Experimenter Effect and the Reports of Jamaican Adolescents on Beauty and Body Image

Book Cover: Experimenter Effect and the Reports of Jamaican Adolescents on Beauty and Body Image

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Published in Social and Economic Studies Volume 21 No. 4 December 1972.

Experimenter Effect and the Reports of Jamaican Adolescents on Beauty and Body image is an empirical investigation primarily into personal attribute effects that may occur in survey research employing open-ended questionnaire which requires respondents to report on their conception of beauty and of their body cathexis of their body image. In the survey and psychological research, it is virtually impossible to employ interviewers, counsellors, and experimenters who have no personal attributes. The critical question what effect, if any, do their personal attributes have on the responses of subjects to questionnaires, interviews, scales, and tests. In a previous study Body Image Physical Beauty and Colour among Jamaican Adolescent Social and Economic Studies Vol 18, No 1 1969 Pp 72-89 Miller had administered an identical questionnaire personally. Being a male mulatto this study was conducted to probe personal attribute effects.

The design of the study was that of selecting students of one racial type (Black) who attended the same type of school, were of the same age and social class randomly into six groups; select six female experimenters of similar age, physical attractiveness and forthrightness of personality but on six distinctly different racial types; assign each experimenter to administer the same open-ended question to one of the six groups of students using exact instructions; and to analyze the responses of each group in relation to the experimenter administering the questionnaire. There was one Chinese, one Indian, one Mulatto; one Black with an ‘Afro’ hairstyle; one Black with straightened hairstyle and one White experimenter. The six groups of students ranged in size from 66 to 73 students. The overall sample consisted of 158 boys and 255 girls.

Student responses were analyzed with respect to the quantity and content of responses given to each of the six Experimenters, by boys and by girls,  with respect to their conception of the Handsome Boy; the Beautiful Girls; Satisfaction with their Body Image and Dissatisfaction with their Body Image.

The major findings of this study were the following:

  • The common composite concept of beauty reported in Miller (1969) was confirmed.
  • The common composite concept of beauty was reported to all experimenters. In other words, the physical features of the experimenters did not appear to make any difference to what the adolescents reported with respect to their ideals of physical beauty.
  • There were variations, however, among experimenters in what subjects responded with respect to their assessment of their personal physical features. In other words, experimenter effect appeared in subjects critical assessments of their physical features.

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