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Bitter and Sober?

Stafford, Fernandes and Agobiani (2012) conducted a between-subjects experiment to investigate the effects of music on the taste perception of alcohol. A sample of 80 university students were randomly assigned to 4 experimental conditions; music (whereby music was listened to via headphones), shadow (in which participants listened to and later verbally repeated a news story), s-music (both music and news story) and a control (no distraction). Each group then tasted 5 different measures of a vodka cranberry drink (ranging from 0% – 7.5% abv) and rated sweetness, bitterness and strength along with familiarity, liking-for and coldness. The findings show that participants in the music group rated the alcoholic drinks as sweeter than those in the remaining three conditions. These findings are suggested to lead to increased alcohol consumption (Stafford, Fernandes & Agobiani, 2012).

An initial criticism of the research design may lie in the limited generalizability of the sample. In using a student-only sample that frequently drank alcohol (8+ units per week), it is possible that they would be more likely to associate music with drinking, than participants who would be less inclined to spend time in a clubbing environment. This may have been overcome by using a stratified sample that included both students and non-students that drank alcohol both frequently and infrequently.

Several limitations contribute to an overall lacking ecological validity: Participants were instructed to take small sips from 25ml shot glasses; This may have created the impression that the drinks were stronger than they actually were, and does not reflect how drinks are normally consumed in a real-life setting. The use of headphones also further undermines the realism of a drinking environment as most people do not drink alcohol by themselves whilst listening to music through headphones. This is important, given the demonstrated attentional differences between listening to audio through speakers and headphones (Kallinen & Ravaja, 2007), that may influence taste-ratings.

Stafford, Fernandes and Agobiani (2012) suggest that a possible mechanism forth observed higher sweetness ratings may lie in the similar findings of Crisinel and Spence (2011), that sweet-related words are associated with higher pitched sounds. This reasoning seems flawed given the use of dubstep music in the music condition, which is characteristically bass-heavy and like most other music genres, features a wide spectrum of high and low frequencies.

The claim that music can influence alcohol consumption seems largely unsubstantiated given the contradictory findings: An observed effect for all groups showed that participant’s strength perception negatively correlated with liking for the drink; The music group most accurately discerned strength, and therefore it would seem that their heightened ability to discern strength may have also enhanced their disliking and therefore lessened their consumption of alcohol. Further research may elucidate this issue by investigating how important liking is in relation to alcohol consumption. These findings suggest that in a laboratory setting music may allow a heightened tasting experience of alcohol, but does not predict an increase in its consumption.

References

Crisinel, A. S., Spence, C. (2010). A sweet sound? Food names reveal implicit associations between taste and pitch. Perception, 39, 417-425. Retrieved from http://www.perceptionweb.com/perception/fulltext/p39/p6574.pdf

Kallinen, K., & Ravaja, N. (2007). Comparing speakers versus headphones in listening to news from a computer – individual differences and psychological responses. Computers in Human Behavior, 23, 303-317. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563204001700

Stafford,L . D., Fernandes, M., & Agobiani, E. (2012). Effects of noise and distraction on alcohol perception. Food Quality and Preference, 24, 218-224. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950329311002345

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Does ‘Self-forgetfulness’ Reduce Pleasure when Listening to Music?

The mesolimbic system is often implicated as the reward pathway in the brain, that gives rise to pleasure. Music elicits a pleasure response in most people, that is often affected by genre and mood preference. Personality characteristics have often been associated with liking certain types of music, and recently it has been suggested that some personality traits may indicate greater activity in certain mesolimbic structures (nucleus accumbens, ventral striatum and caudate nucleus). Self-transcendence is identified as a trait whereby the individual views the self as an integral part of the universe as a whole (Cloninger, Svrakic & Przybeck, 1993). Absorption is seen as the ability to fully immerse oneself in a perceptual activity and maintain focused attention (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974). Recent research suggests that these two traits may increase the pleasurable experience of listening to music.

Montag, Reuter and Axmacher (2011) investigated the relationship between personality and pleasure-associated brain activity whilst listening to music. Prior to the listening phase, participants completed a self-rated TCI (Temperament and Character Inventory) scale to gauge self-transcendence and self-forgetfulness (a sub-scale of self-transcendence that specifically addresses absorption in relation to art and music). The Tellegen Absorption Scale was also completed, that measures openness to self-altering experiences and hypnotizability. Participants listened to one self-selected favourite, and another most-disliked piece of music whilst inside an fMRI scanner. Absorption and self-forgetfulness were expected to correlate with increased mesolimbic activity in the favourite condition, however the findings did not support this.

An immediate criticism of the research design lies in the uneven gender weighting of the sample (27 female and 6 male), which should have been considered given observed gender differences in music processing (Koelsch, Maess, Grossmann & Friederici, 2003). The use of a stratified sample would have ensured equal gender representation, creating more generalisable results. 3-minute excerpts of chosen songs were used as stimuli, but may have been too short to encompass participants’ favourite musical ideas within songs. For example, in only including the first 3 minutes of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, the song’s climax and arguably most pleasurable section is lost. The use of excerpts along with the noise interference of an fMRI scanner, may undermine the ecological validity of a genuine listening experience.

In light of the unexpected findings, the reliability of the two scales should be considered. The related constructs of self-forgetfulness and absorption (self-forgetfulness is a music- and art-based measure of absorption), should yield high convergent validity. As the findings suggest only a strong negative correlation between self-forgetfulness and ventral striatum activity, weak construct validity may be indicated.

There are two possible explanations as to why self-forgetfulness may result in less pleasure: It may take considerably longer than 3-minutes for true self-forgetfulness to occur, and therefore be measured; Alternatively, self-forgetful listeners may be more experienced music listeners, and therefore require more complex music (for longer periods) to attain a higher level of pleasure. To test this, a between-subjects version of the study may be conducted, using both self-forgetful classically-trained musicians and a self-forgetful non-musical control group. This could help elucidate whether musical experience influences the decreased pleasure in self-forgetful individuals.

References

Cloninger, C. R., Svrakic, D. M., & Przybeck, T. R. (1993). A Psychobiological Model of Temperament and Character. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50(12), 975-990. Retrieved from http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/50/12/975

Koelsch, S., Maess, B., Grossmann, T., & Friederici, A. D. (2003). Electrical Brain Responses Reveal Gender Differences in Music Processing. Brain Imaging, 14(5), 709-713. doi: Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/neuroreport/Abstract/2003/04150/Electric_brain_responses_reveal_gender_differences.10.aspx

Montag, C., Reuter, M., & Axmacher, N. (2011). How One’s Favourite Song Activates the Reward Circuitry of the Brain: Personality Matters! Behavioural Brain Research, 225, 511-514. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432811006012

Tellegen, A., & Atkinson, G. (1974). Openness to Absorbing and Self-altering Experiences (“Absorption”), a Trait Related to Hypnotic Susceptibility. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 83(3), 268-277. doi: 10.1037/h0036681

Paedophilic Interest and the Multiphasic Sex Inventory

Paedophilia usually carries a heavy negative stigma of categorically deviant people with unhealthy sexual desires. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM IV-TR) states that a combination of sexual fantasies or urges or behaviours involving children as well as sexual activity with a child meets the diagnostic criteria for paedophilia. However, it has been suggested that approximately only 50% of child sex offenders fit the criteria of a paedophile (Seto & Lalumiere, 2001), suggesting that child-molestation itself does not make someone a paedophile. Paedophilia may be better explained in terms of a dimensional model rather than a distinct paedophile categorization.

Mackaronis, Strassberg and Marcus (2011) investigated the structure of paedophilic interest through the use of the self-report Multiphasic Sex Inventory (MSI) (Nichols & Molinder, 1984). The MSI contains 300 true or false items, split into 20 sub-scales that include Sexual Obsession (SO), Child Molestation (CM) and Cognitive Distortion/Immaturity (CDI) sub-scales. SO measures sexual obsessions and the tendency to exaggerate sexual problems, whilst CM measures five aspects of child molestation: fantasy, cruising, sexual assault, aggravated assault, and incest. CDI measures the individual’s sense of victimization and personal accountability. An additional 13-item Child Molestation Lie (CML) scale was also completed by participants (N=371), that indicated personal acknowledgement of paedophilic interest. The scale scores were subjected to taxometric analysis which suggests that paedophilic interest is dimensional rather than categorical.

Mackaronis, Strassberg and Marcus (2011) consider social desirability bias, by acknowledging that participants were encouraged to take responsibility for their unlawful behaviour, as a pre-requisite to stay at the treatment centre where they were residing. This suggests that there was little motivation to conceal genuine responses. However, this heavy emphasis on personal accountability reduces the external validity of scores on the CDI sub-scale (that measures personal accountability). It is also possible that participants may be adopting the values of the rehabilitation centre rather than their own, and as such the issue of social desirability is not resolved.

The use of the CDI sub-scale may be criticized further, as compared to SO and CM sub-scales (that scored both high internal and test-retest reliability scores) showed significantly weaker reliability (Kalichman et al., 1992; Simkin et al., 1989). Given the likely cognitive component of paedophilic behaviour, the weakness of this scale could undermine the findings of the study. The MSI has high discriminant validity as it has been shown to correlate highly with child sex offenders rather than other sex offenders (Dowling, Smith Proeve & Lee, 2000), yet as an exhaustive (300-item) scale may produce fatigue effects that lead to random responses.

The often cited Stanford Prison experiment (Zimbardo, 1971), demonstrated that evil behaviour was not committed by evil people, but by the interaction of normal people and a certain social situation. Pehaps a similar consideration is due to those who commit child sex-offences. The current research (Mackaronis, Strassberg & Marcus, 2011; Seto & Lalumiere, 2001) suggests that we should resist a strict dichotomy of paedophile/non-paedophile. Instead, it may be useful to consider research into the interaction between paedophilic interest and cognitive or social variables (such as self-esteem and social isolation) that may trigger these behaviours.

References

Mackaronis, J. E., Strassberg, D. S., & Marcus, D. K. (2011). The Latent Structure of Multiphasic Sex Inventory-Assessed Pedophilic Interest. Psychological Assessment, 23(4), 1017-1022. doi: 10.1037/a0024625

Seto, M. C., & Lalumiere, M. L. (2001). A Brief Screening Scale to Identify Pedophilic Interests Among Child Molesters. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 13, doi: 10.1023/A:1009510328588

Zimbardo, P. G. (1971). The power and pathology of imprisonment. Congressional Record. (Serial No. 15, 1971-10-25). Hearings before Subcommittee No. 3, of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, Ninety-Second Congress, First Session on Corrections, Part II, Prisons, Prison Reform and Prisoner’s Rights: California. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Dowling, N., Smith, D., Proeve, M., & Lee, J. K. P. (2000). The Multiphasic Sex Inventory: A Comparison of American and Australian Samples of Sexual Offenders. Australian Psychologist, 35(3), 244-248. doi: 10.1080/00050060008257486

Kalichman, S. C., Henderson, M. C., Shealy, L. S., & Dwyer, M. (1992). Psychometric Properties of the Multiphasic Sex Inventory in Assessing Sex Offenders. Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 19(4), 384-396. doi: 10.1177/0093854892019004003

Simkin, L., Ward, W., Bowman, S., & Rinck, C. M. (1989). The Multiphasic Sex Inventory: Diagnosis and Prediction of Treatment Response in Child Sexual Abusers. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 2(3), 203-226. doi: 10.1007/BF00849716

Nichols, A. R., & Molinder, I. (1984). Multiphasic Sex Inventory.

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Context in Happy or Sad Music Preference

Whilst there has been a demonstrated tendency to prefer happy-sounding music (Thompson, Schellenberg & Husain, 2010), this is not a universal trend as sad music is often preferred by some individuals and context is also thought to mediate musical choice. Happy- and sad-sounding are indefinite, culturally relative descriptions that depend upon the musical grammar of a culture. In Western culture, happy-sounding music is often associated with a faster tempo and a major mode:

Slower paced music with minor modal tendencies is often interpreted as sad-sounding:

Schellenberg, Peretz and Vieillard (2008) investigated the modulating preference for happy- and sad-sounding music. Using a between-subjects design, preference was measured in both focused (attention solely on music) and incidental (music played whilst performing an attention-exhaustive distraction task) groups. Both conditions were subjected to 3 experimental phases: The exposure phase (3 happy and 3 sad pieces were played at varying levels of repetition), a liking phase (7-point rating scale for the excerpts) and recognition phase (7-point recognition scale).

In the focused condition, a marked preference for happy-sounding and a decreased liking for highly exposed (32 listens) happy and sad music was observed. In the incidental condition an equal preference for both emotion types was found, independent of exposure. Recognition increased (proportionally to exposure) for both happy and sad pieces in the focused group, whilst in the incidental group there was a decreased ability to recognise happy pieces.

The internal validity of the study is upheld by eliminating confounding elements relating to the musical stimuli. 32 excerpts of relatively unknown instrumental music were transposed to piano to minimize familiarity and standardize the timbre of the pieces. Criterion validity was assured by a previous study in which children as young as 5 years-old identified the excerpts as happy- or sad-sounding (Dalla Bella et al., 2001).

One criticism may lie in the varying length of excerpts (7.4-23.8 seconds) which favours the brevity of up-tempo happy phrases and increases the likelihood of a fatigue-bias against sad pieces. The intensive exposure of phrases (32 repetitions) and the use of shortened phrases, represent low ecological validity as this highly concentrated exposure would rarely occur in a real-life setting. The use of a musically trained sample (M=1.9 years music lessons) and the widespread popularity of lyric-based music threaten the generalisability and external validity of the current research.

The demonstrated increased liking for sad music in the incidental setting has numerous interpretations. The arousal-lowering effects of sad music, may alleviate cognitive tension whilst performing the distraction task. Reber, Schwarz and Winkielman (2004) posit the idea of perceptual fluency- the more recognisable or easily interpreted the stimuli, the the more likely it will be pleasurable. However, this neglects individual differences. Slower musical phrases may be more readily received whilst distracted, and therefore preferable to distracting higher-paced excerpts. A further possibility could lie in the expressive differences of happy music (satisfaction and well-being), in comparison to sad music (feelings of conflict and tension) that may correlate with demands of a cognitive task.

References

Dalla Bella, S., Peretz, I., Rousseau, L., & Gosselin, N. (2001). A Developmental Study of the Affective Value of Tempo and Mode in Music. Cognition, 80(3), B1-B10. doi: 10.1016/S0010-0277(00)00136-0

Reber, R., Schwarz, N., & Winkielman, P. (2004). Processing Fluency and Aesthetic Pleasure: Is Beauty in the Perceiver’s Processing Experience? Personality and Social Psychology, 8(4), 364-382. doi: 10.1207/s15327957pspr0804_3

Schellenberg, E. G., Peretz, I., & Vieillard, S. (2008). Liking for Happy- and Sad-sounding Music: Effects of Exposure. Cognition & Emotion, 22(2), 218-237. doi: 10.1080/02699930701350753

Sigur Ros, ‘Untitled #1 (Vaka)’ (video). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImV8NrYi80Q&feature=related

The Beatles, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ (video). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3I7XCBzTC3I

Thompson, W. F., Schellenberg, E. G., & Husain, G. (2001). Arousal, Mood, and the Mozart Effect. Psychological Science, 12(3), 248-251. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00345

 

Measuring Consciousness in Decapitated Rats

There is lively debate as to the changes in the brain at the moment of death and the short period that follows afterwards. Neuroscientific research methods offer the closest approximations of the separate moments when consciousness ceases and the brain dies. There is limited research on human brain death, but with ethical consideration it is possible to use animals. Decapitation is considered a controversial method of inducing death, as the period and definition of consciousness are subject to dispute.

Rijn, Krijnen, Menting-Hermeling and Coenen (2011) used an independent groups design, to measure EEG responses in both conscious and anaesthetized rats following decapitation. For both groups, a combined mean of 3.7 seconds marked when EEG frequencies 13Hz-100Hz (associated with sensory perception) decreased to their half-life – a level considered equal to loss of consciousness. EEG readings describe a large transitory wave emerging at 52±7 seconds in the awake, and 85±6 seconds in the anaesthetized group following decapitation. It is theorized that this wave of death, depolarizes the membrane potentials in neurons, causing widespread ion channel openings, and in essence represents brain death.

The Ethical Animal Committee of the Radboud University provided 22 obsolete male rats from previous electrophysiological studies with permanent electrode head fixtures. The likely neurochemical changes of rats exposed to frequent stress (Purdy, Morrow, Moore & Smith, 1991), raises minor issues of the generalisability of this potentially non-neurotypical sample. Reflexive leg movements were observed for up to one minute following decapitation. Given the similar awake group mean (52 seconds) reported for the ‘wave of death’, there appears to be no attempt to rule out or consider a relationship between the cessation of nerve reflexes and neuron death. Further research could contribute to an understanding of the entire nervous system at death, and how closely the body and brain respond in dying moments.

Lakhmir, Akst, Junker, Jacobs, and Seneff (2009) report an analogous ‘wave of death’ in humans using bispectral index monitoring, but with  differences in frequencies. This suggests some degree of convergent validity, which supports the internal reliability of EEG as a suitable method of measure, and represents enough similarities between human and rat brains so that rat research may be a justified alternative in the future.

Whilst the use of decapitating rats may present moral objection from some, it illustrates similarities in waking and non-waking state of rats so that further studies may take the moral precaution of anaesthetizing the rats first. It may also provide a more valid account of brain function than if the rats had been administered drugs or electrocuted. Presumably the only reason that decapitation is permissible in rats, relates to their lack of higher cognitive functioning. If we acknowledge this, then the construct validity between species is compromised, as human and rat consciousness are significantly different.

A further criticism of this research lies in the latent loss of consciousness. The approximate 3.7 seconds following decapitation, seem a considerably long amount of time to remain conscious and in a state of likely pain. Further research may distinguish EEG pain response as a separate construct to consciousness. Whilst a comparable wave of death is observed in rats and humans, the findings of Rijn et al. (2011) should only be used to develop theories on brain death. Calling rodent decapitation humane seems premature and would perhaps benefit from further investigation.

References

Lakhmir, S. C., Akst, S., Junker, C., Jacobs, B., & Seneff, M. G. (2009). Surges of Electroencephalogram Activity at the Time of Death: A Case Series. Journal of Palliative Medicine12(12): 1095-1100. doi:10.1089/jpm.2009.0159.

Purdy, R. H., Morrow, A. L., Moore, P. H., & Paul, S. M. (1991). Stress-induced Elevations of Gamma-aminobutyric Acid Type A Receptor-active Steroids in the Rat Brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 88(10), 4553-4557. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/88/10/4553.full.pdf+html

Rijn, C. M. V., Krijnen, H., Menting-Hermeling, S., & Coenen, A. M. L. (2011). Decapitation in Rats: Latency to Unconsciousness and the ‘Wave of Death’. PLOS One, 6, e16514. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016514

Sex Differences in Colour Preferences

McManus, Jones and Cottrell (as cited by Hurlburt & Ling, 1981) identify a cross-gender preference for blue, whilst Bimler, Kirkland and Jameson (2004) suggest a reduced preference on the ‘red-green’ colour axis in males, compared to females. Hurlburt and Lang (2007) attribute sex differences in modern colour preferences (male preference for blue, female preference for pink) to evolutionary origins, and claim to identify the biological components underlying this.

Hurlburt and Ling (2007) investigated colour preferences between genders in a Chinese and British sample. 3 sub-groups completed a rapid-paired comparison task to measure preferences between two coloured rectangles, presented simultaneously during each trial. The first group completed the task twice, in a repeated measures design that confirmed test-retest reliability, and ensured consistency over time. The second and third groups completed the same comparison task in one sitting only.

A between-subjects design may have been time and cost effective, whilst minimizing individual differences. Whilst a British and Chinese sample is an appropriate attempt towards identifying universal gender preferences, it does not confirm cross-cultural validity. Measures of masculinity and femininity may lack reliability as gender roles have changed significantly since the scale – Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) (Bem, 1974) – was devised, and social desirability bias may have affected self-report scores. Comparison to an abbreviated version (Short BSRI) could help assure the internal consistency of the measure. The methodology outlined, betrays the ‘biological stance’ purported in the research title, measuring behaviour rather than biological aspects such as brain activity, or differences in receptor cones.

The findings report significant differences between genders, with a pronounced female preference for reddish-purple hues, compared to a less-pronounced favouring of blue-green in males. Both genders preferred blue, reacting more rapidly than with opposing yellow hues. Whilst referencing the S-(L+M) and L-M neuronal mechanisms in relation to these findings, the research does not measure biological components, and instead references them as a theoretical basis for the findings. ‘Neuronal mechanisms’ is too vague a definition to claim a biological understanding of colour preferences.

Hurlbert and Ling (2007) assert that colour preference may be due to sensory encoding, which may inspire further research into the neural circuitry and retinal differences between genders. However the non-biological findings of this study cannot justify this claim nor the further unempirical evolutionary explanation. The suggestion that a red preference in females is attributable to the ‘gatherer’ instincts in primordial women (identifying red fruit, changes in skin colour), are unfounded and impossible to confirm. This claim is errorneously given more weight than the readily testable social explanation of colour preference. The misleading explanation of these findings is further distorted in The Times newspaper (Henderson, 2007), over-stating these findings as a scientific discovery, rather than an historical theory. This is an unwarranted claim based on a misleading study that could be correctly interpreted if the evidence had been sufficiently appraised.

 

References

Bem, S. L. (1974). The Measurement of Psychological Androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42(2), 155-162. doi: 10.1037/h0036215

Bimler, D. L., Kirkland, J., Jameson, K. A. (2004). Quantifying Variations in Personal Color Spaces: Are there Sex Differences in Color Vision? Color Research & Application, 29(2), 128-134. doi: 10.1002/col.10232

Henderson, M. (2007, August 21). At last, Science Discovers why Blue is for Boys but Girls really do prefer Pink. The Times. Retrieved from http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/

Hurlburt, A. C., & Ling, Y. (2007). Biological Components of Sex Differences in Color Preference. Current Biology, 17(16), R623-R625. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.06.022

Personal to Universal: Drunken Sex and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Hurlburt and Heavy (2006) distinguish between idiographic and nomothetic methods of psychological investigation. The idiographic approach describes the individual subjectively, as sculpted by heredity and experiential influences; the nomothetic approach describes the individual through general laws (Eysenck, 1994). Allport (1961) suggests that, whilst the consistency of the individual may be useful in explaining their own behaviour, these findings are incompatible with the universality of science.

An ideal research design would blend the subjective detail of the idiographic perspective, with the generalizability of the nomothetic perspective. The correct application of IPA (Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis) research design, may help reconcile the two perspectives. IPA is a qualitative research method, that interprets how individuals make sense of certain phenomena or situations, such as chronic pain or anxiety (Howitt and Cramer, 2008). Through semi-structured interviews, the researcher analyses data for descriptive themes, then identifies those that are most prominent (Giles, 2002). Identifying common themes may help to ascertain the cognitive processes underlying responses to certain phenomena, whilst recognising individual differences.

Coleman and Cater (2005) used IPA methods to investigate the relationship between alcohol-use and risky sexual behaviours. These behaviours involved non-use of contraception, or later regretting the sexual experience. 64 male and female participants, between the ages of 14-17 were interviewed. The use of semi-structured interview questions allowed relevant data to be gathered, whilst minimizing interviewer bias and collecting true responses. The face validity of the questions may have suffered due to a reliance on subjective responses; In omitting a reliable measurement scale, drunkenness and the amount of alcohol consumed are likely to fluctuate between participant perceptions, and their actual values.

It is claimed that inter-rater reliability was assured at the analysis stage of the design. A separate researcher was invited to control for the accuracy of theme discrimination. 7 of the 64 interviews were analysed through an agreed coding framework, yielding an inter-rater theme match of 81%. A larger sample of interviews, and stronger than 81% concordance would increase the reliability of this measure. Interviewer bias may have occurred during this stage also, as themes from analysed interviews are likely to be expected and perhaps exaggerated, in subsequent interviews.

Aside from these potential issues with measure, IPA remains a useful research design. The use of the bottom-up theory of perception- from a simple to higher level of cognition (Gleitman, Gross and Reisberg, 2011)- is useful in gathering an understanding of behaviour, from stimuli to thought pattern. Sternberg (2008) proposes that a comprehensive model of perception must acknowledge both, bottom-up and top-down methods of information processing. Due to it’s bottom-up design, IPA cannot test hypotheses, however it is instrumental in devising theories of behaviour from recognised thought patterns. These theories may then be validated, in more controlled research, to create generalizable laws of cognitive processing.

References

Hurlburt, R. T., & Heavy, C. L. (2006) Exploring Inner Experience: The Descriptive Experience Sampling Method. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Eysenck, M. W. (1994). Perspectives on Psychology. UK: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Limited.

Allport, G. W. (1961). Pattern and Growth in Personality. New York: Holt, Rinelholt & Winston.

Howitt, D., & Cramer, D. (2005). Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology (2nd Ed.).UK: Pearson Education Limited.

Giles, D., C. (2002). Advanced Research Methods in Psychology. UK: Routledge.

Coleman, L. M., & Cater, S. M. (2005). A Qualitative Study of the Relationship Between Alcohol Consumption and Risky Sex in Adolescents. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 34(6), 649-661. doi: 10.1007/s10508-005-7917-6

Gleitman, H., Gross, J., & Reisberg, D. (2011). Psychology (8th Ed.).London: W.W. Norton & Company.

Sternberg, R. J. (2008). Cognitive Psychology (5th Ed.). USA: Wadsworth.