Suggested Experiments for Student Researchers

In addition to your examination of the topics suggested below, be sure to look up the extensive list of psychological tests offered at: Personality, Temperament, and Other Psychological tests, including the section on that page containing "Tests Available Free Online."

Temperament & Immune System

Optimism and Control

A number of recurrent themes arise in studies of immune function. Individuals who view the world in a more positive light (i.e., those who have a greater capacity for pleasure) and those who feel they have greater control over what is happening to them tend to have healthier immune systems. These two recurrent findings suggest the parallel importance of two of the PAD Temperament dimensions (Trait Pleasure-Displeasure & Trait Dominance-Submissiveness) as variables for inclusion in the study of personality correlates of immune function.

Findings relating optimism-pessimism and/or positive-negative expectations to greater resilience in AIDS patients once again highlight importance of the Trait Pleasure-Displeasure Scale. Optimism is a strong positive correlate of Trait Pleasure. Patients who "find meaning" at a critical juncture in the progression of AIDS also seem to do better. Here again, there is a suggested relationship to Trait Pleasure. Individuals who are predisposed to generally pleasant emotions are more likely to find something good even in a disastrous situation. Thus, Trait Pleasure, along with low Trait Arousability, may also relate to longevity of AIDS patients.

The PAD Temperament Model & Scales

Aside from "control" or dominance, findings also have shown sensitivity to rejection (alternatively called "rejection sensitivity") to contribute to more rapid progress of AIDS. These studies used the Mehrabian Sensitivity to Rejection Scale which, incidentally, correlates -.75 with the Trait Dominance-Submissiveness Scale. Thus, once again, findings showed that greater submissiveness (as measured by greater rejection sensitivity) was a factor in more rapid deterioration of immune function.

Mehrabian, A. (1970). The development and validation of measures of affiliative tendency and sensitivity to rejection. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 30, 417-428.

Mehrabian, A. (1994). Evidence bearing on the Affiliative Tendency (MAFF) and Sensitivity to Rejection (MSR) Scales. Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social, 13, 97-116.

Mehrabian, A. (1994). Manual for the Sensitivity to Rejection Scale (MSR). (Available from Albert Mehrabian, 1130 Alta Mesa Road, Monterey, CA, USA 93940)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Individual differences in Chronic Fatigue syndrome (e.g., elevated levels of cytokines) probably relate to the Mehrabian Trait Arousability Scale (which is a generalized measure of emotional reactivity). Basically, highly arousable persons are more likely to suffer from both physical and psychosomatic ailments (Mehrabian & Ross, 1979). The correlation between Trait Arousability and reported incidence of illnesses is .34. It would be an easy enough matter to test the relation between Trait Arousability and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (e.g., by comparing scores for a sample suffering from the syndrome with general population norms; better yet, by comparing those scores with carefully selected control group scores.

Mehrabian, A., & Ross, M. (1979). Illnesses, accidents, and alcohol use as functions of the arousing quality and pleasantness of life changes. Psychological Reports, 45, 31-43.

The Trait Arousability Scale

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome relates nicely to an early study of mine (Mehrabian, 1986) dealing with chronic stimulant use and its paradoxical effect on arousal; that is, the consequent lowering of arousal. You may find my explanation of the high stimulant use/generalized low arousal relationship of interest in supplying a novel explanation for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is possible that those suffering from this syndrome (a) have been subjected to continued high levels of stress (that includes high arousal), (b) typically overuse stimulants (e.g., cigarettes, coffee, chocolates) and/or (c) are generally more arousable. Thus, variance in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (i.e., presence vs. absence of the syndrome or its strength) may be explained using main and interaction effects of the aforementioned variables.

Mehrabian, A. (1986). Arousal-reducing effects of chronic stimulant use. Motivation and Emotion, 10, 1-10.

Auto-immune Disease

Our findings relating sex differences to Trait Arousability are extremely consistent (e.g., Mehrabian & O'Reilly, 1980). Women are generally more arousable than men (the correlation between gender, with male = 2, female = 1, and Trait Arousability tends to be about .35 across several studies). This correlation may explain male-female differences in susceptibility to auto-immune disease (i.e., higher incidence among women of the disease) and also provides the rationale for viewing higher Trait Arousability as a contributing factor toward auto-immune disease.

Mehrabian, A., & O'Reilly, E. (1980). Analysis of personality measures in terms of basic dimensions of temperament. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 492-503.

Placebo Effects

The placebo effect found in most drug-treatment studies (or in psychotherapy) can again be usefully studied in relation to the PAD Temperament scales. I would suggest that the placebo effect is likely to be greater for (a) more arousable and (b) more submissive persons. In a very different context (poll reports on voter behaviors) I found similar results (Mehrabian, 1998). More arousable and more submissive persons were more likely to be influenced by repeated (and possibly even bogus -- not tested in the study) poll reports -- they are generally more gullible. Extrapolation from these studies of voting to placebo effects is meaningful.

Mehrabian, A. (1998). Effects of poll reports on voter preferences. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 2119-2130.

Research Involving First Names

Name Impressions and Psychopathology

There is some limited evidence showing that those whose names have more negative connotations (i.e., names that project undesirable impressions) are more likely to be maladjusted. There is a need for a systematic and broad-scoped study of this issue. Such a study requires two samples of participants matched on age, gender, and socioeconomic level, but differing as follows: members of one sample would have names with positive and desirable connotations; members of the second sample would have names with undesirable connotations.

We already have extensive survey data on the desirability-undesirability of connotations of most first names in common use. These data can be used to select the participants in the two groups. Additionally, we have both general measures of psychopathology as well as specific measures (e.g., anxiety, depression, somatization, panic, alcohol use, drug use), all of which would be made available for such a study.

If the idea of this project intrigues you and you have the resources to recruit and test approximately 75 subjects in each group (i.e., a total of 150 subjects), contact Albert Mehrabian for additional details.

Political Orientation and Name Characteristics

This is an interesting and as yet untested area of research. One study along these lines would explore the psychological connotations of the first names of the current members of the U.S. House and Senate. We probably have most of these names rated on the Name Connotation Profile, so it would be a simple matter of referring to our database and recording the impressions generated by the names. Additionally, the degree of commonness or uncommonness of these first names would also be assessed. Separately, we would record the political orientations of these representatives and senators. This could be done roughly in terms of broad political affiliation (e.g., Republican, Democrat) or more precisely using data on the general conservative- liberal voting records of these individuals. Data analyses would be used to explore possible systematic relations between the name characteristics and left-right political orientation.

Drugs and Emotions

Transitory and/or Long-Term Impact of Psychotropic Drugs on Emotions

The PAD Emotion and Temperament Models and corresponding scales are highly suited for pinpointing the precise impact of psychotropic drugs. These scales can be used with patients (a) before they are administered a medication and (b) several months later when the medication has been used regularly by the patient. The "before" assessment should be obtained with patients who have not been given any psychotropic medications for a period of at least three months.

The PAD Emotion Scales can serve as dependent variables when the short-term impact of a medication is assessed (e.g., how the patient felt, in general, during the pervious week). If, on the other hand, longer-lasting effects are to be assessed, then the PAD Temperament Scales should be used. For instance, our preliminary study, done with individuals before and after administration of Prozac, used the PAD Temperament Scales. Findings showed that long-term use of Prozac resulted in significant increases in Trait Pleasure-Displeasure scores, significant decreases in Trait Arousability scores, and significant increases in Trait Dominance scores. In short, Prozac had an overall relaxing effect on temperament. Insofar as relaxation is the exact opposite of anxiety, discomfort, or neuroticism, its impact is likely to be most beneficial to those with such difficulties. The prevalent use of Prozac in the treatment of depression is also understandable, because Depression involves low Trait Pleasure, low Trait Dominance, and marginally above average Trait Arousability. Because Prozac increases pleasure, increases dominance, and reduces arousability, it also can be beneficial to the depressed.

Similar studies can be conducted to ascertain the emotional impact of any psychotropic drug. The PAD scales can be used as well during the developmental phases and initial assessment surveys of various psychotropic medications.

Developmental Studies

Harsh or Difficult Childhood Upbringing and Financial Success

There appears to be a positive relation between a difficult, harsh, emotionally punitive, or abusive childhood and subsequent unrelenting striving for achievement that results in great financial wealth. We have all the necessary psychological instruments to conduct such a study. If the idea of this project appeals to you and you know you can recruit pairs of adults who are matched on age, educational level, and gender, but who differ diametrically on financial achievement (e.g., annual income or net worth that is the byproduct of one's own achievement and not inherited), contact Albert Mehrabian for additional details.

Emotional Climate Experienced in Childhood in Relation to General Temperament Characteristics and Adjustment-Maladjustment (e.g., Proneness to Violence, Spousal and Child Abuse, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse)

The PAD Parental Attitudes Scales can be used to have adult subjects retrospectively report the emotional climate that prevailed at home when they were children. Alternatively, the parents of these subjects could report their own child-rearing attitudes (and the associated emotional climate created by those attitudes). Separately, the adult subjects could be tested using the PAD Temperament Scales (which provide reasonably comprehensive descriptions of temperament and personality) and/or any other scales that would assess level of psychological adjustment-maladjustment (e.g., anxiety, depression, alcohol use, drug use, violence potential, abusive behavior). Data analyses would explore relations between the emotional climate at home during childhood and temperament and adjustment-maladjustment variables in adulthood.

Alternatively, adult violent offenders (or alcoholics or drug addicts, etc.) could be compared with controls matched on age, gender, and socioeconomic level and the experimental and control subjects would retrospectively report the emotional climate that prevailed in their home environments when they were being raised. Differences in the emotional climates for the experimental vs. control groups would be assessed statistically.

Personality Studies

Temperament Correlates of Physical Health and Longevity

The PAD Temperament Scales can be studied in relation to other personality scales (e.g., Optimism-Pessimism; Type A Personality) that have been found to relate to individual differences in physical health, speed of recovery from surgery and ailment, or general resistence to stress. More demanding studies could involve PAD testing of matched groups of healthy and unhealthy adults. When such matched samples are available, it also would be possible to explore mate temperament characteristics as correlates of the physical health of individuals whose health status is known. Thus, it should be possible to identify temperament characteristics of individuals that may have a role in enhancing or reducing the physical health of their mates.

Temperament Correlates of Creativity (or of Boredom)

These are two different topics of research, although the study designs would be similar. Indeed, both topics could be explored using the same sample of participants. There is little evidence on relations between Individual differences in creativity (or in boredom) and temperament variables; therefore, exploration of either topic could possibly produce new and useful information. The three PAD Temperament Scales could be used to assess temperament. Personality scales of creativity and boredom are also available. In the event you decide to do such a study, contact Albert Mehrabian to obtain the necessary scales.

Personality Correlates of Success Among the Underprivileged

Picture a group of young adults who share a severely underprivileged background (e.g., poor, uneducated parents; a social climate that does not encourage education and, instead, is conducive to a life in the streets, petty crime, and drug use). Nevertheless, some of the children in this group move ahead in life, go on to college, etc. Of course, chance acquaintances with adults who act as constructive role models can play a very large role in this process. However, the personality characteristics of the children also can account for some of the variance in success.

This study would require access to a group of high-school students who come from underprivileged backgrounds. Teacher ratings of the students would be needed to measure each student's chances of future success. The PAD Temperament Scales would be administered to the students to obtain a general assessment of personality. PAD scores would be correlated with the teacher ratings of potential future success. Participants would have to be fluent in English.

Temperament and Sales Success

What kind of person is most likely to succeed in sales? Selling computers, automobiles, audio equipment, real estate, or stocks and bonds are just a few examples and all require ingenuity, persistence in the face of failure, good social skills, etc. Is it possible to do a study that would yield a very comprehensive description of the personality characteristics of those who succeed versus those who do less well in such work? The study would require at least 150 participants who are all involved in the same or similar line of sales work. Participants' annual income would serve as the dependent variable and the PAD Temperament scores would constitute the personality assessment. Our pilot data on this subject show promising relations between temperament variables (particularly dominance-submissiveness) and sales success. If you can recruit and test such a group, contact Albert Mehrabian for additional details.

Temperament Correlates of Teacher or Clinician Effectiveness

These studies would assess personality and/or temperament characteristics that are conducive to high vs. low effectiveness in teaching or clinical work. Temperament would be measured with the PAD Temperament Scales. Teacher effectiveness could be assessed with peer (i.e., fellow teacher) or supervisor (e.g., school principal) ratings. Correlations of the effectiveness ratings with the Trait Pleasure (P), Trait Arousability (A), and Trait Dominance (D) ratings would provide very general assessments of relations between personality and teacher effectiveness.

A similar design could be used to ascertain general relations between clinician effectiveness and clinician temperament. One possible avenue for assessing clinician effectiveness is to have close associates (e.g., clinicians working together) rate each other's effectiveness. Alternatively, at the completion of a fixed number of clinician-patient sessions, patients could be asked to rate the effectiveness of the clinician on a completely confidential basis. Temperament would be measured with the PAD Temperament Scales and correlations between these and effectiveness would supply general assessments of relations between personality and clinician effectiveness.

Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Emotional Climate at Work in Relation to Worker Productivity

Worker productivity is an issue of considerable theoretical and pragmatic importance. In this study, worker productivity would be investigated as a function of the emotional climate at work, as engendered by (a) the physical setting of work and (b) the social relationships and general corporate or company culture.

The study would require comparisons of overall (i.e., mean) productivity levels of workers in different companies. Workers in each company would use the PAD Emotion Scales to rate (a) the physical setting of work and (b) the social setting of work. An ideal design for this study would require comparisons of similar work settings (e.g., different post offices across the country) that, nevertheless, differ in overall levels of worker productivity. Correlations between the PAD Emotion Scales and mean levels of worker productivity would help identify the emotional conditions that are conducive to high vs. low levels of productivity.

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