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This chapter describes the use of field research for development of psychological theory. Field research helps identify which phenomena are most psychologically and behaviorally consequential. The chapter focuses on the kinds of theoretical insights afforded by research in field settings. It explains what one means by field research as opposed to laboratory research, and discusses advantages that come from finding and testing ideas in the field. Observational methods can be put to many important uses in field settings. The chapter examines the experimental research in the field that is explicitly designed for the purpose of comparison and causal inference. It explores the range of theoretical goals that can be accomplished with field research. The chapter outlines the strengths and weaknesses of various field research techniques and best practices of each one. It concludes with practical suggestions and reasons for researchers at various stages of experience to engage in field research.
This study investigated the influences of both perceived control
and physical effort on cardiovascular reactivity. Undergraduates
(N = 32) played a video game task interrupted by aversive noise.
Perceived control of the noise was manipulated by instructions
indicating the presence or absence of a contingency between
performance and noise presentations. Physical effort was
manipulated by controlling the physical force required to perform
the task. There was a significant main effect of control on
systolic blood pressure (SBP) and total peripheral resistance
(TPR), with both increasing more during low than high control
conditions. The results suggest that high perceived control
over aversive noise in an effortful task reduces SBP and TPR
reactivity relative to low perceived control. The results are
consistent with the idea that control buffers the reactivity
associated with task performance under aversive conditions.
Previous studies demonstrated distinct cardiovascular patterns
associated with threat and challenge appraisals for groups of
participants. We extend these results by assessing whether
appraisals continue to be associated with these cardiovascular
response patterns within an individual as appraisals change.
Participants completed four verbal mental arithmetic tasks for
which they made appraisals before and after each task. Cardiac
reactivity and total peripheral resistance (TPR) were calculated
for the first and last minutes of each task, and the number
of responses and percent correct were measured for each task.
In line with our prediction, pretask appraisals were related
to some task-related cardiac responses across the four tasks.
In addition, task-related cardiovascular reactivity and behaviors
both influenced appraisals following the task. Our findings
suggest that an idiographic analysis of appraisals, cardiovascular
physiology, and task-related behaviors provides a richer
understanding of the appraisal process and reveals sex differences
deserving further assessment.
We evaluated the effects of two laboratory stressors
(speech preparation and isometric handgrip) on gastric
myoelectrical and autonomic cardiac activity, and the extent
to which autonomic responses to these stressors and somatization
predict reports of motion sickness during exposure to a
rotating optokinetic drum. Both stressors prompted a decrease
in preejection period (PEP) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia
(RSA), and an increase in a dysrhythmic pattern of gastric
myoelectrical activity, termed gastric tachyarrhythmia.
Stressor-induced decreases in RSA and higher somatization
scores predicted increased reports of motion sickness during
drum rotation. These results demonstrate that laboratory
stressors concurrently affect gastric myoelectrical activity
and autonomic control of the heart, and that stressor-induced
decreases in RSA and higher levels of somatization predict
motion sickness susceptibility.
The purposes of the present study were to determine the
autonomic origins of a bradycardiac response to a moderate
intensity nonsignal auditory stimulus and the changes in
autonomic cardiac control of this response as a function
of habituation. Pure tone stimuli were repeatedly presented
to participants while phasic changes in heart period (HP),
preejection period (PEP), and respiratory sinus arrhythmia
(RSA) were observed. Tone stimuli initially elicited an
increase in HP, an increase in RSA, and a decrease in PEP,
suggesting a coactivation of the parasympathetic and sympathetic
inputs mediating changes in the bradycardiac HP response.
As expected, HP responses habituated with repeated presentations
of the tones. PEP and RSA responses, however, demonstrated
different habituation rates than HP. These data demonstrate
that cardiodeceleratory responses to nonsignal stimuli
can arise from changes in activity of both autonomic divisions
and document the importance of considering the autonomic
origins of habituating cardiac responses in order to fully
understand the process of response habituation.
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