Date of Award

6-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Experimental Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. Donna M. Garcia

Abstract

Careless responders have a large impact on a study by causing issues such as Type II errors (failing to reject a false null hypothesis), which then waste researchers’ time and money. Research on careless responding has focused primarily on detecting and removing careless responders rather than on reducing careless responding before data collection begins. The purpose of the present study was to test the use of honor codes with or without the presentation of a picture of watchful eyes to increase self-awareness thereby reducing careless responding. Participants (N = 305) were randomly assigned to one of five honor code conditions (control condition, read-only condition, type condition, read-and-eyes condition, or type-and-eyes condition) and then completed a number of personality measures. Participant’s responses were screened for careless responding. I found that when participant’s only read an honor code without a picture of watchful eyes on the screen, they were significantly more likely to engage in careless responding than were people in the control condition. There was no significant difference in careless responding in the control condition compared to the other three conditions (type condition, read-and-eyes condition, or type-and-eyes condition). This finding indicates that participants being presented only with an honor code, and no other cues of moral behavior, might lead to psychological reactance (i.e., participants perceiving their freedom or control was threatened). This psychological reactance was likely due to participants feeling coerced to respond honestly by the honor code rather than participants responding honestly on their own accord. Additionally, there were no differences on participant’s responses across conditions on a number of personality measures that may be sensitive to increased self-awareness. A number of exploratory analyses were also conducted to further examine psychological reactance. The present study provides answers and possible directions to a number of useful questions that could improve data quality and reduce potential negative effects of honor codes under certain circumstances.