The Differences Between Single Subject Design and Case Studies.

In this weeks blog I will be looking at how single case design and case studies are different as people often perceive them as being identical to one another. There are indeed similarities between these two experimental designs which is what often makes people think that they are the same. But they aren’t as similar as you think:

 Single Subject Design: Like a case study, this design focuses on a single individual and so cannot be generalised to the public, limiting its external validity. However, unlike a case study, single subject design helps to investigate an intervention to observe its effects on a baseline behaviour. This is usually shown on an A-B design graph where a baseline and intervention are plotted and can then be visually compared, which was used to look at the effects of the SAFMEDS cards we were given in research skills. From using this, a clinical significance can be observed where the differences between the baseline and intervention are meaningful. The disadvantages to this design however is that there is no control group to compare against, meaning that it is unclear as to just how much the intervention impacted on the baseline or if it did this at all.

Case Studies: These studies focus on observations of events or situations that have already occurred or are currently occurring in an individuals life. There are two different methods that can be taken which includes either a prospective method, where an individual or group is observed to see the effects or outcomes that occur. An example includes the Tuskegee study (link included in the references) where the progression of syphilis was observed in group that was treated and a control group that werent given any treatment, although this was a very controversial study. The other method is labelled the retrospective method, where information from past events and situations are looked at through scanning historical records or collecting an individuals account of what occurred, a famous example is that of Phineas Gage, who was involved in an accident that damaged his brain and consequently changed his behaviour. Due to all these reasons, case studies can examine participants from hard to find populations/conditions.

In conclusion, the differences between these two approaches show that single subject design is quasi experimental and should be used if there is an intervention of which you are interested to introduce and observe whereas a case study is not experimental and a more descriptive style of research that should be used when a event or situation has impacted a participant that you wish to gain more information on and discover what it was that caused the outcome that was observed.




Tuskegee Study –

Phineas Gage  –


Meta-Analysis: Good or Bad?

Meta-Analysis is where a variety of studies done on a particular topic area are summarised together and their findings collated through statistical techniques. This type of research was formed to help create a better understanding of human behaviour by combining individual studies so that it contained a much higher quantitative result to help in gaining evidence to further strengthen an hypothesis. Although the overview of using meta-analysis looks promising, there are many who debate the use of it in psychology:

Disadvantages: Meta-analysis has a high chance of being perceptable to publication bias, this is where the researcher collecting the data will pick specific studies that only provide the outcome that the researcher is looking for. Publication bias here can be done purposefully to manipulate results or by accident through unconsciously knowing that it is being done as they are unaware that they are looking for a certain outcome. Also, not all details of a study that is used may be given as the the researcher collecting the data was not actively involved in the study at the time it was done and so some data may be missing which can effect the overall result of that study and reduces its reliability. Poor designs are also mixed with good ones which can scew the statistical result.

Advantages: The results can be saved from being scewed through using the effect size which is the size of the effect observed in each study. Looking at the effect size of all the studies and comparing them then it can be observed whether they are reliable or not because if they all have similar effect sizes then they support each others findings and the overall statistical analysis. Using Meta-analysis is also a cheaper way to conduct your research as you do not have to pay expenses for carrying out an experiment. The results can provide strong evidence for the hypothesis and also become more generalisable. It can also gain data from different types of studies such as analogue and clinical studies so that they can be compared.

Overall, although using  meta-analysis involves secondary data it is a good way of providing great support for a topic area in psychology and can help show us what parts of the hypothesis needs further expolartion and data needs to be collected so that we can improve our understanding on the topic.

The Placebo Effect

Hello everyone, in this weeks blog i will be discussing the pros and cons of using placebos in psychology. To start off, a Placebo is a substance which has no psysiological effect on a person. However although this is true it cannot be said that there are NO effects produced at all. For instance a patient who is nervous may be given a placebo and told that it will calm them, and they in turn will be calmed as the patient believes the desired effect will occur, This is due to the Placebo Effect. It has many advantages in psychology but is often unsupported by many due to its ethical complications as patients are not told that the drug they are taking is a placebo which leads to deception, but this is crucial in uses placebos because if the patient was aware of it then they will produce no effects from it. This is because the placebo effect relies heavily on the patients believe of the drug working. Here i have collected the main advantages and disadvantages of the placebo effect.

Advantages: Placebos have an important role in drug trials as they are used in a control group to view whether the real drug being trialed does have the outcome in which it is designed for, if the control group with the placebo experience a change in condition that is comparable the drug being tried then it is apparent that the drug contains no real effect and cannot be used. Placebos also carry on its practical use in treatment for psychological conditions such as Parkinsons Disease as an experiment carried out on patients with Parkinsons found that their condition improved with a placebo. This becomes a further advantage as placebos do not cause any side effects so cannot harm the patient and are also cheaper to make.

Disadvantages: It is argued however that placebos cannot help with all conditions and that if a patient does not believe it will work, then it wont. This strips away any of the effectiveness that the placebo could have. As mentioned before it can also be unethical as the person may believe they are getting better, when in fact they arent and the medication they are taking has no effect at all. This also causes problems with regard to the doctor-patient relationship, because if the patient discovers that they are indeed being prescribed placebos they may lose trust in their doctor which can cause many problems in their future treatment.

All in all, many argue that placebos should not be used as they contain no physiological effect and are inappropraite when a drug that has a real effect can be used instead. But if the use of placebos can make the patient believe they are improving, it can help the patient deal with their condition and even have more of a positive effect than a real drug.




Psychological Discoveries and The Media.

The media often discusses the discoveries made in psychology, but do they truly depict what the studies actually found? An article from The Times wrote about the study on sex differences in colour preferences by Hurlbert, A.C & Yling, Y. (2007) titled “At last, science discovers why blue is for boys but girls really do prefer pink” can be percieved as inaccurate as the actual study did not discover the reason why these colour preferences are present, but rather gave support to the claim that there is sexual differences to colour preferences so the title of the media article does not accurately depict what the study really found. The findings of which the media article described was that the reason for the differences in colour preferences was due to evolutionary factors that have become innate as the women were the gatherers and so looked for ripe fruit which were red in colour, so explained the colour preference to pink/red colours. This is a suggestion made whilst discussing possible reasons for the findings in the study by the researchers but is nothing more than that, so the article makes an inappropriate description of the findings in this study with this use of their title.


Although the initial findings of the experiment described in the media articles’ title is inaccurate, descriptions about the participants used in the study are rather well-placed as they match with what the real study did, stating there were “208 volunteers aged between 20 and 26” which is compatible with the studies description of its participants. The design of the study is somewhat mentioned accurately in the media article too as they state the participants “had to select which they preferred by clicking with a computer mouse.” which is similar to what the study actually did apart from that in the study the participants had to rapidly select their preferred colour as fast as they could so the readers of the article can know what the studies method was roughly but not in detail which may not be a problem as the reader may not want to know in detail exactly what was done and be more focused on the results found.


The headline of the report that science discovers the reason for sex differences in colour preferences contradicts what is written in the article as the article goes on to write “there could be sound historical reasons why women have developed a heightened appreciation of reds and pinks, while men are drawn to blue.” which does not show that there really are supported reasons with the use of the word “could” so the article does in fact show that the reasons why are truly discovered which misleads the reader to believe that they are true fact from the title that they have read, giving a wrong perception of the aim and results of the study. All in all, this media article in The Times does not colour the true intentions of the study by Hurlbert, A.C & Yling, Y. (2007) in its title and suggests a different aim compared to the study although the content of the article does depict the findings of the study, but in creating the image in the readers mind that they are about to discover the reasons why sex differences in colour preferences occur, it may be all they perceive from what they read onwards.




Is Hypnosis truly effective ?

In the past hypnosis has been percieved as ineffective in helping patients, but today it has become accepted by many as a great tool in helping to overcome a wide variety of conditions such as phobias, pain, anxiety, depression etc. This is because, when used with counselling, the patient becomes more open to suggestion so that they are more likely to get a positive outcome.

To look at Hypnosis in detail we need to understand how it is carried out. Hypnosis is generally performed by a trained hypnotherapist who leads you into a  trance-like state of mind by using breathing techniques. This makes the client feel relaxed, highly focused and erase the negative emotions/thoughts that they are experiencing through suggestions of the hypnotherapist in order to help them focus on the positive.

Advantage: Many studies also back up Hypnosis effectiveness as one study (Lynn, S. J., Kirsch, I., Barabasz, A., Cardeña, E., & Patterson, D. (2000).) revealed that ” Hypnosis fares well in comparison with the quantity and quality of research regarding many other psychotherapeutic endeavors” after observing other studies such as Montgomery, G.H, DuHamel, K.N., & Redd, W.H. (2000) who found that of 933 participants that went through Hypnosis therapy 75% were relieved of their pain. This also shows that hypnosis can be empirically supported. Using this therapy also cuts the cost of surgery as it is not needed, showing that hypnosis is also cost effective.

Disadvantage:  it can be argued that it holds a placebo effect. If a patient undergoing hypnosis believes that it will be effective in helping them with their problems, then they will feel like their condition has improved, suggesting that hypnosis does not have any physical effect and acts as a tool to give a patient more confidence. This may work out well for those who believe that it is effective, but those who do not believe it is so, often end up feeling no different about themselves. Using Hypnosis on its own is also a disadvantage as it cannot elimate the patients problem with no other support such as counselling.

All in all however, i do believe that Hypnosis is a useful tool that can be applied in many areas, both psychological and physical. The therapy can also be used on children from the age of 5, which means that the age range for its applicability is also large. The APA (american psychological association) have also acknowledged the effectiveness of hypnosis on their website which shows further more its reliability as the APA would not suggest this therapy if they thought it to be ineffective.




Lynn, S. J., Kirsch, I., Barabasz, A., Cardeña, E., & Patterson, D. (2000). Hypnosis as an empirically supported clinical intervention: The state of the evidence and a look to the future. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 48, pp. 235-255.

Montgomery, G. H., DuHamel, K. N., & Redd, W. H. (2000). A meta-analysis of hypnotically induced analgesia: How effective is hypnosis? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 48,134-149.

The effectiveness of drug therapy

There has been much debate over whether drugs are a more effective way to help treat psychological disorders and here, i will be pointing out the advantages and disadvantages in relation to help in treating depression as an example. first of all drug therapy is used in conjunction with talk therapy usually but i am solely just focusing on drug therapy this week.

Advantages: when a patient is given drugs to help treat depression, they can take it instantly which induces instant gratification on their part as they will begin to feel the benefits of treatment rather quickly, which provides a short term solution as well as long term through constant usage. A placebo effect can also take place here which is not necessarily a negative effect, as the patient will believe that the drug will have positive effects that in turn causes them to feel as though they are being eleviated from their depression. Drug therapy is also an easy way as they only need to take a pill each day, or whatever their does is at that time. This also gives them their independence back as they become responsible for helping themselves get better and move on with their life.

Disadvantages: Although drugs have these advantages, they can also lead to harmful side effects and even to an addiction on them, this means that the patient will also experience withdrawal sypmtoms when their dose is reduced or are moved onto a different drug, this can lead to further problems in their depression and hinder rather than help them in recovering. Apart from this, taking drugs long term also exposes the patient to building up a tolerance to the treatment they are on and becoming immune to the drugs effects and thus stopping to help them escape their depression. Giving the patient a larger dose will increase the risk of side effects, so drug therapy can become a dangerous solution.

All in all, it seems clear to me that the disadvantages of drug therapy far outweigh the advantages, as there is more harm that can be done to the patient if their doses and effects of the drug are not examined often, and since there is a risk that if the drugs do end up causing harm, that depression can be worsened from it. Drug therapy does hold its uses, but it should not be used on its own without talk therapy as the root of the psychological disorder may not be directly linked to biological functions and may reside in events from the patients life.

The Split Brain

In this weeks blog I am going to be discussing whether split brain surgery is advantageous or not to the patient. First of all, split brain surgery is where the corpus callosum that connects the left and right hemisphere in the brain is cut so that they can no longer communicate, this stops the epileptic seizures travelling through the brain. This is done in rare cases where patients with severe epilepsy that impacts their ability to function in their daily lives have no other treatments or drugs that can help. The procedure is a success in most cases, but not all. This is a disadvantage to the procedure as it can have dangerous complications and may not even lessen the epilepsy of which the patient is suffering.

Apart from this initial disadvantage, if successful, the procedure can alleviate epilepsy and dramatically improve the patients quality of life and allow them to become fully functional in daily routines. These improvements however, can also lead to other complications, so does this procedure really improve the quality of a patients life? Well, studies into the brain have shown us that the left hemisphere of the brain controls our speech whereas the right deals with perceptions, when these are separated huge side-effects can occur as these hemispheres can no longer communicate. Sperry (1964) conducted an experiment on patients who had undergone split brain surgery and got them to focus on a fixed point on a screen, then words/images appeared either to the left or right of that point and findings were taken of how well the participant could recall what they had seen, an example of this experiment is shown in this short video clip:

other effects have also been shown as many patients have experienced their left arm as having “a mind of its own” where they will be doing ordinary daily tasks, perhaps reading a book, and the left arm will throw the book down, although this person may have found the book interesting, the right hemisphere of the brain is unaware of what is going on and becomes bored holding a book. This is due to the lack of communication between the brains hemispheres. This can effect the persons quality of life as the people close to them can also be effected. One person with a split brain reported that his left arm tried to attack his wife, whilst he used his right arm to protect her.

Overall I believe that the disadvantages here outweigh the advantages because of the lack of communication between the brain, but today, when a patient undergoes this surgery only a partial amount of the corpus callosum is removed which reduces epileptic fits whilst maintaining the connections of the brains hemispheres, thus reducing the side-effects dramatically. Therefore I believe that split brain surgery helps many patients to improve their quality of life today with less risk of other complications. But what do you think?



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