychologists know about the human experience and mind. 

Examples of the most famous case study in psychology

Hundreds of thousands of case studies have been done in psychology, and narrowing a list of the most ground-breaking studies can be challenging. However, the following seven case studies present findings that have defied expectations, achieved positive outcomes for humanity, and launched further research into existing knowledge gaps within the niche.

Phineas Gage

The case of Phineas Gage is perhaps the  most cited study  in psychology. This famous case study showed how different areas of the brain affect personality and cognitive ability. While working as a construction foreman on a railroad, Phineas Gage was involved in an accident in which a rod was pushed through his cheek and brain. He survived, but because of the accident, both his personality and his ability to learn new skills were affected.

Although the case is frequently cited and referenced in psychology, relatively little information about Gage's life before and after the accident is known. Researchers have discovered that the last two decades of his life were spent in his original job, which may have been unlikely to have been possible if the extent of his injuries were as severe as initially believed. Still, his case was a starting point for psychology research on how memory and personality work in the brain, and it is a seminal study for that reason.

Genie the "feral child"

Although an outdated term, "feral children" referred to children raised without human interaction, often due to abuse or neglect. One  famous case study of a neglected child was done with a child known as Genie. She was raised in a single bedroom with little human interaction. She never gained the cognitive ability of an average adult, even though she was found at age 13. Later in life, she regressed and stopped speaking altogether. Her case has been studied extensively by psychologists who want to understand how enculturation affects cognitive development. It's one of many cognitive psychology examples that have had an impact on this field.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Henry Molaison

The case study  of Henry Molaison has helped psychologists understand memory. It is one of the most famous case studies in neuroscience. Henry Molaison was in a childhood accident that left him with debilitating seizures. Doctors could stop the seizures by removing slivers of his brain's hippocampus, though they did not fully understand what they were doing at the time. As a result, scientists learned how important the hippocampus is to forming long-term memories. After the surgery, Molaison could no longer form long-term memories, and his short-term memory was brief. The case study started further research into memory and the brain.

Jill Price had one of a few documented cases of hyperthymesia, a term for an overactive memory that allowed her to remember such mundane things as what she had for dinner on an average day in August 20th years previously. Her  case study  was used as a jumping-off point to research how memory works and why some people have exceptional memories. 

However, through more research, it was discovered that her overall memory was not exceptional. Rather, she only remembered details of her own life. She was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), with memories being part of her obsession. This case study is still relevant because it has helped modern psychologists understand how mental illness affects memory.

In the John/Joan  case study , a reputable sexologist tested his theory that nurture, not nature, determined gender. The case study has been cited extensively and laid the groundwork for other research into gender identity. However, the case study was not legitimate. In this study, Dr. John Money performed surgery on an infant whose genitals were damaged during circumcision. 

The boy was raised as a girl; however, he never identified as female and eventually underwent gender-affirming surgery as an adult. Because Dr. Money didn't follow up with the patient appropriately and did not report adverse findings, the case study is still often cited as successful.

Anna O. was the pseudonym given to a German woman who was one of the first to undergo psychoanalysis. Her case inspired many of the theories of Freud and other prominent psychologists of the time. It was determined at the time that Anna's symptoms of depression were eliminated through talk therapy. More recently, it has been suggested that Anna O. had another illness, such as epilepsy, from which she may have recovered during the therapy. This  case study is still cited as a reason psychologists believe that psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can be helpful to many patients. 

Victor the "wild boy" of Aveyron

Another study done on a child that had grown up without parents was done with a boy named "Victor" who had been found wandering in the wilderness and was thought to have been living alone for years. The boy could not speak, use the bathroom, or connect with others. However, through the study of his condition, he was able to learn bathroom habits, how to dress, writing, and primary language. Psychologists today speculate that he may have been autistic. 

Ethical concerns for doing a case study

When case studies are flawed through not having enough information or having the wrong information, they can be harmful. Valuable research hours and other resources can be wasted while theories are used for inappropriate treatment. Case studies can therefore cause as much harm as benefit, and psychologists are often careful about how and when they are used.

Those who are not psychologists and are interacting with studies can also practice caution. Psychologists and doctors often disagree on how case studies should be applied. In addition, people without education in psychology may struggle to know whether a case study is built on a faulty premise or misinformation. It can also be possible to generalize case studies to situations they do not apply. If you think a case study might apply to your case or that of a loved one, consider asking a therapist for guidance. 

Case studies are descriptions of real people. The individuals in the studies are studied intensively and often written about in medical journals and textbooks. While some clients may be comfortable being studied for science, others may not have consented due to the inability or lack of consent laws at the time. In addition, some subjects may not have been treated with dignity and respect. 

When considering case study content and findings from psychology, it can be helpful to think of the cases as stories of real individuals. When you strip away the science and look at the case as a whole person in a unique situation, you may get more out of the study than if you look at it as research that proves a theory. 

Therapeutic implications of a case study

Case examples are sometimes used in therapy to determine the best course of treatment. If a typical case study from psychology aligns with your situation, your therapist may use the treatment methods outlined in the study. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals also use case examples to understand mental illness and its treatment.

Researchers have reviewed the role of case studies in counseling and psychotherapy. In  one study , the authors discussed how reading case studies benefits therapists, providing a conceptual guide for clinical work and an understanding of the theory behind the practice. They also stressed the importance of teaching psychotherapy trainees to do better case study research. They encouraged practitioners to publish more case studies documenting the methods they use in their practice.

How a case study is used in counseling

If you want to meet with a psychologist, counseling may benefit you. Therapists often use theories behind popular case studies and can discuss their implications with you. In addition, you may be able to participate in case studies in your area, as psychologists and psychiatrists often perform clinical trials to understand treatments on a deeper level.

Online therapy can also be beneficial if you cannot find a therapist in your area. Through a platform like BetterHelp , you can get matched with a provider meeting your needs and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions. When experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, it can sometimes be hard to leave home for therapy. You can use many online therapy platforms from the comfort and safe space of your own home. 

Therapy is a personal experience; not everyone will go into it seeking the same outcomes. Keeping this in mind may ensure you get the most out of online therapy, regardless of your specific goals. If you're interested in learning more about the effectiveness of online therapy, you can look into various clinical studies that have shown it can be as effective , if not more effective, than in-person options. 

BetterHelp therapist reviews

“Amanda provides an excellent balance of warmth, accountability, and reliability. She keeps you on-topic while actively listening and providing guidance as needed. Her credentials and expertise are well applied to our sessions and I am so grateful for her.”

“She’s been amazing, helped me process my feelings and work on the things I needed to heal to grow stronger and be content with my life. She was available every day, I managed to connect with her deeply, she was supportive. I never expected to meet someone who’d have such a big positive effect on my life. I want to continue my journey with her and I trust the lessons I’ve learned from her will continue to be useful for my present and future.”

Therapy Is Personal

For more information about BetterHelp as a company, find us on:

  • RAINN  (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) -  1-800-656-4673
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  -  1-800-273-8255
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline  -  1-800-799-7233
  • NAMI Helpline  (National Alliance on Mental Illness) -  1-800-950-6264
  • SAMHSA  (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)  SAMHSA Facebook ,  SAMHSA Twitter ,  SAMHSA LinkedIn
  • Mental Health America,  MHA Twitter ,  MHA Facebook ,  MHA Instagram ,  MHA Pinterest ,  MHA LinkedIn
  • WebMD,  WebMD Facebook ,  WebMD Twitter ,  WebMD Pinterest ,  WebMD LinkedIn
  • NIMH  (National Institute of Mental Health),  NIMH Facebook ,  NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube ,  NIMH LinkedIn
  • APA  (American Psychiatric Association),  APA Twitter ,  APA Facebook ,  APA LinkedIn ,  APA Instagram

Get help now:

  • Emergency: 911
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-  800-799-7233
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “DESERVE” TO 741-741
  • Lifeline Crisis Chat (Online live messaging):
  • Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (366-8288)
  • Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228
  • Planned Parenthood Hotline: 1-800-230-PLAN (7526)
  • American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222
  • National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Hope Line: 1-800-622-2255
  • National Crisis Line - Anorexia and Bulimia: 1-800-233-4357
  • LGBTQ+ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
  • TREVOR Crisis Hotline: 1-866-488-7386
  • AIDS Crisis Line: 1-800-221-7044
  • Veterans Crisis Line:
  • TransLifeline:  -  877-565-8860  APA Youtube
  • Suicide Prevention Wiki:
  • Color Psychology: What Does Your Favorite Color Say About You?
  • Meaningful Facts About Love
  • The Four Goals Of Therapy: What Are They?
  • Can Therapy Answer The Question: Why Do We Dream?
  • What Is The "Learned Helplessness" Definition?
  • What Is Rationalization Therapy And How Can I Benefit from It?
  • The Complete Guide To Positive Therapy And How It Can Help You
  • Mary Calkins And Her Career In Therapy - A Case Study
  • The Psychology Behind What Causes Deja Vu
  • Defining Closure Therapy - A Case Study
  • Sense Of Entitlement - A Case Study
  • Careers In Therapy - A Case Study
  • Edward Thorndike And His Influence - A Case Study
  • Is Autonomy Therapy A Thing And How Can I Benefit?
  • The Use Of The Rorschach Inkblot Test
  • The Case For Aaron Beck Theory And His Contribution
  • Amazing Podcasts You Need In Your Library
  • The Case For Reliability Therapy
  • Understanding Imprinting Therapy
  • How Can Career Counseling Help Me?
  • The Benefits Of Family Counseling
  • How To Know When You Or Your Family Need Counseling Services
  • Counseling For Couples - How Does Couples Therapy Work?
  • Finding The Best Premarital Counseling 2020: What Is Premarital Counseling And Why You Should Do It?
  • Counseling For Couples As Part Of A Healthy Relationship
  • Starting Off On The Right Foot: Pre Marriage Counseling
  • The Benefits Of Online Mental Health Counseling
  • A Guide To Affordable Counseling
  • Parent Counseling: Parent-Child Conflict: Win-Win
  • Facing Life Squarely With The Help Of Personal Counseling
  • Is Phone Counseling/Therapy Appropriate?
  • Can Text Counseling Help Someone?
  • Couples Therapy: How Much Does Couple Counseling Cost?
  • When Counseling For Depression Is Necessary
  • Couple Counseling Online Techniques
  • Reasons To Use E-Counseling
  • Get Telephone Counseling When And Where You Need It
  • Most Recommended Premarital Counseling Books
  • What Are The Most Common And Effective Couple Counseling Techniques?
  • What Is Divorce Counseling And Is It Right For You?
  • What Is Affect? Psychology And The Expression Of Emotions Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson , MA
  • What Is Developmental Psychology? Definition And Importance Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox , NCC, LPC
  • Psychologists
  • Relationships and Relations

404 Not found

Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D.

  • Personality

The Top 10 Psychology Studies of 2010

Ten great studies from 2010 that can improve your life..

Posted December 20, 2010

top 10 case study psychology

The end of 2010 fast approaches, and I'm thrilled to have been asked by the editors of Psychology Today to write about the Top 10 psychology studies of the year. I've focused on studies that I personally feel stand out, not only as examples of great science, but even more importantly, as examples of how the science of psychology can improve our lives.

Each study has a clear "take home" message, offering the reader an insight or a simple strategy they can use to reach their goals , strengthen their relationships, make better decisions, or become happier. If you extract the wisdom from these ten studies and apply them in your own life, 2011 just might be a very good year.

1) How to Break Bad Habits

If you are trying to stop smoking , swearing, or chewing your nails, you have probably tried the strategy of distracting yourself - taking your mind off whatever it is you are trying not to do - to break the habit. You may also have realized by now that it doesn't work. Distraction is a great way to resist a passing temptation, but it turns out to be a terrible way to break a habit that has really taken hold.

That's because habit-behaviors happen automatically - often, without our awareness. So thinking about George Clooney isn't going to stop me from biting my nails if I don't realize I'm doing it in the first place.

What you need to do instead is focus on stopping the behavior before it starts (or, as psychologists tend to put it, you need to "inhibit" your bad behavior). According to research by Jeffrey Quinn and his colleagues, the most effective strategy for breaking a bad habit is vigilant monitoring - focusing your attention on the unwanted behavior to make sure you don't engage in it. In other words, thinking to yourself "Don't do it!" and watching out for slipups - the very opposite of distraction. If you stick with it, the use of this strategy can inhibit the behavior completely over time, and you can be free of your bad habit for good.

J. Quinn, A. Pascoe, W. Wood, & D. Neal (2010) Can't control yourself? Monitor those bad habits. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 499-511.

2) How to Make Everything Seem Easier

Most of us have grown accustomed to the idea that our moods, and even our judgments, can be influenced by unrelated experiences of sight and sound - we feel happier on sunny days, more relaxed when listening to certain kinds of music, and more likely to lose our tempers when it's hot and humid. But very few of us have even considered the possibility that our tactile experience - the sensations associated with the things we touch, might have this same power.

New research by Joshua Ackerman, Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh shows that the weight, texture, and hardness of the things we touch are, in fact, unconsciously factored into our decisions about things that have nothing to do with what we are touching.

For instance, we associate smoothness and roughness with ease and difficulty, respectively, as in expressions like "smooth sailing," and "rough road ahead." In one study, people who completed a puzzle with pieces that had been covered in sandpaper later described an interaction between two other individuals as more difficult and awkward than those whose puzzles had been smooth. (Tip: Never try to buy a car or negotiate a raise while wearing a wool sweater. Consider satin underpants instead. Everything seems easy in satin underpants.)

J. Ackerman, C. Nocera, and J. Bargh (2010) Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions. Science, 328, 1712- 1715.

3) How To Manage Your Time Better

Good time management starts with figuring out what tasks you need to accomplish, and how long each will take. The problem is, human beings are generally pretty lousy when it comes to estimating the time they will need to complete any task. Psychologists refer to this as the planning fallacy, and it has the very real potential to screw up our plans and keep us from reaching our goals.

New research by Mario Weick and Ana Guinote shows that, somewhat ironically, people in positions of power are particularly poor planners. That's because feeling powerful tends to focus us on getting what we want, ignoring the potential obstacles that stand in our way. The future plans of powerful people often involve "best-case scenarios," which lead to far shorter time estimates than more realistic plans that take into account what might go wrong.

The good news is, you can learn to more accurately predict how long something will take and become a better planner, if you stop and consider potential obstacles, along with two other factors: your own past experiences (i.e., how long did it take last time?), and all the steps or subcomponents that make up the task (i.e., factoring in the time you'll need for each part.)

top 10 case study psychology

M. Weick & A. Guinote (2010) How long will it take? Power biases time predictions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

4) How to Be Happier

Most of us tend to think that if we just had a bit more money we'd get more satisfaction out of life, but on the whole, this turns out not to be true. So why doesn't money make us happier? New research by Jordi Quoidbach and colleagues suggests that the answer lies, at least in part, in how wealthier people lose touch with their ability to savor life's pleasures.

Savoring is a way of increasing and prolonging our positive experiences. Taking time to experience the subtle flavors in a piece of dark chocolate, imaging the fun you'll have on an upcoming vacation (and leafing through your trip photos afterward), telling all your friends on Facebook about the hilarious movie you saw over the weekend - these are all acts of savoring, and they help us to squeeze every bit of joy out of the good things that happen to us.

Why, then, don't wealthier people savor, if it feels so good? It's obviously not for a lack of things to savor. The basic idea is that when you have the money to eat at fancy restaurants every night and buy designer clothes from chic boutiques, those experiences diminish the enjoyment you get out of the simpler, more everyday pleasures, like the smell of a steak sizzling on your backyard grill, or the bargain you got on the sweet little sundress from Target.

Create plans for how to inject more savoring into each day, and you will increase your happiness and well-being much more than (or even despite) your growing riches. And if you're riches aren't actually growing, then savoring is still a great way to truly appreciate what you do have.

J. Quoidbach, E. Dunn, K. Petrides, & M. Mikolajczak (2010) Money giveth, money taketh away: The dual effect of wealth on happiness. Psychological Science, 21, 759-763.

5) How to Have More Willpower

Do you have the willpower to get the job done, or have you found yourself giving in to temptations, distractions, and inaction when trying to reach your own goals? If it's the latter, you're not alone. But more importantly, you can do something about it. New research by Mark Muraven shows that our capacity for self-control is surprisingly like a muscle that can be strengthened by regular exercise.

Do you have a sweet tooth? Try giving up candy, even if weight-loss and cavity-prevention are not your goals. Hate exerting yourself physically? Go out and buy one of those handgrips you see the muscle men with at the gym - even if your goal is to pay your bills on time. In one study, after two weeks of sweets-abstinence and handgripping, Muraven found that participants had significantly improved on a difficult concentration task that required lots of self-control.

Just by working your willpower muscle regularly, engaging in simple actions that require small amounts of self-control - like sitting up straight or making your bed each day - you can develop the self-control strength you'll need to tackle all of your goals.

M. Muraven (2010) Building self-control strength: Practicing self-control leads to improved self-control performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 465-468.

6) How to Choose a Mate

What role does personality play in creating marital bliss? More specifically, is it your personality, your partner's personality, or the similarity between the two that really matters when it comes to being happy in your marriage ? A study of over 10,000 couples from three countries provides us with some answers.

Your own personality is in fact a powerful predictor of your marital satisfaction. People who were more agreeable , conscientious , and emotionally stable reported being significantly happier with their spouse. That spouse's personality was also a reliable, though slightly less powerful, predictor of relationship satisfaction. Keep these same traits - the "Big 3" for happiness in a marriage - in mind when you are seeking Mr. or Ms. Right.

Finally, there's personality similarly - which, as it happens, doesn't seem to matter at all. The extent to which married couples matched one another on the Big Five traits had no predictive power when it came to understanding why some couples are happy together and others not. This is not to say that having similar goals or values isn't important - just that having similar personalities doesn't seem to be.

So if you are outgoing and your partner is shy , or if you are adventurous and your partner doesn't really like to try new things, it doesn't mean you can't have a satisfying marriage. Whether you are birds of a feather, or opposites that attracted, you are equally likely to live a long and happy life together.

Just try to be generally pleasant, responsible, and even-tempered, and find someone willing to do the same.

P. Dyrenforth, D. Kashy, M.B. Donnellan, & R. Lucas (2010) Predicting relationships and life satisfaction from personality in nationally representative samples from three countries: The relative importance of actor, partner, and similarity effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 690-702.

7) How to Feel More Powerful

In the animal kingdom, alphas signal their dominance through body movement and posture. Human beings are no different. The most powerful guy in the room is usually the one whose physical movements are most expansive - legs apart, leaning forward, arms spread wide while he gestures. He's the CEO who isn't afraid to swing his feet up onto the conference room table, hands behind his head and elbows jutting outward, confident in his power to spread himself out however he damn well pleases.

The nervous, powerless person holds himself very differently - he makes himself physically as small as possible: shoulders hunched, feet together, hands in his lap or arms wrapped protectively across his chest. He's the guy in the corner who is hoping he won't be called on, and often is barely noticed.

We adopt these poses unconsciously, and they are perceived (also unconsciously) by others as indictors of our status. But a new set of studies by Dana Carney, Amy Cuddy, and Andy Yap reveals that the relationship between power and posing works in both directions. In other words, holding powerful poses can actually make you more powerful .

In their studies, posing in "high power" positions not only created psychological and behavioral changes typically associated with powerful people, it created physiological changes characteristic of the powerful as well. High power posers felt more powerful, were more willing to take risks, and experienced significant increases in testosterone along with decreases in cortisol (the body's chemical response to stress .)

If you want more power - not just the appearance of power, but the genuine feeling of power - then spread your limbs wide, stand up straight, and lean into the conversation. Carry yourself like the guy in charge, and in a matter of minutes your body will start to feel it, and you will start to believe it.

D. Carney, A. Cuddy, and A. Yap (2010) Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21, 1363-1368.

8) How To Tell If He Loves You

"If he really loved me, then he would..."

Everyone who's ever been in a relationship has had thoughts like this one. If he loved me he would bring me flowers, or compliment me more often, or remember my birthday, or remember to take out the damn garbage. We expect feelings of love to translate directly into loving behaviors, and often judge the quality and intensity of our partner's feelings through their more tangible expressions. When it comes to love, actions speak louder than words, right?

Well, not necessarily. According to new research by psychologists Lara Kammrath and Johanna Peetz, romantic feelings like love, intimacy , and commitment reliably lead to some loving behaviors, but not others. In their studies, love predicted spontaneous, in-the-moment acts of kindness and generosity , like saying "I love you," offering a back rub, or surprising your partner with a gourmet dinner - the kinds of loving actions that don't require much in the way of forethought, planning, or memory .

On the other hand, love does a lousy job of predicting the kinds of "loving" behaviors that are harder to perform, often because they have to be maintained over longer periods of time (e.g., remembering to do household chores without being asked, being nice to one's in-laws) or because there is a delay between the thought and the action (remembering to buy your wife a gift for her birthday next week, keeping a promise call home during your conference in Las Vegas.). When it comes to the harder stuff, it's how conscientious you are, rather than how much in love you are, that really matters.

So if you're trying to get a sense of how your partner really feels about you, the smaller, spontaneous acts of love that occur without much forethought are a much better indicator of the depth of his love than whether or not he remembers your birthday or to take out the trash.

L. Kammrath & J. Peetz (2010) The limits of love: Predicting immediate vs. sustained caring behaviors in close relationships. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

9) How to Make It Easier to Cut Your Losses

Sometimes, we don't know when to throw in the towel. As a project unfolds, it becomes clear that things aren't working out as planned, that it will cost too much or take too long, or that someone else will beat you to the punch. But instead of moving on to new opportunities, we continue to devote our time, energy, and money to doomed projects (or even doomed relationships), digging a deeper hole rather than trying to climb our way out of it.

Why? The most likely culprit is our overwhelming aversion to sunk costs - the resources that we've put into an endeavor that we can't get back out. We worry far too much about what we'll lose if we just move on, and not nearly enough about the costs of not moving on - more wasted time and effort, and more missed opportunities.

But thanks to recent research by Daniel Molden and Chin Ming Hui, there is a simple way to be sure you are making the best decisions when your endeavor goes awry: focus on what you have to gain , rather than what you have to lose .

Psychologists call this adopting a promotion focus . When Molden and Hui had participants think about their goals in terms of potential gains, they became more comfortable with accepting the losses they had to incur along the way. When they adopted a prevention focus , on the other hand, and thought about their goals in terms of what they could lose if they didn't succeed, they were much more sensitive to sunk costs.

If you make a deliberate effort to refocus yourself prior to making your decision, reflecting on what you have to gain by cutting your losses now, you'll find it much easier to make the right choice.

D. Molden & C. Hui (2010) Promoting de-escalation of commitment: A regulatory focus perspective on sunk costs. Psychological Science.

10) How to Fight With Your Spouse

Having a satisfying, healthy relationship with your partner doesn't mean never fighting - it means learning to fight well . But what is the best way for two people to cope with their anger , frustration, and hurt, without undermining their mutual happiness?

Thankfully, recent research by James McNulty and Michelle Russell provides the answer. The best way to deal with conflict in a marriage, it turns out, depends on how serious or severe the problem is. Did your spouse drink too much at the party last night, or is he drinking too much every night? Did she splurge a little too much on clothes last month, or are her spending habits edging you closer and closer to bankruptcy ? Did he invite his mother to dinner without discussing it with you first, or did he invite his mother to live with you without discussing it first? Little problems and big problems require very different approaches if you want to have a lasting, happy marriage.

When it comes to minor problems, direct fighting strategies - like placing blame on your spouse for their actions or expressing your anger - results in a loss of marital satisfaction over time. Flying off the handle when he forgets to pick up the dry cleaning yet again, or when she spends a little too much money on a pricey pair of shoes, is going to take its toll on your happiness in the long run. You really are better off letting the small stuff go.

In response to major problems, however, these same direct fighting strategies predict increased marital satisfaction! Expressing your feelings, blaming your partner and demanding that they change their ways will lead to greater happiness when the conflict in question is something significant - something that if left unresolved could ultimately tear your relationship apart.

Issues involving addiction , financial stability, infidelity , child-rearing, and whether or not you live with your mother-in-law need to be addressed, even if it gets a little ugly. Couples who battle it out over serious issues do a better job of tackling, and eventually resolving those issues, than those who swept big problems under the carpet.

J. McNulty & V.M. Russell (2010) When "negative" behaviors are positive: A contextual analysis of the long-term effects of problem-solving behaviors on changes in relationship satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 587-604.

Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. , is the Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center and Columbia Business School.

  • Find a Therapist
  • Find a Treatment Center
  • Find a Psychiatrist
  • Find a Support Group
  • Find Teletherapy
  • United States
  • Brooklyn, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Portland, OR
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC
  • Asperger's
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Chronic Pain
  • Eating Disorders
  • Passive Aggression
  • Goal Setting
  • Positive Psychology
  • Stopping Smoking
  • Low Sexual Desire
  • Relationships
  • Child Development
  • Therapy Center NEW
  • Diagnosis Dictionary
  • Types of Therapy

March 2024 magazine cover

Understanding what emotional intelligence looks like and the steps needed to improve it could light a path to a more emotionally adept world.

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019
  • Affective Forecasting
  • Neuroscience


Breakthroughs and Discoveries in Psychological Science: 2020 Year in Review

  • Psychological Science

top 10 case study psychology

Many of the major news stories of 2020 were closely tied to understanding human behavior, including efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, understand political divides and social conflicts, and address enduring racial disparities and inequality.  

A wealth of research published by the Association for Psychological Science (APS) addresses these and other important topics. The following is a selection of some of APS’s most newsworthy research and highly cited publications from 2020. These stories emphasize the importance of peer-reviewed psychological research and its impact on society.  

Top 10 APS News Releases of 2020, Metrics Provided by  Newswise  

top 10 case study psychology

Romance, Scent, and Sleep: The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of : Research published in the journal  Psychological Science  suggests that the scent of a romantic partner can improve your quality of sleep. This is true regardless of whether you are consciously aware that the scent is even present.  

top 10 case study psychology

Violent Video Games and Aggression: The Connection Is Dubious, at Best : The coronavirus pandemic put a damper on many traditional summertime activities for kids, giving them more opportunity to socialize with friends virtually through online gaming. But many hours of extra screen time worried some parents, especially in light of a 2015 report linking violent video games with aggressive behavior in children. A reanalysis of previous findings published in the journal  Perspectives on Psychological Science  found no clear link between video game violence and aggression in children. 

top 10 case study psychology

Stemming the Spread of Misinformation on Social Media : The dangers of COVID-19 could worsen if misinformation on social media continues to spread unchecked, according to research published in  Psychological Science . Though there is no practical way to fully stem the tide of harmful misinformation on social media, certain tactics could help improve the quality of information that people share online about this deadly disease. 

top 10 case study psychology

Psychological Science and COVID-19: Conspiracy Theories : Why are conspiracy theories so popular? Who believes them? Why do people believe them? What are some of the consequences of conspiracy theories, and can such theories be harmful? These questions are explored by Karen Douglas, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent, UK, whose research focuses on beliefs in conspiracy theories.  

top 10 case study psychology

Pandemic Effects on Marriage and Relationships : Beyond its economic toll, COVID-19 is also having a negative impact on many relationships. Expert commentary from Paula Pietromonaco, professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, explores this facet of the pandemic and how interactions in marital and other close relationships shape each partner’s emotional and physical health. 

top 10 case study psychology

Trigger Warnings Fail to Help and May Even Harm : A study published in the journal  Clinical Psychological Science  shines light on the value and potential harm of trigger warnings, the term used to alert readers or viewers to potentially unsettling content. This research suggests that trigger warnings offer little to no help in avoiding painful memories and can even be harmful for the survivors of past emotional trauma.  

top 10 case study psychology

Contracting COVID-19: Lifestyle and Social Connections May Play a Role : Research published in  Psychological Science  indicates that unhealthy lifestyle choices, including smoking and lack of exercise, along with emotional stressors like social isolation and interpersonal conflicts are important risk factors for developing upper respiratory infections. It is possible these same factors also increase the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

top 10 case study psychology

Does Bedtime Media Use Harm Children’s Sleep? Only If They Struggle to Self-Regulate Behavior : Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, one concern for many parents has been the impact of additional TV or computer screen time on their children and their already disrupted sleep habits. A study published in  Psychological Science  found that media use in the hour preceding bedtime impacts the sleep only of children who struggle to self-regulate their behavior. 

top 10 case study psychology

Health and Happiness Depend on Each Other, Psychological Science Says : This research adds to the growing body of evidence that happiness not only feels good, but it is also good for your physical health. Research published in  Psychological Science  shows that both online and in-person psychological interventions—tactics specifically designed to boost subjective well-being—have positive effects on self-reported physical health.  

top 10 case study psychology

Claiming Journalism Is ‘Fake News’ May Satisfy a Personal Need for an Orderly World : Research published in  Psychological Science  reveals that the degree to which people level accusations of fake news against news outlets is at least partially associated with a personal need for an orderly and structured environment. 

Top 10 APS Journal Articles Based on  Altmetric Attention Scores  

Aging in an Era of Fake News : Older adults appear to be particularly susceptible to misinformation (e.g., they shared the most fake news during the 2016 U.S. election). In  Current Directions in Psychological Science , researchers suggest that social changes in late adulthood, including difficulty in detecting lies and less emphasis on accuracy when communicating, might be partly responsible for susceptibility to misinformation. Moreover, older adults are less experienced with social media and may struggle to evaluate the veracity of content. Interventions that take into account older adults’ social changes and digital literacy might help to reduce their susceptibility to fake news.     Sex Differences in Mate Preferences Across 45 Countries: A Large-Scale Replication :  Research published in  Psychological Science  seems to support the popular perception that men are more likely to prefer attractive young mates, and women are more likely to prefer older mates with financial prospects. These sex differences were universal across the 45 countries surveyed. In countries where gender equality was higher, both sexes appeared to have mates closer to their own age. Contrary to older studies, this study found that gender equality did not predict other differences in mate preferences, such as financial prospects. Also, different countries’ rates of communicable and infectious diseases did not predict sex differences or preferences. 

What Is the Test-Retest Reliability of Common Task-Functional MRI Measures? New Empirical Evidence and a Meta-Analysis : The reliability of measuring brain activity using task functional MRI (fMRI) for predicting disease risk and outcomes appears to be low. In  Psychological Science , researchers present a meta-analysis of prior research and an analysis of test-retest reliability of brain activity in certain regions across 11 common fMRI tasks. The authors found that reliability across studies was low, and test-retest studies did not reliably show activity in the same areas of interest for the same tasks. These findings suggest that current task-fMRI measures are not suitable for predicting clinical outcomes or studying individual differences.    Racial Inequality in Psychological Research: Trends of the Past and Recommendations for the Future :  Systematic inequality exists within psychological research.  This is the conclusion researchers published in  Perspectives on Psychological Science  after querying more than 26,000 articles published between 1974 and 2018 in top-tier psychology journals. Most publications are edited by White editors, and the few publications that highlight race were written by White authors and had few participants of color. These findings suggest the need to diversify editing, writing, and participation in psychological science. To this end, the researchers provide a set of actionable recommendations for journals and authors.  

Your Brain Is Not an Onion With a Tiny Reptile Inside : A paper in  Current Directions in Psychological Science  describes a model of neural evolution that challenges the widespread misconception that as vertebrate animals evolved, they added “newer” brain structures to the “older” existing ones, enabling them to have more complex psychological functions (e.g., language). Neurobiologists have long discredited this misconception that the reptile brain is still part of the human brain, which just added more layers. The authors provide examples of how this inaccurate view of brain evolution has impeded progress in psychology. 

The Emotional Path to Action: Empathy Promotes Physical Distancing and Wearing of Face Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic : Empathy for people most vulnerable to COVID-19 appears to motivate wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, according to an article published in  Psychological Science . Participants who showed more empathy for the most vulnerable to the virus were more likely to report social-distancing practices. In two experiments, inducing empathy resulted in higher motivation to wear face masks and to practice social distancing than simply informing participants about the importance of these practices, in particular for those most vulnerable to the virus.  

Fighting COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media: Experimental Evidence for a Scalable Accuracy-Nudge Intervention :  Nudging people to think about the accuracy of news headlines might be a simple way to improve their choices about what to share on social media. When directly asked about the accuracy of COVID-19-related news, participants in a study published in  Psychological Science  were better at discriminating between true and false than when asked simply to decide whether to share it. Similarly, having participants judge the accuracy of non-COVID-19-related headlines increased their discernment about the accuracy of COVID-19-related articles and the quality of their subsequent intentions to share them.  

How Firm Are the Foundations of Mind-Set Theory? The Claims Appear Stronger Than the Evidence : Mind-set theory proposes that the beliefs one has about whether attributes are malleable ( growth mind-set ) or unchangeable ( fixed mind-set ) influence one’s motivation, type of goals, persistence, and resilience. Contrary to what the mind-set theory would predict, researchers publishing in  Psychological Science  tested 438 students and found weak associations (<.20) between mind-set, goal orientation, response to challenge, belief in effort, cognitive ability, and intelligence. The researchers suggest that these results may indicate that some claims about mind-set might be overstated. 

The Future of Women in Psychological Science :  A team of researchers analyzed 10 topics relevant for women’s professional prospects in psychological science: career advancement; financial compensation; service assignment and practices; lifestyle roles and work–family conflict; gender biases; prevalence and perceptions of positions of power; intersectionality; harassment and incivility; agency, self-esteem, and self-promotion; and lack of belonging. In  Perspectives on Psychological Science , the authors discuss empirical evidence for each of these issues and clarify gender gaps and positive change in the hope that a better understanding of these issues will spark conversation and help to mitigate remaining gender differences in the field. 

Can Bad Be Good? The Attraction of a Darker Self : We prefer fictional villains who are similar to us, according to research in  Psychological Science . Researchers explored data from an online platform that allows users to become “fans” of characters and take a quiz to evaluate their similarity with them. Individuals preferred villains who were similar to themselves. A series of laboratory studies also found an association between similarity of negative traits, when the villain was fictional but not when the villain was a real person, and attraction to the villain. 

top 10 case study psychology

Stories in Action

Stories may complement established policy tools. Walsh and colleagues define the elements of storytelling and discuss stories’ key features and functions, providing design principles for policymakers interested in building stories. 

top 10 case study psychology

SAGE 10-Year Impact Awards Honor Two APS Articles

Two 2011 APS journal articles exploring the rise of Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) and the risk of accepting false-positive findings have received SAGE Publishing’s third annual 10-Year Impact Awards.

top 10 case study psychology

Letter from the Editor: A New Chapter for the Observer

After nearly 40 years in print, the APS member magazine is going all-digital.

Privacy Overview

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • View all journals
  • Explore content
  • About the journal
  • Publish with us
  • Sign up for alerts
  • Perspective
  • Published: 22 November 2022

Single case studies are a powerful tool for developing, testing and extending theories

  • Lyndsey Nickels   ORCID: 1 , 2 ,
  • Simon Fischer-Baum   ORCID: 3 &
  • Wendy Best   ORCID: 4  

Nature Reviews Psychology volume  1 ,  pages 733–747 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

627 Accesses

5 Citations

26 Altmetric

Metrics details

  • Neurological disorders

Psychology embraces a diverse range of methodologies. However, most rely on averaging group data to draw conclusions. In this Perspective, we argue that single case methodology is a valuable tool for developing and extending psychological theories. We stress the importance of single case and case series research, drawing on classic and contemporary cases in which cognitive and perceptual deficits provide insights into typical cognitive processes in domains such as memory, delusions, reading and face perception. We unpack the key features of single case methodology, describe its strengths, its value in adjudicating between theories, and outline its benefits for a better understanding of deficits and hence more appropriate interventions. The unique insights that single case studies have provided illustrate the value of in-depth investigation within an individual. Single case methodology has an important place in the psychologist’s toolkit and it should be valued as a primary research tool.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Subscribe to this journal

Receive 12 digital issues and online access to articles

55,14 € per year

only 4,60 € per issue

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

top 10 case study psychology

Similar content being viewed by others

top 10 case study psychology

Microdosing with psilocybin mushrooms: a double-blind placebo-controlled study

Federico Cavanna, Stephanie Muller, … Enzo Tagliazucchi

top 10 case study psychology

Adults who microdose psychedelics report health related motivations and lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to non-microdosers

Joseph M. Rootman, Pamela Kryskow, … Zach Walsh

top 10 case study psychology

Interviews in the social sciences

Eleanor Knott, Aliya Hamid Rao, … Chana Teeger

Corkin, S. Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life Of The Amnesic Patient, H. M . Vol. XIX, 364 (Basic Books, 2013).

Lilienfeld, S. O. Psychology: From Inquiry To Understanding (Pearson, 2019).

Schacter, D. L., Gilbert, D. T., Nock, M. K. & Wegner, D. M. Psychology (Worth Publishers, 2019).

Eysenck, M. W. & Brysbaert, M. Fundamentals Of Cognition (Routledge, 2018).

Squire, L. R. Memory and brain systems: 1969–2009. J. Neurosci. 29 , 12711–12716 (2009).

Article   PubMed   PubMed Central   Google Scholar  

Corkin, S. What’s new with the amnesic patient H.M.? Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 3 , 153–160 (2002).

Article   PubMed   Google Scholar  

Schubert, T. M. et al. Lack of awareness despite complex visual processing: evidence from event-related potentials in a case of selective metamorphopsia. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 117 , 16055–16064 (2020).

Behrmann, M. & Plaut, D. C. Bilateral hemispheric processing of words and faces: evidence from word impairments in prosopagnosia and face impairments in pure alexia. Cereb. Cortex 24 , 1102–1118 (2014).

Plaut, D. C. & Behrmann, M. Complementary neural representations for faces and words: a computational exploration. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 28 , 251–275 (2011).

Haxby, J. V. et al. Distributed and overlapping representations of faces and objects in ventral temporal cortex. Science 293 , 2425–2430 (2001).

Hirshorn, E. A. et al. Decoding and disrupting left midfusiform gyrus activity during word reading. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113 , 8162–8167 (2016).

Kosakowski, H. L. et al. Selective responses to faces, scenes, and bodies in the ventral visual pathway of infants. Curr. Biol. 32 , 265–274.e5 (2022).

Harlow, J. Passage of an iron rod through the head. Boston Med. Surgical J . (1848).

Broca, P. Remarks on the seat of the faculty of articulated language, following an observation of aphemia (loss of speech). Bull. Soc. Anat. 6 , 330–357 (1861).

Google Scholar  

Dejerine, J. Contribution A L’étude Anatomo-pathologique Et Clinique Des Différentes Variétés De Cécité Verbale: I. Cécité Verbale Avec Agraphie Ou Troubles Très Marqués De L’écriture; II. Cécité Verbale Pure Avec Intégrité De L’écriture Spontanée Et Sous Dictée (Société de Biologie, 1892).

Liepmann, H. Das Krankheitsbild der Apraxie (“motorischen Asymbolie”) auf Grund eines Falles von einseitiger Apraxie (Fortsetzung). Eur. Neurol. 8 , 102–116 (1900).

Article   Google Scholar  

Basso, A., Spinnler, H., Vallar, G. & Zanobio, M. E. Left hemisphere damage and selective impairment of auditory verbal short-term memory. A case study. Neuropsychologia 20 , 263–274 (1982).

Humphreys, G. W. & Riddoch, M. J. The fractionation of visual agnosia. In Visual Object Processing: A Cognitive Neuropsychological Approach 281–306 (Lawrence Erlbaum, 1987).

Whitworth, A., Webster, J. & Howard, D. A Cognitive Neuropsychological Approach To Assessment And Intervention In Aphasia (Psychology Press, 2014).

Caramazza, A. On drawing inferences about the structure of normal cognitive systems from the analysis of patterns of impaired performance: the case for single-patient studies. Brain Cogn. 5 , 41–66 (1986).

Caramazza, A. & McCloskey, M. The case for single-patient studies. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 5 , 517–527 (1988).

Shallice, T. Cognitive neuropsychology and its vicissitudes: the fate of Caramazza’s axioms. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 32 , 385–411 (2015).

Shallice, T. From Neuropsychology To Mental Structure (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988).

Coltheart, M. Assumptions and methods in cognitive neuropscyhology. In The Handbook Of Cognitive Neuropsychology: What Deficits Reveal About The Human Mind (ed. Rapp, B.) 3–22 (Psychology Press, 2001).

McCloskey, M. & Chaisilprungraung, T. The value of cognitive neuropsychology: the case of vision research. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 34 , 412–419 (2017).

McCloskey, M. The future of cognitive neuropsychology. In The Handbook Of Cognitive Neuropsychology: What Deficits Reveal About The Human Mind (ed. Rapp, B.) 593–610 (Psychology Press, 2001).

Lashley, K. S. In search of the engram. In Physiological Mechanisms in Animal Behavior 454–482 (Academic Press, 1950).

Squire, L. R. & Wixted, J. T. The cognitive neuroscience of human memory since H.M. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 34 , 259–288 (2011).

Stone, G. O., Vanhoy, M. & Orden, G. C. V. Perception is a two-way street: feedforward and feedback phonology in visual word recognition. J. Mem. Lang. 36 , 337–359 (1997).

Perfetti, C. A. The psycholinguistics of spelling and reading. In Learning To Spell: Research, Theory, And Practice Across Languages 21–38 (Lawrence Erlbaum, 1997).

Nickels, L. The autocue? self-generated phonemic cues in the treatment of a disorder of reading and naming. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 9 , 155–182 (1992).

Rapp, B., Benzing, L. & Caramazza, A. The autonomy of lexical orthography. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 14 , 71–104 (1997).

Bonin, P., Roux, S. & Barry, C. Translating nonverbal pictures into verbal word names. Understanding lexical access and retrieval. In Past, Present, And Future Contributions Of Cognitive Writing Research To Cognitive Psychology 315–522 (Psychology Press, 2011).

Bonin, P., Fayol, M. & Gombert, J.-E. Role of phonological and orthographic codes in picture naming and writing: an interference paradigm study. Cah. Psychol. Cogn./Current Psychol. Cogn. 16 , 299–324 (1997).

Bonin, P., Fayol, M. & Peereman, R. Masked form priming in writing words from pictures: evidence for direct retrieval of orthographic codes. Acta Psychol. 99 , 311–328 (1998).

Bentin, S., Allison, T., Puce, A., Perez, E. & McCarthy, G. Electrophysiological studies of face perception in humans. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 8 , 551–565 (1996).

Jeffreys, D. A. Evoked potential studies of face and object processing. Vis. Cogn. 3 , 1–38 (1996).

Laganaro, M., Morand, S., Michel, C. M., Spinelli, L. & Schnider, A. ERP correlates of word production before and after stroke in an aphasic patient. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 23 , 374–381 (2011).

Indefrey, P. & Levelt, W. J. M. The spatial and temporal signatures of word production components. Cognition 92 , 101–144 (2004).

Valente, A., Burki, A. & Laganaro, M. ERP correlates of word production predictors in picture naming: a trial by trial multiple regression analysis from stimulus onset to response. Front. Neurosci. 8 , 390 (2014).

Kittredge, A. K., Dell, G. S., Verkuilen, J. & Schwartz, M. F. Where is the effect of frequency in word production? Insights from aphasic picture-naming errors. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 25 , 463–492 (2008).

Domdei, N. et al. Ultra-high contrast retinal display system for single photoreceptor psychophysics. Biomed. Opt. Express 9 , 157 (2018).

Poldrack, R. A. et al. Long-term neural and physiological phenotyping of a single human. Nat. Commun. 6 , 8885 (2015).

Coltheart, M. The assumptions of cognitive neuropsychology: reflections on Caramazza (1984, 1986). Cogn. Neuropsychol. 34 , 397–402 (2017).

Badecker, W. & Caramazza, A. A final brief in the case against agrammatism: the role of theory in the selection of data. Cognition 24 , 277–282 (1986).

Fischer-Baum, S. Making sense of deviance: Identifying dissociating cases within the case series approach. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 30 , 597–617 (2013).

Nickels, L., Howard, D. & Best, W. On the use of different methodologies in cognitive neuropsychology: drink deep and from several sources. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 28 , 475–485 (2011).

Dell, G. S. & Schwartz, M. F. Who’s in and who’s out? Inclusion criteria, model evaluation, and the treatment of exceptions in case series. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 28 , 515–520 (2011).

Schwartz, M. F. & Dell, G. S. Case series investigations in cognitive neuropsychology. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 27 , 477–494 (2010).

Cohen, J. A power primer. Psychol. Bull. 112 , 155–159 (1992).

Martin, R. C. & Allen, C. Case studies in neuropsychology. In APA Handbook Of Research Methods In Psychology Vol. 2 Research Designs: Quantitative, Qualitative, Neuropsychological, And Biological (eds Cooper, H. et al.) 633–646 (American Psychological Association, 2012).

Leivada, E., Westergaard, M., Duñabeitia, J. A. & Rothman, J. On the phantom-like appearance of bilingualism effects on neurocognition: (how) should we proceed? Bilingualism 24 , 197–210 (2021).

Arnett, J. J. The neglected 95%: why American psychology needs to become less American. Am. Psychol. 63 , 602–614 (2008).

Stolz, J. A., Besner, D. & Carr, T. H. Implications of measures of reliability for theories of priming: activity in semantic memory is inherently noisy and uncoordinated. Vis. Cogn. 12 , 284–336 (2005).

Cipora, K. et al. A minority pulls the sample mean: on the individual prevalence of robust group-level cognitive phenomena — the instance of the SNARC effect. Preprint at psyArXiv (2019).

Andrews, S., Lo, S. & Xia, V. Individual differences in automatic semantic priming. J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 43 , 1025–1039 (2017).

Tan, L. C. & Yap, M. J. Are individual differences in masked repetition and semantic priming reliable? Vis. Cogn. 24 , 182–200 (2016).

Olsson-Collentine, A., Wicherts, J. M. & van Assen, M. A. L. M. Heterogeneity in direct replications in psychology and its association with effect size. Psychol. Bull. 146 , 922–940 (2020).

Gratton, C. & Braga, R. M. Editorial overview: deep imaging of the individual brain: past, practice, and promise. Curr. Opin. Behav. Sci. 40 , iii–vi (2021).

Fedorenko, E. The early origins and the growing popularity of the individual-subject analytic approach in human neuroscience. Curr. Opin. Behav. Sci. 40 , 105–112 (2021).

Xue, A. et al. The detailed organization of the human cerebellum estimated by intrinsic functional connectivity within the individual. J. Neurophysiol. 125 , 358–384 (2021).

Petit, S. et al. Toward an individualized neural assessment of receptive language in children. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 63 , 2361–2385 (2020).

Jung, K.-H. et al. Heterogeneity of cerebral white matter lesions and clinical correlates in older adults. Stroke 52 , 620–630 (2021).

Falcon, M. I., Jirsa, V. & Solodkin, A. A new neuroinformatics approach to personalized medicine in neurology: the virtual brain. Curr. Opin. Neurol. 29 , 429–436 (2016).

Duncan, G. J., Engel, M., Claessens, A. & Dowsett, C. J. Replication and robustness in developmental research. Dev. Psychol. 50 , 2417–2425 (2014).

Open Science Collaboration. Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science 349 , aac4716 (2015).

Tackett, J. L., Brandes, C. M., King, K. M. & Markon, K. E. Psychology’s replication crisis and clinical psychological science. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol. 15 , 579–604 (2019).

Munafò, M. R. et al. A manifesto for reproducible science. Nat. Hum. Behav. 1 , 0021 (2017).

Oldfield, R. C. & Wingfield, A. The time it takes to name an object. Nature 202 , 1031–1032 (1964).

Oldfield, R. C. & Wingfield, A. Response latencies in naming objects. Q. J. Exp. Psychol. 17 , 273–281 (1965).

Brysbaert, M. How many participants do we have to include in properly powered experiments? A tutorial of power analysis with reference tables. J. Cogn. 2 , 16 (2019).

Brysbaert, M. Power considerations in bilingualism research: time to step up our game. Bilingualism (2020).

Machery, E. What is a replication? Phil. Sci. 87 , 545–567 (2020).

Nosek, B. A. & Errington, T. M. What is replication? PLoS Biol. 18 , e3000691 (2020).

Li, X., Huang, L., Yao, P. & Hyönä, J. Universal and specific reading mechanisms across different writing systems. Nat. Rev. Psychol. 1 , 133–144 (2022).

Rapp, B. (Ed.) The Handbook Of Cognitive Neuropsychology: What Deficits Reveal About The Human Mind (Psychology Press, 2001).

Code, C. et al. Classic Cases In Neuropsychology (Psychology Press, 1996).

Patterson, K., Marshall, J. C. & Coltheart, M. Surface Dyslexia: Neuropsychological And Cognitive Studies Of Phonological Reading (Routledge, 2017).

Marshall, J. C. & Newcombe, F. Patterns of paralexia: a psycholinguistic approach. J. Psycholinguist. Res. 2 , 175–199 (1973).

Castles, A. & Coltheart, M. Varieties of developmental dyslexia. Cognition 47 , 149–180 (1993).

Khentov-Kraus, L. & Friedmann, N. Vowel letter dyslexia. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 35 , 223–270 (2018).

Winskel, H. Orthographic and phonological parafoveal processing of consonants, vowels, and tones when reading Thai. Appl. Psycholinguist. 32 , 739–759 (2011).

Hepner, C., McCloskey, M. & Rapp, B. Do reading and spelling share orthographic representations? Evidence from developmental dysgraphia. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 34 , 119–143 (2017).

Hanley, J. R. & Sotiropoulos, A. Developmental surface dysgraphia without surface dyslexia. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 35 , 333–341 (2018).

Zihl, J. & Heywood, C. A. The contribution of single case studies to the neuroscience of vision: single case studies in vision neuroscience. Psych. J. 5 , 5–17 (2016).

Bouvier, S. E. & Engel, S. A. Behavioral deficits and cortical damage loci in cerebral achromatopsia. Cereb. Cortex 16 , 183–191 (2006).

Zihl, J. & Heywood, C. A. The contribution of LM to the neuroscience of movement vision. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 9 , 6 (2015).

Dotan, D. & Friedmann, N. Separate mechanisms for number reading and word reading: evidence from selective impairments. Cortex 114 , 176–192 (2019).

McCloskey, M. & Schubert, T. Shared versus separate processes for letter and digit identification. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 31 , 437–460 (2014).

Fayol, M. & Seron, X. On numerical representations. Insights from experimental, neuropsychological, and developmental research. In Handbook of Mathematical Cognition (ed. Campbell, J.) 3–23 (Psychological Press, 2005).

Bornstein, B. & Kidron, D. P. Prosopagnosia. J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiat. 22 , 124–131 (1959).

Kühn, C. D., Gerlach, C., Andersen, K. B., Poulsen, M. & Starrfelt, R. Face recognition in developmental dyslexia: evidence for dissociation between faces and words. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 38 , 107–115 (2021).

Barton, J. J. S., Albonico, A., Susilo, T., Duchaine, B. & Corrow, S. L. Object recognition in acquired and developmental prosopagnosia. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 36 , 54–84 (2019).

Renault, B., Signoret, J.-L., Debruille, B., Breton, F. & Bolgert, F. Brain potentials reveal covert facial recognition in prosopagnosia. Neuropsychologia 27 , 905–912 (1989).

Bauer, R. M. Autonomic recognition of names and faces in prosopagnosia: a neuropsychological application of the guilty knowledge test. Neuropsychologia 22 , 457–469 (1984).

Haan, E. H. F., de, Young, A. & Newcombe, F. Face recognition without awareness. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 4 , 385–415 (1987).

Ellis, H. D. & Lewis, M. B. Capgras delusion: a window on face recognition. Trends Cogn. Sci. 5 , 149–156 (2001).

Ellis, H. D., Young, A. W., Quayle, A. H. & De Pauw, K. W. Reduced autonomic responses to faces in Capgras delusion. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 264 , 1085–1092 (1997).

Collins, M. N., Hawthorne, M. E., Gribbin, N. & Jacobson, R. Capgras’ syndrome with organic disorders. Postgrad. Med. J. 66 , 1064–1067 (1990).

Enoch, D., Puri, B. K. & Ball, H. Uncommon Psychiatric Syndromes 5th edn (Routledge, 2020).

Tranel, D., Damasio, H. & Damasio, A. R. Double dissociation between overt and covert face recognition. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 7 , 425–432 (1995).

Brighetti, G., Bonifacci, P., Borlimi, R. & Ottaviani, C. “Far from the heart far from the eye”: evidence from the Capgras delusion. Cogn. Neuropsychiat. 12 , 189–197 (2007).

Coltheart, M., Langdon, R. & McKay, R. Delusional belief. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 62 , 271–298 (2011).

Coltheart, M. Cognitive neuropsychiatry and delusional belief. Q. J. Exp. Psychol. 60 , 1041–1062 (2007).

Coltheart, M. & Davies, M. How unexpected observations lead to new beliefs: a Peircean pathway. Conscious. Cogn. 87 , 103037 (2021).

Coltheart, M. & Davies, M. Failure of hypothesis evaluation as a factor in delusional belief. Cogn. Neuropsychiat. 26 , 213–230 (2021).

McCloskey, M. et al. A developmental deficit in localizing objects from vision. Psychol. Sci. 6 , 112–117 (1995).

McCloskey, M., Valtonen, J. & Cohen Sherman, J. Representing orientation: a coordinate-system hypothesis and evidence from developmental deficits. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 23 , 680–713 (2006).

McCloskey, M. Spatial representations and multiple-visual-systems hypotheses: evidence from a developmental deficit in visual location and orientation processing. Cortex 40 , 677–694 (2004).

Gregory, E. & McCloskey, M. Mirror-image confusions: implications for representation and processing of object orientation. Cognition 116 , 110–129 (2010).

Gregory, E., Landau, B. & McCloskey, M. Representation of object orientation in children: evidence from mirror-image confusions. Vis. Cogn. 19 , 1035–1062 (2011).

Laine, M. & Martin, N. Cognitive neuropsychology has been, is, and will be significant to aphasiology. Aphasiology 26 , 1362–1376 (2012).

Howard, D. & Patterson, K. The Pyramids And Palm Trees Test: A Test Of Semantic Access From Words And Pictures (Thames Valley Test Co., 1992).

Kay, J., Lesser, R. & Coltheart, M. PALPA: Psycholinguistic Assessments Of Language Processing In Aphasia. 2: Picture & Word Semantics, Sentence Comprehension (Erlbaum, 2001).

Franklin, S. Dissociations in auditory word comprehension; evidence from nine fluent aphasic patients. Aphasiology 3 , 189–207 (1989).

Howard, D., Swinburn, K. & Porter, G. Putting the CAT out: what the comprehensive aphasia test has to offer. Aphasiology 24 , 56–74 (2010).

Conti-Ramsden, G., Crutchley, A. & Botting, N. The extent to which psychometric tests differentiate subgroups of children with SLI. J. Speech Lang. Hear. Res. 40 , 765–777 (1997).

Bishop, D. V. M. & McArthur, G. M. Individual differences in auditory processing in specific language impairment: a follow-up study using event-related potentials and behavioural thresholds. Cortex 41 , 327–341 (2005).

Bishop, D. V. M., Snowling, M. J., Thompson, P. A. & Greenhalgh, T., and the CATALISE-2 consortium. Phase 2 of CATALISE: a multinational and multidisciplinary Delphi consensus study of problems with language development: terminology. J. Child. Psychol. Psychiat. 58 , 1068–1080 (2017).

Wilson, A. J. et al. Principles underlying the design of ‘the number race’, an adaptive computer game for remediation of dyscalculia. Behav. Brain Funct. 2 , 19 (2006).

Basso, A. & Marangolo, P. Cognitive neuropsychological rehabilitation: the emperor’s new clothes? Neuropsychol. Rehabil. 10 , 219–229 (2000).

Murad, M. H., Asi, N., Alsawas, M. & Alahdab, F. New evidence pyramid. Evidence-based Med. 21 , 125–127 (2016).

Greenhalgh, T., Howick, J. & Maskrey, N., for the Evidence Based Medicine Renaissance Group. Evidence based medicine: a movement in crisis? Br. Med. J. 348 , g3725–g3725 (2014).

Best, W., Ping Sze, W., Edmundson, A. & Nickels, L. What counts as evidence? Swimming against the tide: valuing both clinically informed experimentally controlled case series and randomized controlled trials in intervention research. Evidence-based Commun. Assess. Interv. 13 , 107–135 (2019).

Best, W. et al. Understanding differing outcomes from semantic and phonological interventions with children with word-finding difficulties: a group and case series study. Cortex 134 , 145–161 (2021).

OCEBM Levels of Evidence Working Group. The Oxford Levels of Evidence 2. CEBM (2011).

Holler, D. E., Behrmann, M. & Snow, J. C. Real-world size coding of solid objects, but not 2-D or 3-D images, in visual agnosia patients with bilateral ventral lesions. Cortex 119 , 555–568 (2019).

Duchaine, B. C., Yovel, G., Butterworth, E. J. & Nakayama, K. Prosopagnosia as an impairment to face-specific mechanisms: elimination of the alternative hypotheses in a developmental case. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 23 , 714–747 (2006).

Hartley, T. et al. The hippocampus is required for short-term topographical memory in humans. Hippocampus 17 , 34–48 (2007).

Pishnamazi, M. et al. Attentional bias towards and away from fearful faces is modulated by developmental amygdala damage. Cortex 81 , 24–34 (2016).

Rapp, B., Fischer-Baum, S. & Miozzo, M. Modality and morphology: what we write may not be what we say. Psychol. Sci. 26 , 892–902 (2015).

Yong, K. X. X., Warren, J. D., Warrington, E. K. & Crutch, S. J. Intact reading in patients with profound early visual dysfunction. Cortex 49 , 2294–2306 (2013).

Rockland, K. S. & Van Hoesen, G. W. Direct temporal–occipital feedback connections to striate cortex (V1) in the macaque monkey. Cereb. Cortex 4 , 300–313 (1994).

Haynes, J.-D., Driver, J. & Rees, G. Visibility reflects dynamic changes of effective connectivity between V1 and fusiform cortex. Neuron 46 , 811–821 (2005).

Tanaka, K. Mechanisms of visual object recognition: monkey and human studies. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 7 , 523–529 (1997).

Fischer-Baum, S., McCloskey, M. & Rapp, B. Representation of letter position in spelling: evidence from acquired dysgraphia. Cognition 115 , 466–490 (2010).

Houghton, G. The problem of serial order: a neural network model of sequence learning and recall. In Current Research In Natural Language Generation (eds Dale, R., Mellish, C. & Zock, M.) 287–319 (Academic Press, 1990).

Fieder, N., Nickels, L., Biedermann, B. & Best, W. From “some butter” to “a butter”: an investigation of mass and count representation and processing. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 31 , 313–349 (2014).

Fieder, N., Nickels, L., Biedermann, B. & Best, W. How ‘some garlic’ becomes ‘a garlic’ or ‘some onion’: mass and count processing in aphasia. Neuropsychologia 75 , 626–645 (2015).

Schröder, A., Burchert, F. & Stadie, N. Training-induced improvement of noncanonical sentence production does not generalize to comprehension: evidence for modality-specific processes. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 32 , 195–220 (2015).

Stadie, N. et al. Unambiguous generalization effects after treatment of non-canonical sentence production in German agrammatism. Brain Lang. 104 , 211–229 (2008).

Schapiro, A. C., Gregory, E., Landau, B., McCloskey, M. & Turk-Browne, N. B. The necessity of the medial temporal lobe for statistical learning. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 26 , 1736–1747 (2014).

Schapiro, A. C., Kustner, L. V. & Turk-Browne, N. B. Shaping of object representations in the human medial temporal lobe based on temporal regularities. Curr. Biol. 22 , 1622–1627 (2012).

Baddeley, A., Vargha-Khadem, F. & Mishkin, M. Preserved recognition in a case of developmental amnesia: implications for the acaquisition of semantic memory? J. Cogn. Neurosci. 13 , 357–369 (2001).

Snyder, J. J. & Chatterjee, A. Spatial-temporal anisometries following right parietal damage. Neuropsychologia 42 , 1703–1708 (2004).

Ashkenazi, S., Henik, A., Ifergane, G. & Shelef, I. Basic numerical processing in left intraparietal sulcus (IPS) acalculia. Cortex 44 , 439–448 (2008).

Lebrun, M.-A., Moreau, P., McNally-Gagnon, A., Mignault Goulet, G. & Peretz, I. Congenital amusia in childhood: a case study. Cortex 48 , 683–688 (2012).

Vannuscorps, G., Andres, M. & Pillon, A. When does action comprehension need motor involvement? Evidence from upper limb aplasia. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 30 , 253–283 (2013).

Jeannerod, M. Neural simulation of action: a unifying mechanism for motor cognition. NeuroImage 14 , S103–S109 (2001).

Blakemore, S.-J. & Decety, J. From the perception of action to the understanding of intention. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 2 , 561–567 (2001).

Rizzolatti, G. & Craighero, L. The mirror-neuron system. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 27 , 169–192 (2004).

Forde, E. M. E., Humphreys, G. W. & Remoundou, M. Disordered knowledge of action order in action disorganisation syndrome. Neurocase 10 , 19–28 (2004).

Mazzi, C. & Savazzi, S. The glamor of old-style single-case studies in the neuroimaging era: insights from a patient with hemianopia. Front. Psychol. 10 , 965 (2019).

Coltheart, M. What has functional neuroimaging told us about the mind (so far)? (Position Paper Presented to the European Cognitive Neuropsychology Workshop, Bressanone, 2005). Cortex 42 , 323–331 (2006).

Page, M. P. A. What can’t functional neuroimaging tell the cognitive psychologist? Cortex 42 , 428–443 (2006).

Blank, I. A., Kiran, S. & Fedorenko, E. Can neuroimaging help aphasia researchers? Addressing generalizability, variability, and interpretability. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 34 , 377–393 (2017).

Niv, Y. The primacy of behavioral research for understanding the brain. Behav. Neurosci. 135 , 601–609 (2021).

Crawford, J. R. & Howell, D. C. Comparing an individual’s test score against norms derived from small samples. Clin. Neuropsychol. 12 , 482–486 (1998).

Crawford, J. R., Garthwaite, P. H. & Ryan, K. Comparing a single case to a control sample: testing for neuropsychological deficits and dissociations in the presence of covariates. Cortex 47 , 1166–1178 (2011).

McIntosh, R. D. & Rittmo, J. Ö. Power calculations in single-case neuropsychology: a practical primer. Cortex 135 , 146–158 (2021).

Patterson, K. & Plaut, D. C. “Shallow draughts intoxicate the brain”: lessons from cognitive science for cognitive neuropsychology. Top. Cogn. Sci. 1 , 39–58 (2009).

Lambon Ralph, M. A., Patterson, K. & Plaut, D. C. Finite case series or infinite single-case studies? Comments on “Case series investigations in cognitive neuropsychology” by Schwartz and Dell (2010). Cogn. Neuropsychol. 28 , 466–474 (2011).

Horien, C., Shen, X., Scheinost, D. & Constable, R. T. The individual functional connectome is unique and stable over months to years. NeuroImage 189 , 676–687 (2019).

Epelbaum, S. et al. Pure alexia as a disconnection syndrome: new diffusion imaging evidence for an old concept. Cortex 44 , 962–974 (2008).

Fischer-Baum, S. & Campana, G. Neuroplasticity and the logic of cognitive neuropsychology. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 34 , 403–411 (2017).

Paul, S., Baca, E. & Fischer-Baum, S. Cerebellar contributions to orthographic working memory: a single case cognitive neuropsychological investigation. Neuropsychologia 171 , 108242 (2022).

Feinstein, J. S., Adolphs, R., Damasio, A. & Tranel, D. The human amygdala and the induction and experience of fear. Curr. Biol. 21 , 34–38 (2011).

Crawford, J., Garthwaite, P. & Gray, C. Wanted: fully operational definitions of dissociations in single-case studies. Cortex 39 , 357–370 (2003).

McIntosh, R. D. Simple dissociations for a higher-powered neuropsychology. Cortex 103 , 256–265 (2018).

McIntosh, R. D. & Brooks, J. L. Current tests and trends in single-case neuropsychology. Cortex 47 , 1151–1159 (2011).

Best, W., Schröder, A. & Herbert, R. An investigation of a relative impairment in naming non-living items: theoretical and methodological implications. J. Neurolinguistics 19 , 96–123 (2006).

Franklin, S., Howard, D. & Patterson, K. Abstract word anomia. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 12 , 549–566 (1995).

Coltheart, M., Patterson, K. E. & Marshall, J. C. Deep Dyslexia (Routledge, 1980).

Nickels, L., Kohnen, S. & Biedermann, B. An untapped resource: treatment as a tool for revealing the nature of cognitive processes. Cogn. Neuropsychol. 27 , 539–562 (2010).

Download references


The authors thank all of those pioneers of and advocates for single case study research who have mentored, inspired and encouraged us over the years, and the many other colleagues with whom we have discussed these issues.

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

School of Psychological Sciences & Macquarie University Centre for Reading, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Lyndsey Nickels

NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation, Australia

Psychological Sciences, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA

Simon Fischer-Baum

Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London, UK

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar


L.N. led and was primarily responsible for the structuring and writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed to all aspects of the article.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lyndsey Nickels .

Ethics declarations

Competing interests.

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information.

Nature Reviews Psychology thanks Yanchao Bi, Rob McIntosh, and the other, anonymous, reviewer for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article.

Nickels, L., Fischer-Baum, S. & Best, W. Single case studies are a powerful tool for developing, testing and extending theories. Nat Rev Psychol 1 , 733–747 (2022).

Download citation

Accepted : 13 October 2022

Published : 22 November 2022

Issue Date : December 2022


Share this article

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

Quick links

  • Explore articles by subject
  • Guide to authors
  • Editorial policies

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

top 10 case study psychology

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Therapy Center
  • When To See a Therapist
  • Types of Therapy
  • Best Online Therapy
  • Best Couples Therapy
  • Best Family Therapy
  • Managing Stress
  • Sleep and Dreaming
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Self-Improvement
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Student Resources
  • Personality Types
  • Verywell Mind Insights
  • 2023 Verywell Mind 25
  • Mental Health in the Classroom
  • Editorial Process
  • Meet Our Review Board
  • Crisis Support

Topics for Psychology Case Studies

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

top 10 case study psychology

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter.

top 10 case study psychology

Ridofranz / Getty Images  

In one of your psychology classes, you might be asked to write a  case study  of an individual. What exactly is a case study? A case study is an in-depth psychological investigation of a single person or a group of people.

Case studies are commonly used in medicine and psychology. For example, these studies often focus on people with an illness (for example, one that is rare) or people with experiences that cannot be replicated in a lab.

Here are some ideas and inspiration to help you come up with a fascinating psychological case study.

What Should Your Case Study Be About?

Your instructor will give you directions and guidelines for your case study project. Make sure you have their permission to go ahead with your subject before you get started.

The format of your case study may vary depending on the class requirements and your instructor's expectations. Most psychological case studies include a detailed background of the person, a description of the problem the person is facing, a diagnosis, and a description of an intervention using one or more therapeutic approaches.

The first step in writing a case study is to select a subject. You might be allowed to conduct a case study on a volunteer or someone you know in real life, such as a friend or family member.

However, your instructor may prefer that you select a less personal subject, such as an individual from history, a famous literary figure, or even a fictional character.

Psychology Case Study Ideas

Want to find an interesting subject for your case study? Here are just a few ideas that might inspire you.

A Pioneering Psychologist

Famous or exceptional people can make great case study topics. There are plenty of fascinating figures in the history of psychology who would be interesting subjects for a case study.

Here are some of the most well-known thinkers in psychology whose interesting lives could make a great case study:

  • Sigmund Freud
  • Harry Harlow
  • Mary Ainsworth
  • Erik Erikson
  • Ivan Pavlov
  • Jean Piaget
  • Abraham Maslow
  • William James
  • B. F. Skinner

Examining these individuals’ upbringings, experiences, and lives can provide insight into how they developed their theories and approached the study of psychology.

A Famous Patient in Psychology

The best-known people in psychology aren’t always professionals. The people that psychologists have worked with are among some of the most fascinating people in the history of psychology.

Here are a few examples of famous psychology patients who would make great case studies:

  • Anna O.  (Bertha Pappenheim)
  • Phineas Gage
  • Genie (Susan Wiley)
  • Kitty Genovese
  • Little Albert
  • David Reimer
  • Chris Costner Sizemore (Eve White/Eve Black)
  • Dora (Ida Bauer)
  • Patient H.M. (Henry Molaison)

By taking a closer look at the lives of these psychology patients, you can gain greater insight into their experiences. You’ll also get to see how diagnosis and treatment were different in the past compared to today.

A Historical Figure

Historical figures—famous and infamous—can be excellent subjects for case studies. Here are just a few influential people from history that you might consider doing a case study on:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • George Washington
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Elizabeth I
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Walt Disney
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Charles Darwin
  • Howard Hughes
  • Catherine the Great
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Edvard Munch
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Andy Warhol
  • Salvador Dali

You’ll need to do a lot of reading and research on your chosen subject's life to figure out why they became influential forces in history. When thinking about their psychology, you’ll also want to consider what life was like in the times that they lived.

A Fictional Character or a Literary Figure

Your instructor might allow you to take a more fun approach to a case study by doing a deep dive into the psychology of a fictional character.

Here are a few examples of fictional characters who could make great case studies:

  • Macbeth/Lady Macbeth
  • Romeo/Juliet
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Norman Bates
  • Elizabeth Bennet/Fitzwilliam Darcy
  • Katniss Everdeen
  • Harry Potter/Hermione Granger/Ron Weasley/Severus Snape
  • Batman/The Joker
  • Atticus Finch
  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • Dexter Morgan
  • Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling
  • Fox Mulder/Dana Scully
  • Forrest Gump
  • Patrick Bateman
  • Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
  • Ellen Ripley
  • Michael Corleone
  • Randle McMurphy/Nurse Ratched
  • Miss Havisham

The people who bring characters to life on the page can also be fascinating. Here are some literary figures who could be interesting case studies:

  • Shakespeare
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Jane Austen
  • Stephen King
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Sylvia Plath
  • JRR Tolkien
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Charles Dickens
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • George Orwell
  • Maya Angelou
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Agatha Christie
  • Toni Morrison
  • Daphne du Maurier
  • Franz Kafka
  • Herman Melville

Can I Write About Someone I Know?

Your instructor may allow you to write your case study on a person that you know. However, you might need to get special permission from your school's Institutional Review Board to do a psychological case study on a real person.

You might not be able to use the person’s real name, though. Even if it’s not required, you may want to use a pseudonym for them to make sure that their identity and privacy are protected.

To do a case study on a real person you know, you’ll need to interview them and possibly talk to other people who know them well, like friends and family.

If you choose to do a case study on a real person, make sure that you fully understand the ethics and best practices, especially informed consent. Work closely with your instructor throughout your project to ensure that you’re following all the rules and handling the project professionally.

APA. Guidelines for submitting case reports .

American Psychological Association.  Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct, including 2010 and 2016 amendments .

Rolls, G. (2019). Classic Case Studies in Psychology: Fourth Edition . United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Research Methods In Psychology

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Research methods in psychology are systematic procedures used to observe, describe, predict, and explain behavior and mental processes. They include experiments, surveys, case studies, and naturalistic observations, ensuring data collection is objective and reliable to understand and explain psychological phenomena.

research methods3

Hypotheses are statements about the prediction of the results, that can be verified or disproved by some investigation.

There are four types of hypotheses :
  • Null Hypotheses (H0 ) – these predict that no difference will be found in the results between the conditions. Typically these are written ‘There will be no difference…’
  • Alternative Hypotheses (Ha or H1) – these predict that there will be a significant difference in the results between the two conditions. This is also known as the experimental hypothesis.
  • One-tailed (directional) hypotheses – these state the specific direction the researcher expects the results to move in, e.g. higher, lower, more, less. In a correlation study, the predicted direction of the correlation can be either positive or negative.
  • Two-tailed (non-directional) hypotheses – these state that a difference will be found between the conditions of the independent variable but does not state the direction of a difference or relationship. Typically these are always written ‘There will be a difference ….’

All research has an alternative hypothesis (either a one-tailed or two-tailed) and a corresponding null hypothesis.

Once the research is conducted and results are found, psychologists must accept one hypothesis and reject the other. 

So, if a difference is found, the Psychologist would accept the alternative hypothesis and reject the null.  The opposite applies if no difference is found.

Sampling techniques

Sampling is the process of selecting a representative group from the population under study.

Sample Target Population

A sample is the participants you select from a target population (the group you are interested in) to make generalizations about.

Representative means the extent to which a sample mirrors a researcher’s target population and reflects its characteristics.

Generalisability means the extent to which their findings can be applied to the larger population of which their sample was a part.

  • Volunteer sample : where participants pick themselves through newspaper adverts, noticeboards or online.
  • Opportunity sampling : also known as convenience sampling , uses people who are available at the time the study is carried out and willing to take part. It is based on convenience.
  • Random sampling : when every person in the target population has an equal chance of being selected. An example of random sampling would be picking names out of a hat.
  • Systematic sampling : when a system is used to select participants. Picking every Nth person from all possible participants. N = the number of people in the research population / the number of people needed for the sample.
  • Stratified sampling : when you identify the subgroups and select participants in proportion to their occurrences.
  • Snowball sampling : when researchers find a few participants, and then ask them to find participants themselves and so on.
  • Quota sampling : when researchers will be told to ensure the sample fits certain quotas, for example they might be told to find 90 participants, with 30 of them being unemployed.

Experiments always have an independent and dependent variable .

  • The independent variable is the one the experimenter manipulates (the thing that changes between the conditions the participants are placed into). It is assumed to have a direct effect on the dependent variable.
  • The dependent variable is the thing being measured, or the results of the experiment.


Operationalization of variables means making them measurable/quantifiable. We must use operationalization to ensure that variables are in a form that can be easily tested.

For instance, we can’t really measure ‘happiness’, but we can measure how many times a person smiles within a two-hour period. 

By operationalizing variables, we make it easy for someone else to replicate our research. Remember, this is important because we can check if our findings are reliable.

Extraneous variables are all variables which are not independent variable but could affect the results of the experiment.

It can be a natural characteristic of the participant, such as intelligence levels, gender, or age for example, or it could be a situational feature of the environment such as lighting or noise.

Demand characteristics are a type of extraneous variable that occurs if the participants work out the aims of the research study, they may begin to behave in a certain way.

For example, in Milgram’s research , critics argued that participants worked out that the shocks were not real and they administered them as they thought this was what was required of them. 

Extraneous variables must be controlled so that they do not affect (confound) the results.

Randomly allocating participants to their conditions or using a matched pairs experimental design can help to reduce participant variables. 

Situational variables are controlled by using standardized procedures, ensuring every participant in a given condition is treated in the same way

Experimental Design

Experimental design refers to how participants are allocated to each condition of the independent variable, such as a control or experimental group.
  • Independent design ( between-groups design ): each participant is selected for only one group. With the independent design, the most common way of deciding which participants go into which group is by means of randomization. 
  • Matched participants design : each participant is selected for only one group, but the participants in the two groups are matched for some relevant factor or factors (e.g. ability; sex; age).
  • Repeated measures design ( within groups) : each participant appears in both groups, so that there are exactly the same participants in each group.
  • The main problem with the repeated measures design is that there may well be order effects. Their experiences during the experiment may change the participants in various ways.
  • They may perform better when they appear in the second group because they have gained useful information about the experiment or about the task. On the other hand, they may perform less well on the second occasion because of tiredness or boredom.
  • Counterbalancing is the best way of preventing order effects from disrupting the findings of an experiment, and involves ensuring that each condition is equally likely to be used first and second by the participants.

If we wish to compare two groups with respect to a given independent variable, it is essential to make sure that the two groups do not differ in any other important way. 

Experimental Methods

All experimental methods involve an iv (independent variable) and dv (dependent variable)..

  • Field experiments are conducted in the everyday (natural) environment of the participants. The experimenter still manipulates the IV, but in a real-life setting. It may be possible to control extraneous variables, though such control is more difficult than in a lab experiment.
  • Natural experiments are when a naturally occurring IV is investigated that isn’t deliberately manipulated, it exists anyway. Participants are not randomly allocated, and the natural event may only occur rarely.

Case studies are in-depth investigations of a person, group, event, or community. It uses information from a range of sources, such as from the person concerned and also from their family and friends.

Many techniques may be used such as interviews, psychological tests, observations and experiments. Case studies are generally longitudinal: in other words, they follow the individual or group over an extended period of time. 

Case studies are widely used in psychology and among the best-known ones carried out were by Sigmund Freud . He conducted very detailed investigations into the private lives of his patients in an attempt to both understand and help them overcome their illnesses.

Case studies provide rich qualitative data and have high levels of ecological validity. However, it is difficult to generalize from individual cases as each one has unique characteristics.

Correlational Studies

Correlation means association; it is a measure of the extent to which two variables are related. One of the variables can be regarded as the predictor variable with the other one as the outcome variable.

Correlational studies typically involve obtaining two different measures from a group of participants, and then assessing the degree of association between the measures. 

The predictor variable can be seen as occurring before the outcome variable in some sense. It is called the predictor variable, because it forms the basis for predicting the value of the outcome variable.

Relationships between variables can be displayed on a graph or as a numerical score called a correlation coefficient.

types of correlation. Scatter plot. Positive negative and no correlation

  • If an increase in one variable tends to be associated with an increase in the other, then this is known as a positive correlation .
  • If an increase in one variable tends to be associated with a decrease in the other, then this is known as a negative correlation .
  • A zero correlation occurs when there is no relationship between variables.

After looking at the scattergraph, if we want to be sure that a significant relationship does exist between the two variables, a statistical test of correlation can be conducted, such as Spearman’s rho.

The test will give us a score, called a correlation coefficient . This is a value between 0 and 1, and the closer to 1 the score is, the stronger the relationship between the variables. This value can be both positive e.g. 0.63, or negative -0.63.

Types of correlation. Strong, weak, and perfect positive correlation, strong, weak, and perfect negative correlation, no correlation. Graphs or charts ...

A correlation between variables, however, does not automatically mean that the change in one variable is the cause of the change in the values of the other variable. A correlation only shows if there is a relationship between variables.

Correlation does not always prove causation, as a third variable may be involved. 

causation correlation

Interview Methods

Interviews are commonly divided into two types: structured and unstructured.

A fixed, predetermined set of questions is put to every participant in the same order and in the same way. 

Responses are recorded on a questionnaire, and the researcher presets the order and wording of questions, and sometimes the range of alternative answers.

The interviewer stays within their role and maintains social distance from the interviewee.

There are no set questions, and the participant can raise whatever topics he/she feels are relevant and ask them in their own way. Questions are posed about participants’ answers to the subject

Unstructured interviews are most useful in qualitative research to analyze attitudes and values.

Though they rarely provide a valid basis for generalization, their main advantage is that they enable the researcher to probe social actors’ subjective point of view. 

Questionnaire Method

Questionnaires can be thought of as a kind of written interview. They can be carried out face to face, by telephone, or post.

The choice of questions is important because of the need to avoid bias or ambiguity in the questions, ‘leading’ the respondent or causing offense.

  • Open questions are designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject’s own knowledge and feelings. They provide insights into feelings, opinions, and understanding. Example: “How do you feel about that situation?”
  • Closed questions can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” or specific information, limiting the depth of response. They are useful for gathering specific facts or confirming details. Example: “Do you feel anxious in crowds?”

Its other practical advantages are that it is cheaper than face-to-face interviews and can be used to contact many respondents scattered over a wide area relatively quickly.


There are different types of observation methods :
  • Covert observation is where the researcher doesn’t tell the participants they are being observed until after the study is complete. There could be ethical problems or deception and consent with this particular observation method.
  • Overt observation is where a researcher tells the participants they are being observed and what they are being observed for.
  • Controlled : behavior is observed under controlled laboratory conditions (e.g., Bandura’s Bobo doll study).
  • Natural : Here, spontaneous behavior is recorded in a natural setting.
  • Participant : Here, the observer has direct contact with the group of people they are observing. The researcher becomes a member of the group they are researching.  
  • Non-participant (aka “fly on the wall): The researcher does not have direct contact with the people being observed. The observation of participants’ behavior is from a distance

Pilot Study

A pilot  study is a small scale preliminary study conducted in order to evaluate the feasibility of the key s teps in a future, full-scale project.

A pilot study is an initial run-through of the procedures to be used in an investigation; it involves selecting a few people and trying out the study on them. It is possible to save time, and in some cases, money, by identifying any flaws in the procedures designed by the researcher.

A pilot study can help the researcher spot any ambiguities (i.e. unusual things) or confusion in the information given to participants or problems with the task devised.

Sometimes the task is too hard, and the researcher may get a floor effect, because none of the participants can score at all or can complete the task – all performances are low.

The opposite effect is a ceiling effect, when the task is so easy that all achieve virtually full marks or top performances and are “hitting the ceiling”.

Research Design

In cross-sectional research , a researcher compares multiple segments of the population at the same time

Sometimes, we want to see how people change over time, as in studies of human development and lifespan. Longitudinal research is a research design in which data-gathering is administered repeatedly over an extended period of time.

In cohort studies , the participants must share a common factor or characteristic such as age, demographic, or occupation. A cohort study is a type of longitudinal study in which researchers monitor and observe a chosen population over an extended period.

Triangulation means using more than one research method to improve the study’s validity.


Reliability is a measure of consistency, if a particular measurement is repeated and the same result is obtained then it is described as being reliable.

  • Test-retest reliability :  assessing the same person on two different occasions which shows the extent to which the test produces the same answers.
  • Inter-observer reliability : the extent to which there is an agreement between two or more observers.


A meta-analysis is a systematic review that involves identifying an aim and then searching for research studies that have addressed similar aims/hypotheses.

This is done by looking through various databases, and then decisions are made about what studies are to be included/excluded.

Strengths: Increases the conclusions’ validity as they’re based on a wider range.

Weaknesses: Research designs in studies can vary, so they are not truly comparable.

Peer Review

A researcher submits an article to a journal. The choice of the journal may be determined by the journal’s audience or prestige.

The journal selects two or more appropriate experts (psychologists working in a similar field) to peer review the article without payment. The peer reviewers assess: the methods and designs used, originality of the findings, the validity of the original research findings and its content, structure and language.

Feedback from the reviewer determines whether the article is accepted. The article may be: Accepted as it is, accepted with revisions, sent back to the author to revise and re-submit or rejected without the possibility of submission.

The editor makes the final decision whether to accept or reject the research report based on the reviewers comments/ recommendations.

Peer review is important because it prevent faulty data from entering the public domain, it provides a way of checking the validity of findings and the quality of the methodology and is used to assess the research rating of university departments.

Peer reviews may be an ideal, whereas in practice there are lots of problems. For example, it slows publication down and may prevent unusual, new work being published. Some reviewers might use it as an opportunity to prevent competing researchers from publishing work.

Some people doubt whether peer review can really prevent the publication of fraudulent research.

The advent of the internet means that a lot of research and academic comment is being published without official peer reviews than before, though systems are evolving on the internet where everyone really has a chance to offer their opinions and police the quality of research.

Types of Data

  • Quantitative data is numerical data e.g. reaction time or number of mistakes. It represents how much or how long, how many there are of something. A tally of behavioral categories and closed questions in a questionnaire collect quantitative data.
  • Qualitative data is virtually any type of information that can be observed and recorded that is not numerical in nature and can be in the form of written or verbal communication. Open questions in questionnaires and accounts from observational studies collect qualitative data.
  • Primary data is first-hand data collected for the purpose of the investigation.
  • Secondary data is information that has been collected by someone other than the person who is conducting the research e.g. taken from journals, books or articles.

Validity means how well a piece of research actually measures what it sets out to, or how well it reflects the reality it claims to represent.

Validity is whether the observed effect is genuine and represents what is actually out there in the world.

  • Concurrent validity is the extent to which a psychological measure relates to an existing similar measure and obtains close results. For example, a new intelligence test compared to an established test.
  • Face validity : does the test measure what it’s supposed to measure ‘on the face of it’. This is done by ‘eyeballing’ the measuring or by passing it to an expert to check.
  • Ecological validit y is the extent to which findings from a research study can be generalized to other settings / real life.
  • Temporal validity is the extent to which findings from a research study can be generalized to other historical times.

Features of Science

  • Paradigm – A set of shared assumptions and agreed methods within a scientific discipline.
  • Paradigm shift – The result of the scientific revolution: a significant change in the dominant unifying theory within a scientific discipline.
  • Objectivity – When all sources of personal bias are minimised so not to distort or influence the research process.
  • Empirical method – Scientific approaches that are based on the gathering of evidence through direct observation and experience.
  • Replicability – The extent to which scientific procedures and findings can be repeated by other researchers.
  • Falsifiability – The principle that a theory cannot be considered scientific unless it admits the possibility of being proved untrue.

Statistical Testing

A significant result is one where there is a low probability that chance factors were responsible for any observed difference, correlation, or association in the variables tested.

If our test is significant, we can reject our null hypothesis and accept our alternative hypothesis.

If our test is not significant, we can accept our null hypothesis and reject our alternative hypothesis. A null hypothesis is a statement of no effect.

In Psychology, we use p < 0.05 (as it strikes a balance between making a type I and II error) but p < 0.01 is used in tests that could cause harm like introducing a new drug.

A type I error is when the null hypothesis is rejected when it should have been accepted (happens when a lenient significance level is used, an error of optimism).

A type II error is when the null hypothesis is accepted when it should have been rejected (happens when a stringent significance level is used, an error of pessimism).

Ethical Issues

  • Informed consent is when participants are able to make an informed judgment about whether to take part. It causes them to guess the aims of the study and change their behavior.
  • To deal with it, we can gain presumptive consent or ask them to formally indicate their agreement to participate but it may invalidate the purpose of the study and it is not guaranteed that the participants would understand.
  • Deception should only be used when it is approved by an ethics committee, as it involves deliberately misleading or withholding information. Participants should be fully debriefed after the study but debriefing can’t turn the clock back.
  • All participants should be informed at the beginning that they have the right to withdraw if they ever feel distressed or uncomfortable.
  • It causes bias as the ones that stayed are obedient and some may not withdraw as they may have been given incentives or feel like they’re spoiling the study. Researchers can offer the right to withdraw data after participation.
  • Participants should all have protection from harm . The researcher should avoid risks greater than those experienced in everyday life and they should stop the study if any harm is suspected. However, the harm may not be apparent at the time of the study.
  • Confidentiality concerns the communication of personal information. The researchers should not record any names but use numbers or false names though it may not be possible as it is sometimes possible to work out who the researchers were.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2.2 Approaches to Research

Learning objectives.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the different research methods used by psychologists
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of case studies, naturalistic observation, surveys, and archival research
  • Compare longitudinal and cross-sectional approaches to research
  • Compare and contrast correlation and causation

There are many research methods available to psychologists in their efforts to understand, describe, and explain behavior and the cognitive and biological processes that underlie it. Some methods rely on observational techniques. Other approaches involve interactions between the researcher and the individuals who are being studied—ranging from a series of simple questions to extensive, in-depth interviews—to well-controlled experiments.

Each of these research methods has unique strengths and weaknesses, and each method may only be appropriate for certain types of research questions. For example, studies that rely primarily on observation produce incredible amounts of information, but the ability to apply this information to the larger population is somewhat limited because of small sample sizes. Survey research, on the other hand, allows researchers to easily collect data from relatively large samples. While this allows for results to be generalized to the larger population more easily, the information that can be collected on any given survey is somewhat limited and subject to problems associated with any type of self-reported data. Some researchers conduct archival research by using existing records. While this can be a fairly inexpensive way to collect data that can provide insight into a number of research questions, researchers using this approach have no control on how or what kind of data was collected. All of the methods described thus far are correlational in nature. This means that researchers can speak to important relationships that might exist between two or more variables of interest. However, correlational data cannot be used to make claims about cause-and-effect relationships.

Correlational research can find a relationship between two variables, but the only way a researcher can claim that the relationship between the variables is cause and effect is to perform an experiment. In experimental research, which will be discussed later in this chapter, there is a tremendous amount of control over variables of interest. While this is a powerful approach, experiments are often conducted in artificial settings. This calls into question the validity of experimental findings with regard to how they would apply in real-world settings. In addition, many of the questions that psychologists would like to answer cannot be pursued through experimental research because of ethical concerns.

Clinical or Case Studies

In 2011, the New York Times published a feature story on Krista and Tatiana Hogan, Canadian twin girls. These particular twins are unique because Krista and Tatiana are conjoined twins, connected at the head. There is evidence that the two girls are connected in a part of the brain called the thalamus, which is a major sensory relay center. Most incoming sensory information is sent through the thalamus before reaching higher regions of the cerebral cortex for processing.

Link to Learning

Watch this CBC video about Krista's and Tatiana's lives to learn more.

The implications of this potential connection mean that it might be possible for one twin to experience the sensations of the other twin. For instance, if Krista is watching a particularly funny television program, Tatiana might smile or laugh even if she is not watching the program. This particular possibility has piqued the interest of many neuroscientists who seek to understand how the brain uses sensory information.

These twins represent an enormous resource in the study of the brain, and since their condition is very rare, it is likely that as long as their family agrees, scientists will follow these girls very closely throughout their lives to gain as much information as possible (Dominus, 2011).

Over time, it has become clear that while Krista and Tatiana share some sensory experiences and motor control, they remain two distinct individuals, which provides invaluable insight for researchers interested in the mind and the brain (Egnor, 2017).

In observational research, scientists are conducting a clinical or case study when they focus on one person or just a few individuals. Indeed, some scientists spend their entire careers studying just 10–20 individuals. Why would they do this? Obviously, when they focus their attention on a very small number of people, they can gain a precious amount of insight into those cases. The richness of information that is collected in clinical or case studies is unmatched by any other single research method. This allows the researcher to have a very deep understanding of the individuals and the particular phenomenon being studied.

If clinical or case studies provide so much information, why are they not more frequent among researchers? As it turns out, the major benefit of this particular approach is also a weakness. As mentioned earlier, this approach is often used when studying individuals who are interesting to researchers because they have a rare characteristic. Therefore, the individuals who serve as the focus of case studies are not like most other people. If scientists ultimately want to explain all behavior, focusing attention on such a special group of people can make it difficult to generalize any observations to the larger population as a whole. Generalizing refers to the ability to apply the findings of a particular research project to larger segments of society. Again, case studies provide enormous amounts of information, but since the cases are so specific, the potential to apply what’s learned to the average person may be very limited.

Naturalistic Observation

If you want to understand how behavior occurs, one of the best ways to gain information is to simply observe the behavior in its natural context. However, people might change their behavior in unexpected ways if they know they are being observed. How do researchers obtain accurate information when people tend to hide their natural behavior? As an example, imagine that your professor asks everyone in your class to raise their hand if they always wash their hands after using the restroom. Chances are that almost everyone in the classroom will raise their hand, but do you think hand washing after every trip to the restroom is really that universal?

This is very similar to the phenomenon mentioned earlier in this chapter: many individuals do not feel comfortable answering a question honestly. But if we are committed to finding out the facts about hand washing, we have other options available to us.

Suppose we send a classmate into the restroom to actually watch whether everyone washes their hands after using the restroom. Will our observer blend into the restroom environment by wearing a white lab coat, sitting with a clipboard, and staring at the sinks? We want our researcher to be inconspicuous—perhaps standing at one of the sinks pretending to put in contact lenses while secretly recording the relevant information. This type of observational study is called naturalistic observation : observing behavior in its natural setting. To better understand peer exclusion, Suzanne Fanger collaborated with colleagues at the University of Texas to observe the behavior of preschool children on a playground. How did the observers remain inconspicuous over the duration of the study? They equipped a few of the children with wireless microphones (which the children quickly forgot about) and observed while taking notes from a distance. Also, the children in that particular preschool (a “laboratory preschool”) were accustomed to having observers on the playground (Fanger, Frankel, & Hazen, 2012).

It is critical that the observer be as unobtrusive and as inconspicuous as possible: when people know they are being watched, they are less likely to behave naturally. If you have any doubt about this, ask yourself how your driving behavior might differ in two situations: In the first situation, you are driving down a deserted highway during the middle of the day; in the second situation, you are being followed by a police car down the same deserted highway ( Figure 2.7 ).

It should be pointed out that naturalistic observation is not limited to research involving humans. Indeed, some of the best-known examples of naturalistic observation involve researchers going into the field to observe various kinds of animals in their own environments. As with human studies, the researchers maintain their distance and avoid interfering with the animal subjects so as not to influence their natural behaviors. Scientists have used this technique to study social hierarchies and interactions among animals ranging from ground squirrels to gorillas. The information provided by these studies is invaluable in understanding how those animals organize socially and communicate with one another. The anthropologist Jane Goodall , for example, spent nearly five decades observing the behavior of chimpanzees in Africa ( Figure 2.8 ). As an illustration of the types of concerns that a researcher might encounter in naturalistic observation, some scientists criticized Goodall for giving the chimps names instead of referring to them by numbers—using names was thought to undermine the emotional detachment required for the objectivity of the study (McKie, 2010).

The greatest benefit of naturalistic observation is the validity , or accuracy, of information collected unobtrusively in a natural setting. Having individuals behave as they normally would in a given situation means that we have a higher degree of ecological validity, or realism, than we might achieve with other research approaches. Therefore, our ability to generalize the findings of the research to real-world situations is enhanced. If done correctly, we need not worry about people or animals modifying their behavior simply because they are being observed. Sometimes, people may assume that reality programs give us a glimpse into authentic human behavior. However, the principle of inconspicuous observation is violated as reality stars are followed by camera crews and are interviewed on camera for personal confessionals. Given that environment, we must doubt how natural and realistic their behaviors are.

The major downside of naturalistic observation is that they are often difficult to set up and control. In our restroom study, what if you stood in the restroom all day prepared to record people’s hand washing behavior and no one came in? Or, what if you have been closely observing a troop of gorillas for weeks only to find that they migrated to a new place while you were sleeping in your tent? The benefit of realistic data comes at a cost. As a researcher you have no control of when (or if) you have behavior to observe. In addition, this type of observational research often requires significant investments of time, money, and a good dose of luck.

Sometimes studies involve structured observation. In these cases, people are observed while engaging in set, specific tasks. An excellent example of structured observation comes from Strange Situation by Mary Ainsworth (you will read more about this in the chapter on lifespan development). The Strange Situation is a procedure used to evaluate attachment styles that exist between an infant and caregiver. In this scenario, caregivers bring their infants into a room filled with toys. The Strange Situation involves a number of phases, including a stranger coming into the room, the caregiver leaving the room, and the caregiver’s return to the room. The infant’s behavior is closely monitored at each phase, but it is the behavior of the infant upon being reunited with the caregiver that is most telling in terms of characterizing the infant’s attachment style with the caregiver.

Another potential problem in observational research is observer bias . Generally, people who act as observers are closely involved in the research project and may unconsciously skew their observations to fit their research goals or expectations. To protect against this type of bias, researchers should have clear criteria established for the types of behaviors recorded and how those behaviors should be classified. In addition, researchers often compare observations of the same event by multiple observers, in order to test inter-rater reliability : a measure of reliability that assesses the consistency of observations by different observers.

Often, psychologists develop surveys as a means of gathering data. Surveys are lists of questions to be answered by research participants, and can be delivered as paper-and-pencil questionnaires, administered electronically, or conducted verbally ( Figure 2.9 ). Generally, the survey itself can be completed in a short time, and the ease of administering a survey makes it easy to collect data from a large number of people.

Surveys allow researchers to gather data from larger samples than may be afforded by other research methods . A sample is a subset of individuals selected from a population , which is the overall group of individuals that the researchers are interested in. Researchers study the sample and seek to generalize their findings to the population. Generally, researchers will begin this process by calculating various measures of central tendency from the data they have collected. These measures provide an overall summary of what a typical response looks like. There are three measures of central tendency: mode, median, and mean. The mode is the most frequently occurring response, the median lies at the middle of a given data set, and the mean is the arithmetic average of all data points. Means tend to be most useful in conducting additional analyses like those described below; however, means are very sensitive to the effects of outliers, and so one must be aware of those effects when making assessments of what measures of central tendency tell us about a data set in question.

There is both strength and weakness of the survey in comparison to case studies. By using surveys, we can collect information from a larger sample of people. A larger sample is better able to reflect the actual diversity of the population, thus allowing better generalizability. Therefore, if our sample is sufficiently large and diverse, we can assume that the data we collect from the survey can be generalized to the larger population with more certainty than the information collected through a case study. However, given the greater number of people involved, we are not able to collect the same depth of information on each person that would be collected in a case study.

Another potential weakness of surveys is something we touched on earlier in this chapter: People don't always give accurate responses. They may lie, misremember, or answer questions in a way that they think makes them look good. For example, people may report drinking less alcohol than is actually the case.

Any number of research questions can be answered through the use of surveys. One real-world example is the research conducted by Jenkins, Ruppel, Kizer, Yehl, and Griffin (2012) about the backlash against the US Arab-American community following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Jenkins and colleagues wanted to determine to what extent these negative attitudes toward Arab-Americans still existed nearly a decade after the attacks occurred. In one study, 140 research participants filled out a survey with 10 questions, including questions asking directly about the participant’s overt prejudicial attitudes toward people of various ethnicities. The survey also asked indirect questions about how likely the participant would be to interact with a person of a given ethnicity in a variety of settings (such as, “How likely do you think it is that you would introduce yourself to a person of Arab-American descent?”). The results of the research suggested that participants were unwilling to report prejudicial attitudes toward any ethnic group. However, there were significant differences between their pattern of responses to questions about social interaction with Arab-Americans compared to other ethnic groups: they indicated less willingness for social interaction with Arab-Americans compared to the other ethnic groups. This suggested that the participants harbored subtle forms of prejudice against Arab-Americans, despite their assertions that this was not the case (Jenkins et al., 2012).

Archival Research

Some researchers gain access to large amounts of data without interacting with a single research participant. Instead, they use existing records to answer various research questions. This type of research approach is known as archival research . Archival research relies on looking at past records or data sets to look for interesting patterns or relationships.

For example, a researcher might access the academic records of all individuals who enrolled in college within the past ten years and calculate how long it took them to complete their degrees, as well as course loads, grades, and extracurricular involvement. Archival research could provide important information about who is most likely to complete their education, and it could help identify important risk factors for struggling students ( Figure 2.10 ).

In comparing archival research to other research methods, there are several important distinctions. For one, the researcher employing archival research never directly interacts with research participants. Therefore, the investment of time and money to collect data is considerably less with archival research. Additionally, researchers have no control over what information was originally collected. Therefore, research questions have to be tailored so they can be answered within the structure of the existing data sets. There is also no guarantee of consistency between the records from one source to another, which might make comparing and contrasting different data sets problematic.

Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Research

Sometimes we want to see how people change over time, as in studies of human development and lifespan. When we test the same group of individuals repeatedly over an extended period of time, we are conducting longitudinal research. Longitudinal research is a research design in which data-gathering is administered repeatedly over an extended period of time. For example, we may survey a group of individuals about their dietary habits at age 20, retest them a decade later at age 30, and then again at age 40.

Another approach is cross-sectional research. In cross-sectional research , a researcher compares multiple segments of the population at the same time. Using the dietary habits example above, the researcher might directly compare different groups of people by age. Instead of studying a group of people for 20 years to see how their dietary habits changed from decade to decade, the researcher would study a group of 20-year-old individuals and compare them to a group of 30-year-old individuals and a group of 40-year-old individuals. While cross-sectional research requires a shorter-term investment, it is also limited by differences that exist between the different generations (or cohorts) that have nothing to do with age per se, but rather reflect the social and cultural experiences of different generations of individuals that make them different from one another.

To illustrate this concept, consider the following survey findings. In recent years there has been significant growth in the popular support of same-sex marriage. Many studies on this topic break down survey participants into different age groups. In general, younger people are more supportive of same-sex marriage than are those who are older (Jones, 2013). Does this mean that as we age we become less open to the idea of same-sex marriage, or does this mean that older individuals have different perspectives because of the social climates in which they grew up? Longitudinal research is a powerful approach because the same individuals are involved in the research project over time, which means that the researchers need to be less concerned with differences among cohorts affecting the results of their study.

Often longitudinal studies are employed when researching various diseases in an effort to understand particular risk factors. Such studies often involve tens of thousands of individuals who are followed for several decades. Given the enormous number of people involved in these studies, researchers can feel confident that their findings can be generalized to the larger population. The Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) is one of a series of longitudinal studies sponsored by the American Cancer Society aimed at determining predictive risk factors associated with cancer. When participants enter the study, they complete a survey about their lives and family histories, providing information on factors that might cause or prevent the development of cancer. Then every few years the participants receive additional surveys to complete. In the end, hundreds of thousands of participants will be tracked over 20 years to determine which of them develop cancer and which do not.

Clearly, this type of research is important and potentially very informative. For instance, earlier longitudinal studies sponsored by the American Cancer Society provided some of the first scientific demonstrations of the now well-established links between increased rates of cancer and smoking (American Cancer Society, n.d.) ( Figure 2.11 ).

As with any research strategy, longitudinal research is not without limitations. For one, these studies require an incredible time investment by the researcher and research participants. Given that some longitudinal studies take years, if not decades, to complete, the results will not be known for a considerable period of time. In addition to the time demands, these studies also require a substantial financial investment. Many researchers are unable to commit the resources necessary to see a longitudinal project through to the end.

Research participants must also be willing to continue their participation for an extended period of time, and this can be problematic. People move, get married and take new names, get ill, and eventually die. Even without significant life changes, some people may simply choose to discontinue their participation in the project. As a result, the attrition rates, or reduction in the number of research participants due to dropouts, in longitudinal studies are quite high and increase over the course of a project. For this reason, researchers using this approach typically recruit many participants fully expecting that a substantial number will drop out before the end. As the study progresses, they continually check whether the sample still represents the larger population, and make adjustments as necessary.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Access for free at
  • Authors: Rose M. Spielman, William J. Jenkins, Marilyn D. Lovett
  • Publisher/website: OpenStax
  • Book title: Psychology 2e
  • Publication date: Apr 22, 2020
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Book URL:
  • Section URL:

© Jan 6, 2024 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.


Transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses.

Información en español

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

  • Science News
  • Meetings and Events
  • Social Media
  • Press Resources
  • Email Updates
  • Innovation Speaker Series

Revolutionizing the Study of Mental Disorders

March 27, 2024 • Feature Story • 75th Anniversary

At a Glance:

  • The Research Domain Criteria framework (RDoC) was created in 2010 by the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • The framework encourages researchers to examine functional processes that are implemented by the brain on a continuum from normal to abnormal.
  • This way of researching mental disorders can help overcome inherent limitations in using all-or-nothing diagnostic systems for research.
  • Researchers worldwide have taken up the principles of RDoC.
  • The framework continues to evolve and update as new information becomes available.

President George H. W. Bush proclaimed  the 1990s “ The Decade of the Brain  ,” urging the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and others to raise awareness about the benefits of brain research.

“Over the years, our understanding of the brain—how it works, what goes wrong when it is injured or diseased—has increased dramatically. However, we still have much more to learn,” read the president’s proclamation. “The need for continued study of the brain is compelling: millions of Americans are affected each year by disorders of the brain…Today, these individuals and their families are justifiably hopeful, for a new era of discovery is dawning in brain research.”

An image showing an FMRI machine with computer screens showing brain images. Credit: iStock/patrickheagney.

Still, despite the explosion of new techniques and tools for studying the brain, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), many mental health researchers were growing frustrated that their field was not progressing as quickly as they had hoped.

For decades, researchers have studied mental disorders using diagnoses based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—a handbook that lists the symptoms of mental disorders and the criteria for diagnosing a person with a disorder. But, among many researchers, suspicion was growing that the system used to diagnose mental disorders may not be the best way to study them.

“There are many benefits to using the DSM in medical settings—it provides reliability and ease of diagnosis. It also provides a clear-cut diagnosis for patients, which can be necessary to request insurance-based coverage of healthcare or job- or school-based accommodations,” said Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., who headed the workgroup that developed NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria Initiative. “However, when used in research, this approach is not always ideal.”

Researchers would often test people with a specific diagnosed DSM disorder against those with a different disorder or with no disorder and see how the groups differed. However, different mental disorders can have similar symptoms, and people can be diagnosed with several different disorders simultaneously. In addition, a diagnosis using the DSM is all or none—patients either qualify for the disorder based on their number of symptoms, or they don’t. This black-and-white approach means there may be people who experience symptoms of a mental disorder but just miss the cutoff for diagnosis.

Dr. Cuthbert, who is now the senior member of the RDoC Unit which orchestrates RDoC work, stated that “Diagnostic systems are based on clinical signs and symptoms, but signs and symptoms can’t really tell us much about what is going on in the brain or the underlying causes of a disorder. With modern neuroscience, we were seeing that information on genetic, pathophysiological, and psychological causes of mental disorders did not line up well with the current diagnostic disorder categories, suggesting that there were central processes that relate to mental disorders that were not being reflected in DMS-based research.”

Road to evolution

Concerned about the limits of using the DSM for research, Dr. Cuthbert, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Minnesota at the time, approached Dr. Thomas Insel (then NIMH director) during a conference in the autumn of 2008. Dr. Cuthbert recalled saying, “I think it’s really important that we start looking at dimensions of functions related to mental disorders such as fear, working memory, and reward systems because we know that these dimensions cut across various disorders. I think NIMH really needs to think about mental disorders in this new way.”

Dr. Cuthbert didn’t know it then, but he was suggesting something similar to ideas that NIMH was considering. Just months earlier, Dr. Insel had spearheaded the inclusion of a goal in NIMH’s 2008 Strategic Plan for Research to “develop, for research purposes, new ways of classifying mental disorders based on dimensions of observable behavior and neurobiological measures.”

Unaware of the new strategic goal, Dr. Cuthbert was surprised when Dr. Insel's senior advisor, Marlene Guzman, called a few weeks later to ask if he’d be interested in taking a sabbatical to help lead this new effort. Dr. Cuthbert soon transitioned into a full-time NIMH employee, joining the Institute at an exciting time to lead the development of what became known as the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Framework. The effort began in 2009 with the creation of an internal working group of interdisciplinary NIMH staff who identified core functional areas that could be used as examples of what research using this new conceptual framework looked like.

The workgroup members conceived a bold change in how investigators studied mental disorders.

“We wanted researchers to transition from looking at mental disorders as all or none diagnoses based on groups of symptoms. Instead, we wanted to encourage researchers to understand how basic core functions of the brain—like fear processing and reward processing—work at a biological and behavioral level and how these core functions contribute to mental disorders,” said Dr. Cuthbert.

This approach would incorporate biological and behavioral measures of mental disorders and examine processes that cut across and apply to all mental disorders. From Dr. Cuthbert’s standpoint, this could help remedy some of the frustrations mental health researchers were experiencing.

Around the same time the workgroup was sharing its plans and organizing the first steps, Sarah Morris, Ph.D., was a researcher focusing on schizophrenia at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. When she first read these papers, she wondered what this new approach would mean for her research, her grants, and her lab.

She also remembered feeling that this new approach reflected what she was seeing in her data.

“When I grouped my participants by those with and without schizophrenia, there was a lot of overlap, and there was a lot of variability across the board, and so it felt like RDoC provided the pathway forward to dissect that and sort it out,” said Dr. Morris.

Later that year, Dr. Morris joined NIMH and the RDoC workgroup, saying, “I was bumping up against a wall every day in my own work and in the data in front of me. And the idea that someone would give the field permission to try something new—that was super exciting.”

The five original RDoC domains of functioning were introduced to the broader scientific community in a series of articles published in 2010  .

To establish the new framework, the RDoC workgroup (including Drs. Cuthbert and Morris) began a series of workshops in 2011 to collect feedback from experts in various areas from the larger scientific community. Five workshops were held over the next two years, each with a different broad domain of functioning based upon prior basic behavioral neuroscience. The five domains were called:

  • Negative valence (which included processes related to things like fear, threat, and loss)
  • Positive valence (which included processes related to working for rewards and appreciating rewards)
  • Cognitive processes
  • Social processes
  • Arousal and regulation processes (including arousal systems for the body and sleep).

At each workshop, experts defined several specific functions, termed constructs, that fell within the domain of interest. For instance, constructs in the cognitive processes domain included attention, memory, cognitive control, and others.

The result of these feedback sessions was a framework that described mental disorders as the interaction between different functional processes—processes that could occur on a continuum from normal to abnormal. Researchers could measure these functional processes in a variety of complementary ways—for example, by looking at genes associated with these processes, the brain circuits that implement these processes, tests or observations of behaviors that represent these functional processes, and what patients report about their concerns. Also included in the framework was an understanding that functional processes associated with mental disorders are impacted and altered by the environment and a person’s developmental stage.

Preserving momentum

An image depicting the RDoC Framework that includes four overlapping circles (titled: Lifespan, Domains, Units of Analysis, and Environment).

Over time, the Framework continued evolving and adapting to the changing science. In 2018, a sixth functional area called sensorimotor processes was added to the Framework, and in 2019, a workshop was held to better incorporate developmental and environmental processes into the framework.;

Since its creation, the use of RDoC principles in mental health research has spread across the U.S. and the rest of the world. For example, the Psychiatric Ratings using Intermediate Stratified Markers project (PRISM)   , which receives funding from the European Union’s Innovative Medicines Initiative, is seeking to link biological markers of social withdrawal with clinical diagnoses using RDoC-style principles. Similarly, the Roadmap for Mental Health Research in Europe (ROAMER)   project by the European Commission sought to integrate mental health research across Europe using principles similar to those in the RDoC Framework.;

Dr. Morris, who has acceded to the Head of the RDoC Unit, commented: “The fact that investigators and science funders outside the United States are also pursuing similar approaches gives me confidence that we’ve been on the right pathway. I just think that this has got to be how nature works and that we are in better alignment with the basic fundamental processes that are of interest to understanding mental disorders.”

The RDoC framework will continue to adapt and change with emerging science to remain relevant as a resource for researchers now and in the future. For instance, NIMH continues to work toward the development and optimization of tools to assess RDoC constructs and supports data-driven efforts to measure function within and across domains.

“For the millions of people impacted by mental disorders, research means hope. The RDoC framework helps us study mental disorders in a different way and has already driven considerable change in the field over the past decade,” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. “We hope this and other innovative approaches will continue to accelerate research progress, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.”


Cuthbert, B. N., & Insel, T. R. (2013). Toward the future of psychiatric diagnosis: The seven pillars of RDoC. BMC Medicine , 11 , 126.  

Cuthbert B. N. (2014). Translating intermediate phenotypes to psychopathology: The NIMH Research Domain Criteria. Psychophysiology , 51 (12), 1205–1206.  

Cuthbert, B., & Insel, T. (2010). The data of diagnosis: New approaches to psychiatric classification. Psychiatry , 73 (4), 311–314.  

Cuthbert, B. N., & Kozak, M. J. (2013). Constructing constructs for psychopathology: The NIMH research domain criteria. Journal of Abnormal Psychology , 122 (3), 928–937.  

Garvey, M. A., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2017). Developing a motor systems domain for the NIMH RDoC program.  Schizophrenia Bulletin , 43 (5), 935–936.  

Insel, T. (2013). Transforming diagnosis .

Kozak, M. J., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2016). The NIMH Research Domain Criteria initiative: Background, issues, and pragmatics. Psychophysiology , 53 (3), 286–297.  

Morris, S. E., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2012). Research Domain Criteria: Cognitive systems, neural circuits, and dimensions of behavior. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience , 14 (1), 29–37.  

Sanislow, C. A., Pine, D. S., Quinn, K. J., Kozak, M. J., Garvey, M. A., Heinssen, R. K., Wang, P. S., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2010). Developing constructs for psychopathology research: Research domain criteria. Journal of Abnormal Psychology , 119 (4), 631–639.  

  • Presidential Proclamation 6158 (The Decade of the Brain) 
  • Research Domain Criteria Initiative website
  • Psychiatric Ratings using Intermediate Stratified Markers (PRISM)  
  • Roadmap for Mental Health Research in Europe (ROAMER)  

The effect of self-congruity on tourists’ emotions and sharing cultural tourism experiences on social networking platforms: a case study of Lingnan Impression Park

  • Published: 01 April 2024

Cite this article

  • Jijuan Cao   ORCID: 1 &
  • Ivan Ka Wai Lai   ORCID: 2  

This study attempts to investigate how self-congruity motivates tourists’ intention to share their cultural destination travel experiences on social networking platforms through their emotional and affective states. There are four types of self-congruence: actual self-congruity, social self-congruity, ideal self-congruity, and ideal social self-congruity. The survey data were collected from 336 samples after visiting Lingnan Impression Park. The results indicated that four types of self-congruence except for social self-congruity positively affect evoked pleasure (emotional state). Moreover, four types of self-congruence and evoked pleasure positively affect destination emotional attachment (affective state). Evoked pleasure and emotional attachment mediate the effect of self-congruity on the intention to share cultural destination travel experiences on social networking platforms. This study expands the application of the theory of self-congruity to cultural tourism in explaining the sharing behaviour of tourists on social networking platforms. This study also provides implications for assisting cultural destinations in formulating appropriate social networking marketing strategies to promote their destinations.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price includes VAT (Russian Federation)

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Rent this article via DeepDyve

Institutional subscriptions

top 10 case study psychology

Data availability

Data will be available upon request.

Barber, N. A. (2014). Profiling the potential green hotel guest: Who are they and what do they want? Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 38 (3), 361–387.

Article   Google Scholar  

Butler, G., Szili, G., & Huang, H. (2022). Cultural heritage tourism development in Panyu District, Guangzhou: Community perspectives on pride and preservation, and concerns for the future. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 17 (1), 56–73.

Caber, M., Drori, N., Albayrak, T., Herstein, R. (2021). Social media usage behaviours of religious tourists: The cases of the Vatican, Mecca, and Jerusalem. International Journal of Tourism Research, 23 (5), 816–831.

Chang, J., Okumus, B., Li, Z. W., & Lin, H. H. (2021). What serves as the best bridge in food consumption: Experiential value or place attachment? Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 26 (12), 1302–1317.

Chi, C. G. Q., Pan, L., & Del Chiappa, G. (2018). Examining destination personality: Its antecedents and outcomes. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 9 , 149–159.

Cifci, I. (2022). Testing self-congruity theory in Bektashi faith destinations: The roles of memorable tourism experience and destination attachment. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 28 (1), 3–19.

CITS. (2022). Lingnan Impression Park. China International Travel Service Co., Ltd. . Accessed 7 Feb 2024.

Deb, M., & Lomo-David, E. (2021). Determinants of word of mouth intention for a World Heritage Site: The case of the Sun Temple in India. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 19 , 100533.

Dong, Y., & Qu, Y. (2022). The mechanism of body–mind integration in the formation of destination attachment: A comparison of first-time and repeat tourists. Frontiers in Psychology, 13 , 1010589.

Article   PubMed   PubMed Central   Google Scholar  

Fan, D. X. F., Buhalis, D., & Lin, B. (2019). A tourist typology of online and face-to-face social contact: Destination immersion and tourism encapsulation/decapsulation. Annals of Tourism Research, 78 , 102757.

Foroudi, P., Palazzo, M., & Sultana, A. (2021). Linking brand attitude to word-of-mouth and revisit intentions in the restaurant sector. British Food Journal, 123 (13), 221–240.

Fu, Y., Liu, X., Wang, Y., & Chao, R. F. (2018). How experiential consumption moderates the effects of souvenir authenticity on behavioral intention through perceived value. Tourism Management, 69 , 356–367.

Grewal, L., Stephen, A. T., & Coleman, N. V. (2019). When posting about products on social media backfires: The negative effects of consumer identity signaling on product interest. Journal of Marketing Research, 56 , 197–210.

Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate Data Analysis . Prentice-Hall Inc.

Hair, J. F., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2011). PLS-SEM: Indeed a silver bullet. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 19 (2), 139–151.

Hair, J. F., Hult, G. T. M., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. (2017). A primer on partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) (2nd ed.). Sage.

Book   Google Scholar  

Han, J. H., & Bae, S. Y. (2022). Roles of authenticity and nostalgia in cultural heritage tourists’ travel experience sharing behavior on social networking. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 27 (4), 411–427.

Han, H., & Hyun, S. S. (2017). Key factors maximizing art museum visitors’ satisfaction, commitment, and post-purchase intentions. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 22 (8), 834–849.

Han, H., Moon, H., & Kim, W. (2019). The influence of international tourists’ self-image congruity with a shopping place on their shopping experiences. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 41 , 101–109.

Hays, S., Page, S. J., & Buhalis, D. (2013). Social networking as a destination marketing tool: Its use by national tourism organisations. Current Issues in Tourism, 16 (3), 211–239.

Huang, Z., Zhang, C., & Hu, J. (2017). Destination brand personality and destination brand attachment – the involvement of self-congruence. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 34 (9), 1198–1210.

Io, M. U. (2017). Understanding the effects of multi-dimensional tourism experiences on tourists’ positive emotions and satisfaction in the context of casino hotels. International Journal of Culture Tourism and Hospitality Research, 11 (2), 142–156.

Kim, J. J. (2023). Brand personality of global chain hotels, self-congruity, and self-discrepancy on customer responses. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 114 , 103565.

Kim, J. H., & Hyun, Y. J. (2013). The importance of social and ideal social dimensions in self-congruity research. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 16 (1), 39–49.

Kim, T., Han, S., & Park, J. H. (2022). What drives long-stay tourists to revisit destinations? A case study of Jeju Island. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 27 (8), 856–870.

Krämer, N. C., Feurstein, M., Kluck, J. P., Meier, Y., Rother, M., & Winter, S. (2017). Beware of selfies: The impact of photo type on impression formation based on social networking profiles. Frontiers in Psychology , 8.

Kumar, V. (2016). Examining the role of destination personality and self-congruity in predicting tourist behavior. Tourism Management Perspectives, 20 , 217–227.

Kumar, T. B. J., Goh, S. K., & Balaji, M. S. (2021). Sharing travel related experiences on social media - integrating social capital and face orientation. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 27 (2), 168–186.

Ladhari, R., & Michaud, M. (2015). EWOM effects on hotel booking intentions, attitudes, trust, and website perceptions. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 46 , 36–45.

Lai, I. K. W., Liu, Y., & Lu, D. (2021). The effects of tourists’ destination culinary experience on electronic word-of-mouth generation intention: The experience economy theory. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 26 (3), 231–244.

Lee, M. K., Yoon, H. Y., & Park, H. W. (2017a). From online via offline to online: How online visibility of tourism information shapes and is shaped by offline visits. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 34 (9), 1143–1154.

Lee, S., Chua, B. L., Kim, H. C., & Han, H. (2017b). Shaping and enhancing airport lounge experiences: The application of brand personality and image congruity theories. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 29 (11), 2901–2920.

Li, L., Yuan, Sm., & Jiang, N. (2014). An analysis of the influencing factors of customer retention in tourism resort industry: A case study of Lingnan Impression Park, Guangzhou, China. Eurasian Journal of Business and Management, 2 (2), 1–13.

Li, R., Li, Y. Q., Liu, C. H., & Ruan, W. Q. (2022). How to create a memorable night tourism experience: Atmosphere, arousal and pleasure. Current Issues in Tourism, 25 (11), 1817–1834.

Liao, Z., & Dai, G. (2020). Inheritance and dissemination of cultural collective memory: An analysis of a traditional festival. SAGE Open, 10 (1), 2158244020901601.

Liu, Y. (1997). The characteristics of Lingnan culture and the geographical factors of its’ formation. Human Geography, 1 (12), 44–45. (in Chinese).

Google Scholar  

Liu, G., Lei, S. S. I., & Law, R. (2022). Enhancing social networking branded content effectiveness: Strategies via telepresence and social presence. Information Technology & Tourism, 24 , 245–263.

Liu, H., Wu, L., & Li, X. (Robert). (2019). Social Media Envy: How experience sharing on social networking sites drives millennials’ aspirational tourism consumption. Journal of Travel Research, 58 (3), 355–369.

Livingstone, K. M., & Srivastava, S. (2012). Up-regulating positive emotions in everyday life: Strategies, individual differences, and associations with positive emotion and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 46 (5), 504–516.

Lo, I. S., McKercher, B., Lo, A., Cheung, C., & Law, R. (2011). Tourism and online photography. Tourism Management, 32 (4), 725–731.

Lu, L., Chi, C. G., & Liu, Y. (2015). Authenticity, involvement, and image: Evaluating tourist experiences at historic districts. Tourism Management, 50 , 85–96.

Lu, Y., Chen, G., Huang, S. S., & Bao, J. (2019). Understanding Chinese tourists’ perceptions of cantonese as a regional dialect. Tourism Management, 71 , 127–136.

Na, Y., Kim, Y., & Lee, D. (2023). Investigating the effect of self-congruity on attitudes toward virtual influencers: Mediating the effect of emotional attachment. International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction .

Oliveira, T., Araujo, B., & Tam, C. (2020). Why do people share their travel experiences on social media? Tourism Management, 78 , 104041.

Orth, U. R., Limon, Y., & Rose, G. (2010). Store-evoked affect, personalities, and consumer emotional attachments to brands. Journal of Business Research, 63 (11), 1202–1208.

Our China Story (2021). Chinese Culture | The Lingnan culture behind the convex roof of Guangzhou Lingnan Impression Park. Our China Story. Academy of Chinese Stuides . . Accessed 7 Feb 2024.

Ribeiro-Navarrete, S., Saura, J. R., & Palacios-Marqués, D. (2021). Towards a new era of mass data collection: Assessing pandemic surveillance technologies to preserve user privacy. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 167 , 120681.

Ringle, C. M., Wende, S., & Becker, J. M. (2022). SmartPLS 4. SmartPLS GmbH. . Accessed 7 Feb 2024.

Saura, J. R., Ribeiro-Soriano, D., & Iturricha-Fernández, A. (2022). Exploring the challenges of remote work on Twitter users’ sentiments: From digital technology development to a post-pandemic era. Journal of Business Research, 142 , 242–254.

Šegota, T., Chen, N., Chris, & Golja, T. (2022). The impact of self-congruity and evaluation of the place on WOM: Perspectives of tourism destination residents. Journal of Travel Research , 61 (4), 800–817.

Sirgy, M. J. (2018). Self-congruity theory in consumer behavior: A little history. Journal of Global Scholars of Marketing Science, 28 (2), 197–207.

Sirgy, M. J., & Su, C. (2000). Destination image, self-congruity, and travel behavior: Toward an integrative model. Journal of Travel Research, 38 (4), 340–352.

Sop, S. (2020). Self-congruity theory in tourism research: A systematic review and future research directions. European Journal of Tourism Research, 26 , 2604–2604.

Strandberg, C., Styvén, M. E., & Hultman, M. (2020). Places in good graces: The role of emotional connections to a place on word-of-mouth. Journal of Business Research, 119 , 444–452.

Styvén, M. E., Mariani, M. M., & Strandberg, C. (2020). This is my hometown! The role of place attachment, congruity, and self-expressiveness on residents’ intention to share a place brand message online. Journal of Advertising, 49 (5), 540–556.

Tang, X., Gong, Y., Chen, C., Wang, S., & Chen, P. (2022). Understanding why tourists who share travel photos online give more positive tourism product evaluation: Evidence from Chinese tourists. Frontiers in Psychology, 13 , 838176.

Usakli, A., Kucukergin, K. G., Shi, D., & Okumus, F. (2022). Does self-congruity or functional congruity better predict destination attachment? A higher-order structural model. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 23 , 100686.

Van Cappellen, P., Toth-Gauthier, M., Saroglou, V., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2016). Religion and well-being: The mediating role of positive emotions. Journal of Happiness Study, 17 , 485–505.

Wang, S., Kirillova, K., & Lehto, X. (2017). Travelers’ food experience sharing on social network sites. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 34 (5), 680–693.

Wang, S., Lai, I. K. W., & Wong, J. W. C. (2023). The impact of pluralistic values on postmodern tourists’ behavioural intention towards renovated heritage sites. Tourism Management Perspectives, 49 , 101175.

Wong, J. W. C., Lai, I. K. W., & Tao, Z. (2020). Sharing memorable tourism experiences on mobile social media and how it influences further travel decisions. Current Issues in Tourism, 23 (14), 1773–1787.

Wu, X., & Lai, I. K. W. (2022). How destination personality dimensions influence film tourists’ destination loyalty: An application of self-congruity theory. Current Issues in Tourism , 1–16.

Yang, R., & Long, Q. (2022). The situation, opportunities and coping strategies of Lingnan civilization in the global language environment. Guangxi Social Sciences, 2 , 142. (in Chinese).

Yang, S., Isa, M., S., & Ramayah, T. (2020). A theoretical framework to explain the impact of destination personality, self-congruity, and tourists’ emotional experience on behavioral intention. Sage Open , 10 (4).

Yilmaz, F. Z., Abosag, I., & Hosany, S. (2022). Self-congruence and tourist happiness: The mediating role of positive emotions and meaning. Travel and Tourism Research Association: Advancing Tourism Research Globally, 12 . . Accessed 7 Feb 2024.

Yin, C. Y., Poon, P., & Su, J. L. (2017). Yesterday once more? Autobiographical memory evocation effects on tourists’ post-travel purchase intentions toward destination products. Tourism Management, 61 , 263–274.

Zhou, Q., & Pu, Y. (2022). Impact of cultural heritage rejuvenation experience quality on perceived value, destination affective attachment, and revisiting intention: Evidence from China. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 27 (2), 192–205.

Download references

This research was supported by the “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Cultural and Tourism Research Base” under Grant “2023WZJD019”, “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Digital Trade Research Platform” under Grant “2024KYPT05”, “Ministry of Education of the P. R. of China” under Grant “22YJA760005”, and “National Natural Science Foundation of China” under Grant “71972137”.

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

School of Tourism and Business, Guangzhou Panyu Polytechnic, Guangzhou, China

Centre for Gaming and Tourism Studies, Macao Polytechnic University, Taipa, Macao

Ivan Ka Wai Lai

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ivan Ka Wai Lai .

Ethics declarations

Competing interest.

The authors report there are no competing interests to declare.

Additional information

Publisher’s note.

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

figure 3

Lingnan impression park

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cao, J., Lai, I.K.W. The effect of self-congruity on tourists’ emotions and sharing cultural tourism experiences on social networking platforms: a case study of Lingnan Impression Park. Curr Psychol (2024).

Download citation

Accepted : 17 March 2024

Published : 01 April 2024


Share this article

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

  • Lingnan culture
  • Self-congruity
  • Sharing cultural tourism experiences
  • Evoked pleasure
  • Destination emotional attachment
  • Find a journal
  • Publish with us
  • Track your research


Association of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms: a cross-sectional study of tibetan college students at high altitude.

Qin Qiu

  • School of Physical Education and Health, Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University, Nanchang, Jiangxi, China

Background: Research on the association between sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms has been highly emphasized. However, past studies have focused on college students in plains areas, while fewer research studies have been conducted on Tibetan college students at high altitudes. Whether this association changes due to ethnicity or altitude is unclear. The present study will contribute to the prevention and intervention of depressive symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude.

Methods: A self-assessment questionnaire was administered to 3,026 university students (1,491 boys students, 49.27%) on SSBs consumption, sleep quality and anxiety symptoms status in the Tibetan Plateau, a high-altitude region of China. Logistic regression analysis and ordered logistic regression analysis in generalized linear model were used to analyze the association between SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms.

Results: The prevalence of anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude was 26.9%. SSBs consumption of ≤1 times/week, 2–5 times/week, and ≥ 6 times/week were 20.7, 28.1, and 45.7%, respectively, with statistically significant differences ( χ 2 value of 134.353, p  < 0.001). Anxiety detection rates for Sleep quality of Good (PSQI ≤5), Moderate (PSQI 6–7), and Poor (PSQI >7) were 16.8, 19.8, and 32.0%, respectively, and the difference was also statistically significant ( χ 2 value was 73.761, p  < 0.001). The ordered logistic regression analysis in the generalized linear model showed that, overall, the group of college students with SSBs ≤1 times/week and sleep quality of Good served as the reference group, and the group with SSBs ≥6 times/week and sleep quality of Poor (OR: 5.06, 95% CI: 3.75–6.83) had the highest risk of anxiety symptoms.

Conclusion: SSBs consumption and sleep quality were associated with anxiety symptoms, and there was an interaction effect. Effective control of SSBs consumption and improvement of sleep quality may be important factors in preventing and reducing the occurrence of anxiety symptoms.

1 Introduction

As a common emotional and psychological disorder, anxiety symptoms are common among college students. Especially in the process of college students’ life and study, when they encounter some tension, stress, pressure, or even frustration, it is very easy to appear uneasy and worried psychological state. With the constant changes in modern lifestyles, the decreasing level of physical activity and prolonged screen time among college students, coupled with the increasing academic pressure on college students, the proportion of college students experiencing anxiety symptoms has been rising. Some studies have reported that 23.7% of college students in China suffer from anxiety symptoms of different degrees ( Cheng et al., 2017 ). It has also been shown that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms among university medical students was 25.9%, and it was concluded that less social support (OR = 1.4) was an independent risk factor for the occurrence of anxiety symptoms ( Liu et al., 2022a ). A survey of the U.S. population showed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms among adults in the U.S. increased from 36.4 to 41.5%, with the greatest increase in adults aged 18–29 years, and the study suggests that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms among adults in this age group should be emphasized ( Vahratian et al., 2021 ). If anxiety symptoms are not timely intervened and guided, they are very likely to develop into serious psychological problems and even suicidal behaviors, which will have extremely negative impacts on college students’ academic and future achievements ( Ma et al., 2020 ; Wu et al., 2021 ; Zhang et al., 2022 ). Therefore, paying attention to college students anxiety symptoms is of great significance in promoting the healthy development of college students.

Several studies have found strong associations between anxiety symptoms and personality traits, life circumstances, social adjustment, age, gender, eating behaviors, sleep quality, etc. ( Beesdo et al., 2009 ; Hoge et al., 2017 ; Peres et al., 2017 ; Meinlschmidt et al., 2022 ). Among the factors affecting anxiety symptoms, past studies have focused more on the association between sleep quality with anxiety symptoms, while fewer studies have examined the association between SSBs consumption and anxiety symptoms ( Chellappa and Aeschbach, 2022 ). It is noteworthy that the negative health effects of excessive consumption of SSBs by college students have been emphasized in recent years ( Audain et al., 2019 ). A meta-analysis showed an increased risk of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) in the highest group (OR: 1.18, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.32) compared with the group with the lowest SSBs consumption ( Munoz-Cabrejas et al., 2023 ). Additionally, studies have confirmed that overconsumption of SSBs also leads to an increased risk of obesity and psychological problems ( Malik and Hu, 2022 ). A U.S. survey showed that between 2011 and 2014, U. S. adults consumed 145 kcal per day from SSBs, equivalent to 6.5 percent of daily calories ( Welsh et al., 2011 ). Another study also showed that of the risk factors predicting the development of type 2 diabetes over the next 10 years, 8.7% (95% CI: 3.9–12.9%) of cases in the United States and 3.6% (95% CI 1.7–5.6%) in the United Kingdom were attributable to an overabundance of SSBs consumption, suggesting that high levels of SSBs consumption among adults may be associated with a significant number of new-onset chronic diseases ( Imamura et al., 2015 ). Past studies have also shown that sleep quality problems are prevalent among college students and have a negative impact on their mental health ( Brand et al., 2019 ). A study confirmed a moderately significant effect of improved sleep on comprehensive mental health ( g  + = −0.53), as well as significant improvements in depression ( g  + = −0.63), anxiety ( g  + = −0.51), and rumination ( g  + = −0.49), and found that there was a dose–response relationship between sleep and mental health, whereby improvements in sleep quality lead to Improvement in mental health ( Scott et al., 2021 ). Another study of 16–25 year olds also confirmed a significant association between poor sleep quality and negative mental health ( Alonzo et al., 2021 ). It is clear that SSBs consumption and sleep quality have a negative impact on the mental health of college students. However, there is limited research on the association between SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms among college students.

China’s Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau region is a typical high-altitude area in the world, and this area is mainly inhabited by Tibetans ( Wu, 2001 ). High altitude areas are characterized by high radiation levels, low oxygen levels and low vegetation cover, which adversely affects physical fitness and mental health ( Yi et al., 2010 ). In addition, Tibetans have lived at high altitudes for a long time, forming unique lifestyles and eating behaviors that differ greatly from those of groups in plains areas ( Wei et al., 2017 ). Previous studies on anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude are very limited. In addition, no studies have been conducted on the association between SSBs consumption, sleep quality with anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude. Therefore, the present study was conducted to investigate the current status of SSBs consumption, sleep quality, and anxiety symptoms among 3,026 college students in Xining City, Qinghai Province, and Lhasa City, Tibet, in the Tibetan Plateau region of China, and to further analyze the associations among them. This study will provide necessary reference and assistance for mental health promotion and intervention for Tibetan college students in high altitude areas.

2.1 Participants

The selection of participants for this study was divided into the following steps. In the first step, Xining City, Qinghai Province (altitude 3,137 meters) and Lhasa City, Tibet (altitude 3,650 meters) in the Tibetan Plateau region of China were used as the regions for the selection of participants in this study. In the second step, two universities were randomly selected in each region as the schools sampled for this study. In the third step, among all classes from the first year of university to the fourth year of university in each university, 5 teaching classes with a high concentration of Tibetan students were randomly selected in each grade using random coded sampling. Tibetan college students who met the inclusion criteria for this study were included as participants in the self-assessment questionnaire.

The inclusion criteria for the participants in this study were: both the father and the mother were Tibetan, they had lived in Qinghai or Tibet for more than 3 years, the participants themselves did not have serious physical or mental illnesses, and the participants gave their informed consent and voluntarily accepted the survey of this study. Eventually, a total of 3,291 Tibetan college students aged 19–22 years old enrolled in 80 teaching classes at four universities were included in this study. At the end of the survey, 265 questionnaires with missing key demographic information, broken questionnaires, or ambiguous questionnaires were excluded, and finally 3,026 valid questionnaires were returned (1,491 boys students, 49.27%). The sampling procedure is shown in Figure 1 , and written informed consent was obtained from the participants before the survey. This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University (IRB-JXSTNU-2022003).

Figure 1 . Sampling procedure for participants of Tibetan college students in high altitude areas of China.

2.2 Anxiety symptoms

Anxiety symptoms were investigated using the Self-rating Anxiety Scale (SAS) ( Zung, 1971 ). The SAS consists of 20 entries, each of which consists of 4 choices: “No or little time,” “A little time,” “Quite a lot of time,” “Most or all of the time,” and “Most or all of the time.” Most or all of the time,” each of which is scored from 1 to 4. Participants filled out the questionnaire according to their actual situation in the past 7 days. Questions 5, 9, 13, 17, and 19 were reverse scored. The total score of the questionnaire was obtained by summing the 20 entries, and the total score of the questionnaire was multiplied by 1.25 to obtain the standardized score, which ranged from 25 to 100. Higher participant scores indicated more severe anxiety symptoms. SAS standardized scores ≥50 were determined to be the presence of anxiety symptoms in the participants ( Zung, 1974 ). The SAS is widely used in the Chinese adult population and has good reliability and validity, the Cronbach’s alpha was 0.87 ( Wang and Zhao, 2020 ; Kim et al., 2022 ; Hao and Zhang, 2023 ). The Cronbach’s alpha was 0.86 in the present study.

2.3 Sugar-sweetened beverage (SSBs)

Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) consumption were self-assessed using the Beverage Intake Questionnaire (BEVQ15) ( Hedrick et al., 2012 ; Fausnacht et al., 2020 ). The questionnaire was self-assessed to investigate participants’ consumption of the 15 beverages included over the past month. This included the frequency of consumption and how many milliliters were consumed per drink. The types of beverages included fruit juices, sweetened cocktail juices, chocolate milk, black coffee, sweetened nut juices, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened milk tea. The questionnaire was designed with the frequency of SSBs categorized as <1 time/week, 1 time/week, 2–3 times/week, 4–6 times/week, 1 time/day, 2 times/day, and > 3 times/day. Participants made a single choice based on their own actual situation in the past 30 days. The amount of SSBs was calculated using milliliters, each time based on a can of Coke 330 mL. In this study, SSBs were categorized as ≤1 times/week, 2–5 times/week, and ≥ 6 times/week with reference to the categorization method of previous studies.

2.4 Sleep quality

In this study, the pittsburgh sleep quality index (PSQI) was used to conduct a self-assessment questionnaire for sleep quality ( Sampol et al., 2023 ). The PSQI questionnaire is widely used in countries around the world and is the most commonly used self-assessment scale for evaluating sleep quality. The PSQI has good reliability and validity in evaluating the sleep quality of Chinese people ( Chang et al., 2021 ; Liu et al., 2022b ; Sun et al., 2023 ). The PSQI questionnaire consists of 18 items divided into 7 dimensions, namely, sleep efficiency, duration of sleep at night, daytime dysfunction, use of hypnotic medication, subjective sleep quality, sleep disorders, and sleep latency. Participants filled in the questionnaire and selected the entries according to their actual situation in the past 30 days. The total score of the PSQI questionnaire was 21, and the higher the score of the participant, the worse the sleep quality. Based on the participants’ scores, sleep quality was categorized as good, moderate, and poor, with ≤5 points, 6–7 points, and > 7 points, respectively.

2.5 Covariates

Covariates in this study included Parents’ educational level, Socio economic status (SES), Body mass index (BMI), Screen Time and Frequency of study breakfast, MVPA.

(1) Parents’ educational level was based on the highest educational level of either the father or the mother, as indicated by the participants. In this study, Parents’ educational level was categorized as Primary and below, Junior high school, College or above.

(2) Socioeconomic status (SES) survey was evaluated using the International Socio-Economic Index (ISEI). This index reflects the socio-economic status of people in terms of education, income and occupation. The index was developed by Ganzeboom, Graaf and Treiman in the 1990s ( Ganzeboom et al., 1992 ). Following the standardized calculation procedure provided by Ganzeboom and Treiman (1996) , we used SPSS 25.0 to convert participant-completed occupation codes to ISEI. ISEI is a continuous variable, with larger values indicating higher SES. In this study, the scores were categorized as Low (<15th), Medium (15-85th), and High (>85th).

(3) Body mass index (BMI) was calculated based on participants’ height and weight. It is weight (Kg)/height (m) 2 . Based on the calculation results, it was categorized as Underweight for ≦18.4Kg/m 2 , Normal for 18.5–23.9Kg/m 2 , Overweight for 24.0–27.9Kg/m 2 , and Obese for ≧28Kg/m 2 according to the classification criteria. The height and weight tests were conducted according to the testing methods and instruments required by the Physical Fitness Standard for Chinese Students. The results of the height test were accurate to 0.1 centimeter. The results of the weight test are accurate to 0.1 kg.

(4) The Screen Time test mainly investigated the average length of time participants watched TV, cell phones, and tablets in the past 7 days. According to the relevant standards, it was categorized into ≤120 min/d, > 120 min/d ( McGough, 2021 ).

(5) Frequency of breakfast was investigated using a self-assessment questionnaire. The corresponding entries were selected based on the participants’ actual situation in the past 7 days. In this study, it was categorized as ≤1 times/week, 2–5 times/week, and ≥ 6 times/week.

(6) The Moderate and Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) survey was conducted using the entries of the physical activity section of the China National Student Physical Health Research Questionnaire. The participants were surveyed on the average frequency and duration of MVPA participation per day over the past 7 days, which was used to calculate the length of MVPA per day for the subjects. Specific items of MVPA included ball sports, skiing, fast running, and bicycling. In this study MVPA was categorized as <30 min/d, 30–60 min/d, and > 60 min/d according to the participants’ average time in the past 7 days.

2.6 Quality control

The survey of this study was conducted by self-assessment of the questionnaire. The questionnaire survey was conducted by teachers who were trained and qualified by the subject team as survey staff. Divided into four groups of two people each, they entered each school to conduct the questionnaire survey on site. The purpose and requirements of the survey were explained to the participants before the questionnaire survey. Participants were also asked to sign an informed consent form before the survey. The questionnaires were distributed, filled out on the spot and returned on the spot. Each questionnaire took about 15–20 min to complete. When the questionnaires were returned, the survey staff checked the completeness of the questionnaires completed by the participants. Participants were asked to fill in any missing or incorrect information. The height and weight tests were conducted by a person who was responsible for calibrating the instruments before each day’s test in order to ensure the accuracy of the tests.

2.7 Statistical analysis

The anxiety symptoms of Tibetan college students at high altitude were characterized by percentages. Comparison of the detection rates of anxiety symptoms among different categories of college students was performed by means of the chi-square test. The relationship between Sugar-sweetened beverage and Sleep quality with anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude was analyzed by hierarchical logistic regression analysis. Participants were analyzed with the presence of anxiety symptoms as the dependent variable, and different sugar-sweetened beverage and sleep quality as independent variables. Model 1 was not adjusted for any covariates, and Model 2 was adjusted for age, parental education level, SES, and BMI based on Model 1. Model 3 adjusted for screen time, frequency of breakfast, and MVPA on the basis of Model 2. The analyses of the relationship between the interaction effects of Sugar-sweetened beverage and Sleep quality with anxiety symptoms were analyzed using the method of Ordered Logistic Regression Analysis in Generalized Linear Models. Ordered Logistic Regression adjusted for age, parental education, SES, BMI, screen time, breakfast frequency, and MVPA. The results of the analyses were reported odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI), respectively.

Data processing and analysis were performed using SPSS 25.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). A two-sided test level of α  = 0.05 was used.

In this study, a self-assessment questionnaire on sugar-sweetened beverage, sleep quality and anxiety symptoms was administered to 3,026 Tibetan college students aged 19–22 years at high altitude. The prevalence of anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude was 26.9% (813/3026). The prevalence of anxiety symptoms among boys was 26.0% (387/1491) and among girls was 27.8% (426/1535), and the difference was not statistically significant ( χ 2 value of 1.243, p  = 0.265). The detection rates of anxiety with SSBs of ≤1 times/week, 2–5 times/week, and ≥ 6 times/week were 20.7, 28.1, and 45.7%, respectively, and the difference was statistically significant ( χ 2 value of 134.353, p  < 0.001). The detection rates of anxiety in sleep quality of Good (PSQI ≤5), Moderate (PSQI 6–7), and Poor (PSQI >7) were 16.8, 19.8, and 32.0%, respectively, and the difference was also statistically significant ( χ 2 value was 73.761, p  < 0.001).

Overall, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms was compared in terms of SES, BMI, screen time, and frequency of breakfast for different covariates, and the differences were statistically significant ( χ 2 values of 12.085, 16.316, 19.664, and 96.473, p  < 0.01). Comparison of the detection rates of anxiety symptoms for other covariates in terms of different genders is shown in Table 1 .

Table 1 . Comparison of the detection rate of anxiety symptoms among different categories of college students in Tibetan at high altitude (%).

The results of this study showed that in terms of gender, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms in different SSBs consumption college boys and girls were statistically significant ( χ 2 values of 109.881, 36.358, p  < 0.001). In terms of sleep quality, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms in college students boys and girls were also statistically significant ( χ 2 values were 52.211, 24.444, p  < 0.001). The specific results are shown in Table 2 .

Table 2 . Univariate analysis of different SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude (%).

The anxiety symptoms of college students at high altitude were used as dependent variables. The independent variables were sugar-sweetened beverages and sleep quality. Logistic regression analysis was performed after stratifying by gender. For logistic regression analysis, Model 1 was not adjusted for any covariates, Model 2 was adjusted for age, parental level of education, SES, and BMI on the basis of Model 1, and Model 3 was adjusted for screen time, frequency of breakfast, and MVPA on the basis of Model 2. Overall, the results of Model 3 showed that, using the group with SSBs ≤1 times/week as a reference, SSBs consumption of 2–5 times/week (OR: 1.38, 95% CI: 1.12–1.70) and SSBs consumption of ≥6 times/week (OR: 2.47, 95% CI: 1.98–3.08) of college students had a higher risk of anxiety symptoms ( p  < 0.01). Using the group with Sleep quality of Good (PSQI ≤5) as a reference, college students in the group with Sleep quality of Poor (OR: 2.11, 95% CI: 1.69 ~ 2.64) had a higher risk of developing anxiety symptoms ( p  < 0.001). The results of the study by gender are shown in Table 3 . Trends in logistic regression ORs for SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms are shown in Figure 2 .

Table 3 . Logistic regression analysis of SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms of Tibetan college students in high-altitude areas.

Figure 2 . Logistic regression OR values of SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms of Tibetan college students in high-altitude areas.

The presence of anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude was used as the dependent variable. SSBs consumption and Sleep quality were used as independent variables. Ordered Logistic Regression in Generalized Linear Model was used to analyze the association between the interaction effects of SSBs consumption and Sleep quality with anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students. Ordered Logistic Regression adjusted for age, parental level of education, SES, BMI, screen time, frequency of breakfast, and MVPA. Overall, the college students SSBs ≤1 times/week and sleep quality of Good group were used as the reference group, and the college students with SSBs ≥6 times/week and sleep quality of Poor group (OR: 5.06, 95% CI: 3.75–6.83) had the highest risk of anxiety symptoms. Students had the highest risk of developing anxiety symptoms. Significantly, in terms of gender, college students in the SSBs ≥6 times/week and sleep quality of Poor group had a higher risk of developing anxiety symptoms among boys (OR: 7.61, 95% CI: 4.94–11.71) than girls (OR: 3.26, 95% CI 2.13 ~ 5.00) ( p  < 0.001).

Other specific results are shown in Table 4 .

Table 4 . Order regression analysis of interaction effects of SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude.

4 Discussions

High-altitude areas have a special natural and human environment. The scarcity of oxygen and the long hours of sunshine in this region pose many challenges to human survival ( Wang et al., 2018 ). The Tibetan Plateau region of China is a typical high-altitude area in the world, and this region is mainly dominated by Tibetans, who have long formed their own special lifestyle and dietary behaviors. However, fewer studies have been conducted on the anxiety symptoms of Tibetan college students in this region. The results of this study show that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students in high-altitude areas of China is 26.9%, and there is no gender difference in the detection rate of anxiety between boys and girls. Some scholars showed that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms among Chinese college students was 31.0%, which was higher than the results of the present study ( Xiang et al., 2020 ). A survey of college students in Bangladesh confirms that 82.5% of college students have mild anxiety symptoms and 14.08% have extreme anxiety, and that factors such as gender, family size, and area of residence are important factors affecting anxiety levels. Gender, family size, and living area are all important factors affecting the anxiety level of students ( Hoque et al., 2021 ). A survey of Pakistani medical students also confirmed the presence of anxiety symptoms in 3.4% of college students, with sex and age differences ( Junaid et al., 2022 ). It is evident that the findings of anxiety symptoms among college students vary considerably from region to region. However, the results of this study are sufficient to show that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students in high altitude areas of China should be emphasized and paid attention to. The study confirms that the occurrence of anxiety symptoms, if not promptly paid attention to, will lead to serious mental illnesses and even suicidal behaviors, which will have a negative impact on the health of college students ( Li et al., 2022 ). There are also studies confirming that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms is rising rapidly with the increasing pressure of life and schooling among adolescents, and calling for attention to be paid to them ( Andrews and Wilding, 2004 ). The results of this study show that the occurrence of anxiety symptoms does not change according to the altitude of the altitude. It is important to pay attention to the anxiety symptoms of Tibetan college students at high altitude. Therefore, it is especially important to analyze the causes of anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude.

A number of studies in the past have confirmed that the causes of anxiety symptoms include dietary behaviors, lifestyle habits, and many other aspects ( Regehr et al., 2013 ; O'Rourke et al., 2020 ). Among these many factors affecting anxiety symptoms, it is particularly important to study them in the context of poor dietary and habitual problems prevalent among current college students. SSBs consumption are the most common problem among adolescents today. Studies have confirmed that excessive SSBs can lead to chronic cardiovascular disease and obesity, which can have a negative impact on physical health, as well as mental health, which can be extremely detrimental ( Park et al., 2022 ). In addition, sleep quality should not be overlooked among the factors that negatively affect adolescent health. Research has confirmed that sleep quality has a negative impact on both physical and mental health ( Leow et al., 2023 ). Adolescents with poorer sleep quality are at higher risk for obesity, mental health problems ( Zhang et al., 2018 ). However, findings on SSBs consumption and sleep quality with mental health are not entirely consistent. Studies have confirmed that the relationship between SSBs consumption and health status varies somewhat with ethnicity, region of life, age, and gender ( Otto et al., 2022 ). The relationship between sleep quality and mental health also changes considerably depending on the study population, geographic area, and age. Therefore, it is particularly important for this study to investigate the relationship between SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude.

This study analyzed anxiety symptoms affecting Tibetan college students at high altitude from the perspective of SSBs consumption and sleep quality, which are the most common in current adolescents. The results of this study confirmed that college students with SSBs consumption of 2–5 times/week and SSBs of ≥6 times/week had a higher risk of anxiety symptoms compared to the group of Tibetan college students with SSBs ≤1 times/week at high altitude. This result did not change according to gender. This suggests that there is an association between SSBs consumption and anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude. The study confirms that excessive SSBs consumption are closely associated with an increased risk of anxiety symptoms and may be an important risk factor for the development of anxiety symptoms ( von Philipsborn et al., 2019 ). In terms of sleep quality, the results of this study showed that the risk of anxiety symptoms was significantly increased in Tibetan college students in the group with sleep quality of Poor, using the group with sleep quality of Good as a reference. This result suggests that there is a strong association between sleep quality and anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students at high altitude. The study confirms that a decrease in sleep quality will lead to hormone secretion disorders in the body, which will cause greater emotional fluctuations, and coupled with the influence of academic stress, it will be very easy to develop anxiety symptoms ( Zisapel, 2018 ). The analysis of anxiety symptoms by the interaction effect of SSBs consumption and sleep quality in the present study also showed that the risk of anxiety symptoms among college students generally tended to increase with the increase of SSBs consumption and the decrease of sleep quality. The results of this study confirm that there is a close association between SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude, and that there is also a close association between the interaction effects of SSBs consumption and sleep quality on anxiety symptoms. Thus, excessive SSBs consumption and poor sleep quality may be important risk factors for the occurrence of anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude. The results of this study provide some reference for the prevention and intervention of anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude.

There are certain strengths and limitations of this study. Strengths: To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to analyze the association relationship between SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms among Tibetan college students in high-altitude areas in China, which will have a positive effect on the future development of mental health of Tibetan college students in high-altitude areas. In addition, this study investigates and analyzes Qinghai and Tibet, which are typical high-altitude areas on the Tibetan Plateau, with distinctive regional and ethnic characteristics, and contributes positively to enriching the research results in this field. However, this study also has some limitations. First, this study used a self-assessment survey to analyze SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms, and there may be some bias between its results and the real situation. In the future, it is necessary to use precise instruments, such as accelerometers, to assess sleep quality. Secondly, this study is a cross-sectional survey study, which can only analyze the existence of correlations, but not the existence of causal associations. Cohort studies should be conducted in the future to analyze the causal relationship.

5 Conclusion

The results of this study show that there is an association between SSBs consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude in China. SSBs consumption and sleep quality may be important factors affecting anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude. Controlling SSBs consumption and improving sleep quality may be an effective way to reduce the occurrence of anxiety symptoms in Tibetan college students at high altitude. The results of this study may provide necessary reference and help for future prevention and intervention of college students anxiety symptoms in high altitude areas.

Data availability statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics statement

The studies involving humans were approved by this study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Jiangxi Science and Technology Normal University (IRB-JXSTNU-2022003). The studies were conducted in accordance with the local legislation and institutional requirements. The participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study.

Author contributions

QQ: Conceptualization, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Resources, Software, Supervision, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing. GC: Conceptualization, Funding acquisition, Investigation, Methodology, Validation, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing. SX: Data curation, Formal analysis, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing. TW: Data curation, Formal analysis, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing.

The author(s) declare that financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. This study was supported by the Jiangxi Province 2023 Graduate Innovation Special Funds Project (YC2023-S924); Science and Technology Program Project of Jiangxi Provincial Department of Education (GJJ211122).


We thank the students who participated in this study, as well as the staff who participated in the data testing of this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

Alonzo, R., Hussain, J., Stranges, S., and Anderson, K. K. (2021). Interplay between social media use, sleep quality, and mental health in youth: a systematic review. Sleep Med. Rev. 56:101414. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2020.101414

PubMed Abstract | Crossref Full Text | Google Scholar

Andrews, B., and Wilding, J. M. (2004). The relation of depression and anxiety to life-stress and achievement in students. Br. J. Psychol. 95, 509–521. doi: 10.1348/0007126042369802

Audain, K., Levy, L., and Ellahi, B. (2019). Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in the early years and implications for type-2 diabetes: a sub-Saharan Africa context. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 78, 547–553. doi: 10.1017/S0029665118002860

Beesdo, K., Knappe, S., and Pine, D. S. (2009). Anxiety and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: developmental issues and implications for DSM-V. Psychiatr. Clin. North Am. 32, 483–524. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2009.06.002

Brand, S., Lemola, S., Mikoteit, T., Holsboer-Trachsler, E., Kalak, N., Bahmani, D. S., et al. (2019). Sleep and psychological functioning of children and adolescents -a narrative review. Prax. Kinderpsychol. Kinderpsychiatr. 68, 128–145. doi: 10.13109/prkk.2019.68.2.128

Chang, Q., Xia, Y., Bai, S., Zhang, X., Liu, Y., Yao, D., et al. (2021). Association between Pittsburgh sleep quality index and depressive symptoms in Chinese resident physicians. Front. Psych. 12:564815. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.564815

Chellappa, S. L., and Aeschbach, D. (2022). Sleep and anxiety: from mechanisms to interventions. Sleep Med. Rev. 61:101583. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101583

Crossref Full Text | Google Scholar

Cheng, S. H., Sun, Z. J., Lee, I. H., Lee, C. T., Chen, K. C., Tsai, C. H., et al. (2017). Factors related to self-reported social anxiety symptoms among incoming university students. Early Interv. Psychiatry 11, 314–321. doi: 10.1111/eip.12247

Fausnacht, A. G., Myers, E. A., Hess, E. L., Davy, B. M., and Hedrick, V. E. (2020). Update of the BEVQ-15, a beverage intake questionnaire for habitual beverage intake for adults: determining comparative validity and reproducibility. J. Hum. Nutr. Diet. 33, 729–737. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12749

Ganzeboom, H. B. G., Graaf, P. M. D., and Treiman, D. J. (1992). A standard international socio-economic index of occupational status. Soc. Sci. Res. 21, 1–56. doi: 10.1016/0049-089X(92)90017-B

Ganzeboom, H. B. G., and Treiman, D. J. (1996). Internationally comparable measures of occupational status for the 1988 international standard classification of occupations. Soc. Sci. Res. 25, 201–239. doi: 10.1006/ssre.1996.0010

Hao, Z., and Zhang, W. (2023). Anxiety among college students who self-isolated during the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in China. Eval. Health Prof. 46, 105–109. doi: 10.1177/01632787221147619

Hedrick, V. E., Savla, J., Comber, D. L., Flack, K. D., Estabrooks, P. A., Nsiah-Kumi, P. A., et al. (2012). Development of a brief questionnaire to assess habitual beverage intake (BEVQ-15): sugar-sweetened beverages and total beverage energy intake. J. Acad. Nutr. Diet. 112, 840–849. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.01.023

Hoge, E., Bickham, D., and Cantor, J. (2017). Digital media, anxiety, and depression in children. Pediatrics 140, S76–S80. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-1758G

Hoque, M. N., Hannan, A., Imran, S., Alam, M. A., Matubber, B., and Saha, S. M. (2021). Anxiety and its determinants among undergraduate students during E-learning in Bangladesh amid Covid-19. J. Affect. Disord. Rep. 6:100241. doi: 10.1016/j.jadr.2021.100241

Imamura, F., O'Connor, L., Ye, Z., Mursu, J., Hayashino, Y., Bhupathiraju, S. N., et al. (2015). Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction. BMJ 351:h3576. doi: 10.1136/bmj.h3576

Junaid, T. M., Tariq, W., Anas, T. A. M., Irfan, M. M., Kamal, A. F., Malik, M., et al. (2022). Psychological impact of COVID-19 on doctors and medical students of Punjab, Pakistan: a logistic regression analysis. J. Multidiscip. Healthc. 15, 1297–1308. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S369452

Kim, J., Kambari, Y., Taggar, A., Quilty, L. C., Selby, P., Caravaggio, F., et al. (2022). A measure of subjective substance use disorder awareness -substance use awareness and insight scale (SAS). Drug Alcohol Depend. 231:109129. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.109129

Leow, M., Chiang, J., Chua, T., Wang, S., and Tan, N. C. (2023). The relationship between smartphone addiction and sleep among medical students: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One 18:e290724. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0290724

Li, W., Zhao, Z., Chen, D., Peng, Y., and Lu, Z. (2022). Prevalence and associated factors of depression and anxiety symptoms among college students: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 63, 1222–1230. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.13606

Liu, H., Liu, X., and Xu, W. (2022a). Prevalence and influencing factors of anxiety in medical students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heliyon 8:e10487. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e10487

Liu, X., Xia, X., Hu, F., Hao, Q., Hou, L., Sun, X., et al. (2022b). The mediation role of sleep quality in the relationship between cognitive decline and depression. BMC Geriatr. 22:178. doi: 10.1186/s12877-022-02855-5

Ma, Z., Zhao, J., Li, Y., Chen, D., Wang, T., Zhang, Z., et al. (2020). Mental health problems and correlates among 746 217 college students during the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak in China. Epidemiol. Psychiatr. Sci. 29:e181. doi: 10.1017/S2045796020000931

Malik, V. S., and Hu, F. B. (2022). The role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the global epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases. Nat. Rev. Endocrinol. 18, 205–218. doi: 10.1038/s41574-021-00627-6

McGough, K. (2021). Pediatric screen time. J. Am. Assoc. Nurse Pract. 34, 631–638. doi: 10.1097/JXX.0000000000000682

Meinlschmidt, G., Guemghar, S., Roemmel, N., Battegay, E., Hunziker, S., and Schaefert, R. (2022). Depressive symptoms, but not anxiety, predict subsequent diagnosis of coronavirus disease 19: a national cohort study. Epidemiol. Psychiatr. Sci. 31:e16. doi: 10.1017/S2045796021000676

Munoz-Cabrejas, A., Guallar-Castillon, P., Laclaustra, M., Sandoval-Insausti, H., and Moreno-Franco, B. (2023). Association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of the metabolic syndrome: a systematic review and Meta-analysis. Nutrients 15:430. doi: 10.3390/nu15020430

O'Rourke, S. R., Bray, A. C., and Anastopoulos, A. D. (2020). Anxiety symptoms and disorders in college students with ADHD. J. Atten. Disord. 24, 1764–1774. doi: 10.1177/1087054716685837

Otto, M. W., Lubin, R. E., Rosenfield, D., Taylor, D. J., Birk, J. L., Espie, C. A., et al. (2022). The association between race-and ethnicity-related stressors and sleep: the role of rumination and anxiety sensitivity. Sleep 45:117. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsac117

Park, S., Lee, S. H., Yaroch, A. L., and Blanck, H. M. (2022). Reported changes in eating habits related to less healthy foods and beverages during the COVID-19 pandemic among US adults. Nutrients 14:526. doi: 10.3390/nu14030526

Peres, M., Mercante, J., Tobo, P. R., Kamei, H., and Bigal, M. E. (2017). Anxiety and depression symptoms and migraine: a symptom-based approach research. J. Headache Pain 18:37. doi: 10.1186/s10194-017-0742-1

Regehr, C., Glancy, D., and Pitts, A. (2013). Interventions to reduce stress in university students: a review and meta-analysis. J. Affect. Disord. 148, 1–11. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.11.026

Sampol, J., Miravitlles, M., Saez, M., Pallero, M., Sampol, G., and Ferrer, J. (2023). Poor sleep quality, COPD severity and survival according to CASIS and Pittsburgh questionnaires. Sci. Rep. 13:18656. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-45717-9

Scott, A. J., Webb, T. L., Martyn-St, J. M., Rowse, G., and Weich, S. (2021). Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sleep Med. Rev. 60:101556. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101556

Sun, M., Wang, L., Wang, X., Tong, L., Fang, J., Wang, Y., et al. (2023). Interaction between sleep quality and dietary inflammation on frailty: NHANES 2005-2008. Food Funct. 14, 1003–1010. doi: 10.1039/d2fo01832b

Vahratian, A., Blumberg, S. J., Terlizzi, E. P., and Schiller, J. S. (2021). Symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder and use of mental health care among adults during the COVID-19 pandemic -United States, august 2020-February 2021. MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 70, 490–494. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7013e2

von Philipsborn, P., Stratil, J. M., Burns, J., Busert, L. K., Pfadenhauer, L. M., Polus, S., et al. (2019). Environmental interventions to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and their effects on health. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 2019:CD012292. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012292.pub2

Wang, X., Wei, W., Yuan, F., Li, S., Lin, J., and Zhang, J. (2018). Regional cerebral blood flow in natives at high altitude: an arterial spin labeled MRI study. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 48, 708–717. doi: 10.1002/jmri.25996

Wang, C., and Zhao, H. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on anxiety in Chinese university students. Front. Psychol. 11:1168. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01168

Wei, W., Wang, X., Gong, Q., Fan, M., and Zhang, J. (2017). Cortical thickness of native Tibetans in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Am. J. Neuroradiol. 38, 553–560. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A5050

Welsh, J. A., Sharma, A. J., Grellinger, L., and Vos, M. B. (2011). Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 94, 726–734. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.018366

Wu, T. (2001). The Qinghai-Tibetan plateau: how high do Tibetans live? High Alt. Med. Biol. 2, 489–499. doi: 10.1089/152702901753397054

Wu, X., Tao, S., Zhang, Y., Li, S., Ma, L., Yu, Y., et al. (2021). Geographic distribution of mental health problems among Chinese college students during the COVID-19 pandemic: Nationwide, web-based survey study. J. Med. Internet Res. 23:e23126. doi: 10.2196/23126

Xiang, M. Q., Tan, X. M., Sun, J., Yang, H. Y., Zhao, X. P., Liu, L., et al. (2020). Relationship of physical activity with anxiety and depression symptoms in Chinese college students during the COVID-19 outbreak. Front. Psychol. 11:582436. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.582436

Yi, X., Liang, Y., Huerta-Sanchez, E., Jin, X., Cuo, Z. X., Pool, J. E., et al. (2010). Sequencing of 50 human exomes reveals adaptation to high altitude. Science 329, 75–78. doi: 10.1126/science.1190371

Zhang, Y., Peters, A., and Chen, G. (2018). Perceived stress mediates the associations between sleep quality and symptoms of anxiety and depression among college nursing students. Int. J. Nurs. Educ. Scholarsh. 15:20. doi: 10.1515/ijnes-2017-0020

Zhang, Y., Tao, S., Qu, Y., Mou, X., Gan, H., Zhou, P., et al. (2022). The correlation between lifestyle health behaviors, coping style, and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic among college students: two rounds of a web-based study. Front. Public Health 10:1031560. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.1031560

Zisapel, N. (2018). New perspectives on the role of melatonin in human sleep, circadian rhythms and their regulation. Br. J. Pharmacol. 175, 3190–3199. doi: 10.1111/bph.14116

Zung, W. W. (1971). A rating instrument for anxiety disorders. Psychosomatics 12, 371–379. doi: 10.1016/S0033-3182(71)71479-0

Zung, W. W. (1974). The measurement of affects: depression and anxiety. Mod. Probl. Pharmacopsychiatry 7, 170–188. doi: 10.1159/000395075

Keywords: high altitude, adolescents, eating behavior, lifestyle, anxiety symptoms

Citation: Qiu Q, Chai G, Xie S and Wu T (2024) Association of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and sleep quality with anxiety symptoms: a cross-sectional study of Tibetan college students at high altitude. Front. Psychol . 15:1383042. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1383042

Received: 06 February 2024; Accepted: 19 March 2024; Published: 27 March 2024.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2024 Qiu, Chai, Xie and Wu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Guangxin Chai, [email protected]

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


  1. Case Study: Definition, Examples, Types, and How to Write

    top 10 case study psychology

  2. How to Write a Psychology Case Study

    top 10 case study psychology


    top 10 case study psychology

  4. Classic Case Studies in Psychology

    top 10 case study psychology

  5. 12+ Case Study Examples

    top 10 case study psychology

  6. Case Study: Definition, Examples, Types, And How To Write

    top 10 case study psychology


  1. Top 10 case 🏠 #sarahjsun #top #top10 #case #casute #alexamakeupbeauty #surori

  2. Take an exam/Grammar questions

  3. Class 10

  4. Class 10


  6. Using Case Studies


  1. Psychology's 10 greatest case studies

    Psychology's 10 greatest case studies - digested. These ten characters have all had a huge influence on psychology. Their stories continue to intrigue those interested in personality and ...

  2. Psychology's 10 Greatest Case Studies

    Kitty Genovese. Sadly, it is not really Kitty Genovese the person who has become one of psychology's classic case studies, but rather the terrible fate that befell her. In 1964 in New York, Genovese was returning home from her job as a bar maid when she was attacked and eventually murdered by Winston Mosely.

  3. 15 Famous Experiments and Case Studies in Psychology

    6. Stanford Prison Experiment. One of the most controversial and widely-cited studies in psychology is the Stanford Prison Experiment, conducted by Philip Zimbardo at the basement of the Stanford psychology building in 1971. The hypothesis was that abusive behavior in prisons is influenced by the personality traits of the prisoners and prison ...

  4. The 25 Most Influential Psychological Experiments in History

    1. A Class Divided Study Conducted By: Jane Elliott. Study Conducted in 1968 in an Iowa classroom. Experiment Details: Jane Elliott's famous experiment was inspired by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the inspirational life that he led. The third grade teacher developed an exercise, or better yet, a psychological experiment, to help her Caucasian students understand the ...

  5. Patient H.M. Case Study In Psychology: Henry Gustav Molaison

    Henry Gustav Molaison, known as Patient H.M., is a landmark case study in psychology. After a surgery to alleviate severe epilepsy, which removed large portions of his hippocampus, he was left with anterograde amnesia, unable to form new explicit memories, thus offering crucial insights into the role of the hippocampus in memory formation.

  6. Top 10 Cool Psychological Research Findings

    Here is a list of my top-10 cool findings—results you might find surprising, and that could help you better understand the people in your world: 10. Human emotional expression shows ...

  7. The Top 10 Cases In The History Of Psychology

    Here are 10 extraordinary cases from the realm of psychology that continue to fascinate. Featured Programs. Phineas Gage. In 1848, Phineas Gage was working as a foreman on a railroad crew in Vermont. While he was using a tamping iron to pack some explosive powder, the powder exploded, driving the iron through his head.

  8. 15 Famous Experiments and Case Studies in Psychology (2023

    Largest by these studies do helped shape our current getting a human thoughts, behavior, and feelings. To psychology case studies in this list Psychology has seen thousands upon thousands of research academic over the years. ... This phenomenon suggests that our perception of other people's overall personality is giant influenced by a top ...

  9. Case Study: Definition, Examples, Types, and How to Write

    A case study is an in-depth study of one person, group, or event. In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject's life and history is analyzed to seek patterns and causes of behavior. Case studies can be used in many different fields, including psychology, medicine, education, anthropology, political science, and social work.

  10. Psychology Case Study Examples: A Deep Dive into Real-life Scenarios

    One notable example is Freud's study on Little Hans. This case study explored a 5-year-old boy's fear of horses and related it back to Freud's theories about psychosexual stages. Another classic example is Genie Wiley (a pseudonym), a feral child who was subjected to severe social isolation during her early years.

  11. Psychology Case Study Examples

    The case of Phineas Gage is perhaps the most cited study in psychology. This famous case study showed how different areas of the brain affect personality and cognitive ability. While working as a construction foreman on a railroad, Phineas Gage was involved in an accident in which a rod was pushed through his cheek and brain.

  12. The Neuroscience of Behavior: Five Famous Cases

    In 1848, John Harlow first described the case of a 25-year-old railroad foreman named Phineas Gage. Gage was a "temperate" man: hardworking, polite, and well-liked by all those around him.

  13. 15 Famous Experiments and Case Studies in Psychology

    Psychology's 10 Greatest Case Studies - Digested · Phineas Gage · H.M. · Victor Leborgne (nickname "Tan") · Rough Boy of Aveyron · Kims Peek · Anna O. Around one-third of the 600 participants succeeded in delaying gratification to receive the second fudge. Mischel and their employees followed up on these participants in one 1990s ...

  14. The top 10 most popular psychology studies of 2021

    A global study reveals a universal inclination towards simple integer-ratio rhythms in music cognition, while also uncovering significant cultural variations in rhythm preferences. PsyPost received approximately 42.7 million pageviews in 2021. These were our top ten stories of the year.

  15. The Top 10 Psychology Studies of 2010

    And if you're riches aren't actually growing, then savoring is still a great way to truly appreciate what you do have. J. Quoidbach, E. Dunn, K. Petrides, & M. Mikolajczak (2010) Money giveth ...

  16. Breakthroughs and Discoveries in Psychological Science: 2020 Year in

    A study published in Psychological Science found that media use in the hour preceding bedtime impacts the sleep only of children who struggle to self-regulate their behavior. ... in Perspectives on Psychological Science after querying more than 26,000 articles published between 1974 and 2018 in top-tier psychology journals. Most publications ...

  17. Single case studies are a powerful tool for developing ...

    The majority of methods in psychology rely on averaging group data to draw conclusions. In this Perspective, Nickels et al. argue that single case methodology is a valuable tool for developing and ...

  18. Case Study Research Method in Psychology

    Case studies are in-depth investigations of a person, group, event, or community. Typically, data is gathered from various sources using several methods (e.g., observations & interviews). The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e., the patient's personal history). In psychology, case studies are ...

  19. Topic Suggestions for Psychology Case Studies

    A case study is an in-depth psychological investigation of a single person or a group of people. Case studies are commonly used in medicine and psychology. For example, these studies often focus on people with an illness (for example, one that is rare) or people with experiences that cannot be replicated in a lab.

  20. Research Methods In Psychology

    Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc. Research methods in psychology are systematic procedures used to observe, describe, predict, and explain behavior and mental processes. They include experiments, surveys, case studies, and naturalistic observations, ensuring data collection is objective and reliable to understand and explain psychological phenomena.

  21. Free APA Journal Articles

    Recently published articles from subdisciplines of psychology covered by more than 90 APA Journals™ publications. For additional free resources (such as article summaries, podcasts, and more), please visit the Highlights in Psychological Research page. Browse and read free articles from APA Journals across the field of psychology, selected by ...

  22. Case Study Methodology of Qualitative Research: Key Attributes and

    A case study is one of the most commonly used methodologies of social research. This article attempts to look into the various dimensions of a case study research strategy, the different epistemological strands which determine the particular case study type and approach adopted in the field, discusses the factors which can enhance the effectiveness of a case study research, and the debate ...

  23. 2.2 Approaches to Research

    Compare longitudinal and cross-sectional approaches to research. Compare and contrast correlation and causation. There are many research methods available to psychologists in their efforts to understand, describe, and explain behavior and the cognitive and biological processes that underlie it. Some methods rely on observational techniques.

  24. Revolutionizing the Study of Mental Disorders

    The Research Domain Criteria framework (RDoC) was created in 2010 by the National Institute of Mental Health. The framework encourages researchers to examine functional processes that are implemented by the brain on a continuum from normal to abnormal. This way of researching mental disorders can help overcome inherent limitations in using all ...

  25. The effect of self-congruity on tourists' emotions and ...

    This study attempts to investigate how self-congruity motivates tourists' intention to share their cultural destination travel experiences on social networking platforms through their emotional and affective states. There are four types of self-congruence: actual self-congruity, social self-congruity, ideal self-congruity, and ideal social self-congruity. The survey data were collected from ...

  26. Frontiers

    The results of this study showed that in terms of gender, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms in different SSBs consumption college boys and girls were statistically significant (χ 2 values of 109.881, 36.358, p < 0.001).In terms of sleep quality, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms in college students boys and girls were also statistically significant (χ 2 values were 52.211, 24.444, p < 0.001).

  27. The best US public schools in America are in these 20 places, Niche

    20. Los Altos Hills. Suburb of San Jose, California. (Courtesy: Niche) For the full 2024 rankings see the Niche report. Niche relies on public data from the Department of Education, U.S. Census ...