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Understanding the Role of Perceiver Control in Impression Formation: An Experimental Approach Using Ecologically Valid Materials

By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Experimental research allows us to determine the effect that an independent (or manipulated) variable has on a dependent (or measured) variable. In the research described here, we manipulated the degree of control that a perceiver (someone who is forming an impression of a target) has over the type and/or amount of target information they are provided with to examine the impact of perceiver control on the impression formation process. Would two perceivers, each receiving the exact same information about a target, potentially form different impressions if one perceiver had actively chosen the information (active perceiver) and the other was just passively viewing it (passive perceiver)? This case study provides a behind-the-scenes look at the initial experiment we conducted to answer this question, using Facebook profiles as our target stimuli. I also briefly describe the two follow-up studies we conducted to better understand why active and passive perceivers differed along certain aspects of their impressions. I reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each experiment, as well as on the pros and cons of using ecologically valid stimuli, such as Facebook profiles. I end with a brief discussion on the importance of replication and the benefits of establishing a programmatic line of research.

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