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Social Psychology Research and Prosocial Behavior

Social Psychology Research and Prosocial Behavior

The selected article for analysis is titled “In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery”, authored by Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., English, T., Dunn, E. W., & Lyubomirsky, S., and published in 2013. The research method used by Nelson et al. (2013) was an examination of an already conducted survey by the World Values Survey Association. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether parents find happiness and joy as they care for their children. Nelson et al. (2013) wanted to test whether parents evaluate their own lives on a positive scale more than those who are not parents. They also wanted to find out whether the parents feel better every day than non-parents and if they get positive fulfillment in caring for their children away from other day-to-day activities. According to their results, parents, particularly fathers, show higher rates of meaning in life, positive emotion, and happiness than non-parents.

The first potential threat to the study’s external validity is sampling bias. The sample does not represent the whole population. The sample includes parents who participated in the World Values Survey in 1999, 1995, 1990, and 1982. The characteristics of the sample entailed the number of children, sex, marital status, and age and did not include step-parents, foster parents, parents who became parents without planning, and parents who are victims of gender-based violence. Another threat is observer bias which unintentionally might have influenced the outcome of the study. This is because in measuring whether parents were happy or not, the experimenter used the scale of happiness and gave the respondents the choice of measuring their happiness based on very happy, quite happy, not very happy at all, and not at all happy (Nelson et al., 2013). This does not give parents who are sad or depressed the chance to share how exactly they feel. Besides, their happiness may be attributed to something external to the study, such as a stable job, a good spouse, or spiritual contentment. Additionally, knowing that they are being studied, the participants may choose to be happy because they have children and would want others to see that they are happy. Therefore, the external validity of the study is susceptible to the Hawthorne effect.

The main concern regarding whether this study was conducted ethically is the violation of the principle of informed consent. According to Resnik (2020), potential participants need to decide whether they would like to participate in the research. In this case, since the World Values Survey data was used in the study, it is not stated whether the participants were informed about how their data was used after the World Values Survey interviews in 1999, 1995, 1990, and 1982. It is also unclear whether there was an independent review to oversee the study and ensure that it was free of bias, especially because the study relied on a previously conducted survey.

The prosocial behavior that may have helped parents who were reportedly unhappy is sharing. Some parents may not have a safe space to share what may be troubling them, and they may feel that if they do that with their spouse, it may overwhelm their partners. Therefore, creating a safe space for them to share the challenges and benefits of parenthood may help them release the negative emotions they may have felt as parents. The empathy-altruism theory supports this prosocial behavior. According to Aronson, Wilson, & Sommers (2019), empathy-altruism theory holds that when one feels empathy for another person, they make an effort to help that person for altruistic reasons, whether they benefit from it or not. For example, another parent or even non-parent may imagine or out of experience how challenging and fulfilling it may be raising children and may want to understand another parent by helping them. Therefore, providing a safe space for sharing for parents is a prosocial behavior that attempts to help unhappy parents relieve themselves from negative emotions. Moreover, a personal quality such as honesty may help parents open up about matters they may be reluctant to talk about around people. This attribute may increase the prosocial behavior of sharing.


Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D., & Sommers, S.R. (2019). Social Psychology, Tenth Edition. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., English, T., Dunn, E. W., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery. Psychological science, 24(1), 3-10.

Resnik, D.B. (2020). What is Ethics in Research & why is it Important? National Institute of Environmental Sciences.


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As a student of psychology, it is important to fully understand how research is conducted, as well as the numerous issues associated with sound research. Two important research topics are validity and ethics. When a research study lacks internal or external validity, the results may be misleading. When practitioners then apply the results of the study to a real world situation, the impact may be ineffective, may achieve different results than expected, or may even be harmful. Addressing validity in research is essential.

Forming The Team

Forming The Team

Another important consideration in psychological research is ethics. Any research must be ethical in how it is conducted and how the results are used. A high level of ethics is especially critical when it comes to research involving human subjects, which is the case with most psychological research. Ethics in research involves honesty, objectivity, integrity, carefulness and competence, openness, respect for intellectual property, respect for privacy, confidentiality, responsible publication of findings, social responsibility, non-discrimination, legality, care of animals for those studies involving animals, and protection of the rights of human subjects.

This Assignment asks you to analyze a social psychology research article for validity and ethics. The skills practiced can be applied to a critique of any scientific research study. Then, you will use theory to explain how prosocial behavior is relevant to the topic of your selected research article.

To prepare:

Review Chapter 2 in your course text, focusing on journal article analysis.
While reading Chapter 11, reflect on how prosocial behavior can be used to address problems.
Read the online article, “What Is Ethics in Research and Why Is It Important?” Focus on the expectations of ethics for the scientific community, how results are used in the real world, and related ethical issues.
Choose one of the journal articles from this week’s Learning Resources to analyze (not Resnik’s online article about ethics).

The Assignment (2–4 pages):

Analyze the article you selected by responding to the following questions:

Briefly, what were the research method, the purpose of the study, and the main finding(s)? As this is a brief statement of the main finding(s), do not provide details such as means or other statistics.
What potential threats are there, if any, to the study’s external validity or generalizability? What about the study, if anything, enhances its external validity or generalizability?
Do you have any concerns regarding whether the study was conducted ethically? Explain in terms of the information you learned in the assigned readings (e.g., informed consent).
Recall this week’s Discussion Spark about various prosocial behaviors. What prosocial behavior or act could increase understanding of, or provide support to someone dealing with the issues presented in your selected journal article? The prosocial behavior could be something described in the journal article, explored in the Discussion Spark, or a prosocial behavior that has not previously been mentioned in the course.
What theory or concept described in Chapter 11 explains the motive for this prosocial behavior?
What personal quality of an individual or situational determinant would increase the likelihood of this prosocial behavior occurring?


Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Sommers, S. R. (2019). Social psychology (10th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Chapter 2, “Methodology: How Social Psychologists Do Research”
Chapter 11, “Prosocial Behavior: Why Do People Help?”

“Social Psychology in Action 1: Using Social Psychology to Achieve a Sustainable and Happy Future” (pp. 440-45746)
Resnik, D. (2015). What is ethics in research & why is it important? Links to an external site. Retrieved from
Select and read one of the following articles for this week’s Assignment:

Burnette, J. L., & Finkel, E. J. (2012). Buffering against weight gain following dieting setbacks: An implicit theory intervention Links to an external site.. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(3), 721–725.
Forest, A. L., & Wood, J. V. (2012). When social networking is not working: Individuals with low self-esteem recognize but do not reap the benefits of self-disclosure on Facebook Links to an external site.. Psychological Science, 23(3), 295–302.
Mischkowski, D., Kross, E., & Bushman, B. J. (2012). Flies on the wall are less aggressive: Self-distancing “in the heat of the moment” reduces aggressive thoughts, angry feelings and aggressive behavior Links to an external site.. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(5), 1187–1191.
Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., English, T., Dunn, E. W., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery Links to an external site.. Psychological Science, 24(1), 3–10.
Penner, L. A., Dovidio, J. F., West, T. V., Gaertner, S. L., Albrecht, T. L., Dailey, R. K., & Markova, T. (2010). Aversive racism and medical interactions with black patients: A field study Links to an external site.. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(2), 436–440.

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