Experimenter effect and the reports of Jamaican adolescents on beauty and body image

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Dec. 1972

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This study was principally concerned with the personal attribute effect that may be manifest in survey research employing an open-ended questionnaire that requires subjects (Ss) to report their conception of physical beauty and their cathexis of body image. It sought to find out if a homogeneous sample of Ss divided into six groups would report different conceptions of physical beauty and cathexis of body image to six experimenters of similar sex, age, physical attractiveness, and forthrightness in personality, but of different racial types. It also sought to find out if Ss would report in a similar manner to two black experimenters, one with an "Afro" hairstyle and the other with "straightened hair." It further sought to discover if the girls and boys would report in the same manner to female experimenters. The Ss were 158 boys and 255 girls from the top streams of the 8th and 9th grades and two nine-stream junior secondary schools in the city of Kingston, all belonging to the 13- and 14-year-old age cohorts. Results of the data analysis suggested that experimenter influence due to personal attributes are not all pervasive. Ss do not give completely different reports to different experimenters. The experimenter does not appear to determine and dominate the students' description of beauty or their cathexis of body image. Students appear to be describing something that is independent of the experimenter who administers the questionnaire. However, the personal attributes of the person administering the questionnaire did appear to make a difference. Experimenter influence produced variations in the subjects' reports. The kind of variation appeared to differ with experimenters, the questions being asked, and the subjects answering


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